Before putting that toy in your cart this holiday season, make sure it isn’t one of the recalled products still available for sale.
More than a dozen recalled toys might still be sold online, according to a recent research report from non-profit U.S. Public Interest Research Groups Education Fund, even after alerts were issued tied to lead, choking hazards or overheating. The organization examined toys recalled between January 2015 and October 2016.
“As important as recalls are, there is no way to get them all back and to notify everyone,” said James Swartz, director of World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH).
Recalls for toys have declined in recent years, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the federal agency that announces recalls. There were 24 recalls this fiscal year, down from 172 in 2008. Still, there were 185,500 toy-related injuries treated in emergency rooms and 11 deaths of children under 15 years old last year, according to a recent CPSC report.
“It is a challenge for the commission to get into consumers’ homes,” said Nikki Fleming, a CPSC spokesperson. The agency has an internet surveillance team to look at all products on the U.S. PIRG’s list of recalled items. It has also partnered with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to stop shipments of more than 8 million units of 4,500 different toys that do not meet federal safety requirements.
Sometimes, companies will fix the issues that caused the recall and bring the toys back to market. In any event, it’s important parents check what toys their children play with to avoid any injuries.
Here’s what you can do:
Stay updated on recalls, past and present
The CPSC has a list of recalls on its website, with a searchable database. Parents can also subscribe to email updates from the agency at www.recalls.gov. In order to prevent potential injuries for others, they can report unsafe products at www.saferproducts.gov. Along with avoiding recalled items while shopping, parents should check the toys their kids already have weren’t recalled. Unfortunately, recall notices don’t always reach every consumer that purchased the item.
Check item numbers of previously recalled toys
In its research, U.S. PIRG purchased toys still available online and found some of the products had the same item number as the recalled products, said Dev Gowda, an advocate at the U.S. PIRG. A few of the companies with toys on the U.S. PIRG list fixed the issues that caused the recall, such as the 2014 MBX 50 and Tiny Trail bicycles by Marin Bikes that were recalled in February 2015 for handlebars that could loosen or separate during use. The company replaced the stems on the affected bikes, according to a statement by Marin Bikes. The CPSC also recalled pull toys by baby retailer Bunnies by the Bay because of a choking hazard for children. The products were recalled in June 2015, but the puppy wheely toy with the same item number as those recalled were still available for purchase on the company when MarketWatch reached out for comment. The company responded saying the inventory was new with the same item number but removed the product from the site to be overly cautious.
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Follow the toys’ rules
Toy organizations strongly suggest parents abide by age restrictions set forth for safety purposes, especially when it comes to toys with small parts, magnets or materials that could be toxic. Toys go through extensive testing and are safe before they get to consumers’ homes, Laurie Schacht, co-publisher of The Toy Insider, a toy review website, said in an email. Still, parents should follow the rules on toy packaging instead of assuming their younger children can play with something meant for an older child. They should also look at inserts in toy packages and inspect anything for potential hazards, Swartz said.