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Seemingly safe toys can pose dangers for small children

PHOENIX – As the holidays approach, parents of small children should keep in mind that seemingly harmless toys have pieces that can be choking hazards, a surgeon at Phoenix Children’s Hospital said last week.

“When you have small kids in your house, you just need to be aware of the dangers of batteries, magnets and small toys, but also small pieces of plastic, little things that are on your floor,” Dr. Kathy Graziano said at a news conference organized by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group.

Arizona PIRG released a national report saying that there are still many dangerous toys on store shelves, including those with high levels of toxic chemicals and others loud enough to harm a child’s hearing.

But Monica Flores, a spokeswoman for Arizona PIRG’s Education Fund, said the biggest threat to children’s health is choking hazards.

“Toddlers put almost everything in their mouths,” she said.

Flores said the best way for parents to measure whether a toy can cause choking is using an empty toilet paper roll.

“If a toy passes through an empty toilet paper roll, it is too small for a child under the age of 3,” she said.

Graziano said small objects like battery buttons from toys are a major source of long-term hospitalizations, multiple surgeries and deaths among babies and toddlers.

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“It goes down the esophagus, it gets stuck there before it makes it very far,” she said. “It can be there for a few days or maybe a week before anybody knows it.”

Tempe resident Erin Eccleston, who attended the news conference, said she constantly worries that her 6-month-old daughter will put something hazardous in her mouth.

“At the end of the day, they can’t protect themselves,” she said. “We have to protect them, so that’s to me really important, to make sure that products are labeled appropriately and that manufacturers are actually putting things on the shelves that are safe for our children.”

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Paige Schwahn/Cronkite News Service

At a press conference that discussed the findings from “Trouble in Toyland: the 27th annual survey of toy safety,” these toys were found to barely meet federal standards for toy size requirements or were identified as choking hazards for young children.

Tips for parents

  • Examine toys carefully prior to purchase to make sure the design and construction are safe.
  • Check warning labels, especially calling attention to choking hazards.
  • Check your house to ensure small objects are out of reach.
  • If you’re not sure if a toy can be swallowed, use a toilet paper roll. If it fits through, a small child can swallow it.

Source: U.S. PIRG