Dangerous Toys

The recent recall of thousands of magnetic toys manufactured by Mattel is just one example of dangerous toys on store shelves. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, many toys pose serious health risks for children.

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Every year the Texas Public Interest Research Group publishes a report called Trouble in Toyland. The report details some of the most commonly found dangerous toys on store shelves. One of the newest risks is magnets. Last year, one child died and several others were injured after swallowing small, but powerful magnets found in building sets and magnetic jewelry. The magnets can connect internally, causing obstructions in the stomach or bowels. TexPIRG Spokesman Colin McKellips says children under the age of three should not be allowed to play with magnets or other small objects.

"I will use something that every parent has at home, an empty toilet paper roll. If a toy fits into this paper roll, it's too small for children under three."

Choking is probably the most common toy hazard. Dr. Ricardo Quinonez is the attending physician of emergency medicine at Texas Children's Hospital. He says every year, parents hear the same message about toy safety and every year dozens of children choke or suffocate on small toys.

"Toy safety and playtime safety is very near and dear to my heart because we see a lot of morbidity and mortality associated with it in both environments in the hospital. As the holiday shopping season approaches, I think one of the most important take-home messages that parents should have is that no toy out there comes with guaranteed safety."

Quinonez says even trusted stores stock toys that may be dangerous. And brand-names don't guarantee safety. Toys by Fisher-Price, Mattel, Tonka and Hasbro are on the dangerous toys list. Last year, 73,000 children under the age of five were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Of those, 20 children died. Quinonez says these injuries and deaths are 100 percent preventable.

"Play should always be supervised by adults and it is also important to remember to separate the younger and the older children when they are playing. And then after playtime is done, it is crucial to remember to put toys away in a safe way. Safe storage can prevent falls and other injuries. And toys for older children should be always separated from that younger children can get a hold of."

With the holiday season coming up, TexPIRG recommends carefully inspecting any gifts children receive from relatives or friends. They say parents shouldn't hesitate to remove potentially dangerous toys. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...