Leader Blues

Monday, December 10, 2007

TOP STORY >>Toy story: Buy them carefully

By CHRISTY HENDRICKS
Leader staff writer

The once-whimsical world of toys has changed.

In the 1920s, the teddy bear was introduced and Raggedy Ann dolls were among the most popular toys available. In the 1950s it was Mr. Potato Head, ant farms and Barbie. In the 1980s it was Cabbage Patch Kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nintendo. Homemade toys such as sock monkeys and wooden toys have also been popular through the years and the risks such toys imposed were little to none.

But things change. Homemade, handmade and wooden toys are no longer regular items found in homes with children. Today one will find video game systems, remote control toys, Easy-Bake Ovens, Baby Einstein toys and other magnetic or battery-operated gadgets.

The risks these toys pose have become an issue this year.

Since January of this year, there have been more than 150 recalls of children’s products and toys for reasons ranging from lead paint exposure to laceration hazard.

A Jacksonville child was hospitalized before Halloween after swallowing Aquadots, which were coated with the chemical gamma-hydroxybutric acid, also known as GHB, or the date rape drug. Most of the items recalled were made outside of the United States.

The much-publicized recalls have concerned shoppers and many are taking precautions during this holiday season.

“I would definitely say it’s affected my shopping. There are so many different toys that my 8-month-old used to be able to play with and now I’m worried what I can and cannot buy. What’s going to be recalled next week?” asked Bailey Fitzpatrick, a Cabot resident and mother of one.

“I’m more aware of what I buy for my kids and whether it was manufactured in the USA or not,” said Sara Burks, a Ward resident and mother of two, while shopping for Christmas gifts.

“I’m afraid to buy anything from China because I would hate for it to be recalled and have to take it away from my child,” said one Cabot mother of three.

Another shopper says she “really hasn’t (been affected) because I haven’t really thought about it.”

Most local retail stores, however, do not seem to be affected by the recalls.

“I think the public is aware of it. I get a lot of questions,” said Bob Covert, owner of The Toy Box in Searcy. “We haven’t been affected that much. We only carry one line (of toys) that has been recalled.”

The Toy Box carries mostly educational and developmental toys. The store also carries some old-fashioned games and toys.
In addition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall lists, a group known as World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., or W.A.T.C.H., publishes a “10 Worst Toys” list annually.

This year, the list included “The Dora Explorer Lamp.”

Buddy Childress, a Des Arc resident, was recently jailed after removing the dangerous toy from the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Searcy. He told the store manager that the lamp was on the dangerous toy list.

After speaking to the manager twice, asking him to remove the item from the shelf, Childress called police and told an officer what had happened inside the store. He told the officer that he intended to destroy the lamp and would be waiting for the police outside the store.

Childress was escorted to the back of the store by employees before police arrived, but not before he had the chance to stomp on the lamp.

When police arrived, Childress was arrested and taken to White County Dentention Center, where he was booked and given a ticket for shoplifting.

Wal-Mart has pressed charges and the case will be heard in court Dec. 13.

The W.A.T.C.H. list of the “10 Worst Toys” can be found at www.toysafety.org/worstToyList_index.html.

Consumers can visit the Consumer Product Safety Com-mission’s Web site, www.cpsc.gov, to find a list of recalls.

The CPSC has also released the ABC’s of Toy Safety, which includes the following tips and things to look for when buying for children.

Ride-on toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be sized to fit.

Small Parts – For children younger than age 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.

Magnets – For children under 6, avoid construction sets with small magnets. If magnets or pieces with magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.

Projectile toys – Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and sling shots are for older children. Improper use of these toys can result in serious eye injuries.

Chargers and adapters – Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to children.

To choose appropriate toys for children:

Be a label reader. Look for toy labels that give age and safety recommendations and use that information as a guide.
Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly-secured eyes, noses and other potential small parts.

For all children under 8, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Once the gifts are open:

Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things.

Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings or neighbors.

Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any device to prevent overcharging.