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Dangerous toys seized at the borders, ports

Nov 30, 2012

Just this year, federal authorities have seized more than 2 million potentially dangerous and volative children's products at the nation's ports, before they reached consumers where they could have caused serious injuries or even death.

In the last four year, both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) have seized 2,400 different toys and other children's products, a total of more than 8.5 million individual units, at the nation's ports and borders as companies attempted to import them for sale. These products were seized for a variety of reasons but mostly because they were considered dangerous and posed serious risks to the health and safety of children who'd use them.

The federal agencies are taking advantage of the busiest retail shopping season of the year to alert consumers to think about product safety before they purchased something for a child. And despite the recent successes in stopping many of these dangerous products at the border, the agencies acknowledge that they can't stop all potentially dangerous products from reaching consumers.

In a statement issued recently, CPSC Chair Inez Tenenbaum said, "Proactive port surveillance, strong toy standards, and educational efforts create a safer holiday toy shopping experience for consumers by keeping dangerous products off store shelves. Ultimately our goal is to protect our most vulnerable population - kids - and keep them safe this holiday season."

Recalls on dangerous products have steadily declined in recent years, partly to blame for both some increased regulations and ironically, by the CPB's inability to track all devices. In their statement annoucing warnings to consumers to avoid dangerous products, the CPSC and CPB note that in this year alone, CPSC has issued a recall on 38 toys. Many of these recalls are due to the presence of small or sharp parts. 

This year's recall figure actually represents a slight uptick from the number last year, which was just 34. The CPSC issued recalls on 46 products caught at the border in 2010, 50 the year prior, and 172 in 2008.

In the joint statement: "Toy-related death reports to CPSC involving children younger than 15-years-old decreased to 13 in 2011 from 19 fatalities in 2010 and 17 reported in 2009. The majority of these toy-related fatalities were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. These included children choking on balloons, drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool, or being found with tricycles in swimming pools."

To avoid the potential for serious injuries, the agencies proposed the following hints and tips to avoid buying dangerous products for children.

Here are some safety tips that consumers should keep in mind this holiday season:

Balloons - Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than 8-years-old. Discard broken balloons immediately.

Small balls and other toys with small parts - For children younger than age 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.

Scooters and other riding toys - Riding toys, skateboards, and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times, and they should be sized to fit.

Magnets - High powered magnet sets are dangerous and should be kept away from children under 14. Building & play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.

Once gifts are open:

Immediately discard plastic wrapping or other toy packaging before they become dangerous play things.

Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.

Battery charging should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.

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