Nothing tops the feeling of joy and satisfaction after seeing a child unwrap a new toy during the holidays. However, as a new study of toy-related child injuries indicates, a parent’s thoughts should quickly turn to safety.
The study, published in a recent issue of the journal, Clinical Pediatrics, found that an estimated 3.3 million children under the age of 18 required treatment in U.S. emergency rooms between 1990 and 2011, or about 149,000 cases per year, due to injuries that arose while playing with toys.
The annual toy-related injury rate rose by an alarming 39.9 percent over the 22-year span that researchers analyzed, using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. In 1990, the annual toy-related injury rate was 18.88 injuries per 10,000 children. By 2011, that number went to 26.42.
As MedicalDaily.com notes, more than half of those children were younger than age 5, with choking after swallowing or inhaling small toy parts being the most common injury in this age group.
However, during the period analyzed, the researchers also identified a major spike in injuries in the age 5-to-17 age group, with injuries such as cuts, fractures and dislocations after riding foot-powered scooters driving up those numbers.
“This underscores the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries to children,” Gary Smith, a lead author of the study, said in a press release, according to MedicalDaily.com.
“Important opportunities exist for improvements in toy safety standards, product design, recall effectiveness and consumer education,” Smith added.
What Steps Can Parents Take?
As Smith observes, manufacturers have a responsibility to manufacture and market toys that do not put children at risk of injuries.
For instance, if a toy contains small parts, magnets or batteries that could be easily ingested by a child under age 5, the manufacturer should not market the toy to children in that age group and should provide a warning about these risks.
Of course, parents can help to avoid post-holiday, toy-related injuries as well. A couple of steps they can take are:
1. Do your research before buying the toy.
A good way to avoid a toy-related injury is to avoid buying dangerous toys. Check out the Trouble in Toyland 2014 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). The report contains a summary of “toy hazards and examples of potentially dangerous toys.” This summary can help you to make safe holiday gift choices. You should also read the label and make sure you are buying a toy that is appropriate for the child’s age and maturity level.
2. Buy complementary gifts that allow for safe use.
If a toy does not come with items that allow for safe use – or if the manufacturer encourages purchasing items for safety purposes – make sure to include those items with the toy. For example, if you give your child a foot-powered scooter or skateboard, include a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads. Another example: If you buy crayons or markers or toys with small parts for older children that could be ingested, also buy a container for safely storing them – away from the reach of younger children.
3. Supervise and/or encourage safe use.
If a toy has instructions and warnings, go over them with your child before he or she starts playing with the toy. Make sure the child knows how the toy is supposed to be used. If the child is young, supervise the child’s play.
If the toy is a riding toy such as a foot-powered scooter, make sure that the child rides only on flat, dry surfaces and avoids riding in areas where vehicles frequent. Make sure the child always wears appropriate safety gear when riding, as well.
4. Check for toy recalls.
The unfortunate reality is that dangerous toys end up on store shelves each year and are later recalled for safety reasons. For example, a few years ago, Razor recalled thousands of scooters due to a defect that caused the toy’s handlebars to detach, leading to loss of control and falls.
An excellent way to keep up with the latest recalls is to sign up for e-mail alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission at Recalls.gov.
If you suspect that your child has been injured due to a dangerously designed or manufactured toy – or if you believe the manufacturer of the toy failed to adequately warn about its risks – you should consult with an attorney. An attorney can review your case and help you to understand your legal rights.