Toy shopping for a birthday or holiday gifts? Along with consulting kids’ wish lists, it’s a good idea to check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) list of recalled toys and the U.S. Public Interest Group’s (PIRG) recall roundup.
The CPSC report documenting the number of children injured or killed by unsafe toys. The most recent numbers show 198,000 emergency room visits for toy-related injuries and nine devastating fatalities.
Recognizing an unsafe toy can be tricky, and toys that are safe for some ages are dangerous for younger kids. The CPSC Toy-Related Deaths and Injury report shows even innocent-looking stuffed animals and celebratory balloons can cause tragic deaths by suffocation or choking. Clearly, caregivers must be alert and prevent little ones from getting their hands on recalled toys or any toy not appropriate for their engagement.
But toy companies must be alert as well. The CPSC’s product standards have been established to protect kids from toys that pose risks for choking, lacerations, burns, poisoning, broken bones, and internal injury. Toys included on the organization’s lists of recalled toys, the most recent item entered this very month, represent a variety of toy categories and potential injuries:
- Stuffed toys with loose seams. The inner stuffing becomes accessible and could cause choking.
- Toys with small parts may become detached, posing a choking hazard.
- Toys decorated with lead paint or produced with other harmful chemical substances, bringing a risk of serious illness
- Ride-on toys not properly balanced, potentially causing tip-overs.
- Playhouses and tents made with flammable fabrics, creating burn hazards
- Toys with sharp-edged pieces, could come loose, creating a risk for lacerations
Toy Safety Standards
To ensure toy safety, toy manufacturers have to do more than pass muster with Santa’s elves or the birthday boy or girl’s wishes. CPSC holds manufacturers and importers to federal regulations for toy safety.
These regulations align with the standards established by ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials), an international standards organization publishing safety standards for various materials and products–including toys.
Toys meeting safety standards will have a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC) to prove their “safe” status. For toys to earn a CPC, manufacturers and importers must subject the products to third-party testing in a CPSC-approved laboratory.
The Toy Recall Process
Toy recalls are usually triggered when a company learns of a problem with the toy. This alert may come from consumers or media, or from the CPSC depending on who receives reports regarding incidents with potentially unsafe products first.
Ultimately, the toy company is responsible for issuing recalls, though the CPSC urges companies to report problems and issue recalls promptly. Should a company refuse, the CPSC may seek a court order to force the company’s hand.
It is important to note toy companies and other businesses, are legally obligated to report product problems to the CPSC when:
- Product defects could lead to a risk of injury.
- Products present an elevated, unreasonable risk of severe injury or death.
- Products do not comply with CPSC product safety rules, bans, or standards.
- Children stop breathing after choking on a toy or game’s small parts sustaining serious or fatal injuries, or requiring treatment by medical personnel
- Certain lawsuits have been filed, as specified in the CPSC Recall Handbook, Section 37.
Businesses failing to report such information thoroughly and immediately can face significant civil or legal penalties. To ensure consumer safety and avoid these consequences, CPSC offers toy companies this advice: “‘when in doubt, report.’”
Recalled Toys Back on the “Shelves”
Unfortunately, not every recalled toy can be tracked down and sent to the Island of Recalled Toys, no longer able to endanger unsuspecting kids. Though toy companies and the CPSC provide consumers with information about how to repair the unsafe toy or return or destroy it and request a refund, many of these unsafe products still find their way back into homes, mainly thanks to booming e-commerce opportunities.
As part of their “Trouble in Toyland” report, PIRG describes purchasing and receiving “11 different types of recalled toys from U.S.-based online sellers, including Facebook Marketplace and eBay, as well as several online toy shops.”
Recalled stuffed animals and action figures, infant activity toys, musical and bath toys, and a toddler riding toy were all available for purchase, some in multiple amounts. PIRG states most items were in their original packaging or outfitted with new tags.
Reselling Recalled Toys Is Illegal
Recalled toys should not be on any shelves, online or otherwise, or sold at garage or yard sales. Those who resell recalled toys or any other recalled products are breaking federal law and could face serious legal repercussions.
Recently, the CPSC filed an action against TJX (the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods). The stores had re-shelved and resold recalled items, and faced a $13 million fine as a result. The products at issue posed risks of “death, fire, explosion, burn, laceration, and choking,” among other dangers. Nine hundred and sixty of the 1,205 products sold put infants and toddlers at risk.
How to Protect Your Kids
Toy tragedies are terrifying, but gift-givers and caregivers can take steps to prevent them. Before fulfilling those wish-list dreams, do some investigating:
Examine the Toy
- Look for small parts that might break off and wind up in a child’s mouth. As per CPSC, a toddler’s fully expanded throat is about the size (in inches) of a 1.25 (w) X 2.25 (l) test cylinder. Any loose (or potentially loose) toy part able to fit in a space is too small for a toddler to play with.
- Identify parts or pieces that could break from the toy, yielding a sharp edge that could cause cuts or punctures.
- Check battery compartments, if applicable. Tighten compartment screws to ensure your child cannot access the batteries, especially small “button” batteries.
Examine the Packaging
- Note the ages the toy is designed for. Suitable ages should be indicated on the packaging.
- Confirm the toy is non-toxic. Non-toxic status should be stated on the packaging.
- Ensure electronic toys are UL-approved. UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, a third-party certification company.
Consider Your Child
Parents and caregivers know their children best. Even a toy labeled appropriate for a little one’s age may not be suitable for their individual development or habits. Also, consider the other kids in the household. Toys safe for one child may not be safe for another.
Check the recall status of toys using the CPSC Recall page, and even after deeming a toy “safe,” stay vigilant. In most cases, toy defects are discovered after dangerous incidents occur, so conduct regular toy checks and keep a careful eye on the kids while they play.
If you’ve been dealing with a situation regarding a toy recall, please Call Riccio Law at 508-226-4500 to schedule a free consultation.