(WASHINGTON) -- The holiday shopping season kicks off in earnest Friday, and if there are little kids on your list, there's an important warning you should know about. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group says some toys can pose a choking hazard, even if they may meet legal safety standards.
Take for instance ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper's son, who had a close call with such a toy. The toy in question -- a toy train with removable wooden pegs -- had been in the house less than 24 hours when it happened.
"The block went into his throat like this," Jennifer Tapper, Jack's mother, said. "And Jack just looked at me with his eyes open like this -- panicking. And I bent down and I said, 'Jack, Jack.' And I could not see the block in his mouth. And that was the moment of huge terror for me, because what was I going to do?"
Jennifer Tapper flipped her 1-year-old son over and hit him on the back, just like she had learned in CPR class, forcing the peg out.
When Haba, the manufacturer, heard about Jack Tapper's close call, it responded immediately, filing a report with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and stopped shipment of the trains to stores.
But it turns out the train met the 1 1/4-inch wide by 2 1/4-inch long safety standard for small parts. The measurement was established in 1979 and hasn't been updated since.
Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a paper describing "current gaps in choking prevention standards" and called for revisions. The Academy cited a gap between the 1 1/4-inch width required of regular small parts and the wider 1 3/4-inch width required for balls. Balls are more strongly regulated because their round shape gives them the potential to be particularly hazardous -- they can completely fill up and block a child's airway.
The Academy also noted that many other small round and oval objects are not subject to the larger ball size requirement, even though they pose the same risk, because technically they are not balls. The paper singled out cylinders as another shape that could pose a heightened risk of suffocation because of the way they fit in a child's airway.
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