, Gloucester, MA


December 6, 2012

Making sure toys are safe to give to children

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, but readers might wonder why it’s showing up as a topic in this column devoted to matters of interest for older readers. In a word, grandparents! At holiday time, they are purchasing gifts for youngsters, too, and some of them, not having had small children around in a while, might not be fully aware of the hazards that lurk in local stores or online shopping channels.

Grandparents may be on limited incomes, so try to save money on toys.

By far the most important thing is to purchase toys appropriate for the child’s age. Fortunately, most toys are marked. Speaking of age, though, for those younger than 3, choking is the most common hazard, so any toys that have small parts that could come off, be pulled loose or chewed, or which have strings, are taboo for that age group.

Any toy should be painted with lead-free paint, and toys in general should be lead-free, and free of other toxic heavy metals. While toys made in the U.S. are supposed to be lead-free by law, toys made prior to 1978 (those “heirlooms” you might have considered giving, perhaps) and those manufactured in other countries may not be.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (( issues recalls of toys that could potentially expose children to lead, but not always before the toys make it into the hands of consumers. More than 2 million toys were stopped at the nation’s ports in 2012, before they made it on to store shelves.

Shopping at the dollar store for stocking stuffers may not be the safest thing, since many of the toys found there are imported from China, a country which has been implicated in many instances where lead has been found in toys, jewelry, and other products manufactured for use by children. WebMD has a good article that can help people identify some of the common ways children get exposed to hazardous toys:

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