Buying Safe Christmas Toys

Lawn darts–one of the more memorable Christmas gifts I received as a child. My brothers and I started our first game on a small field. We tried to throw the lawn darts into a small plastic hoop a few feet away. That instantly became boring. For the second game we spaced the plastic hoops about 100 feet apart, hurled the lawn darts as high and as far as we could trying to get as close to the target as possible. The real objective was to avoid getting impaled by the top heavy metallic projectile crashing down to earth at the speed of sound.

Not all toys are created equal. Some toys are more dangerous than others. Each year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group publishes a list of unsafe toys called “Trouble in Toyland.” This year, the 23rd annual survey focused on choking hazards, dangerous small magnets and toys containing toxic substances.

Choking Hazards and Magnets
According to the report, choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. That being said, small toys or toys with small parts should be avoided for children under the age of 6. As a rule of thumb, if the toy or toy parts can fit inside a roll of toilet paper, then it is small.

Carefully inspect toy packaging. Manufacturers in the U.S. are required by law to label toys that could be a choking hazard to young children. Small magnets can also be swallowed and cause serious damage to the stomach or intestines. Products with small magnets should also be avoided as gifts for young children.

Toxic Substances
Lead, phthalates and bisphenol-A are three substances that can be harmful to young children and infants and are unfortunately still found in some children’s toys. It is impossible to tell by looking at a toy if it contains these substances. According to the Public Interest Research Group, your best options are to:

1. Avoid toys with PVC plastic (plastic #3), particularly soft PVC plastics. These often contain phthalates used to soften the PVC and make it more flexible.
2. Only buy baby bottles that are labeled bisphenol-A free.
3. Try to avoid inexpensive heavy metal costume jewelry, which can contain high levels of lead.

You can download the “Trouble in Toyland” report here. It lists specific toys in the report and has additional recommendations for safety toys this holiday season.

Andrew Peterson is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 10 years of experience working in the environmental and occupational health field. In addition to writing, he is currently the Environment, Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company that has been voted one of Fortune Magazineís Best Places to Work and one of CRO Magazineís 100 Best Corporate Citizens. He lives in California with his wife and adopted pound puppies.


.2 years ago

This is amazing supportive of me to have a website, that’s so valuable for my awareness. Thanks Urgent Care

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Chris Ray
Chris R6 years ago


Susana L.
sue l6 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

This is good information that people need to know.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

Good advice.

Anne Marie
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you.

Sharon H.
Sharon H7 years ago

How can u really be sure of anything these days when toys kill our children we are told are safe,and the cribs we buy them ,kill them.Is this not suppose to happen,whatever happened to child safety regulations when these products hit the market,these companies need to have stricter guidelines for safety,like what kind of crap we are sent from japan tons of those products are shipped here and they are not safe,Why do we allow THIS? How can we be sure that anything is safe for our children anymore?

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan7 years ago

Good advise , thanks.