Dangerous toys: Be aware of smart toys and do the 'toilet roll test' for items that could be choking hazards

Toys are always a popular gift during the holiday season, but before you shop, the watchdog group U.S. PIRG is sharing their latest Trouble in Toyland report.

The watch group says over the past thirty years; their annual reports have led to more than 150 recalls of unsafe toys and regulatory action. This holiday season, the group first wants to remind you about the choking hazards many toys pose.

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One of the biggest culprits when it comes to choking hazards, according to PIRG, are balloons.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, balloons are the primary cause of suffocation. Children can accidentally inhale balloons while inflating them or ingest broken balloon pieces, which can lead to suffocation.

Another dangerous toy, according to PIRG, are those with small magnets. They can cause serious harm and even death if swallowed.

"Keep toys with small parts away from younger children particularly any small pieces that could come separate from a toy or things that could be taken apart that could pose a choking hazard," said Dr. Karen Chilton, Associate Chief Medical & Quality Officer for WakeMed Children's Hospital. "This is most important in children less than three years of age."

For toys you think could pose a choking hazard, use the toilet paper roll test. If the toy can fit through the roll, it can easily be swallowed by your child.

PIRG's report says other dangerous toys to watch out for are ones that make loud noises. Some toy guns or action figures can reach close to 90 decibels, which can hurt a child's hearing. If the toys are too loud to you, it's probably too loud for your kid. To get around that, you can remove the batteries to stop the noise or put tape over the speaker to muffle it.

When it comes to toys for older kids, you need to be aware of those that could leave them open to hackers. The CPSC says in the past, smart toys like the "My Friend Cayla Doll" or the "Furby Connect" have recorded children's voices or kept histories of the data they entered.

Smart toys that operate over non-secure networks can collect and store this information, which could end up in the wrong hands.

You are encouraged to pay close attention to the privacy setting of any toys you buy your children, including kid's tablets and other interactive products. Also, only use these items over secure networks or entirely offline, and be sure to be aware of any personal information you or your child enters in these devices.

The Toy Association responded to the Trouble in Toyland annual report by saying the group issues the report to "needlessly frighten parents with baseless claims." It also adds that toys continue to be one of the safest consumer product categories found in the home. U.S. toy safety requirements include more than 100 standards and tests to ensure that toys are safe.

The association says they work year-round to educate parents and caregivers to always shop at reputable stores and verified online retailers and to exercise caution when buying toys from flea markets, unverified sellers on online marketplaces, garage sales, etc., as these vendors may not be monitoring for recalled products or might not be selling legitimate toys that comply with strict U.S. laws.
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