Posted Online: Dec. 09, 2012, 6:00 am
Editorial: Toying with kid safety
Comment on this story
The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
Thanks to reruns, and Lorne Michaels' propensity for making a buck, chances are many of you have seen the memorable decade's-old Saturday Night Live sketch on toy safety.
The Consumer Probe bit features Dan Akroyd's hilarious turn as the head of Mainway toys.
The 1976 sketch also lives on in part because of the performance of Candice Bergen. The former model turned actress who later gained fame as television's Murphy Brown, played straight man to his deliciously sleazy Irwin Mainway, expressing righteous indignation at a corporate mentality which trades children's safety for bucks.
These days, parents and their kids are generally safe from products like fictional Mainway's Pretty Peggy Ear-Piercing Set, Mr. Skin-Grafter, General Tron's Secret Police Confession Kit, Doggie Dentist and Johnny Switchblade. And, of course, who could ever forget the infamous Bag-O-Glass. ("Look, we put a label on every bag that says, 'Kid! Be careful -- broken glass!'")
Thanks to agencies like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, many dangerous toys never make it into the hands of American children.
The agency says that in the past four years, it has stopped more than 8.5 million units of about 2,400 different toys and child products because of safety issues. Last year alone, 2 million units of such dangerous children's products were seized by the government.
While the number of toy-related deaths also have declined, injuries from unsafe toys still send far too many American kids to the emergency room.
The consumer watchdog group Illinois PIRG reports more than 250,000 kids wound up in the ER last year with toy-related injuries.
That's a pretty good illustration that because toys meet federal safety standards doesn't mean they're safe for your child to play with.
Please, don't count us among the do-gooders out there who want to wrap our children in bubble-wrap to completely protect them from life's hard edges.
We also don't expect all kid's toys to be made of rubber. Just that those who choose them make sure that they're age-appropriate.
Indeed, it never hurts to remember some basic tips for keeping kids safe. Most of them are commonsense but, as we all know, that can quickly fly out the window when we want to make little Janie or Johnny Jr. happy during the holidays.
Toward that end, here are some safety tips worth repeating we culled from federal agencies and Illinois PIRG, here are some safety tips that consumers -- and not just parents -- should keep in mind in buying gifts for kids this holiday season:
-- Broken balloons, small balls and small toys or toys with small parts represent a choking hazard for young children who tend to put everything in their mouths.
-- Don't give riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates to kids too young for them. They go fast and can be deadly. Even if your 5-year-old nephew covets some skates, check the product for recommended ages before you buy. If you buy such toys, remember helmets and other safety gear.
-- Magnets, really! The dangers are often overlooked, but safety experts say high-powered magnet sets are dangerous and should be given carefully. If swallowed, powerful magnets can tear holes in a child's intestine, PIRG warns.
-- Be on the alert for toys containing toxic chemicals that may have gotten past federal regulators. PIRG has compiled a list of some that contained hazardous levels of lead and phthalates at www.toysafety.mobi.
-- Loud toys can do lasting damage to young ears. Be careful with their purchase. PIRG offers this sound advice, "If a toy seems too loud for your ears, it is probably too loud for a child. Don't buy it."
Not a Bag-O-Glass in the bunch, and yet, each in their own way create a hazard in the inappropriate young hands. Why open a Bag-O-Trouble?
Please, be careful while shopping. Our kids' safety isn't something to play around with.