When a product is recalled, you may expect it will be removed from store shelves or online marketplaces. This is not always a safe assumption. In this year’s Trouble in Toyland report, U.S. PIRG reports several toys which were recalled this year were still being sold afterward on popular websites. Last year, a Wall Street Journal investigation found Amazon was selling thousands of unsafe or banned products.
These are upsetting headlines. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls toys when they pose a safety hazard to children. Recalls are typically only called after a report or several reports of injuries or near injuries.
Once a toy is recalled, consider it unsafe to use. Our Boston product liability lawyers share our safety tips for steering clear of unsafe toys this holiday season:
Look Up Past Toy Recalls
Visit the CPSC website and review product recalls for 2020. According to U.S. PIRG, 10 products were recalled in the 12 months between the release of its 2019 and 2020 report.
You can visit this website after you have selected a toy and before you make a purchase. Or it may be helpful to start your holiday shopping there. Search for “toy recalls” or look through all the product recalls. Note that this website does not include automobile recalls. You can find these on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.
Beware of Amazon, Ebay and Marketplace Websites
Some retailers only offer their own products online. Others – such as Amazon and Ebay – are marketplaces where different vendors sell products and toys. These products may be new or they may be used.
Both the sellers and websites have a responsibility to make sure they are not selling recalled products.
In August 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was selling more than 4,000 items which federal agencies had declared unsafe or banned. Others had misleading labeling. At least 2,000 listings were for unsafe toys and medications.
The story showed the challenges Amazon has regulating its own marketplace. If you shop on Amazon or EBay, look for information about the seller. Is a company the seller or an individual? If you have never heard of the seller, you may not want to make a purchase.
Watch for Small Parts
When buying online, one potential danger is buying a toy which contains small parts. To protect your children, always read age recommendations and look for warning labels.
Toys which are designed for children under age 3 should be labeled if they contain small parts. Toys for children age 3 to 6 must also be labeled if they contain small parts. Read our blog on identifying small parts and toy safety warnings.
Beware of Purchasing Toys on Social Media Sites
You may have heard of Facebook Marketplace or other social media sites where you can sell used toys and products. Avoid buying used toys for children here during the holidays. We also suggest you avoid buying toys from these sites during other seasons, but especially during the holidays when many of us just wait for online sales to pop up.
There is no quality control. In most cases, the product is no longer in the packaging so you can’t read the safety warnings and age recommendations.
If you buy a used product this way, you really have no way of knowing when it was purchased. You may not have a product number or product instructions.
Children’s products, such as cribs, car seats and strollers, may carry the greatest risks. These products are frequently recalled and many model types look similar. While it is illegal to sell recalled products, it happens.
One frightening story came after Fisher Price and Kids II issued their crib recalls in early 2019. Despite this, 1 in 10 daycares was still using a Fisher Price Rock n’ Play sleeper in August 2019. In Nov. 2019, Consumer Reports reported found hundreds of the recalled sleepers available online, on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. In addition, Consumer Reports warned other products – including Ikea dressers recalled in 2016 were still being sold.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston specializes in the representation of clients injured by unsafe or defective toys and products. We are writing about toy safety this holiday season to help parents and families make safe shopping decisions. Read our past toy safety blogs.
It is a lot of fun to select a new bicycle or scooter for a child during the holiday season. But when you buy, remember to pick up a new helmet, too. This is a critical tool in protecting against head injuries and under Massachusetts law, children 16 and younger are required to wear helmets on bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates.
Massachusetts Bicycle Helmet Law: Children 16 and younger are required to wear bicycle helmets when they ride bikes in Massachusetts, under M.G.L. c. 85, § 11B.
Massachusetts Scooter Helmet Law. M.G.L. c. 85, § 11B1/2 states children 16 and younger must also wear safety helmets on scooters, skateboards and inline skates, as well as other manually-propelled wheeled vehicles.
Helmet Buying Tips: Spotlight on Bike Helmets
Buy a bicycle helmet which meets the safety standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (16 C.F.R. part 1203). This standard is specifically designed to protect a child’s head with shock-absorbent material in bicycle accidents or falls. It requires chin traps be strong enough to keep the helmet in position on the head.
Buy a helmet separately from your bike. You may find it helpful to buy a helmet separately. To get started, measure around your child’s head with a cloth tape measure. Measure just above your child’s eyebrows. Start looking now online or visit your local bicycle shop.
Stick to traditional bike helmets. The CPSC discourages parents from buying helmets with decorative and costume pieces, such as horns or parts which protrude from the helmet. These will interfere with the helmet’s ability to protect a child’s head should they ever hit the ground.
How long has your child been wearing that helmet? If your child has been wearing a helmet for three years, this is a good time to buy a new one. But depending on your child’s growth and wear and tear, you may want to replace it sooner. Carefully inspect the helmet on the inside and outside.
Buy an adjustable helmet. Because children grow fast, we suggest an adjustable helmet which can be tightened or loosened in the back.
Helmets Designed for Other Activities
Safety helmets are designed for certain purposes. Each sport and activity involves a different impact.
But bicycle helmets can often be used for recreational in-line skating, roller skating or manual kick scooters, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) helmet guidelines. Check these guidelines whenever you buy a helmet.
Talk to your child’s sports coach about helmet guidelines for football, hockey, lacrosse and baseball.
Get your helmets ready for the winter. Helmets are recommended for skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding and snow tubing. Many skiers say helmets interfere with their peripheral vision and response time. If this is your thought, consider reading this New York Times blog on just how much protection they can provide.
Before we close, another point is there are times when children should definitely NOT WEAR HELMETS, including at the playground or when playing at home. Helmets and straps can get caught and strangle a child on staircases and step ladders.
CPSC Guide – “What Helmet for Which Activity”
Helmets are essential to protecting your child. Here is the CPSC’s Guide, “Which Helmet for Which Activity.” This guide provides you with recommended safety standard guidelines for different activities, so it’s definitely worth bookmarking. Another helpful site is the CSPC recalls website, which you can search for product recalls before you make a purchase.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Boston Personal Injury Lawyers – Toy Safety Lawyers
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers are consistently recognized for their awards for clients in personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability cases. Through our Project KidSafe campaign, we work to promote bicycle safety and the well-being of children in Massachusetts. To date, we have donated over 25,000 bicycle helmets to children across the state.
If you are shopping for a child, we invite you to read more of our holiday toy safety series.
Age recommendation labels are the first tool you have in selecting safe holiday toys. Anyone purchasing toys for young children wants to familiarize themselves with the choking hazard-small parts label.
Warning: Choking Hazard – Small Parts. Not for Children Under 3 Years
Each year, children suffer choking injuries and deaths after consuming food or putting small objects in their mouths. In the late 1970s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) led a three-month study of an estimated 3,800 injuries involving children under age 10. It was determined that children under age 3 suffered more than half of all these injuries. More than 50 children under 3 died in accidents involving small parts.
With those numbers, the CPSC announced the small parts regulation, which became effective on January 1, 1980. Since then, toy manufacturers have been required to test toys and parts using the small parts cylinder test.
This cylinder has a diameter of 1.25 inches. The bottom of the cylinder is slanted, opening 1 to 2.25 inches. Toys which fall through the cylinder must carry the choking hazard – small parts warning and state not for children under 3 years old. Toys may also require labels if they fit through the tube, but break it during subsequent “use and abuse” testing (Source: U.S. PIRG, Trouble in Toyland 2018).
Toys which are too large can be sold without the choking hazard label, though they may require another type of labeling.
Small Parts Warning for Children Between Ages 3 and 6 Years
Any small part intended for children between age 3 and 6 must carry the same labeling: “Warning: Choking Hazard — This toy is a small part. Not for children under 3 years.”
Small Parts Warning – Small Balls
There is a separate federal standard for small balls, according to U.S. PIRG. Balls with a diameter of 1.75 inches are banned for children younger than 3 years of age.
Small balls must carry this age-recommendation label: “Warning: Choking Hazard — This toy is a small ball. Not for children under 3 years.” A similar label is required for toys which contain small balls: “Warning: Choking Hazard–Toy contains a small ball. Not for children under 3 years.”
Toymakers are required to test and use age recommendation labels. All toys intended for children age 12 and younger must undergo third-party testing and meet the most recent version of the federal safety standard, ATSM F963.
But there are times when parents and anyone buying a toy should be skeptical. Toymakers have made errors in labeling and there can be miscommunication between manufacturers and retailers when toys are displayed without packaging. Online product descriptions may not be accurate.
Remember These Toys Have Small Parts!
- Game pieces (such as the Monopoly characters)
- Legos and building bricks
- Small puzzle pieces (and cardboard pieces are a danger because small children can chew them and choke)
- Button batteries
- The clothing and parts on stuffed animals and dolls
- Pens and pencils with caps which can become loose
Additional Toy Safety Standards for Children Age 3 and Younger
While we are talking about small parts, we also want to remind parents of other federal toy safety guidelines for children under 3.
- Toys and children’s products must not have sharp points or edges which can potentially injure children.
- Paints and surface coating cannot contain more than .06 percent lead or other hazardous materials.
- Children’s pajamas, clothing and products which fail to meet flammability limits.
The best way to stay informed is to check the CPSC website for toy safety recalls and product warnings.
Final Points on Toy Safety for Young Children
Carefully inspect all toy sets and stuffed animals before and after purchase. Open boxes, handle the pieces yourself before giving. If you buy online, check if the box matches the online product description. Because of the demand for toys near the holidays, it’s not unusual for shoppers to receive a toy similar to what they ordered.
Decide whether the toy will be safe near your child and their siblings. You should always consider younger siblings when buying gifts. If they are not at least 3 or older, wait another year. Also pause if the younger sibling just isn’t ready.
If your children are the right age and ready, purchase a secure container to keep the small parts in. Keep this container separate from other toys in your home and be mindful of not letting small pieces scatter.
Finally, supervise children whenever they play with small parts. Even older children can find themselves in dangerous situations at times when handling small pieces. This is especially true with new toys. So as they play, sit with them at the table or just stay in the room so you can help.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Our Boston personal injury lawyers represent clients in all personal injury matters, including motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, wrongful death and cases involving injuries caused by defective products and unsafe toys. We share our holiday toy safety series as part of our Project KidSafe campaign.
We urge parents to keep magnet toys off your holiday shopping list for young children. High-powered “rare-earth” desk magnet toys are highly dangerous and there are many painful stories of children ingesting them, then fighting for their lives in surgery. But there are also other types of magnet toys, including magnet tile building sets and magnet construction toys. While these are very popular, this doesn’t mean they are safe for your family. Take time to do your research, read age recommendations and really consider your children’s needs.
Magnet Desk Toys or Cluster Magnet Toys
Read by product type:
Magnet Desk Toys or Cluster Magnet Toys
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has worked to take desktop magnet toys off the market to prevent injuries to children. The problem is the average set has 125 or 216 strong magnet balls, though some have more than 1,000 pieces. The magnets are tiny and are extremely high-powered.
These magnet sets come apart and can be reassembled into unique shapes. In a child’s hands, the magnet clusters may become a necklace, triangle or whatever formation they imagine. When magnets are put in a child’s mouth, they can attract to each other, causing serious injuries in the digestive system as well as blood poisoning. Children usually require surgery for the intense pain.
New Magnet Safety Standard. Prior to 2014, “rare-earth” magnet sets were required to carry age recommendation labeling of 14 and older. In 2014, the CPSC established a federal toy safety standard which required magnets to be large enough to exceed the CPSC’s “small part” standard for toys or that magnetic parts have a force of attraction of 50 kG² mm² or less, according to the CPSC’s Final Rule: Safety Standards for Magnet Sets. The CPSC safety standard effectively made it illegal to sell “rare-earth” magnet sets in the U.S. and there was a positive response, an 80 percent reduction in magnet-ingested injuries, according to The Journal of Pediatrics.
You may guess young children are at the highest risk. But children age 4 through 12 suffered the most injuries in the CPSC’s analysis of ER visits over 5 years, from 2009 to 2013. According to the Federal Register dated October 3, 2014, the agency concluded an estimated 2,900 children had suffered magnet ingestion injuries. Children age 4 through 12 suffered 1,900 injuries – or 65 percent.
Tile Magnet Toys
For all this work, in 2016, the 10th Circuit of Appeals ruled the CPSC’s pre-requisite factual findings were “incomplete and inadequately explained.” The Court vacated the safety standard and remanded it back to the CPSC for further proceedings.
The lawsuit had been filed by Zen Magnets, one of the “rare-earth” magnet makers. The company is now selling its products again, under the Buckyballs and Mandala names, according to Tech Crunch. Again, we stress, please don’t buy these toys, especially if you have children or a pet. The parts are small and scatter easily. If you don’t find our blog compelling, we encourage you to read this article in STAT, called “Toy magnets are harming kids again. They need to be banned – for good,” August 6, 2019.
Tile Magnet Toys
These are magnets encased in plastic triangle and square shapes. These are popular, marketed as toys that help stimulate learning and imagination. Some of these are designed for children under age 3, some for children ages 3 and up; others are for age 6 and up. If you do purchase one of these sets, carefully check the age recommendation and secure it in a container out of reach of children.
There has been at least one case of the encasements opening and a child swallowing magnets. Last December, a Wisconsin mother shared her frightening story on social media and the Today Show reported on it. The woman’s 4-year-old son had swallowed 13 magnets from one of the tile magnet kits. After he began vomiting, she rushed him to a local hospital where surgeons had to remove part of his colon, intestine and appendix. The product manufacturer was not identified in the story.
The CPSC regularly issues recalls about toys containing small magnet parts. One of the largest recalls involving tile magnet building toys came in 2006, when Mega Brands America, Inc. recalled 4 million Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets. The recall was first announced on March 31, 2006 and re-issued and expanded in April 2007. The CPSC reported one child had died and one child had suffered aspiration. 27 others had suffered intestinal injuries, according to the CPSC news release.
The tragedy could have claimed even more lives; there had been 1,500 reports of magnets coming apart. Although the Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets were labeled age 6 and older, at least 10 injuries involved older children, up to age 11.
Magnetic Construction Sets
According to CBS News, in October of 2006, Mega Brands America settled a lawsuit with 15 victims for $13.5 million.
In 2009, consumers learned there was further wrongdoing in this case. On April 14, the CPSC announced that Mega Brands America, Inc. had agreed to pay a $1.1 million civil penalty to settle allegations that the company (and Rose Art Industries, which it had acquired) had failed to provide timely information about product dangers to children.
Magnetic Construction Sets
These sets include plastic rods and balls which can be snapped together with the magnet attraction.
Final Word on Safety
One problem is Consumer Reports found a full range of age recommendations across several popular products – and manufacturers unwilling to answer questions. Since age recommendations are the most fundamental tool consumers have, we recommend steering clear of these.
Final Word on Safety
The CPCS is responsible for overseeing product recalls and a quick search of its database can glean valuable information for parents. Visit www.cpsc.gov and search by product name or type of products. You can also visit the CPSC’s magnet information center.
With magnet toys, product regulations and age recommendations continue to change. They are very challenging to bring into any home safely, but especially homes with children of various ages and development skills and pets. In the end, you must make your own decision, but we urge you to be overly cautious and purchase other toys. There are so many other toys out there which can provide your child with a safe and enjoyable experience.
Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston law firm specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability. We wish Massachusetts families a safe and healthy holiday season and share our toy safety tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign.
If you have been injured, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck to learn your legal rights at 800-379- or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
It once looked the perfect place to nap and cuddle. But this adorable product – the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper – wasn’t ever safe. Fisher-Price and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of 4.7 million sleepers on April 12, 2019. Parents are being urged disassemble the sleeper and stop using it. The company expects to spend the next several months processing recalls.
Prior to the company’s action, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had joined Consumer Reports in calling for the product’s removal, stating the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play failed to comply with its recommendations, which state infants should only sleep on flat and firm surfaces. Further, the AAP advises infants should not be left on the same surface as other bedding, toys or bumpers, which could increase the risk of infant suffocation or choking.
Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, is asking parents to contact the company for a refund or voucher toward another Fisher-Price product. The company will offer a full refund for Rock ‘n Play sleepers purchased during the past six months.
The Week of Bad Headlines for Fisher-Price
Fisher-Price and the CPSC announced the product’s recall on Friday, April 12th, following days of pressure from safety organizations. Fisher-Price had initially resisted.
On April 5, the CPSC and Fisher-Price released an initial warning and announced 10 infants had died in the Rock ‘n Play between 2015 and 2019. The infants were all 3 months or older and died after rolling over from their back to their stomach or side.
At that point, there was no recall, but parents were advised to stop placing children in the sleeper once they reach 3 months old, or earlier if they begin turning themselves over.
Days later, Consumer Reports came out with a troubling report linking the product to not 10, but 32 infant deaths since the 2009 release. The consumer watchdog called on the CPSC to immediately issue a recall of the defective product. In response, Fisher-Price said the company did not believe any of these deaths were caused by the sleeper. Rather, the company said medical and health conditions were cited as the cause in some deaths, and in other cases involved improper use of the sleeper.
Shortly after, Americans heard from the AAP: “This product is deadly and should be recalled immediately.”
Despite the AAP recommendations, Fisher-Price managed to introduce the Rock n’ Play and sold it for a decade. Before the recall, it was selling for $40 to $149 at various retailers. The product sits elevated in a canopy-like environment for sleeping and sitting and featuring a “motorized rocking motion” and musical tunes. The problem is when a baby’s head falls forward or sideways. This can block the child’s access to oxygen.
Parents should do careful research when buying children’s products. Monitor the CPSC website for warnings and recalls, as well as the Consumer Reports website. We can expect to hear more about the dangers of other sleeper products in the near future, as Consumer Reports continues its investigation. On April 11, it reported on four other child deaths linked to Kids II sleepers.
Contact the CPSC About Dangerous Products and Injuries
If you are ever injured while using a consumer product, you should contact the CPSC to report the injury. The CPSC is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the recall process, releasing warnings to the public and collecting injury data. The CPSC works with manufacturers to issue product recalls.
Free Legal Consultation – Contact a Boston Product Liability Lawyer
If you have been injured, it is also in your best interests to consult a Boston product liability attorney. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston attorneys have represented clients injured by defective products, medical devices and vehicles. Prompt investigation is necessary in product liability cases and our attorneys are known for our thorough, detailed and capable investigation.
For a free legal consultation, contact our lawyers today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
‘Tis the season to shop for holiday toys and gifts. Or to bring that product back, for a full refund or replacement?
While a record number of consumers shopped for the holidays, IKEA and Honda issued major safety recalls in November. We share an update on these recalls and continue our Project KidSafe series on toy safety.
Honda Odyssey Recall. It’s a replacement part if you own a Honda Odyssey and unfortunately, you can expect to wait.
Just in time for the Thanksgiving drive, Honda recalled 107,000 Honda Odyssey vans because the power doors may improperly latch and can potentially open while the vehicle is in operation. Honda has not received any reports of injuries.
Honda recalled vehicles from the 2018 and 2019 model years on November 20, 2018. The automaker called on drivers to request replacement power sliding door kits through an authorized Honda dealer. Replacement parts should arrive at licensed dealers in late December.
Honda advised owners they can disable the power door. Use manual operation until replacements arrive.
This is not the first recall involving Honda Odyssey vans. Last year, 900,000 Odyssey models from 2011 – 2017 were also recalled. In that case, Honda reported second-row seats could tip forward if not properly latched. Tipping could happen during moderate or heavy braking if seats were not properly latched after adjusting side-to-side or reinstalling a removed seat. Honda received 46 reports of minor injuries.
To learn more about the recalls, visit the Honda website.
IKEA Tables. It is a return if you have an IKEA table. The retailer recalled 8,200 dining tables in the U.S. and 1,500 in Canada on November 27, 2018, warning the table’s glass extension leaf can detach and drop.
This has already happened three times. IKEA reports one minor injury, requiring no medical attention.
These tables sold at IKEA stores and online from February 2017 through October 2018. They sold for approximately $300. IKEA says consumers can return them for a full refund or a replacement table. Learn more on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Consumer Safety Tip: Consumers do not have to wait for the news media to report unsafe products and product recalls. You can view recalls online on the CPSC website and even sign up to receive email alerts when products are recalled. Visit the toy safety page on our website to learn how to sign up.
Not every recall is the same. The CPSC can release product recalls calling for refunds or replacements. Some products can be repaired easily. Others cannot. Consumers should pay attention to all recalls. Encourage friends and family to do the same: return and refund or replacement/repair. Another option is just remove the recalled product from your home, if it can be taken apart and discarded with care, so other children cannot reuse it.
A Decade of Toy Safety Efforts, Passage of Federal Safety Legislation to Protect Massachusetts Families
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston product liability lawyers specialize in representing those injured by defective products. Toy injuries are common, even though toys should only be safe and fun for children. It is painful to learn they can be defective or may not have been fully tested or properly labeled. Defective toys can cause serious injuries, including fingertip lacerations, burns, facial injuries and broken bones. For children under age 3, the leading hazard is toys which contain small parts and balloons which can cause choking and suffocation. Toys should be tested to see if parts can fit through the “small parts” test. Those which pass through the “small parts” cylinder should have age-appropriate warnings, which read “Choking Hazard – Small Parts. Not for Children Under 3 Yrs.”
Among older children and teens, Hoverboards and riding toys are popular holiday gifts. These toys have injured and killed in recent years, with Hoverboards also burning down homes as the lithium ion batteries charged. Before you buy, check the CPSC’s safety standard for Hoverboards (UL2272 safety standard). Remember the standard is still new, first issued in 2016, and not an endorsement for safety. In fact, the CPSC has strongly urged consumers not to buy Hoverboards, as has W.A.T.C.H., the Boston-based non-profit which included Hoverboards on its “10 Worst Toys” lists.
Taking the time to check if a toy you want to buy – or already own – has been recalled can prevent injuries and save your loved ones’ lives. The number of toy recalls varies by year, but there are always recalls. So far in 2018, we have seen child-related recalls of dolls, toys with loose wheels, clothing, toys with excessive lead limits and go karts. In 2017, the CPSC reported 28 recalls of individual products. Over the past 10 years, 2008, 2009 and 2010 have seen the most toy recalls, with the highest number coming in 2008, when 172 toys were recalled, according to the CPSC.
This was the first year of major safety changes, including passage of the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. For the first time, toys had to be tested to ensure compliance with the law and the CPSC was granted greater authority in overseeing toy safety standards. Federal limits were also imposed on toys containing lead and other chemical hazards. In December 2008, Mattel and subsidiary Fisher Price agreed to pay $12 million to Massachusetts and 38 other states over events leading to recalls of toys with lead levels above the new federal limit.
Beyond toys, children’s products are also subject to frequent recalls, including names like Graco car seats and Britax strollers. This is a frightening fact, because these products carry children.