Dangerous Toys - Helpful Information for Parents
By Adam J. Langino, Esq.
This article discusses the U.S. government’s efforts to keep dangerous toys from reaching our children. It also reviews the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent statistics concerning injuries to children due to unsafe products. Finally, it discusses a relatively new safety standard for infant slings.
The Statistics Concerning Toy-Related Injuries
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) annually releases reports on toy-related deaths and injuries. Fortunately, fatalities are not common. Even the closest watched child is susceptible to injury from a faulty toy, infant sling, crib, or stroller. And as I know from experience, many manufacturers do not promote recalls, leaving parents and consumers unaware that a dangerous product could be in the home.
A 2021 CPSC report saw more than 152,000 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries to children younger than 15 years of age, including two deaths. “The fatalities involved choking on a small part of a toy and suffocating on a soft toy in an unsafe sleep environment. These injuries frequently involved lacerations, contusions, and abrasions to the child’s face and head. Importantly, many incidents were associated with, but not necessarily caused by, a toy. For children younger than 15 years old, non-motorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries.”[i]
Over the past five years, the CPSC has reported stopping more than 6 million dangerous toys and children’s products from entering the U.S. due to safety concerns.
The CPSC credits the decrease in unsafe toys due to its global toy safety system, which started in 2009 and required toys to be tested by independent, third-party testing laboratories. According to the CPSC, the system has been instrumental in stopping dangerous toys at our ports. From 2008 -2013, the CPSC and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection worked together to stop more than 9.8 million units of about 3,000 toys violating U.S. safety standards.[ii]
The U.S. Toy Safety Standards
Before 2009, toy safety standards were voluntary in the United States; however, that year the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was enacted and mandated that previously existing voluntary safety standards become a nationwide mandatory children’s product safety rule. At the time, FASTM International’s Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety F-963 was considered the “gold” standard for the safety of toys.[iii] The CPSIA mandated that all toys meet the F963 safety standard. F-963 is continually revised, reviewed, and updated by an ASTM Committee known as “F-15.” Committee F15 was formed in 1973 and comprised approximately 900 participants thought to represent consumers, the government, and those in the industry. There are a variety of subcommittees, each of which looks at a different product area and is charged with continually updating safety standards. Presently, Richard Rosati of Bureau Veritas is chairman. Bureau Veritas, S.A. is an international testing, inspection, and certification service-providing agency.
In 2016, ASTM F-963 was updated to address ride-on toy safety with a new curb impact requirement. It also added new labeling requirements for toys with small coin/button batteries, temperature and current-limiting requirements for toys with lithium-ion batteries, and new requirements that could expand if accidentally swallowed.
Many states have no specific rules, standards, or laws about toy safety.
Independent Studies of Toy-Related Injuries
Independent of the CPSC, the first comprehensive epidemiological study of toy-related injuries was published in 2014. Despite recent advances in toy safety, the study found that the annual injury rate per 10,000 children increased by 39.9% from 18.88 kids in 1990 to 26.42 in 2011. The number and rate of injuries peaked at two years old. Similar to the CPSC findings, males accounted for a larger percentage of injuries (63.4%), and ride-on toys accounted for the most injuries and hospital admissions.[iv]
Hidden Dangers of Infant Slings
As many parents are aware, toys are not the only products intended for children. In recent years, infant slings have become very popular. According to the CPSC, between January 2003 and September 2016, 159 incidents were reported; 17 were fatal, and 142 were nonfatal. Of the 142 nonfatal incidents, 67 reports involved an injury to the infant during the use of the product. Among the 67 reported nonfatal injuries, ten involved hospitalizations.[v]
In 2017, the Commission on Product Safety voted 3-2 in favor of a new federal mandatory standard intended to improve the safety of infant sling carriers. The new standard incorporated much of the prior voluntary ASTM standard (ASTM F2907-15). The new Federal Standard has a loading requirement to ensure that the sling can carry up to three times the manufacturer’s maximum recommended weight, structural integrity is required to ensure that after all testing, there are no seam separations, fabric tears, breakage, etc., and an occupant retention requirement to prevent the child being carried from falling out of the sling during normal use.[vi]
The standard also has a new warning and instruction requirements, including photographs to show the proper position of a child in the sling; a warning statement about the suffocation hazard posed by slings and prevention measures; warning statements about children falling out of slings; and a reminder for caregivers to check the buckles, snaps, rings and other hardware to make sure no parts are broken.[vii]
In 2018, the new Federal standard aimed at making infant sling carriers safer went into effect. However, it only applies to infant sling carriers manufactured or imported after January 30th, 2018.[viii]
The CPSC also published safety tips for using infant sling carriers. These tips include:[ix]
Making sure the infant’s face is not covered and is visible at all times to the sling’s wearer.
If nursing the baby in a sling, changing the baby’s position after feeding so the baby’s head is facing up and is clear of the sling and the mother’s body.
Frequently checking the baby in a sling, always ensuring nothing is blocking the baby’s nose and mouth and the baby’s chin is away from its chest.
I am sorry if you are reading this because you or someone you love was killed or catastrophically injured by the negligent acts of another. Over my career, I have handled many wrongful death claims and catastrophic injury claims. I am licensed to practice law in Florida and North Carolina and co-counsel claims in other states. If you would like to learn more about me or my practice, click here. If you want to request a free consultation, click here. As always, stay safe and stay well.
[i] “Toys: Top Tips for Holiday Cooking, Decorating and Toy Shopping.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 21 Nov. 2021,. bit.ly/3XEKmfH
[iv] Toy-Related Injuries Among Children Treated in US Emergency Departments, 1990-2011 Vihas M. Abraham, BS, Christopher E. Gaw, BS, Thiphalak Chounthirath, MS, Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH
[viii] “New Federal Standard to Improve Safety of Infant Slings Takes Effect.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1 Feb. 2018, bit.ly/3AZh3up
[ix] “New Federal Standard to Improve Safety of Infant Slings Takes Effect.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1 Feb. 2018, bit.ly/3AZh3up