Well, it’s here. Black Friday. Holiday shopping is even starting now on Thanksgiving Day in some stores. Holiday shopping is stressful, but holiday stress can turn to holiday tragedy if a toy turns out to be defective and causes a child’s injury or death. The supply of toys seems unlimited, so finding out if a toy has been recalled is well worth doing. And, it’s easy to do – before you go to the store or shop on-line.
In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported over 140,000 toy-related injuries treated in emergency rooms. The CPSC strongly recommends that holiday season gift buyers be on the lookout for recently recalled toys and children’s products that pose safety threats. Before purchasing any toy, why not take the simple step of checking the CPSC recall list to see if the toy is known to pose a hazard. CPSC Toy Recall Link: http://cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html. Many consumer groups have sampled toys and put out lists of toys they consider dangerous. Just today, the Florida Times-Union carried an Associated Press report that the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) listed a dozen inexpensive but dangerous toys in its 26th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report: http://www.uspirg.org/issues/toy-safety. And, World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.), recently published their list of ten worst toys.
Speaking of W.A.T.C.H., it was founded by a trial lawyer worked for decades against dangerous toys. When I began representing consumers in products liability cases, one of the lawyers already well-known in the field of defective products was Edward M. Swartz, a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer in Boston. In fact, as I write this, I have next to me my personal copy of his 1985, Proof of Product Defect, a book I used in doing just that, proving product defects in jury trials. Mr. Swartz made it his mission to protect children against dangerous toys. Each year he published and held press conferences highlighting the ten most dangerous toys and wrote the books, Toys That Don’t Care and Toys That Kill. When Mr. Swartz died in 2010, The Washington Post quoted consumer advocate, Ralph Nader: “[Mr. Swartz] basically pioneered the whole area of toy safety. He documented it, he litigated it, he advocated for regulatory standards and recalls … and he engaged in massive public education.”
There is still a lot of work to be done, especially in a world where so many toys and other items for children are, like other products, made in China and other parts of the world that do not have the safety standards we have in the U.S.; this is reflected by reports of toys with paint containing lead, cadmium, or other heavy metals.
The CPSC recommends parents, care givers, daycare centers, and thrift stores be vigilant and get rid of previously recalled items such as older toys and products that pose hazards. This is especially important with older baby cribs, baby walkers, strollers and high chairs. This points-up that it is not only defective toys that can be dangerous, other products such as furniture, clothing and furnishings should also be checked for recalls. CPSC Infant/Child Product Recalls: http://cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/child.html
The CPSC also provides age and other guidelines for shoppers to follow to keep children safe. For a printable list of these guidelines, click here: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/grand/toy/toysafe.html
Also, be careful about where you buy. Thrift stores and yard sales can be spend-savvy places, but second-hand toys and other items for children may be broken or defective. Plus, without original packaging, age guidelines and warnings may not be there.
Holiday shopping contributes to sharing the joy of the season with family and friends. Let’s make it smart and safe.