Posted On: November 25, 2010

A Checklist for Safe Toy Buying for the Holidays

Here are some tips from U.S. Public Interest Research Group for buying safe toys. Check out their website for more tips and links to where you can report dangerous toys to help protect others.

Avoid Common Hazards:

1. Choking

Choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 41 children aspirated or choked to death from 2005-09 on balloons, toys, or toy parts.

Bigger is better: Do not buy small toys or toys with small parts for children under 3. If a toy or part of a toy can pass through a toilet paper tube, don't buy it for a child under 3, or any child who still puts things in his/her mouth.

Read and heed warning labels: Toys with small parts intended for children between 3 and 6 are required by law to include an explicit choke hazard warning.

Never give young children small balls or balloons: Small balls, balloons and pieces of broken balloons are particularly dangerous, as they can completely block a child's airway. Balls for children under 6 years old must be more than 1.75 inches in diameter. Never give latex balls to children younger than 8 years old.

2. Magnetic Toys With Powerful Magnets

New, powerful small magnets used in most magnetic building toys, toy darts, other toys, and magnetic jewelry can fall out of small toys and look like shiny candy. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract each other in the body (in the stomach and intestines) and cause life-threatening complications. If a child swallows even one magnet, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Watch and "Button" Batteries

Keep watch or "button" batteries away from children. If swallowed, the battery acid can cause fatal internal injuries.

4. Noise

Children's ears are sensitive. If a toy seems too loud for your ears, it is probably too loud for a child. Take the batteries out of loud toys or cover the speakers with tape.

5. Strangulation Hazards

Mobiles: Keep mobiles out of the reach of children in cribs and remove them before the baby is five months old or can push him/herself up.

Cords: Remove knobs and beads from cords longer than one foot to prevent the cords from tangling into a dangerous loop.

Drawstrings: Clothing with drawstrings on the hood can get caught on fixed objects like playground equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.

6. Lead and Other Toxic Chemicals

Some children's toys and cosmetics may contain lead or other toxic chemicals, including phthalates. While most lead and phthalates are being phased out of toys beginning in 2009, older toys may still contain them.

Toys with PVC Plastic: Avoid toys made of PVC plastic which could contain toxic phthalates posing developmental hazards; choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead.

Lead: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), PIRG and children's health groups have found high levels of lead paint on toys, as well as high levels of lead in vinyl lunchboxes and bibs, and in children's costume jewelry. All lead should be removed from a child's environment, especially lead jewelry and other toys that can be swallowed. To test jewelry for lead, use a home lead tester available at the hardware store, or simply throw costume jewelry made with such heavy metals away.

Other chemicals: Read the labels of play cosmetics and avoid products with xylene, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate.

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Posted On: November 23, 2010

186,000 visits to ER due to defective toys, CPSC says

Kids under 15 made 186,000 visits to the ER due to defective toys, according to figures released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But there’s also good news in the latest CPSC report: deaths resulting from use of toys are down, as are toy recalls. But toy related injuries, particularly lacerations and contusions, are up.

CPSC says the number of toy recalls dropped to 44 in fiscal year 2010, down from 50 in 2009 and 172 in 2008. It credits its new toy safeguards -- establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world; converting the voluntary toy standard into a mandatory standard; and working with Customs and Border Protection data systems to better track shipments of dangerous products from other countries -- as helping to restore confidence in the safety of toys sold in the U.S.

Toy-related fatalities also decreased; in 2009. CPSC received reports of 12 deaths to children under the age of 15, down from 24 toy-related fatalities both in 2007 and 2008. Riding toys were associated with almost 60 percent of the reported deaths in 2009: three with tricycles, two with powered riding toys and two with nonmotorized riding toys or unspecified riding toys.

On the negative side, 2009 saw a massive recall of Mattel Inc.’s Fisher-Price toys, with more than 10 million products targeted, including infant toys, high chairs and toy cars. These products were recalled for many different reasons, including choking hazards and protruding parts.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week

You can read the complete CPSC report here.

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Posted On: November 23, 2010

3-D Imaging for Orthodontics Exposes Teens to High Dose Radiation

A new technology sweeping through dentistry -- especially orthodontics -- is called cone-beam CT scanning. It creates gorgeous 3-D images of the teeth and facial bones, but at a price of potentially high doses of X-rays, that carry a low risk (but still a risk) of cancer.

The risk accumulates with the more X-ray exposure there is, and sometimes dentists can run a child through the cone-beam CT scanner four times in the course of fitting braces.

The problem is worse because many dentists don't understand the X-ray exposure risk, and therefore minimize it when counseling parents and teens. Also, some dentists who are flacking for the CT scanner manufacturers are spreading mis-information, according to a big investigative report in the New York Times.

One dentist who is a paid spokesman claims in online lectures that the X-ray exposure of a cone-beam CT scan is no more than an airport whole body scanner. In fact, the dose can be more than one hundred times higher with the CT scan.

Sometimes the scans aren't needed at all but are done for convenience. A regular digital camera can produce images of the location of teeth that are adequate to make custom braces, but they take longer than with the CT scan.

Here is a good list of questions prepared by the Times reporters for parents to ask when the dentist wants to put their child through one of these CT scan machines.

Read the whole report in the Times here.

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Posted On: November 18, 2010

Big recall of Roman shades, roll-up blinds and roller blinds because of strangling hazard in small kids

In conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Hanover Direct Inc. (also known as Domestications, The Company Store and Company Kids) has recalled nearly 500,000 Roman shades, roll-up blinds and roller blinds because of strangulation hazards to small children.

In October 2009, about 90,000 Roman shades were recalled due to strangulation fears. Strangulations can occur when a child places his/her neck between the exposed inner cord and the fabric on the backside of the blind or when a child pulls the cord out and wraps it around his/her neck.

The latest recall of about 495,000 items came after a 22-month old boy was found hanging from his neck from the outer cords of a Roman shade in May. The outer pull cords were knotted at the bottom. The child was rescued by his father but later died in a hospital.

To date, no injuries or incidents attributable to rollup or roller blinds have been reported. However, strangulations can occur with roll-up blinds if the lifting loops slide off the side of the blind and a child's neck becomes entangled on the free-standing loop or if a child places his/her neck between the lifting loop and the roll-up blind material. With roller blinds, strangulations can occur if the blind's continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord is not attached to the wall or the floor with the tension device provided and a child's neck becomes entangled in the free-standing loop.

The new recall involves all styles of Roman shades with inner cords, all styles of roll-up blinds, and roller blinds that do not have a tension device. A tension device is intended to be attached to the continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord and installed into the wall or floor.

The blinds were sold at Hanover Direct/Domestications, the Company Store/Company Kids; online at and; and through catalog sales nationwide from January 1996 through October 2009 for between $20 and $579. They were manufactured in China, the United States, and other countries.

Consumers should immediately stop using all Roman shades with inner cords, all roll-up blinds, and all roller blinds that do not have a tension device, and contact the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 anytime for free repair kits or visit

Consumers who have roller blinds with a tension device should make sure the tension device is attached to the continuous loop bead chain or continuous loop pull cord and is installed into the wall or floor.


You can view the original CPSC recall report here.

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Posted On: November 10, 2010

Tracking sports injuries to make athletics safer

Fred Mueller is not your casual weekend sports fan. The retired 74-year-old former professor from the University of North Carolina continues to run – almost single-handedly – the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research (NCCIR) at UNC, tracking, logging and analyzing catastrophic injuries in football and other sports.

Over a 30-year span, Mueller has analyzed more than 1,000 fatal, paralytic or otherwise severe injuries to young athletes, looking for and identifying patterns that result in rule or other changes that increase athlete safety.

The data compiled by the NCCIR has its genesis in the “football death log” begun in 1931 by the American Football Coaches Association. In the 1960s, UNC began to oversee the log. After Mueller became director of the NCCIR in 1980, he expanded it to include catastrophic injuries in all sports, among boys and girls.

Almost immediately, Mueller noted a previously hidden cluster of injuries among polevaulters and swimmers. As a result, polevaulting pits were expanded and surrounded with softer padding, while minimum depths were established for diving into swimming pools.

And after he noted the high number of injuries among cheerleaders, specifically those who are thrown up to 25 feet high and not caught, cheerleading safety guidelines and universal standards were established.

So far this year, Mueller has logged 24 catastrophic football injuries; typically, there are 36 such injuries every year. He’s also just finished a book on football injuries co-written with Robert Cantu, MD, the NCCIR's medical director. Football Fatalities and Catastrophic Injuries, 1931-2008 details football’s decade-by-decade tragedies and rule changes — like the 1976 outlawing of spearing and more recent adjustments to kickoff wedges. A final chapter discusses injury prevention strategies and other ways to make football safer.

Source: The New York Times

To visit the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research home page, click here.

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Posted On: November 3, 2010

Three drop-side cribs are recalled as CPSC joins child safety groups in crib education campaign video for new parents

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently joined three child safety organizations to release "Safe Sleep for Babies," a new crib safety video aimed at helping all new parents avoid suffocation, strangulation and entrapment risks. CPSC also announced three new recalls of dangerous drop-side cribs.

Collaborating with CPSC on the video, which is moderated by TV journalist Joan Lunden, were the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Keeping Babies Safe (KBS) and New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

Meanwhile, CPSC recently recalled nearly 40,000 drop-side cribs due to concerns about “entrapment, suffocation and fall hazards.” More than 34,000 of these were for Heritage Collection 3-in-1 drop-side cribs, which were manufactured in Vietnam and retailed at K-Mart nationwide from February 2007 through October 2008 for about $130.

The remaining recalls were for drop side cribs (a) manufactured in China and sold online at, Babyage and other Web Retailers from December 2004 through January 2009 under the “Longwood Forest” or “Angel Line” label for about $140; and (b) manufactured in the United States and China and sold at Ethan Allen stores from January 2002 through December 2008 for between $550 and $900.

The "Safe Sleep for Babies" video, which aims to educate new and expectant parents and caregivers on crib safety while they are at the hospital or visiting their pediatrician's office, is part of CPSC's Safe Sleep Initiative, a multi-pronged effort aimed at reducing crib deaths and injuries. In addition to this education effort, CPSC's Safe Sleep Initiative includes the development of new crib standards, warnings about drop-side cribs, sleep positioners, and infant slings, and the recall of millions of cribs in the past five years.

CPSC will distribute the video online and through its network of about 100 hospitals nationwide. NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital plans to make the video available to all families as part of their parent education programs, and provide copies to hospitals in the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Healthcare System. The American Academy of Pediatrics will promote the video to its 60,000 members and will feature it on AAP's parents-focused website,, where it will be available for download.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission
For more information on the crib recalls, go here.
You can view the video here.

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