Christmas has just passed, and many of us are still enjoying the season, but not everyone approaches this time of year with the same holiday spirit. Despite decades of action to make children’s toys safer, there are still some who produce and sell toys that are potentially dangerous to small children.
Just as the holidays were getting underway, MASSPIRG released its thirty-first annual survey of toy safety. The report, “Trouble in Toyland,” looked at the good and the bad of toy safety efforts in the United States.
On the plus side, the report declares that toys are safer than ever before. Thanks to action by parents, safety advocates, legislators, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toy safety is a much higher priority than it once was.
In 2014, the most recent year with a full CPSC report, only eleven children died from toy-related injuries, and the majority of them were from ride-on toys that were struck by motor vehicles. Roughly a quarter million toy-related emergency-department-treated injuries were reported in 2014, a figure which has held stable in recent years.
On the other hand, the MASSPIRG report noted that getting the word out about recalled items and keeping them out of the hands of children is still an ongoing problem. In the time period covered by the survey, the CPSC announced recalls on more than forty toys and children’s products.
However, MASSPIRG was able to find more than a dozen of these items still available for sale online. Because buyers are rarely tracked at the retail level for this kind of item, it’s also likely that many parents are unaware of recall notices for toys that are already in their homes.
In addition to the problem of ride-on toys, which include scooters and bicycles, toy-related injuries are often caused by choking on small parts. This problem has been targeted intensely since the late 1970s, and toys for small children rarely have parts small enough to swallow. But small children often have access to older children’s toys.
There are other hazards to be aware of with toys. Sharp edges or pieces that can break off and lead to injury can be a problem, and you might recall problems with high levels of lead in paint or of lead and other toxic materials being used in play jewelry. Other hazards might not immediately come to mind. For instance, you might not think of overheating as a problem to worry about with toys, but there were four recalls in the past two years related to overheating batteries or chargers. Some models of last year’s “hottest” toy, hoverboards, actually started fires. One incident happened right here in Massachusetts, and the fire left several people homeless. Ultimately, more than half a million of them were recalled in the United States.
The system of regulation in place in the United States generally does a very good job of protecting consumers from dangerous products—but it isn’t foolproof. Any product, including one intended for children, can have defects in the design or the manufacturing process that can make it unsafe. These hazards are often unintentional, but there are also cases where products are sold even when they are known to have the potential to cause harm. That’s especially disturbing when a product is intended for use by children, who rely entirely on others to protect them.
If you or someone close to you has been injured by a defective or dangerous product, give us a call. At Joel H. Schwartz, PC, we have experience with defective product law, and we offer all clients a free consultation to discuss the specifics of their case. Call us today at 1-800-660-2270 or contact us online through the form below to learn more.