On Black Friday, as many as 154 million shoppers will hit the mall in search of the perfect holiday bargain. But if you’re shopping for a child, you’ll want to pay attention to more than just the price tag. Warning labels are crucial to keep kids safe from certain toys that may pose choking hazards, but not all toys come with warnings. With one child choking to death every 5 days in the United States, it’s essential to know which toys could pose a threat. Children under the age of 3 are particularly vulnerable to choking incidents.
What laws or regulations are in place to protect children from such hazards? Which toys pose the biggest choking dangers? Let’s take a closer look.
Product Liability Laws and Warning Labels
Since 1972, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued warnings on toys that may carry hazards for children under the age of 3. The CPSC includes a small parts regulation in its warnings, which it defines as follows:
“A small part is any object that fits completely into a specially designed test cylinder 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide that approximates the size of the fully expanded throat of a child under three years old.”
In other words, a small part could be present on just about any toy, from a button on a doll’s dress to a plastic eye on a stuffed unicorn. By law, products that contain these small parts as defined by the CPSC cannot be marketed to children under the age of 3.
Some products, however, slip through the cracks, and product liability lawsuits have been on the docket for decades, including one from 1993 in which an infant girl choked to death in California on a pom-pom attached to her Blizzard Bear. The baby’s parents, Edward and Colleen Cunningham, sought $15 million in damages from the manufacturer of the teddy bear, Applause Inc., claiming that the toy was defective because the pom-pom was glued rather than sewn on. Applause, Inc. eventually settled out of court with the parents for a lower sum of $1.5 million. The Blizzard Bear contained no warning label, which made it a clear threat for any child, but especially for a helpless infant.
However, children of all ages may be at risk of choking. Here are five toys and accessories currently on the market that may pose the biggest threat.
Top 5 Toys That May Present Choking Hazards
#1: Wiggle Balls
Since June of 2016, more than 30,000 of these balls covered in tiny rubber stars have been recalled by Toys R Us. While no deaths have been reported from the Wiggle Balls, some star attachments have broken off and been found lodged in several children’s mouths.
#2: Playtex Plates and Bowls
Tea parties are exciting for kids, but be careful when choosing dishware. While you’re not going to bring out the heirloom china for a 6-year-old’s birthday party, it may be wise to steer clear of cheaper dishware too, like Playtex Plates & Bowls, some of which have been recalled due to a potential choking hazard. After 372 reports of bubbling and peeling plastic, the CPSC recalled 3.6 million of the defective products from popular retailers like Amazon and Target.
#3: Waggy Wind-up Musical Toys
Citing a choking danger from the metal lever of the toy’s wind-up mechanism, the CPSC has recalled more than a dozen varieties of these popular plush animals. More than half a million Waggy Toys have already been recalled.
From kids’ tablets to drones, some of the hottest toys today are battery-operated. All batteries, regardless of shape, present a choking danger as they are both small and smooth and can easily become wedged in a child’s throat. While you’re most likely not going to ban battery-operated toys and devices from your home, it’s important to keep an eye on young children as they play with them.
These days, it’s a novelty to give a child a toy that doesn’t require a charger or electrical outlet. One classic option is a colorful set of glass marbles. Unfortunately, this old-fashioned gift isn’t the safest option. The slippery texture of the marbles and their appealing candy colors may pose serious threats to young children. For a fun “retro” gift, opt for a coloring book and box of crayons instead.
Keeping Your Kids Safe from Dangerous Toys
While there are never any guarantees, there are a few rules of thumb you can apply to protect your child from potentially hazardous toys.
- Read the instructions with your child to ensure he or she uses the toy properly.
- Monitor your kids as they play and prevent accidents before they happen.
- Be aware of board games that may contain small pieces like tokens.
- Do not allow your child to play with household items like buttons, pen caps, or coins.
- Most importantly, read warning labels! Warning labels are in place not only to protect companies from product liability but also to protect your child. Reading and adhering to a warning label may even help save a life.
As we head into another busy holiday season, take the time to keep your most precious gifts safe from harm. Read and reread those warning labels. And keep your children away from other choking hazards of the season, like hard candy.