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Toy Safety -- United States, 1983

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that, in 1983, 594,100 toy-related injuries to children under 15 years of age were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms (Table 1); 16 children died (Table 2). Most injuries occurred from impacts with toys (falling on, tripping over, or hit by). Choking from ingestion of small toys or parts of toys was the second most frequently reported incident. Half the deaths involved children who choked on balloons, rode tricycles into pools, or were struck by motor vehicles while riding tricycles.

These incidents often involved children who may have been too young to use the toys--such as balloons, crayons, marbles, small building toy pieces, and stuffed crib toys--as they were intended. Parts of the toys were ingested, or pieces were broken or bitten off and put into the nose, ear, or mouth. Small riding toys and rocking horses were involved in tip-over and falling incidents and sometimes resulted in head/face injuries to children in the 1-year age group. Toys with cords, including play phones that entangled some very young children, kites with metallic twine that contacted power lines and caused electrocution or burns, and electric or battery-powered toys that overheated, melted, and resulted in fires caused other toy-related injuries in 1983.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: CPSC has mandatory safety standards for electric toys, bicycles, pacifiers, and infant rattles, toys with sharp points and edges, lead paint in toys, and small parts in toys. Approximately 150,000 different toys are on the market, and toy manufacturers are responsibile for assuring that products meet these standards. Many manufacturers have extensive testing programs. Although CPSC does some testing to check for compliance and to follow up on consumer complaints, it does not approve or endorse toys for safety.

During 1983, CPSC investigated consumer and trade complaints and reports of injuries and deaths by conducting inspections of toy manufacturers, importers, and distributors and by collecting samples of suspected unsafe toys. CPSC determines the appropriate corrective action based on the severity of the hazard presented by the subject toy, which may include: correcting the violation in future production, ceasing distribution, recalling from retail stores, and recalling from consumers.

Approximately 39 toys and 11 other children's articles were recalled between October 1, 1983, and September 30, 1984. Several infant rattles were recalled because they presented a choking hazard. Manufacturers are responsible for notifying retailers when a product is recalled and should be removed from shelves; banned or recalled toys are removed from shelves.

The Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA) has a Voluntary Product Standard that establishes safety requirements and tests. This standard is currently being revised to cover additional safety requirements. Manufacturers have extensive testing programs, both to assure compliance with federal and voluntary standards and to conduct actual "play testing" of toys by children.

CPSC and TMA recommend the following guidelines for selecting and using safe toys:

  1. Toys should be selected to suit the age, skills, abilities, and interests of the individual child. There are age recommendations on many toy packages, which sometimes reflect safety concerns, in addition to aiding in selection of stimulating, educational toys.

  2. If supervision is required, "ground rules" for play should be set.

  3. Instructions should be clear to parents and, when appropriate, to the child.

  4. Toys should be sturdily constructed. Soft toys for young children should be well made, with eyes, noses, and other small parts tightly secured.

  5. For infants and toddlers, small parts that children can put in their mouths and long strings or cords that can cause strangulation should be avoided.

  6. Toys that shoot or propel objects that can injure eyes or become lodged in the throat should be avoided.

  7. Arrows or darts should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups, or other protective tips. Tips should be securely attached to their shafts and should be examined periodically to ensure the protective tips remain secured.

  8. Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over 8 years of age and only with adult supervision.

  9. The surroundings in which toys will be used should be considered, as should sufficiency of toy storage and play space, and whether young children will be exposed to toys designed for older children. CPSC has a toll-free telephone number ((800) 638-2772) that

consumers and others can call to ask questions, request information, or file complaints. Reported by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C.

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