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Parents warned of toy-safety issues this season

November 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Toys that contain toxic chemicals or pose a choking hazard for small children are being sold nationwide. Health and safety experts in Southern California spoke Tuesday about the risks of these and other toys that may appear perfectly harmless.

Every year the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls thousands of toys for being unsafe. But the CPSC can't test every toy. That's why it's so important parents know what to look for before buying a dangerous toy.

For 27 years, the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), a consumer advocacy group, has been warning parents about dangerous toys, yet unsafe toys keep showing up on store shelves and eventually into the hands of small children.

"Over the recent decades, literally thousands and thousands of children have been injured by inappropriate use and exposure to some toys that are out there. And unfortunately, hundreds have actually been killed," said Dr. Jeffrey Upperman, director of the Trauma Program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Upperman said at a news conference Tuesday that magnets pose one of the most dangerous risks for kids. And those magnets may or may not be toys at all, such as Buckyballs, used to relieve stress.

"When you have more than one magnet, you get a loop of intestine or the stomach ... and then they come together, and then they rub the walls of intestine together, and ultimately they'll rub their way through, and then you have a large hole in the intestine," said Upperman.

According to CALPIRG's Isa Ballard, the number one hazard is choking.

"Last year the CPSC recalled more than 86,500 toys for choking hazard violations," said Ballard.

You can purchase the standard choking hazard tester at a baby store or at Children's Hospital. But CALPIRG would like to see the tester made bigger. They recommend using a toilet-roll tube. It's bigger. That's because some types of round objects will pass the standard tester, but would not pass the roll tube.

One more hazard to worry about: noisy toys. 85 decibels is the absolute limit, but this popular toy is at 92 decibels.

Upperman and CALPIRG have suggested these tips for toy safety:

- Select the toys to suit the age of the child
- Avoid toys with small parts for toddlers and young children
- Look for sturdy construction
- Monitor your child's play, especially if they like to put things in their mouth.


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