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DHS news release


Dec. 10, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg
Program contacts: Adrienne Greene, Safe Kids Oregon, 971-673-1001
Barbara Zeal: Lead poisoning prevention: 971-673-0028

DHS public health officials offer toy safety recommendations

This year's widespread publicity about toy recalls has injected confusion into the biggest toy-selling season of the year. Shoppers aren't completely sure what is or isn't safe.

"The most common cause of toy-related deaths and injuries to children under the age of three is choking, so it's important to avoid small toys or those that have small parts," said Adrienne Greene, Safe Kids Oregon coordinator in the DHS Public Health Division. "Another critical prevention step is to make sure the toy is appropriate for the child's age."

While the number of toys recalled is a small fraction of the 3 billion sold every year in the United States, it's important for consumers to be informed about potential dangers, Greene said. To ensure purchases are safe, she advises:

  • Look for well-constructed toys that are age-appropriate. Read the labels for age and safety recommendations.
  • Avoid toys that have small parts or are small. Use an empty toilet paper roll as a handy guide; if toys can slide through, they are too small for children under age 3.
  • Avoid toys that have magnets for children under age 6, due to ingestion hazards.
  • Avoid buying second-hand toys that may have been recalled and have not removed from circulation.
  • When purchasing arts and crafts materials buy products that bear the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) Approved Product (AP) seal. This seal identifies art, craft and other creative materials that are safe and non-toxic.

Although recent attention has been placed on the dangers of toys with lead paint, exposure to lead paint dust from older homes, especially during remodeling or renovation, is the most common cause of lead poisoning in Oregon, says Barbara Zeal, DHS lead poisoning prevention coordinator.

Home lead testing kits are available for anyone who is concerned about lead, however Zeal cautions they should only be used as a screening tool. "They have limitations," she said. "They are only useful for determining if lead is present on the surface of the toy; they won't tell the exact amount of lead in a toy."

Greene reminds parents and caregivers that keeping kids protected does not end with the purchase of a safe toy. She advises:

  • Make sure toys for older children are kept away from younger siblings at all times, but especially during busy, gift-opening times with families and friends.
  • Actively supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or other potentially harmful components.