Now that my infant has begun to put toys in his mouth, and will soon begin to explore the world by crawling and walking, as a parent I often worry about him choking on small toys. There are also many reports of toys made with lead paint and other toxins like phtalates, which could be harmful to him. How can I feel confident the toys he plays with are safe?
At a few months of age, babies enjoy chewing on rattles and teethers. This simple activity can encourage the development of coordination and language. Being a caregiver to infants and toddlers can be very stressful, being constantly on high alert, making sure that young children don't ingest small items like toys that could have harmful repercussions. Parents can be proactive by researching toys prior to purchasing, reading labels of toys looking for small parts warnings, organizing the playroom at home and receiving alerts on recalled toys from governmental agencies, in an effort to help provide safer, play experiences for children.
Shop with reputable retailers and read all the labels and detailed descriptions if buying in store or online. The labels will state the suggested age range of the child, and whether there are any items included with the toy that might be choking hazards. Look for phrases like, "adult assembly required" which might indicate small parts. Special instructions will list when to discontinue using the product, and if the set includes chemicals or breakable parts.
In the home, supervise children during playtime. Store children’s toys appropriately. If there are older siblings who enjoy playing with small pieces, keep projects and games stored in containers out of reach. Monitor the table and living area for any pieces that might have fallen on the floor. Inspect the toys at home regularly to make sure they are working properly and throw away those that are broken.
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a full list of recalled items by date on their website. Once the individual recall link is clicked, it will include factual information on where the toy was sold, dates the product was manufactured, what the allegations were leading to the recall and the necessary steps to resolve the issue. It will also provide instructions on how to contact the company, whether to throw the toy away, or if a new toy or replacement part is being offered. As a consumer you can also report an unsafe toy to the CPSC on their website. Sign up for safety news and recalls through the CPSC email, which will send automatic new recall alerts by email once released. When subscribing to this list, you can sign up for all consumer product recalls or just childhood products.
The United States has federal guidelines for toy safety that companies are required to adhere to, irregardless of where the product is manufactured. Governmental laws have been put in place to reduce the amount of lead that can be manufactured in a toy and toys with pthalates can not be manufactured at levels higher than .1%. Toys and paints can be tested hundreds of ways a variety of methods in production, while being stored in warehouses, or pulled from retail shelves using accredited laboratories.
Consult individual toy company websites, as many companies list their own recalls, product warranties, instructions manuals, and ways to contact the customer service department with suggestions and concerns. On these individual sites, some companies like Mattel list their manufacturing practices and the third party companies they hire to test their products for safety.