PHOENIX — A pediatric surgeon and a public interest research group are warning shoppers to consider when shopping for toys this year that if something can fit into a baby's mouth, it will go in the mouth.
Shaina Shay of the Public Interest Research Group said that the standards used by the Consumer Products Safety Commission to determine choking hazards of toys designed for little ones are too lax. She said items considered large enough by the federal agency are still small enough to block a child's airway.
Shay said the better choice for parents and others is to shop with a cardboard roll that's left after using the toilet paper. If the item can fit through that roll, she said, it's inappropriate for children 3 and under, no matter what the federal agency says.
Kathleen Graziano of Phoenix Children's Hospital said the problem is not limited to toys designed for infants and toddlers. She said parents with little ones around the house also need to be careful when purchasing even things like board games for older children.
Graziano said she knows that from experience; she said not a week goes by where doctors at the facility do not have to remove some foreign body from a kid's airway.
“Anything that is the size of a coin that would be a toy, especially if it looks like food or candy, we're taking that stuff out of kids all the time,” she said. Graziano, who has three children of her own, specifically mentioned games like Apples to Apples and High-He Cherry-O.
“These games that have little tiny parts that look like food,” Graziano said. “Kids just want to try that out to see if it tastes like food.”
Some small objects will pass without incident.
But Graziano warned in particular of those button batteries that power everything from flashlights to remotes. They contain harsh chemicals.
And then there are magnets.
“If you swallow one magnet, that's not a problem,” she said. “It's going to go all the way through your intestinal tract and you're going to poop it out.”
Two magnets, however, can stick to each other across pieces of intestine.
“And if you swallow seven or eight or 10 magnets, you have multiple connections across loops of bowel that have to be operated on,” Graziano said.
There also were warnings about potentially toxic chemicals. Shay specifically mentioned a play mat marketed by Lamaze, a mat she said was tested by PIRG and came up positive for antimony.
Shay acknowledged that because the chemical is part of the mat and not a coating it is not considered hazardous by the CPSC, but she said parents should be concerned about any item where parts of it are likely to wind up in an infant's mouth.
PIRG also said its own testing found several toys that violated CPSC standards for lead. The organization specifically singled out the Captain America Soft Shield, marketed for ages two and up, which PIRG said had 29 times the federal standard.
Separately, Shay said parents need to be aware of potential hearing damage from loud toys. She said this is particularly important when buying items that a child would likely place near an ear, like a toy cell phone.