Toyland Failures

Children's toysWe tell our children don’t touch the stove and look out for cars. Then we give them toys which simulate the very world that we warn them about, but should we be warning them about their toys? We often try to create a fanciful world of safety around our children, but is toyland truly safe?

Several toys are recalled or issue extra warnings each year. Famous past examples would include the Easy Bake Oven in 2005 which were recalled due to high risk of burns, Aqua Dots in 2009 which were known to slow breathing and heart rate if licked, Cabbage Patch Snack Time dolls which frequently chomped down on their owners, or Sky Flyers a favorite toy of little girls in the 90’s which would twirl rapidly upwards at the pull of a string and excite fantasy and imagination as it provided frequent lacerations black eyes and concussions.  Even Kinder Egg Surprises, a popular German made candy for children, recalled over 5,000 of its candies in 1997 for choking hazards and candy contamination. The most beloved and innocent child things can often be the most dangerous.

 The US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) preformed several tests regarding the safety of last year’s bestselling toys. They found five common and potentially hazardous elements to these toys.

1. Lead

They found that there are still small amounts of lead found in the pigmentation of the plastics. There has been much legislation against the harmful use of lead and the current levels present would only be harmful if a significant amount of the plastic is ingested, the continued presence of lead in child play things will come as a surprise.

The government has set the bar for lead at 100 parts per million, but various medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for this maximum to be cut in half.

2. Phthalates

Phthalates are a compound of acids used in the plasticizing process. These acids lead to increased transparency and flexibility. With the growing demand for innovation it is expected that the properties of phthalate high plastics will increase.

At the moment the government currently allows 1000 parts per million of phthalates. This is currently being deemed a safe level but there is a growing skepticism regarding the safety of exposure to these types of plastics. Though phthalates are inherent in our environment, recent studies on rats performed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have found those rats which have been exposed to higher levels of phthalates experience hormone imbalances and it is believed to lead to birth defects as well. Although the toys of today were found to have normal levels of phthalates it is important to be aware that the risks posed by these plastics increase with time because as the plastic ages and decays more phthalates are released.

3. Magnets

The dangers of magnet based toys have been seen in the Buckyball toy which was recently recalled. Buckyballs are small magnetic ball baring like magnetic balls which were advertised as the ultimate in child ingenuity and creativity. However, it proved to be the ultimate in child emergency room trips.

If a child swallows just one magnet it will typically pass through their system without causing harm. If one or more magnets or an extremely strong magnet is swallowed significant wounds and even death occur. These types of magnets will pull at the inner lining of the intestines and when there are two magnets the intestines often become trapped between the poles. These occurrences result in hemorrhages and internal bleeding from lacerations.

4. Choking Hazards

This is not a new hazard. Today many kids have been trained from a young age not to put things in their mouths. Although toy makers have tried to make toys with small parts age appropriate there are still dangers arising when toys come apart or are used inappropriately. Often the small part warning is present but parents should be advised not to purchase toys with “near” small parts for those children under 3.

5. Noise

PIRG found that the vast majority of the most alluring and popular toys had some element which created noise. The issue comes not with the sound, as many annoyed fathers and mothers would hope, but with the amount of sound issued. Sound is measured in decibels. The government claims that sounds which are continuous or frequent should be kept well below 85 decibels. At 85 decibels of above gradual hearing loss is inevitable.

We can often hear teens being told to turn the headphones down because they will go deaf, but they probably have been experiencing hearing loss from a much earlier age. The US Public

Interest Research Group found that the toy which children were most drawn to emitted between 65 and 85 decibels constantly and within close range to the ear.

The damaging effects from even the smallest of child toys are startling. What is more shocking is that the harm can come from commonly found toy parts. If you know of a child who has been harmed by a plaything there is help call Christensen & Hymas at (801)506-0800.

Image courtesy of Rachel

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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