How Safe Are Kids Toys?

It is quite easy to assume all toys that have passed safety checks are safe, and that hardly any accidents occur. I was shocked to see the statistics, and I thought, “well, if this many kids are ending up in hospital emergency rooms, someone needs to know about this. YOU need to know about this!”

Maybe if we are aware, we may exercise a bit more caution when selecting new toys for our kids, or be more vigilant and mindful whilst they play with their toys. You can’t be too careful, now can you? Some high-profile product recalls involving toys, in countries where standards exist, are often not due to faulty design. Usage and chance both play a role in injury and death incidents as well. In many countries, commercial toys must be able to pass safety tests in order to be sold. In the U.S., some toys must meet national standards, while other toys may not have to meet a defined safety standard.

Now let’s take a look at accidents involving toys: There are at least 40,000 happening each year in the United Kingdom (according to 1998 figures – although data has not been collected in the UK since 2003), accounting for less than 1% of annual accidents. In 2005 in the U.S., 20 children under 15 years of age died in incidents associated with toys, and an estimated 202,300 children under 15 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with toys, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. In the European Union, no fatal accidents have been reported in the European Injury Database since 2002. In Europe toys must meet the criteria set by the EC Toy Safety Directive (essentially that a toy be safe, which may be addressed by testing to European Standard EN71) in order for them to carry the CE mark. All European Union member states have transposed this directive into law – for example, the UK’s Toy (safety) Regulations 1995 act. Trading Standards Officers in the UK, similarly to appropriate authorities in the other EU member states, have the power to immediately demand the withdrawal of a toy product from sale on safety grounds via the RAPEX recall notification system (used for all products subject to European safety legislation).

In Canada the government department Health Canada has the responsibility of ensuring product safety, just as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) does in the United States. Australian and New Zealand toy safety standards (following the approximate model of the European Toy Safety Standard) have been adopted by the ISO as International Standard ISO 8124.

Toy safety standards are continually updated and modified as the understanding of risks increases and new products are developed. I hope this information helps you see the magnitude of safety concerns associated with toys, and that it may help you not only make better choices for your kids, but also encourage you to be as vigilant as humanly possible in order to protect your children.

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