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Holiday shoppers: Beware of these toy, balloon & battery hazards

No one wants to let down a child during the holidays. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends rush around from store to store (or from website to website) to find just the right thing.

It may seem like your biggest worry is whether your beloved tot will enjoy the gift. Unfortunately, it's not. Unsafe and defective toys are being sold right now, hiding in plain view on your store shelves. What should you watch out for?

Every year, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund puts out a report called "Trouble in Toyland" with list of toys that were recalled this year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The fact that they were recalled does not necessarily mean, however, that they've been pulled off the market. Often enough, those very toys are still available online.

The PIRG called special attention to some noticeable trends this year, including:

  • Toys with lead paint
  • Toys and toy sets containing objects small enough for a child to swallow (often without the appropriate age warning)
  • Rare earth magnets, which can cause major internal damage when swallowed by small children
  • Excessively noisy toys
  • Parts that loosen or suddenly come off
  • Batteries and chargers that overheat

As they do every year, the PIRG urges parents to carefully supervise children around balloons. "Balloons pose the most serious choking hazard to children in the United States," the report says. "They are responsible for more childhood deaths by suffocation than any other product."

The trouble is that kids can accidentally inhale balloons as they attempt to inflate them, and an inhaled balloon can completely obstruct a child's airway. They can also inhale pieces of popped balloons. For this reason, children should never be allowed to suck or chew on balloons.

One item we would like to highlight is the Ace Bayou Bean Bag Chair from Ace Bayou Corp. of New Orleans. Small children can unzip the chair cover, crawl inside and suffocate.

Before you buy any toy, take a good look at it. Then, consider who will be playing with that toy, including any visiting relatives with small tots. Could anything in that package be swallowed? Are there hard plastic parts with sharp points? Would it injure someone if thrown?

Finally, if your child does suffer an injury from an unsafe toy, please reach out for help.

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