Dangerous children's toys and hazards to look out for

Small toys and toys with smaller detachable parts can be very dangerous for children as, more often than not, they become a choking hazard.
Small toys and toys with smaller detachable parts can be very dangerous for children as, more often than not, they become a choking hazard.

Now that school’s out and the holiday has officially begun, the kids will be spending much of their time cooking up a storm in their play kitchen, playing house with their baby dolls and enjoying some time on the family hoverboard. That is, of course, when they’re not nagging you to get out of the house, and just when you agree to let them tag along to the mall, you realise you cannot get much grocery shopping done because you’ve agreed to stop at their favourite toy store.

But while it can be hours of fun (for them) and an eventual smile on their face when you give into their nagging and opt to buy their silence for the rest of the family outing, our spontaneous and hasty purchase usually doesn’t consider just how dangerous a specific toy might be.

Kirstie Haslam, a partner at DSC Attorneys, says that an alarming number of dangerous children’s toys are available on store shelves and online, resulting in personal injuries and, in extreme cases, death. This is due to the fact that many of these dangerous toys are readily available in South Africa.

Which toys are dangerous for my child?

When discussing these toys she mentions that parents should, for example, look out for toys that could be a choking hazard. Referencing the American Journal for Justice and quoting Rachel Weintraub, the legislative director and general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), she explained that choking is a leading type of toy injury as toys for children six and under often include small parts, and children get toys that are too big for them, despite the warning label.

She also mentioned that there are thousands of incidents of children swallowing very strong magnets, which pose a hidden hazard because the magnets are strong enough to rip through the oesophagus or small intestine if a child swallows more than one.

Riding toys also pose a threat as they are either ridden on the street or in a driveway where vehicles can’t see them. As such, off-highway vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVS), pose serious threats, citing that in 2015, ATVs killed at least 58 children under 16.

World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H) named its 2017 list of toys most likely to cause harm and injury, explaining that we should be mindful of the following when purchasing toys for our little ones:

  • If the toy has a cord that exceeds the allowable length, it can become a strangulation or entanglement risk to children.
  • If the toy is made up of many smaller toys or has detachable parts – even the detachable rings of seemingly harmless fidget spinners – it can become a choking hazard for children.
  • If the toy has sharper edges or parts, even if it’s a toy sword or spear that an action figure carries, it can cause facial injuries when children are play fighting with them.
  • If the toy has high-speed rotating blades, as seen in many drones, it can cause serious injury to fingers, eyes and faces.
  • If the toy incorporates some sort of firing action, as in nerf guns and the like, the toy or part of the toy that is fired can cause eye and facial injuries.
  • If the toy incorporates some sort of strap-on wheels, apart from the obvious fall-hazard and injuries as a result, it could create sparks along the ground and even be a burn risk.

What action can I take if my child gets hurt?

Kirstie explains that while new technology provides us with a whole new array of toys that are way more advanced than the Frisbees and paddle balls we had in our day, it also presents with new threats and risks, particularly if products are not properly assessed and issues are not addressed before they are put on the market.

She cites the example of hoverboards, which are not considered toys, but children obviously interact with them. The traditional hoverboard hazard is the fall hazard, she says, but the battery packs are more cause for concern – they’re new technology that poses a fire risk. 
Kirstie says that in its toy recall report for 2017, Safe Kids Worldwide lists top toy recalls for the year based on their danger and number of units. Included are several models of self-balancing scooters and hoverboards, list-up spinners and even plush toys. In total, the list represented a total of 3 605 310 units of toys.

Kirstie says if you or a dependant is injured by a dangerous toy that doesn’t carry the required warnings, you might be entitled to claim damages and that under South African law, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and suppliers can all be held liable for damages caused by defective or hazardous products.

She explains that the Consumer Protection Act of 2008 was introduced to safeguard South African consumers from flawed or defective goods, whether the goods are locally produced or imported: “A consequence of the Act is that the onus is no longer on the consumer to prove fault or negligence in a product liability claim. The entire supply chain is now required by law to ensure that all products are safe for their intended uses.”
However, because of the complexity of this type of personal injury cases Kirstie says it is wise to seek advice from a personal injury attorney, which has extensive experience in handling product liability claims, including claims involving injuries to children. 

Most importantly, use your common sense when allowing toys into your home: handle the toy to see how sturdy it is and what the consequences could be of possible misuse, then make an informed decision.

Are there any other toys parents should look out for and potential hazards to avoid? Tell us by emailing chatback@parent24.com and we may publish your comments.

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