CPSC Recommends Guidelines For Buying Safe Toys

November 01, 1983
Release Number: 83060

Consumer Product Safety Commission said today that while toys as a whole may be safer, shoppers cannot assume that all toys which they might buy are safe. CPSC noted that there were an estimated 23,000 fewer injuries from toys in 1982 than in 1977, but that an estimated 123,000 injuries did occur. The CPSC particularly stressed the importance of choosing toys appropriate to a child's age, skills, and interest.

CPSC said there are approximately 150,000 different toys on the market. Making the proper selection of a toy is often difficult for consumers. Although many children's products are required to meet mandatory CPSC safety standards, serious accidents can occur if toys are not selected with the right child in mind..or used under adult supervision.

Based on hospital emergency room reports monitored by CPSC, in 1982, an estimated 400,000 children under age 15 were hurt while riding bicycles; another 22,000 children under 15 were injured using sleds. Accidents involving skates accounted for 97,000 injuries to children under 15, and another 14,700 injuries resulted from skateboards.

CPSC also estimated that 123,000 people received injuries requiring, hospital emergency room treatment from accidents involving toys.

CPSC recommends these guidelines for selecting a safe toy:

- Select toys to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the individual child. Federal safety requirements concerning sharp points and sharp metal and glass edges apply to all toys for children under eight years of age. Toys intended for children under three by law cannot be so small or contain parts so small that they can be swallowed or become lodged in a child's windpipe, ears, or nose.

- Be a label reader. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as "Not recommended for children under three." Look for other safety labels such as "Flame retardant/Flame resistant".

- Make sure that all instructions are clear to you..and when appropriate, to the child.

- Discard plastic wrappings on toys immediately, before they become deadly playthings.

- Toys with long strings or cords are not recommended for infants and very young children because they can cause strangulation.

- Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over eight years old.

- Arrows or darts used by children should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups or other protective tips. Check to be sure tips are secure.

- When buying toy guns and caps, be wary of those that can produce sounds at noise levels that can damage hearing. Federal law requires this warning on boxes of caps producing loud noises: "WARNING -- Do not fire closer than one foot to the ear. Do not use indoors." Parents should not give these caps to children too young to understand this warning.

CPSC also recommends the following steps to parents to promote toy safety in the home:

- Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Broken toys can develop sharp edges or create wall parts, A toy that cannot be repaired should be thrown away immediately.

- Teach children to put their toys safely away after playing to prevent trips and falls. Many accidents occur when toys are left out causing someone to fall.

- Take care to explain to children how to use their toys properly and how to take care of them.

- Keep toys designed for older children out of the hands of little ones. Chemistry sets, hobby items, and toys with small parts, particularly games, can be extremely dangerous if used by younger children.

- Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops, or ribbons in cribs or playpens where children can become entangled.



CPSC Recommends Guidelines For Buying Safe Toys

Toy Safety Questions and Answers

1. How many children are injured each year in accidents associated with toys, bicycles, and other children's products?

A. Estimated injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in 1982:

toys 123,000 (Data indicate that injuries
have decreased slightly from last year.)
bicycles 400,000 (children under 15)
sleds 22,000 (children under 15)
skates 97,000 (children under 15)
skateboards 14,700 (children under 15)

B. Reported fatalities for 1982. There were 17 fatalities reported to CPSC:

4 tricycles (2 children hit by automobiles while on tricycles)
6 balloons (choking)
2 small parts (balls) (choking)
1 marble (choking)
1 toy with cord (strangulation)
1 model airplane (struck by radio-controlled airplane)
1 chemistry set (ingested concentrated salt solution)
1 unidentified toy (slipped on toy and hit head on floor)

2. What kinds of accidents are associated with toys?

Many toy-related injuries occur as a result of sudden impact with a toy, such as a fall onto a toy, or impact from a thrown toy. Young children are especially vulnerable to choking and suffocation hazards trying to swallow small pieces of toys or household items or becoming entangled in strings, cords, or clothing.

3. What does USCPSC do to assure toy safety?

The Commission has set 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. There are approximately 150,000 different toys on the market and the Commission cannot test them all. It is the manufacturer's responsibility to assure that its products meet the requirements. Many toy manufacturers have extensive testing programs. The Commission does some testing to check for compliance and to follow up on consumer complaints. However, CPSC does not have the authority to "approve or endorse" toys for safety.

During the past year, CPSC investigated consumer and trade complaints and reports of injuries and deaths by conducting inspections of toy manufacturers, importers, and distributors and collecting samples of suspect toys. Manufacturers and importers have been requested to take corrective actions for those toys believed to present a significant hazard. Corrective actions may include some or all of the following: correcting the violation in future production, ceasing distribution, recalling from retail stores, and recalling from consumers. CPSC determines what is the appropriate corrective action based on the severity of the hazard presented by the subject toy and other factors.

4.What toys were recalled last year?

Approximately 47 toys and children's articles (some with several different style or model numbers) were recalled during FY 1983.

5. There used to be a "banned toy list." What happened to it?

The Commission discontinued the "banned toy list" in 1975 for several reasons.

Toys which have been banned or recalled have been removed from recall shelves. Manufacturers have the responsibility of notifying retailers if a product is being recalled and should be taken off the shelves. When a toy is recalled, the Commission often issues a press release to alert both retailers and consumers. Since these are released during the year (as needed) a single list would require constant updating.

Often manufacturers redesign their products to remove a potential hazard but the toy appears to be unchanged. A redesigned product could be mistaken for the product which was recalled.

In addition, since the Commission does not have the resources to check all toys for safety the "banned toy list" was misleading because it implied that any toy not on the list was safe.

6. What do toy manufacturers do to increase toy safety?

Each manufacturer is responsible for assuring that its products meet the Commission's requirements.

The Toy Manufacturers of America have developed a Voluntary Product Standard (PS 72-76) which establishes additional safety requirements and tests.

Many manufacturers have extensive testing programs, both to assure compliance with the federal and voluntary standards and to conduct actual "playtesting" of toys by children.

Many toys are packaged with instructions for safe assembly and use as well as appropriate age labeling to help consumers in their selection of toys.

7. How do you choose a safe toy?

The CPSC and Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA) recommend these guidelines for selecting a safe toy:

Select toys to suit the age, skills, abilities, and interest of the individual child. There are age recommendations on many toy packages; these may be used as guidelines for selecting SAFE as well as stimulating, educational toys.

If supervision is required, be prepared to make that commitment and to set "ground rules" for play.

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

Look for sturdy construction. When buying soft toys for young children, make sure you purchase a well-made item with eyes, nose, and any other small parts tightly secured.

For infants and toddlers, avoid toys with:
--small parts that children may put in their mouths.
--long strings or cords that may cause strangulation.

Avoid toys that shoot or propel objects that may injure eyes or get lodged in throats.

Arrows or darts used by children should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups or other protective tips. Check to be sure the tips are securely attached to their shafts. Examine these periodically to insure the protective tips remain secured.

Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over eight years old, and only as long as there is adult supervision. Consider the surroundings in which the toy will be used. Is there sufficient toy storage and play space? Will young children be exposed to toys designed for older children? Remember, younger children in the household may not know how to play with some toys safely.

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