||Health and Family Services, Cabinet for
|Think About Safety While Shopping for Toys and Holiday Decorations
||November 23, 2004
||Mike Cavanah, 502/564-4856, ext. 3726 or Ken Spach, 502/564-4856
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 23, 2004) – Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year for Americans purchasing presents such as toys and holiday decorations. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services urges shoppers to take a few minutes during this busy time to think about safety for themselves and their loved ones.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the holidays are safer and happier if people take time to follow some simple safety guidelines about toys, trees, lights and decorations.
- Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could be a safety hazard for younger children.
- Read instructions carefully before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy received as a gift. If the toy is appropriate for your child, show him or her how to use it properly.
- Be careful with holiday gift-wrapping, like bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child.
- Be aware that children age 3 and under can choke on small parts contained in toys or games and balls with a diameter of one and three-quarters of an inch or less.
- Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length, which is a strangulation hazard for babies.
In 2003, about 206,000 toy-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms. Nationally, there were 11 recorded toy-related fatalities in calendar year 2003, down from 13 in 2002. Five of these were as a result of choking and asphyxia on toy balls. Three were related to balloons and one each as a result of a game piece, toy bead and stuffed toy.
While no deaths were attributed to riding vehicles such as scooters, bicycles, skateboards, big wheels and tricycles, these toys still account for more injuries than any other toy. These toys continue to be popular holiday gifts along with all terrain vehicles.
"So, this is a good time to remind people that children should be closely supervised and properly instructed when using bicycles, scooters and riding toys," said Dr. William Hacker, Acting Commissioner of Kentucky’s Department for Public Health. "A helmet makes a great gift for riders of any age. There is nothing as tragic as lifelong damage from a head injury that could have been prevented by owning and wearing a relatively inexpensive helmet."
If considering the purchase of an ATV remember to inquire about age and recommended engine sizes measured in cubic centimeters. For example, children under age 6 should never ride an ATV; ages 6-12 should only ride those with engine sizes under 70cc; ages 12-16 can use engines between 70-90cc; and those over 16 can ride ATVs with engine sizes over 90cc.
- Look for "Fire Resistant" labels when purchasing an artificial tree. Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- Check live trees for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- Place trees away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
- Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
- Check labels on outdoor lights to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short circuit and start a fire.
- For added electric shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. A qualified electrician can install GFCIs permanently to household circuits.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
- Take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children and pets to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food.
- Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays
Annually, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,800 people for injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. In addition, there are 13,000 candle-related fires each year, resulting in 140 deaths, 1,300 injuries, and $205 million in property loss each year. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage.
For more information, visit www.safekids.org or www.aap.org or www.cpsc.gov or call Mike Cavanah or Tammy Warford, Environmental Management Branch, Department of Public Health, 502/564-4856.