Health department warns of potential toy risks this holiday season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; With the holiday season comes greeting cards, cold weather and &8212; for some parents &8212; the mad dash to find the perfect toy for their deserving children. But the state health department warns there are certain things parents should be aware of when looking for the perfect toy.

According to Jamey Durham, director of the Injury Prevention division of the Alabama Department of Public Health, &8220;One of the biggest concerns this year has been the toy recalls involving unsafe levels of lead.&8221;

Durham explained The American Academy of Pediatrics says all children are exposed to lead either by lead-contaminated dust or dirt on their hands, which are then put in their mouths, or by directly sucking or chewing on lead-painted or lead-contaminated objects. Furthermore, the AAP says there is no safe level of lead, therefore, the goal is to keep the level of exposure as low as possible.

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One of the best ways to avoid having your child becoming sick due to exposure to a lead-contaminated toy, Durham said, is for parents to frequently check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Website to keep track of which toys are being recalled.

Another concern, Durham said, is to keep toys age appropriate to reduce the risk of choking, strangulation and other potentially fatal hazards.

Catherine Fuqua, owner of Building Blocks daycare in Demopolis, says toy safety is always a concern in her line of work.

Also, a common practice is to register the toys she purchases for the daycare with the manufacturer, who will then send any information to them if there is a safety concern. She also encourages a little bit of common sense about toys for parents.

Her facility is set up with five different rooms for different age groups, ranging from three weeks old to 6 years old. In each of these rooms, Fuqua and her staff stock them with age appropriate toys.

Just in case, each member of their staff is trained in both first aid and CPR.

The Alabama Department of Public Health offers these toy safety tips:

Before shopping for toys, consider the child&8217;s age.

Make sure the toy is sturdy and no small parts can break off the toy.

When shopping read labels and follow the age and safety information on the warning labels.

Keep toys with small parts away from children under age 3. They can choke on small toys and parts. Small, rounded and oval objects like balls and marbles can easily fit into a child&8217;s mouth. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have parts less than one a one-quarter inches in diameter and two and a quarter inches long.

Carefully read instructions for the assembly and use of toys.

Always remove and discard all packaging before giving it to a baby or small child. Remind caregivers, including grandparents, of play-related safety concerns.

Separate and store toys by age levels. Teach children to put away toys after playing. Safe storage prevents falls and other injuries.

Check old and new toys regularly for damages such as sharp edges or small parts. Make repairs immediately or throw away damaged toys.

For all children under eight years old, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Keep un-inflated balloons and broken balloon pieces away from children.

Crib toys with strings, cords and ribbons present a strangulation hazard.

For more information on toy safety visit or