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Research needed when buying toys
Health advice
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It seems like every day brings new concerns about items made for children or that can be found where children come into contact with them.
Until last year, everyone felt toys were safer than ever and that safety issues for our young people centered on traffic accidents or hazards around the home or water.  But 2007 became known as the Year of the Recalls, though it doesn't look like these will be limited to last year alone.
Of special interest are:
Toys with small detachable or breakable parts: Choking on small parts, magnets and balloons remains the leading cause of toy-related deaths and injuries. Nine children died after choking on toys or toy parts in 2005 alone. The law bans small parts in toys for children under 3 and requires a warning label on toys with small parts for children 3-6. Although most toys are safe, toys continue to be found that may pose choking hazards. Toys made in the United States and Europe are considered the safest because of their controlled manufacturing.
In the last two years, one child died and many others were gravely injured after swallowing powerful magnets off toys. The problem escalates if a child swallows more than one as magnets can attach to each other and cause intestinal perforation or blockage. Few parents know to look for magnets that come off toys. But kids, crawling on the floor, can spot the tiny magnets.
Federal safety regulators recalled an additional 2.4 million potentially deadly Mega Brands magnetic toys on March 14, 14 months after learning there might be problems with some products. Why the delay? Because rules governing the Consumer Product Safety Commission require a process that protects a manufacturer's reputation until it goes through the courts and CPSC can order a recall. In this instance, the delay created the opportunity for 15 more children to be injured by these products.
Excessively loud toys: Almost 15 percent of children ages 6-17 show signs of hearing loss. The American Society for Testing and Materials adopted a voluntary acoustics standard, setting the loudness threshold for most toys at 90 decibels but unfortunately there continue to be toys that do not meet the standards.
Toys with lead-based paint: Some toys' hazards include lead in paint. Lead is a strong poison that targets the body's nervous system, accumulating in tissues and bone over time. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead's harmful effects because their brains and nervous systems are being formed. Even low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die.
The CPSC has recalled more than 150 million pieces of lead-laden children's jewelry since 2004. In 2007, millions of plastic and wooden toys were recalled for excessive levels of lead paint.
For a listing of recalled toys regardless of cause, go to:
To get a list of all toys recalled because of lead paint, go to:
Additional Web sites can help find toys made in the USA and Europe.  But if you use these sites, make sure you verify that the toys are marked "made in the USA" rather than  "assembled in the USA."
Material for this article came from Judy Hartley, regional lead coordinator of the Georgia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, the U.S. Product Safety Commission  website, CDC  and website.

Ratcliffe works with the Coastal Health District.

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