Feds warn against dangerous toys

The Miami HeraldDecember 16, 2011 

In a scene that looked a lot like Christmas morning, a table stacked with toys sat in a room — never to be played with.

There was a doll on a bicycle, a set of ping-pong paddles and a huge inflated plastic ball.

The problem? All of those toys are either choking hazards, suffocation dangers or have traces of lead.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection displayed the toys Thursday at its Miami headquarters to warn the public about the dangers they pose this holiday season.

“We want the consumers to be able to make an educated decision,” said Veron Foret, U.S. Customs and Border Protection field director.

He said most of the toys were seized entering the country, and they represent a lack of knowledge about American standards rather than smuggling.

He singled out Kinder Eggs, chocolate eggs with toys inside, as a choking hazard. It has little plastic parts that could get stuck in children’s throats. They are banned from being imported into the United States.

A large plastic ball, called a “walking ball,” presents a hazard because it has potential risks of suffocation and drowning, he said.

Such balls are frequently seen at amusement parks, carnivals and malls, but because this one is sealed and has no emergency exit, it significantly heightens the risk of injury or death, especially if the person inside is in distress.

Most of the lead-containing products, which included Hannah Montana backpacks and Dora the Explorer lunchboxes, were imported from China and Peru, Foret said — countries whose lead regulations are more lax than those in this country.

So what can parents do to ensure they don’t accidentally buy a gift that could harm their kids?

Purchase toys from “a reputable store and a reputable brand within that store,” Foret said.

“Don’t buy a dollar store toy,” he said.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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