Entries in Toys (5)


Feds Fighting to Keep Hazardous Toys Off Shelves for Holiday Season

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Top federal officials are trying to block a flood of dangerous toys from overseas from hitting the U.S. store shelves this holiday season.

Federal customs and consumer protection officials have intercepted more than 2 million units of dangerous toys and children's products so far this year at U.S. ports of entry, they said Thursday.

At a press briefing Thursday, U.S. Customs and Consumer Product Safety Commission officials laid out a display of seized toys that any child could love: princess jewelry, toy cars, dolls and action figures.

But the innocent-looking playthings from overseas manufacturers were blocked from entering the country because they all can be hazardous to the health of a child, investigators said. Some contained dangerously high levels of lead. Others had sharp edges or contained small parts that could choke a small child.

"Together with CPSC, we have intercepted record amounts of unsafe products," Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar said. "We are here to raise consumers' awareness about the very real danger of unsafe products."

Earlier this month in Detroit, authorities intercepted more than 3,000 toy guns from China. Testing revealed all had excessive levels of lead.

At a seizure last week in Jacksonville, Fla., authorities found toy cars also had lead contamination at levels high enough to do long-lasting harm to a child. In total, nearly 24,000 toys, valued at $22,000, were seized for lead violations in the Jacksonville case.

Since 2008, customs officials said, seizures have nearly doubled both in quantity and value for consumer products imported into the U.S. CBP has targeted more than 5,000 high-risk shipments for examination through the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) in Washington on behalf of CPSC, leading to the seizure of thousands of dangerous imported consumer products.

But dangerous toys still kill some American kids. Thirteen kids younger than 15 died in toy-related deaths in 2011, according to the CPSC. That is down from 19 fatalities in 2010 and 17 reported in 2009. The majority of the toy-related fatalities were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. They included children choking on balloons, drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool or being found with tricycles in swimming pools.

The Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Report released by CPSC Thursday estimated 193,200 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries to children younger than 15 occurred in 2011. Many of the incidents were associated with, but not necessarily caused by, a toy.

For children younger than 15, non-motorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries. There are no figures for how many of those toys may have come from overseas, but officials believe that oftentimes, it is cheap and shoddily-made imports that cause the problems.

"Proactive surveillance at the ports, strong toy standards and educational efforts create a safer holiday toy shopping experience for consumers by keeping dangerous products off store shelves," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "Ultimately, our goal is to protect our most vulnerable population -- kids -- and keep them safe this holiday season."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Proposed Recall on Magnet Toys Unfair?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Buckyballs, a toy made up of small magnetic beads that can be molded into different shapes, is one of the most popular office toys on the market.

Marketed to adults as a stress reliever and a cure for cubicle boredom, more than two million Buckyballs have been sold in the United States. The beads are shiny, sculptural and irresistible to play with, but they can also be dangerous.

At just 20 months old, Presley Bjarnson was hospitalized after he swallowed 18 Buckyball beads last month. His mother, Laura Bjarnson, who said she never saw the warning labels on the toy's packaging, had accidentally left the toy out where Presley could reach it.

When she discovered Presley with the toy, Bjarnson said she didn't know at the time if her son had swallowed the magnets. But Bjarnson, who is a registered nurse, took Presley to the pediatrician the following day as a precaution. An X-ray showed a ring of 18 Buckyballs lodged in his stomach.

As these high-power magnetic beads travel through the body, doctors say they can stick together, pinching tissue and ultimately puncturing holes in the thin intestinal lining.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Presley is just one of an estimated 1,700 people who have been hospitalized in the past three years after ingesting these kinds of magnets. As a result, the CPSC is demanding that Buckyballs and several high-power magnetic toys from other companies be recalled immediately.

But Buckyballs CEO Craig Zucker is not willing to give in.

"This is the first time in 11 years a company has said to the commission, 'We don't agree a recall is necessary,'" he said.

The company is challenging the proposed ban because, Zucker argues, Buckyballs are not defective and they are marketed as an office toy, clearly not intended for or marketed to children.

"We're not in Happy Meals. We're not on Saturday morning cartoons. We're in adult stores … places you would go to find something for your dad on Father's Day," Zucker said.

By demanding he stop selling his product, Zucker believes the CPSC has gone too far. In the wake of the proposed ban, he launched an online campaign called "Save Our Balls," which has sparked a national debate on the role of big government.

Zucker said his company has tried to reach a compromise with the government. Namely, he has taken steps to educate consumers about magnet safety and pointed out that Buckyballs packaging carries clear warnings to parents.

"[Warning labels are] on the top, the side, the carrying case. It's on the instructions," he said. "I would say it's impossible to miss the warnings. They're all over the place."

But the CPSC said these warning labels do not go far enough because they don't "travel with the product," meaning once the toy is removed from the packaging, there is nothing to expose its potential dangers or stop children from "facing serious injuries."

Presley Bjarnson, who was eventually rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to remove the 18 Buckyballs without major surgery, has since made a full recovery.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to regulate the production of future magnetic office toy products to make them safer by making magnets larger, so they are more difficult to swallow, and less powerful.

In the meantime, they are determined to get all existing toys out of kids' hands and off store shelves as soon as possible.

For now, Buckyballs can still be purchased in specialty stores and on the company's website. Zucker said he is holding out hope for a compromise.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Toddlers Know Why Toys Don't Work, Researchers Report

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Infants are attracted to toys by color, shape, size, texture or the sounds they make. Authors of a MIT study published in the journal Science found that children as young as 16 months seem to be able to figure out whether a toy does not work as it should because something is wrong with the toy or because of the way they're playing with it.
Researchers showed toddlers the same toy in the colors green, yellow and red. The green toy played music when the experimenter pushed a button. They gave some infants the green toy, others the yellow and they placed the red toy on a cloth near the infant.
When the toddlers with the green toy were unable to make it play music, they would hand it to their parent, implying they thought their own actions were the problem.
Those given the yellow toy were more likely to reach for the red one, suggesting they thought something was wrong with the yellow.  
Authors concluded that infants learn whether to ask for help or explore on their own.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New York Councilman Wants Toys Banned from Unhealthy Happy Meals

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- An overweight New York politician is on a crusade to eliminate toys from fast food meals that he says promotes unhealthy eating habits in children.

"If we can get the fast food industry to lead in this healthy quest by doing happy meals that have a nutritional value we would definitely change the tide of childhood obesity," New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie told ABC News.

"It would be a tremendous help to parents and families if they could have a healthy option with the toy, because the kids want the toy," said Comrie. "The kids scream up and down for the toy."

Comrie, who has been reported to have tipped the scale at 350 pounds, admits that his own health issues had a role in the proposal's development.

"I've always struggled with food and my weight," said Comrie.

"Eating unhealthy food becomes engrained in children's minds because they're getting used to having a toy with a cheeseburger or their chicken nuggets," said Comrie. "Why not put the toy with a salad?"

Under Comrie's proposal, fast food meals that come with a toy could not exceed 500 calories or 600 milligrams of sodium. Meals offering toys would also have to contain either a half cup of fruit or vegetables or one whole serving of a whole-grain product.

Violators would be charged $200 for their first offense and as much as $2,500 for repeat violations.

While Comrie does not name McDonald's in his complaint, the restaurant chain is well-known for their trade marked Happy Meals that are marketed toward children.

McDonald's did not respond to a request for a comment on Comrie's proposal.

Andrew Rigie, the vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association, challenged Comrie's plan.

In an email statement to ABC News Rigie said, "We need to find more effective ways to combat obesity than by taking toys away from children and choices away from their parents."

"The New York State Restaurant Association looks forward to working with the City Council and other groups in a meaningful way to help educate children and parents about nutrition and healthy lifestyles," said Rigie.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toys That Meet Safety Standards Can Still Pose Choking Hazards

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(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.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio