Last year, Family Dollar recalled 1.8 million Henry Gordy toy dart guns because they caused choking hazards and killed three children. The CPSC has fined the company $1.1 million, for not alerting parents about choking hazards or labeling toys for child safety. Here's a Q-and-A for parents about choking hazards and toy safety.
Why should parents beware of suction dart guns?
Darts with sharp points are obviously dangerous, so many toy companies create "safer" variations using Velcro balls, boards and darts with latex tips, foam darts or suction cups to attach the dart. The Auto Fire Target Set is comprised of a cardboard target, plastic gun and several small, pliable plastic darts. The toy gun propels the darts which stick to surfaces by suction.
Plastic suction cups stick better when the end is moistened. In play, children often wet the end by licking it or placing it in their mouths. Younger siblings may also mouth the latex darts. The darts are only about an inch long and can very easily lodge in children's throats. That is how the three children died playing with the dart gun sets.
How does the CPSC determine choke hazards?
The CPSC uses a Choke Test Cylinder to determine if toys pose an asphyxiation hazard. The tube has a 1.75 inch inner diameter and it 2.25 inches long. Any toy (or toy part which can break off) that fits into the choke tube is considered a danger for children under three. Toy dart sets that use small, narrow or short projectiles, would easily fit.
How can parents protect their children against choking hazards?
The easiest way is for parents to avoid buying toys with small parts if there are children under six in the home. Game pieces, dice, small building blocks, magnet toys, army men, gumball machine prizes, small toy cars and plastic figures are all potential hazards. Choke Test Cylinders are available for sale, so that parents may test their children's toys. Parents should also test baby products, like pacifiers and teething toys. Parents need to read labels to determine age-appropriateness of toys. Products that may be dangerous are labeled for safety hazards. Parents magazine recommends that parents use the SaferProducts website to report any safety incidents with toys or children's products.
How does the CPSC protect parents and children from toy dangers?Balls smaller than 1.75 inches may not be sold to children under three. Balls less than 1.75 inches in diameter, toys which contain small parts (like ping pong balls or dice) and toys intended for children ages 3-6 with small parts must be labeled for choking hazard. Latex balloons and marble toys must also be labeled for choking danger. Companies must communicate any reports received of medical treatment, injuries or death associated with their product to the CPSC. That's what Henry Gordy failed to do: label toys to keep children safe and report associated injuries.
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes from 23 years parenting four children and 25 years teaching K-8, special needs, adult education and homeschool.
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