Parents, beware: Regulators inspect less than one percent of the toys that
are imported into the U.S., meaning that thousands of
defective products could be getting into children's hands each year, according to a recent
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees and develops safety
standards for 10,000 products sold nationwide, including children's
toys and infant products such as cribs, swings and strollers. However,
gaps in existing laws and lax actions on the part of retailers means that
dangerous products are still slipping through the cracks, the
Bloomberg report states.
Among the worst offenders is the discount chain Dollar Tree, both Bloomberg
and a study by the consumer advocacy
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) have found. Violations range from action figures with too much
lead in them to unlabeled packages that contain choking hazards.
The CPSC has been investigating reports of deaths and injuries to children
stemming from products sold by Dollar Tree since 2009. Data shows Dollar
Tree tops the list for violations of safety standards, with 823,000 items
seized for violations since late 2012.
Target also ranked high on the list for violations, with 705,000 items
seized during the same time period.
With that said, federal inspectors did prevent more than 16 million products
that did not comply with regulations from crossing U.S. borders, CPSC
Loopholes May Make It Easier For Companies to Skirt Rules
Although toys are required by law to be vetted for safety by accredited
testing laboratories, the small percentage of inspections means that dangerous
toys are still hitting toy shelves.
The most recent PIRG report found that in 2014, Dollar Tree was selling
a sheriff's badge set and a Jake and the Neverland Pirates tambourine
- both of which were found in testing to be too high in toxic chemical content.
Even when Dollar Tree removed defective products from stores, it still
used the same manufacturer for future orders in some cases, according
to the CPSC.
Retailers are also able to work around loopholes in regulations that enable
products to meet safety criteria despite possible risks of injuries.
Bloomberg reported that a Philadelphia family recently settled a lawsuit
against Dollar Tree, Walt Disney Co. and other parties after their daughter
asphyxiated on the top of a toy marker bought at the store. Despite the
small size of the cap, it is classified as a writing tool and not subject
to sizing standards that fall under small parts requirements set by the CPSC.
Additionally, warning labeling is inconsistent among stores. For example,
some children's products containing markers at Wal-Mart did come with
choking hazard warnings, while others did not - a problem that could confuse
consumers and render safety laws ineffective.
data on toy injuries and deaths in the U.S. found that nine children died and
256,700 others were treated in emergency rooms in 2013 stemming from toy-related
incidents. The CPSC noted that the report only showed that toys were contributing
factors in the accidents, not necessarily the cause of death or injury.
Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe
Although the CPSC has the power to create mandatory safety standards that
manufacturers must meet before products go to market, some safety recommendations
are voluntary. This leaves the door open for companies to choose whether
to comply or not.
As a result, parents must take extra steps to minimize the risk of harm
to their children.
The Tampa-based St. Joseph's Children's Advocacy Center offers
several helpful suggestions:
- Check for recalls on toys at gov and sign up for e-mail safety alerts.
- Read all labels prior to purchase.
- Put "big kid" toys such as scissors or miniature sets out of
reach if you have little ones in the house.
- Perform your own choking hazard test. If a toy can fit in a toilet paper
roll, it is a choking hazard. (org further cautions that infant and toddler
toys should be at least 1 ¼ inches in diameter and 2 ¼ inches
in length to avoid choking.
- Frequently inspect toys for broken pieces.
- Make sure straps, links or cords are less than seven inches long.
It is also wise to avoid using old toys or second-hand toys unless you
can guarantee that they meet current safety standards and have not been recalled.
Your Rights as a Consumer
As a consumer, you have the right to expect that the products you buy are
safe when used as intended. When retailers and manufacturers break that
trust by selling dangerous and defective products, and someone is injured
as a result, you may also be entitled to seek compensation.
The attorneys at the Maher Law Firm are experienced in defective products
and injury claims.
Contact us for more information.