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Parents Juggling Work In The Pandemic Should Be Extra Careful About Dangerous Toys, Annual Report Warns

Caution tape surrounds playground equipment in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Caution tape surrounds playground equipment in South Austin on April 1. As children spend more time at home during the pandemic, working parents may find it difficult to constantly supervise their play.

It's especially important to keep dangerous toys out of the home this holiday season while parents may be managing multiple responsibilities and not always watching over children at play, a new report says.

The 35th annual "Trouble in Toyland" report from the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the biggest danger comes from small toy parts and game pieces that may be choking hazards. While toys with small pieces should be labeled as being for children age 3 and up, that’s not always the case.

U.S. PIRG says every child is different and caregivers should use their judgment before letting a child play with a toy. Shoppers should scrutinize results from sites like Amazon when filtering for toys by age group, because the results aren’t always age appropriate.

“The classic rule of thumb that parents need to remember is if it can fit inside … the cardboard remnants of a toilet paper roll, it’s a choking hazard for your child,” Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, said.

The report also warns shoppers about noisy toys. It cites the World Health Organization’s findings that sounds over 80 decibels can damage a child’s hearing if the child is exposed long enough.

“Noises between 100 and 120 decibels can cause damage if it lasts more than one minute," it states.

It notes high-powered recreational magnets like those meant for adults to create shapes and figures can be harmful if swallowed. Magnets can “link in the digestive system and cause serious or even life-threatening conditions.”

“I have seen many children in-patient at Dell Children’s who have suffered the consequences of swallowing small high-powered magnets or small batteries,” Mary Beth Bennett, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said. “And the damage that it does to their insides really is awful to see, irreparable, often has to be surgically corrected, and they have life-long consequences.”

The Consumer Products Safety Commission can order toys that are considered unsafe to be recalled and removed from stores. However, those products may still be in secondhand markets like garage sales, flea markets and online platforms like eBay.

The report highlighted several recalled products that could still be found for sale online, including a toy shopping cart that can break into sharp pieces and a Fisher Price Barbie Dream Camper with a foot pedal that can get stuck and cause a crash.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett said there are limits to what government can do.

“The number one piece of advice we give is that parents should not assume that a toy bought online is safe,” he said. “And parents cannot count on government or anyone else to protect their children in all circumstance.”

When it comes to hi-tech gifts, the report advises parents to be careful with Bluetooth-connected toys that strangers could hack to communicate with children. The report also advises parental control over gaming consoles to prevent children from accessing games with harmful language or contact with strangers online.

Sangita Menon is a general assignment reporter for KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @sangitamenon.
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