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As the 2008 Holiday shopping season continues, consumers purchasing children’s toys should remain alert for safety concerns. Although toy recalls in 2008 have dropped to 74 recalls from 138 recalls in 2007 due primarily to increased testing and stricter regulations, many toys on store shelves remain unsafe. Lead contamination, strong magnets, strangulation, and choking are among the most common types of toy hazards. However, one of the greatest threats to children is buying toys that are “safe”- but are inappropriate for the child’s age.

So what can a concerned buyer do to prevent purchasing potentially harmful toys? First and foremost is to do research before heading to the stores. With numerous web sites dedicated to informing consumers about the hazards of toys, and with access to hundreds of thousands of results by simply typing “toy safety” into a search engine, the internet is a quick and efficient place to begin your investigation. World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (WATCH) has released its 2008 10 Worst Toys List and other sites such as Oppenheim Toy Portfolio issue “Platinum Awards” for the best toys at different age groups. Furthermore,, is an excellent site to add to your Favorites as it provides quick buying tips, safety information, and a list of recalled toys, as well as a link to sign up to receive e-mail alerts of new toy recalls.

Another valuable resource is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, which provides tips and age-appropriate toy safety guidelines. Some of the CPSC tips include:

  1. Avoid buying toys made for older children for a younger child who may be tempted to put small parts in their mouth. Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger siblings.

  1. Avoid buying toys with sharp edges or brittle edges that may easily break or expose metal.

  1. When buying art supplies, look for those marked with “ASTM D-4236". This indicates the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist.

  1. Avoid toys with pieces that are 1.75 inches in diameter or less. These pose a choking hazard to small children.

  1. For older children, make sure to purchase safety equipment such as a helmet when buying a bicycle or roller blades.

  1. Use caution with electronic toys that require power sources and batteries.

This year, toys are generally safer than those available around this time just a year ago. However, it is still important to research and use caution when purchasing any toy. Remember though safety is not the ONLY factor to consider when purchasing a toy. As stated by Richard Gottlieb of USA Toy Experts, “give a gift that provides a lifetime of enthusiasm. How many architects were inspired by Lego? Or artists by finger paint?”

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