Stories about: safe toys

Potential dangers of last-minute present shopping

The holiday season is in full swing. But even if you’re the proactive type who already has her presents bought, meal planned and cards mailed, it seems like there’s always some last-minute shopping to do. Whether you forgot to get stocking stuffers, a small something for your nephew or your best friend’s new baby, everyone has scrambled for a last-minute present at some point.

In the mad dash to grab those final trinkets, it can be tempting to pick up a toy on the fly at convenient places like the pharmacy, grocery or dollar store. Be careful:  Many of the small and inexpensive toys sold at these locations aren’t the safest. So last-minute shoppers need to pick carefully.

“Generic, off-brand toys might be cheap and easy, but poorly made toys are anything but a good deal for kids,” says Lois Lee, MD, attending physician in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Department. “Many of these types of toys may have small parts that can break off easily, creating a choking hazard or may contain potentially toxic substances in the paint or plastic.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates many, but not all, toys sold in the U.S. It’s common for off-brand toys to fly under the Commission’s radar. Unregulated toys are at a greater risk of containing choking hazards, unsafe chemicals or failing to adequately identify the appropriate age for the toy’s user. (Remember, even a safe, well-made toy for an 8-year-old can be dangerous in the hands of a toddler—like magnet building toys, for instance.)

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Holiday toy hazards

By Lois Lee, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Now that the turkey and pumpkin pie are long gone, children have turned their holiday attention to what they think matters most—toys. But as you glance over those ever- growing wish lists, how can you be sure which toys are safest for your family? Fortunately for the safety conscious gift-giver in all of us, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) recently released Trouble in Toyland, their annual report on toy safety. This is the non-profit consumer organization’s 26th report, which for years has provided safety guidelines for consumers, as well as highlight toys currently on store shelves that could be potentially dangerous. It’s a great guide for parents, but by no means a rulebook; when shopping for your family, keep in mind that a little common sense goes a long way.

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Is this season's must-have toy dangerous?

zhu_zhu_hamster_mr_squigglesZhu Zhu hamsters are one of the most popular toys this holiday season, but do the robotic rodents contain unsafe levels of toxins? That’s what the consumer Web site GoodGuide contends. While testing the year’s top 30 toys, they found unsafe levels of antimony, a metal used in textiles and plastics which can cause lung and heart problems, ulcers and diarrhea, on the hamster.

The company that manufactures Zhu Zhu hamsters disputes the findings, maintaining that the toys are safe and have passed the most rigorous testing in the toy industry for consumer health and safety.

Since publishing this post, it has been reported that the Zhu Zhu toys may not violate federal standards.

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This week on Thrive: Nov. 23-27

Here’s a quick look at what Thrive was up to last week.

An expert weighs in on whether New Moon, the latest Twilight movie, influences about how teens view romance. Minnie Ortiz, a patient at Children’s Optimal Weight for Life Program, is featured on a new PBS Web video series called Living with My Type 2. The federal government recalls 2.1 million cribs; find out how to protect your childThe Origin of Species was published 150 years ago, but it remains as relevant as ever, particularly when it comes to our health. Injury prevention specialists say it’s up to parents and other gift-givers to make sure the toys are safe and age-appropriate. NECN tells the happy story of a family’s Thanksgiving reunion. Is there anything wrong with letting an 18-month-old watch the episode of Sesame Street that he loves?

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