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.
Families often enjoy looking through toy catalogs together this time of year. After seeing what excites your child, you may be tempted to immediately order their holiday gifts. However, before you do, we encourage parents and grandparents to check the Trouble in Toyland report.
The 35th anniversary Trouble in Toyland report was recently released. This year, U.S. PIRG warned about the dangers of:
- Mislabeled choking hazards
- Flocked animal figures (toys with small attached pieces)
- Recalled toys which may still be available online
- Noisy toys
- In-app purchases
- Not advisable for children
Parents are advised to look for small part warnings on toys. “Small part” is not a subjective term. It is anything that fits within the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s toy test cylinder. The test cylinder measures 2.25 inches long and 1.25 inches wide and is roughly the size of a young child’s throat. A small part may be a game piece or a marble of the right size. It may also include a toy accessory, such as doll clothing.
The most common “small parts” warning: “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD–Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years.” Toys designed for children ages 3 through 6 must also carry warning labels indicating they are not safe for children under 3.
Parents can become familiar with the risks by reading this year’s Trouble In Toyland. Make it a priority not to purchase a product with small parts and bring them into your home. Always read toy safety and age appropriate labels. Doing so puts you on a path to protect your family.
If you purchase a toy figurine or doll that comes with accessories, such as ribbons or clothing, remember your child can put those small parts in their mouths. Calico Critters – the popular animal family figures – are now under scrutiny.
One child was killed while playing with a set containing a small pacifier in New Mexico, according to a court filing. Another child in Utah also choked on the pacifier accessory, according to the a local news website, and shared in the Trouble in Toyland report. Both children were under 3 years old.
Fortunately, there are many versions of toys. If you find a toy you like and it has small fabric parts, keep looking until you find one without removable accessories.
Online Toy Shopping
Trouble in Toyland shared a valuable insight about searching for holiday toys on Amazon. If you search for “toys for 2-year-old boys,” for instance, you may see a number of listings which do not provide a small part warning. Do not trust that searching by year means toys are screened for safety. Remember, Amazon is a marketplace of merchants, not just one company. Closely look at product descriptions before making a purchase. In addition to reading reviews, you want to confirm the details. Look at the product picture, then read the description. Double check the product packaging once it arrives by mail and open it to confirm it has the parts you expected.
Beware of recalled toys as well. Since the 2019 Trouble in Toyland, the Consumer Product Safety Commissioned issued 10 toy recalls in the U.S., according to this report. When a product is recalled, it should be immediately removed from the store shelves and online listings. Some toys were still being sold online after recalls. Researchers even found one toy – a Fisher-Price Barbie Dream Camper which was recalled in February 2019 – still on sale. The camper was an outdoor riding toy for children. The CPSC received 17 reports of campers continuing to travel after the foot pedal was released.
Not Advisable For Children
Also featured was a section called, “items not advisable for children.” These items are not really toys, but are given to children as toys. At the top of the list is high-powered magnet desk sets. We wrote about the dangers of high-powered magnet sets last holiday season. Magnet sets may seem like fun gifts for adults, but you should never purchase one because they are so dangerous and the small parts can stick around your home forever. Children can be tempted to play with these magnets and swallow them. At this point, the magnets can attempt to connect together in a child’s stomach. The magnets touched on some serious personal injuries.
In September 2020, a 9-year-old boy took two magnets from a Neutronball building set and placed them on his lip, pretending to have a piercing. He then swallowed them and had to seek medical treatment at a hospital. In May, another 9-year-old swallowed parts from a Zen Magnets LLC set. She hid this from her parents for a week, until she began suffering intense stomach pain. She required surgery, but survived.
Beware of Digital Apps
Parents may be asked to sign up for an app related to a “smart toy” their child received as a gift. Or a child may have received a tablet or cell phone and try to sign up for apps themselves.
While there is a case to be made for limiting your child’s screen time overall, beware of giving your child access to digital apps. These can be tempting and children may like the graphics and thought of winning a prize. The Trouble in Toyland report mentioned one app called Coin Master. This is rated for ages 13 and over, though the graphics may easily capture the attention of a younger child.
We are sharing this story because Coin Master offers in-app purchases. The most expensive option is $99.99. Children may only see higher options once they get into the game.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Our firm is highly experienced in the area of product liability and injuries caused by defective products. We are writing about holiday toy safety as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, where our goal is to protect children from injuries. For the past 8 years, our attorneys have also donated 30,000 bicycle helmets to children across Massachusetts to protect against head injuries.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
New parents quickly learn the secret to surviving the holiday season: stock up on batteries. While all batteries should be handled with care, we want to share a few safety tips for handling lithium button batteries.
Small, just the size of a button, these batteries are easy to overlook when you child-proof your home. But button batteries are a giant danger. A child can find one and put in their mouth. Without proper medical care, within hours, a child can suffer severe burns to their esophagus.
In 2010, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia tracked more than 3,400 cases of children who swallowed button batteries. The hospital reports 15 children have died and another 80 children have suffered permanent injuries after ingesting button batteries.
Our tips to protect your children:
- Read product labels before you purchase. You may not realize some toys or products have lithium batteries because you do not have to install them. Likewise, products you may guess have lithium batteries may not. It is essential to read and ask questions.
- Know where lithium button batteries are in your home. You can find them in certain toys and baby monitors, as well as remote controls, garage door openers, car keys and bathroom scales. You may also wear a watch powered by a lithium battery.
- Remove products containing lithium batteries from your home. If you really need these products, at least secure them out of your child’s reach.
- Be suspicious of holiday gifts and trinkets. Holiday cards, electric candles and interactive gifts, such as musical stuffed animals, may have lithium batteries. Stop these products before they come into your home. As for holiday cards, enjoy them and discard them the same day. If you keep them, remove the battery.
- Research your holiday gifts. Go online and search for product recalls involving any toy you wish to purchase. You can visit the CPSC website. Search for both the product you are interested in buying and batteries.
- Warn your family and friends. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, now is an ideal time to share safety information with your loved ones. Urge family members, friends, grandparents and caregivers to carefully select holiday gifts, make use of toy recall alerts and move products with button batteries out of your child’s reach.
What to do if a child swallows a lithium button battery
If your child ever swallows a button battery, go to the hospital immediately. The sooner a child receives medical attention, the better. A child can suffer a serious internal injury within hours of swallowing a button battery so every second counts.
We hope your child is never injured. But it is critical to understand the symptoms when children swallow button batteries. Parents may not see a child swallow a button battery or may not even know a button battery was in their child’s reach.
These are common symptoms
- Decreased eating or drinking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Vomiting blood
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Abdominal pain, blood in saliva or stool
If you suspect your child swallowed a button battery, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia advises parents to seek immediate medical treatment and to refrain from giving the child medications, food or anything to drink. Never attempt the Heimlich maneuver either. This can worsen the injury.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck and Our Commitment to Safety
This holiday season, Breakstone, White & Gluck is committed to sharing tips on toy safety. Every toy, every product you buy should be safe to use, but this is not always the case. Because of this, our Boston product liability lawyers want to share tips from our experience to help parents and grandparents make safe buying decisions.
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a top-rated Boston personal injury law firm, with lawyers who have been consistently recognized for excellence over the past 26 years, including by Top 100 New England Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and Martindale-Hubbell. Our attorneys have also been recognized for starting our Project KidSafe campaign and working to help prevent injuries and deaths by providing safety education to families. To date, we have donated over 25,000 bicycle helmets to children, with a goal of preventing head injuries.
Learn more about Breakstone, White & Gluck: www.bwglaw.com. If you have been injured, our attorneys offer a free legal consultation and can help explain your rights for seeking potential compensation. Call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Additional Resources for Parents
We encourage parents to watch these videos.