Holiday shopping safety tips

Don’t leave common sense at home when you are fighting the crowds in stores during the holiday season. You may have heard the scares about toxic chemicals and unsafe packaging, so here is what you can do to keep your family and friends safe.

Do Your Research and Use Common Sense

Choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), at least 33 children choked to death between 2005 and 2007 on balloons, toy parts, or small balls. Simply put, know the subject of your gift. If you give a gift to a family of that has a 3 year old and 6 month old don’t buy the one with the really small parts. Don’t think the child will “grow into it in the next year.” A toy with a choking hazard warning should never be given to a child younger than 3 or a child of any age who still puts things in their mouth. Never give small children balloons. Don’t give small children balls that appear to be as small as their mouth. It’s not worth the risk.

General Guidelines to Remember

Thanks to World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) for these sensible toy safety tips. Here are some things to watch out for:

• Kids eight years old and younger may have toys with batteries that may overheat, explode, or leak
• Toys that are to be strung across a crib are a strangulation hazard
• Toys with strings longer than 6 inches are also dangerous
• Be wary of toys marketed on the internet without warnings, instructions, age indications, or brands you recognize
• Projectile toys, such as sling shots, dart guns, and pea-type shooters- yes, you can “shoot your eye out”

Just Say No to Chemicals

Some toys still contain lead. Be sure to check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Website to see which toys have been recalled because of lead. According to PIRG, numerous scientists have documented the potential health hazards of exposure to phthalates, toxic chemicals found in some plastics, when in the womb or as a young child. These effects include reproductive defects, premature delivery, early onset of puberty, and lower sperm counts. As of February 2009, toys that contain phthalate concentrations of more than 0.1 percent are banned in the United States.

Magnets

Many toys contain small magnets. Not the kind we use on our refrigerators, but new, more powerful magnets. The problem with these types of magnets occurs when a young child swallows a few of them. They can stick together in a child’s intestines and stomach and cause terrible complications. You’d be surprised at the number of toys that contain these types of magnets. Again, be careful and vigilant. Small magnets can fall off toys and look like shiny candy. Again, watch the age limits placed on toys. It is dangerous for young children to play with toys that are meant for older children.

Read The Numbers

Novelty cups and other food containers for kids are popular items, especially for kids who take a snack to day care or school. These past few years’ studies have shown that many hard plastic items contain Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is linked to diabetes and heart disease. BPA can leach from the plastic into a child’s food. (BPA has also been found in pacifiers.) Recently, food companies have advised parents worried about BPA to avoid microwaving food in plastic containers, especially those with the recycling No. 3, 6 and 7 stamped on the bottom. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s testing found BPA leaching from containers with different recycling numbers, including Nos. 1, 2 and 5. If you are going to buy any type of novelty food container for family or friends read the numbers located on the bottom of the container. Remember that not all products contain recycling codes, so be careful and do your research.