105,000 of them under 15 years of age - were injured by toys in the United States last year, an increase over 1985 and 1986.
So it's hard to understand why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is abandoning its traditional practice of listing banned or recalled toys, particularly at the onset of the biggest toy-buying season of the year.Fortunately, some private groups are trying to help take up the slack when it comes to alerting consumers to dangerous toys. One such group suggests that toy buyers watch out for:
- Inflatable sleds, some of which throw up snow that could blind the driver.
- Flammable items, including stuffed animals.
- Household-type toys urging children to imitate adults in a dangerous fashion. Among such toys is an electric oven that could burn a youngster. Also, there's a toy iron with a realistic-looking plug that could send children to the nearest electrical outlet.
- Items which could be dangerous if broken. For example, there's a toy doctor's kit with realistic-looking plastic instruments that could break when a child puts them to his face, throat, eyes, or ears.
Where such lists stop, common sense should start. Among other things, safety-conscious toy buyers should look for sharp edges, small parts, projectiles, and potential danger if the toy breaks.
Toys containing fabric should say the material is flame retardant or flame resistant. Painted toys should be non-toxic. Consider the child's age. Good toys should not require constant supervision to assure safety or correct use.
The ultimate responsibility lies not with the government or private consumer protection groups but with parents. When shopping for toys, keep in mind that a merry Christmas is a safe Christmas.