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WRITER: LENA BAKER
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
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e-mail: david-pedersen@uiowa.edu

Release: Dec. 11, 2001

UI Injury Prevention Research Center stresses toy safety this holiday season

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- According to the Toy Industry Association, families spend an estimated $350 in toys per child every year. While toy sales increase during the holiday season, so does the risk of toy-related injuries.

Every year there are 150,000 toy-related injuries serious enough to require emergency room treatment, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Many toys contain small parts that could be choking hazards, while others make loud noises that can cause hearing impairments. So before you buy that cap gun or bouncing ball for your child, take some precautions.

John Lundell, deputy director of the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of Iowa, said parents should use common sense when purchasing toys for their children.

"The first thing to look for in any toy is whether or not it is age appropriate for the child," Lundell said. "Not all toys are for all children."

One of the biggest concerns is choking hazards. The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act requires a warning on toys that contain small parts. The standard for a choking hazard toy is whether it can fit into a "no-choke testing tube." This tube is approximately the diameter of a cardboard toilet paper roll. If an object can fit easily into the tube, it is a choking hazard for children under age 3.

Also be cautious of balloons. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, balloons are a leading choking killer. They should be kept away from children younger than age 8.

Toys with strings and cords can be very dangerous for infants and young children. According to the CPSC, never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops or ribbons in cribs or playpens where children can become entangled.

Loud noises are also a concern. According to the CPSC, the law requires a label on boxes of caps producing noise above a certain level. Caps producing noise that can injure a child's hearing have been banned.

The CPCS encourages parents to periodically check all toys for breakage and potential hazards. A damaged or dangerous toy should be thrown away or repaired immediately.

Another good practice is teaching children to put their toys away safely on shelves or in a toy chest after playing to prevent trips and falls.

Lundell recommends that this holiday season, as children receive gifts such as bicycles and skateboards, that they are also properly protected.

"If you give your child a bike, scooter, skateboard or roller blades this year, make sure that you also include the proper safety equipment, such as knee and elbow guards, and especially a helmet," he said.

For more information about toy safety, consider these Web sites: www.safekids.org, www.toysafety.net and www.cpsc.gov.