Santa Paula Times

Annual CalPIRG report: Gifts for kids should be double-checked for safety

December 14, 2005
Santa Paula News

Josie Luna of Santa Paula was carefully examining toys at Kmart the day after Thanksgiving, a parent who will be keeping a careful eye on toys that could be dangerous gifts.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesJosie Luna of Santa Paula was carefully examining toys at Kmart the day after Thanksgiving, a parent who will be keeping a careful eye on toys that could be dangerous gifts.“I always read the label to see which age the toy is suitable for and then I shake the box a little...if I hear a rattle I put it back, no matter how good the deal on it,” Luna said with a sigh. “Little kids are good at taking things apart.”The holidays are a time of celebration but for some families the 2004 joyous season turned to tragedy when 16 youngsters nationwide died from toy-related injuries, the majority from choking on small parts.And, according to the Trouble in Toyland report issued annually by the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG), more than 210,000 children were injured last year nationwide.The culprits were toys or small parts that caused choking when swallowed, playthings that produced excessively loud noises and even those gifts that were found to contain hazardous chemicals.The 47-page CalPRIG report - available online - lists hundreds of toys that can injure a child or even lead to death.At most risk are those children under 3 years old according to CalPRIG, which encourages parental guidelines for careful holiday gift shopping.Any ball or round object less than 1.75 inches in diameter can easily choke a child. A good rule of thumb is to test toys or toy parts by passing them through a toilet paper tube...if the toy can slide inside the tube it could lodge in the windpipe of a child.
A rising concern for CalPRIG is the increasing number of toys that produce excessive amounts of noise that can damage young eardrums.Such toys can include musical instruments, racecars, laser guns, kiddy CD players and other items that can permanently damage hearing after only one or two uses.Kiddie makeup kits are fun but shoppers must carefully read the ingredients; some kits have been found to contain chemicals that can be harmful if swallowed or ends up in a child’s eyes.The 20th annual report notes that over the last twenty years, much progress has been made to protect America’s littlest consumers. “However, we are still finding trouble in toyland,” said Emily Clayton, CalPIRG’s Health Care Advocate.According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), three-fourths of the 210,000 people who sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2004 were younger than 15. Sixteen children died from toy related injuries last year.Clayton said that such deaths are preventable.CalPRIG’s Trouble in Toyland report offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards.“Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers before they make a purchase this holiday season,” Clayton noted. “While most manufacturers comply with the law, parents should not assume that all toys on store shelves are safe or adequately labeled.”