Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year are fast approaching it is a good time to remember that holiday joy should also be tempered with a measure of caution. Earlier this month the US Public Interest Research Group released its annual survey of dangerous toys, Trouble in Toyland. It is a reminder that parents need to take care during the coming weeks to ensure that unsafe products do not threaten their families.
The issue here is not so much the common dangers that any responsible parent is always aware of – choking hazards, for example (though, to be clear, these remain very real). Rather it is with manufacturing problems that parents may not immediately be able to see, but which pose a risk of death or serious injury to unsuspecting children.
Trouble in Toyland notes that “toys with high levels of toxic substances are still on store shelves, as well as toys with lead content above the 100 parts per million limit.” It also expresses particular concern about toys containing “small powerful magnets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed.”
The magnet issue is of particular concern. Magnets small enough that they are not a substantial choking risk can create much more trouble once they are inside a child’s body. As a CNN report detailed last summer, small magnets can bunch together once they reach the stomach or intestines leading to serious, sometimes life-threatening, medical problems. The report notes that “there are no recent studies on how many children have ingested high-powered magnets, although the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of 200 cases since 2008.”
The TV channel quotes one pediatrician expressing surprise at how little regulatory protection there is for parents eager to keep such items out of their homes, though it does say that the CPSC is considering recalls or bans of some magnet-based toys (including adult-focused desktop toys).
Until that happens (and regular readers will know that the CPSC process can be very slow indeed) it behooves parents and grandparents to take special care in picking toys this holiday season. The warnings also serve as a reminder that seemingly innocuous adult desktop time-killers need to be kept in places where small children cannot reach them. As a Portland product liability lawyer with a special interest in Oregon child injury cases it is important to emphasize the responsibility of manufacturers to make their products safe. When safety begins in the factory it becomes less of an issue for each of us at home.