Toy Safety and Injury Prevention

Image from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commis...

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Toy Safety and Injury Prevention from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Billions of toys to amuse children of all ages are sold each year in the US. Unfortunately, toys also are associated with thousands of injuries each year, some of which result in death. Children ages 4 and under are especially at risk for injury from toys. Injuries can range from falling, choking, strangulation, burning, drowning and even poisoning. However, the leading cause of toy-related death is choking, usually on latex balloons.

Injury often results when a toy is misused or used by children who are too young for that particular toy. Toys with small parts, designed for older children, can cause choking when a small child puts this toy in his/her mouth. Knowing what dangers are associated with certain toys and age groups can help you better protect your child from toy injuries.

Toy Recommendations

When selecting toys for your child, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Choose toys that are age-appropriate and meet your child’s skill level and interest (read the toy’s labeling).
  2. Use mylar balloons instead of latex balloons because of the danger of suffocation. Children under the age of eight should not be allowed to play with uninflated latex balloons.
  3. Strings, straps and cords on any toy should be less than 7 inches long to prevent strangulation. Remove crib mobiles when your infant is able to pull up on his or her hands and knees (usually about 5 months old).
  4. Children under 16 years of age should not use high-velocity BB or pellet guns; there are approximately four deaths per year in the U.S. caused by such guns.
  5. Children should be closely supervised when playing with cap guns. They may cause burns as well as noise damage if they are fired closer than one foot to the ear.
  6. Check toys regularly for damage and other hazards.
  7. Be involved in your child’s play.
  8. Store toys intended for older children separately from toys used by younger children.
  9. Use a small parts tester to determine which small toys or parts are choking hazards to children under age 3. If an object fits into the tester, it is unsafe. If you do not own a small parts tester, you may use the cardboard tube from inside a roll of paper towels or bathroom tissue; again, if an object is able to fit inside the tube, it is a choking hazard and not appropriate for young children.
  10. Make sure toys are used in safe environments. Keep riding toys away from stairs and bodies of water.
  11. Children should always wear helmets when roller skating or using ride-on toys such as bicycles, tricycles, scooters and skateboards.
  12. Discard packing materials from new toys immediately. Plastic bags, foam peanuts, staples, nails and wire ties are all safety hazards.

Stay up-to-date on toy recalls through the US Consumer Product Safety Commission ( or through the US Government’s online recall page ( Supervising your child’s play, in addition to following the recommendations made by toy manufacturers could save lives.

If you cannot find the information in which you are interested, please visit the Safety and Injury Prevention Online Resources for additional information.

Toy Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates

The following statistics are the latest available from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Injury and death rates:

  1. At least 16 children ages 9 and under died in 2004 from toy-related injuries.
  2. Approximately 161,100 children, ages 14 and under, were treated at hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2004. Almost half of the children treated for these injuries (45 percent) were ages 4 and under.
  3. Most toy-related injuries do not require hospitalization (97 percent).


  1. Choking is the leading cause of toy-related death.
  2. Almost half of the reported toy-related deaths in 2004 were due to choking or suffocation. Most of these deaths were attributed to toy balls, latex balloons and game dice.
  3. Other causes of toy-related deaths in 2004 included drowning, suffocation, strangulation, and riding toy accidents (such as when a child is hit by a motor vehicle while riding a toy, or when the child rides a toy into a body of water).
  4. Riding toys are responsible for the majority of toy injuries among children ages 14 and under.
  5. The vast majority of riding toy-related injuries in 2004 were associated with unpowered scooters.

Where and when:

  1. Many toy-related injuries occur in and around the home.
  2. Approximately half of all toy-related injuries (46 percent) occur to the head and face area.


  1. In 2004, children under age 5 accounted for 35 pecent of all toy-related injuries.
  2. Boys tend to sustain more toy-related injuries (58 percent) than girls.
  3. Children under age 3 are at greater risk for choking on toys than older children, due to their tendency to put everything in their mouths. In addition, the airways of children under age 3 are smaller than those of older children.

Product recalls:

  1. In 2004, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced 279 recalls involving about 40 million consumer product units that either violated mandatory safety standards or presented a significant risk of injury to the public. These recalls included ride-on toys (70,000), toy jewelry (150 million) and radio-controlled toy vehicles (300,000).

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