Toy-Related Injuries, Hospital Visits Rise, U.S. Says

Injuries involving toys increased 7.6 percent last year in the U.S., causing 186,000 emergency-room visits for children under the age of 15, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The number of injuries has risen in each of the past five years, the agency said in a statement and report released today. The most common were lacerations, contusions and abrasions to a child’s face and head, the agency said.

“We will work to make sure the products are safe, but it’s a partnership,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in an interview. “We have to make people see the risks in certain toys and risks in the home. They must use good judgment while children are playing with toys.”

Consumers should choose age-appropriate products and make sure children wear safety gear for toys such as bicycles, skates and scooters, Tenenbaum said. Fatalities of children under the age of 15 declined by half to 12 in 2009 from a year earlier, the CPSC said.

The number of toy recalls dropped to 44 in the fiscal year that ended in September from 50 a year earlier, the agency said. There were 172 recalls in 2008.

Tougher regulations, including testing for toxic chemicals, tougher enforcement and greater vigilance at U.S. ports, have combined to reduce the need to replace or fix toys already on the market, Tenenbaum said.

Extra Care Urged

Families with children of varied ages need to be extra careful, because parts of toys safe for older children can break off and be consumed by toddlers or infants, Tenenbaum said. Location is another concern. Parents should avoid letting children with ride-on toys near traffic, pools or ponds, she said.

Injuries occur while using small balls and toys with small parts, which can cause choking in toddlers, and balloons, which present a suffocation risk for children younger than 8, Tenenbaum said.

“Look at Buckyballs,” Tenenbaum said, referring to a magnetic-ball toy marketed to adults at stores such as Brookstone Inc. “Buckyballs are very attractive to children. You don’t even want them in the house if you have small children.”

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