Agency warns against recalled kids' items
Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 at 10:48 p.m.
When shopping for gifts for their children, parents shouldn't have to worry that their purchases could eventually lead to choking, punctures or - very worst case scenario - death.
But those are real consequences of some products on the market today.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal regulatory agency that enforces safety laws on a variety of consumer products, reports that there were 11 toy-related deaths involving children under 15 in 2003. These deaths were from choking on small balls, balloons, game pieces, toy beads and being asphyxiated by a stuffed toy. In addition, 155,400 children were treated for toy-related injuries.
This past year saw 87 toys or children's products recalled, including some items that - at first glance - did not look particularly menacing.
Take shoes, for instance. There were 441,000 children's athletic shoes manufactured by Payless ShoeSource Inc. that had a metal eyelet lace holder at the top of the shoes. This lace holder could detach, and at least one child started to choke on one, according to the CPSC. While no other injuries were reported, Payless agreed to exchange or refund the price if consumers brought the shoes back in.
One recalled child's toy, the plastic Batman Batmobile toy vehicle distributed by Mattel Inc., has extremely pointed rear tail wings which could puncture a child's skin. Of the 314,000 distributed, there were 14 reports of injuries consisting of scrapes, scratches, lacerations and punctures, four of them requiring medical treatment, the CPSC said.
Other toys were recalled because they caused facial cuts, fire or burn hazards, pinching or injuries from falls, such as from a stroller. One recall was of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry, dispensed via vending machines, about half of which contained dangerous levels of poisonous lead.
Among the top recalls were bumble bee toys on Graco high chairs and mobile entertainers (choking on detached antenna), Nerf Big Play football by Hasbro (hard plastic interior causes cuts), radio-controlled toy trucks by Nikko America (overheating, causing fire and smoke), Tek Nek ride-on toys (screws come loose, 18-month-old boy inhaled a screw into his lungs and died), children's mirror books imported by Kids II Inc. (mirrors can crack and break) and Cosco "Rock 'N Roller" baby stroller (seat can detach).
The CPSC reports none of the recalled toys should still be on the shelves of stores, but urges parents to check their children's toy chests or gift closets to make sure they had not purchased these items earlier in the year.
"We do this holiday recall roundup because toys are on people's minds, and it gives us a second chance to publicize them," said Ken Giles, CPSC spokesman. "In general, we know from experience that only about 50 to 60 percent of the recalled products get repaired, replaced or refunded. Our goal is 100 percent. We want to try to boost the recall effectiveness."
The CPSC actively seeks out and announces product recalls, but often these announcements don't get to large portions of the populations at risk: minority groups or elderly, low-income and rural residents.
To facilitate this, the agency recently announced the launch of the Neighborhood Safety Network (NSN), a Web-based grass-roots initiative aimed at delivering lifesaving information to hard-to-reach consumers. Community groups and individual consumers can download the new holiday safety poster and sign up to receive all NSN safety and recall information at the CPSC Web site at www.cpsc.gov, or by calling CPSC's hot line toll-free at (800) 638-2772. Complaints about products also can be relayed to the agency via these same routes. To find out more about recalls, visit the agency at www.recall.gov.
Giles said most recalls are negotiated if there is a violation of a safety standard - even if no death or injury was involved - or if there is a defect that could - or has - caused death or injury.
"If we can't negotiate a voluntary recall, we can resort to compulsory process," he said.
While there is no formal pre-market clearance, Giles said "the safety standards are out there. The (toy) industry is aware they must conduct the testing - safety and defect analysis - because that is how they can prove they are in compliance with standards. Importers have to meet the same standards as domestic manufacturers."
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services functions as the CPSC's agent in Florida regarding product recalls, inspections and investigations. Its hot line is (800) 435-7352.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or email@example.com
Tips for selecting safe items for your child
Make safety No. 1 when purchasing toys for children:
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