Holiday Safety: Dangerous Toys

In just a week, millions of children will awake to find piles brightly wrapped toys under their Christmas trees. Before these presents are even bought, parents should take precautions to buy safe toys. As they tear into their packages, it is important that parents be vigilant in observing their children as they play. Even the most common and mundane toys can create hazards if not used properly, and dangerous or defective toys can be a grave risk to children. The CPSC compiles data about dangerous toys each year and publishes statistics about toy safety. The figures are sobering. In 2011, the agency received 13 reports of toy related deaths. Seven of these deaths were from asphyxiation, and three were from drowning. Three deaths, or 23%, were caused by balloons. The toy-related fatalities in 2011 were caused by:

  • Balloons (choking, asphyxiation)
  • Tricycles (drowning) - In separate incidents, a two-year-old girl and four-year-old boy were found drowned in swimming pools with their tricycles either floating in the pool or sunk to the bottom of the pool.
  • Toy boxes (hanging) - A three-year-old girl died when she was playing with a jump rope and standing on a toy box at the base of a tree.  She apparently fell off of the toy box and accidentally hanged herself with the jump rope.
  • Nonmotorized scooters (motor vehicle involvement) - In separate incidents, a seven-year-old boy and a thirteen-year-old boy sustained fatal injuries when they were struck by a motor vehicle while riding scooters in the street.
  • Balls (drowning) - A five-year-old boy drowned when  he entered a swimming pool to retrieve a ball that got away from him and rolled into the pool and sank.
  • Inflatable toys (falls) - A two-year-old girl was attempting to retrieve an inflatable toy hammer that became stuck between the slats of a hotel balcony when she lost her balance and fell to her death.
  • Toy baseball bat (choking, impaction) - A five-year-old boy died when he choked on the handle of a foam baseball bat that became impacted in his throaat, blocking his airway.
  • Crib musical toy (traumatic asphyxiation) - An eleven-month-old boy was found face down in his crib with a crib toy that normally attached to the crib lying on top of him.
  • Other toys (positional asphyxia) - A nine-month-old girl was found on an adult bed with her head and torso hanging off the bed and into a plastic bin full of toys.
In each of these fatalities, the toys themselves were not defective, but the manner of use or lack of supervision surrounding use led to tragic results. Of course, fatalities are not the only consideration when it comes to toy safety. The CPSC reports an estimated 262,000 toy-related injuries treated in United States emergency rooms in 2011, which remained fairly consistent with figures from the previous year. Most of these injuries were lacerations, contusions, and abrasions, and nearly half of all injuries were to the head and face. The CPSC encourages parents to carefully supervise their children and to avoid purchasing toys that are known to pose choking hazards and other significant safety risks, including balloons, small rubber balls, and strong magnets.  If your child is injured while using a dangerous or defective toy, you may be able to obtain financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other associated damages.