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Trouble in Toyland

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

December is the biggest gift-shopping and toy-buying season of the year. Unfortunately, some of those gifts and toys will cause injuries, despite the efforts of various consumer safety groups and commissions. In fact, a 2014 study found that in the U.S., one child is treated for toy-related injuries every three minutes, and that from 1990-2011 there was a 40% increase in toy-related injuries. In the year preceding the study--the last year of available data for the study--there were 250,000 toy-related injuries; 50 children died in toy-related incidents between 2010-2013.

With these kind of numbers, it is more important than ever that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and all gift-givers be aware of which toys have been recalled, which have made the annual "10 Worst Toys List," and what to look for in general when shopping for the favorite people on your list.

THE W.A.T.C.H. LIST

The Boston-based advocacy group World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. or W.A.T.C.H., has compiled a "10 worst toys" list every year for the past 43 years. The toys on the 2015 list are described briefly below:

Bunnies by the Bay: a plush pull toy

Jiefing Toys: a realistic foam dart gun

Toys R Us, Inc.: trampolines for children 6+

Skyrocket Toys LLC: "Poo-Dough"

Imperial Toy LLC: "Smack-Shot"

Playsmart Inc.: "Kick Flipper"

Walmart Stores: Doctor play set for kids 2+

Early Learning: animal pull along toy with 12-inch cord

Hasbro: toy with oversized claws to mimic Velociraptor from Jurassic World movie

Playmates Inc: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy for children 4+

GENERAL GUIDELINES

The medical community at St. Louis Children's Hospital has put together some guidelines about toxins and safety hazards in toys and gifts that are not necessarily readily apparent or even publicly known. These are summarized below:

Avoid buying items made with shiny vinyl, since they can contain phthalates. Phthalates are a class of toxins associated with vinyl products, especially shiny vinyl such as backpacks, three-ring binders, lunch binders and other school supplies. Although phthalates have been banned in toys, they can still be found in these kinds of items, as well as in some crib mattresses, which may be related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Test toys for lead. Even though lead is banned in paint in the U.S., some toys, mugs, and kitchen ware still contain lead paint (the products can be made overseas, or handmade with paint that does not meet regulations). Lead is extremely harmful to children.

Avoid chromium VI (hexavalent chromium). It is used in electroplating, stainless steel production, leather tanning paint, and textile manufacturing. Ingesting or inhaling chromium VI is associated with cancer. Only shop in stores that have publicly available corporate policies on toxins in their products.

Check battery compartments of toys to make sure that the cover is secure and holds all batteries in place. Broken or loose covers mean that little hands can get hold of the batteries and possibly ingest them.

Avoid magnetic toys, such as a magnetic rock toy on the market by GeoCentral called Sticky Stones. Ingesting magnetic pieces means that they can stick together in the intestine and cause major problems.

Beware of choking hazards that come in all forms, such as the holiday food and candy brought by family and friends. Also, even though sticking with age-appropriate toys is always best, they too can sometimes contain parts small enough to ingest (think board games with dice or small figurines, and Doctor sets). Examine every toy and gift for small parts if there are little ones in the house.

Never use latex balloons; they are a choking hazard because they can easily be inhaled when someone takes a deep breath while trying to inflate them. In addition, they are an allergy risk for some children and adults. Use the foil (Mylar) balloons instead.

Steer clear of battery-operated and electronic stocking stuffers for little folk. Dime-store mini-flashlights and play phones tend to break easily and in doing so can become hazardous.

Be aware of the volume on toys and gifts. Not only can loud toys and electronics be aggravating, but they can cause permanent hearing impairment.

WHAT TO DO IF INJURED

The first priority is getting medical treatment, if necessary, for the injured. If you suspect something has been ingested or inhaled, a visit to the Emergency Department is always a good idea. A fall from a scooter or a hit on the head from a dart gun may also require a visit to the ED. More serious injuries such as choking, allergic reactions, or head injuries resulting in unconsciousness may necessitate a 911 call.

Keep the toy or gift which caused the injury exactly as it was when the harm was caused (unless the item causing harm was ingested). Do not try to repair it; its condition at the time of the injury will help to determine liability.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

For a free evaluation of your legal rights with respect to compensation for medical expenses and damages for lost wages and/or other losses, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm.

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