In early 2006, a four-year-old child based out of Minnesota accidentally swallowed some part of a gift, which resulted in death of the child. It was later known that the part contained high levels of lead, which is chemically very dangerous and known to cause severe damage in human beings. Even a highly regulated market such as the US witnessed an estimated 251,800 toy-related injuries in the year 2014. With a high number of regulations, if markets such as US and UK see an increasing number of toy-related accidents, one can only imagine India’s plight – with no proper toy-safety regulation being adhered to!

In India, the market is flooded with toys; and some of them happen to be sub-standard toys. Such toys pose a threat to the health and safety of children. A few years ago, the international brand Mattel had recalled about 300 toy units from stores in India due to impermissible amounts of lead in the toy paint.

Did you know that some largely unorganized Indian toy manufacturers produce toys that can cause potential damage to children? Did you know there is no product-recall system in India to prevent further damage?

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has set certain limits for use of lead in toys. Interestingly, those standards match US and EU standards, but are sadly voluntary, not mandatory. It implies that local toy makers may or may not choose to maintain the standards set by BIS.

What are some of the risks or threats posed by toys?

  • Choking
  • Strangulation
  • Microbiological damage
  • Chemical damage
  • Hearing damage
  • Burns
  • Electric shocks

Millions of toys have already moved into the homes and thousands more occupy the shelves of toy stores every month. Gifting toys to children within and out of the family is a culture followed and that makes it even more important to buy the right toys.

Here are a few safety guidelines to remember when you are buying toys:

  • Awareness: First and foremost, parents and elders should realize that all toys may not be totally safe. They might contain harmful chemicals or tiny parts that could harm children.
  • Age labelling: Gifting is fine, but it is important to consider age limits. A child of 4-8 months is more likely to taste anything offered or lying around. High-quality toys devoid of lead and other harmful chemicals suit children of this age.
  • Small parts: Many toys consist of smaller parts. Research says that if a part of a toy can fit into a toilet paper roll, then it is not suitable for children under the age of 3. The danger posed is swallowing of the parts and that has to be avoided.
  • Cleanliness: It is very important to clean toys with water and disinfectants regularly. It is also good to avoid buying soft toys for children below one year, as the chances of infection are high.
  • Strings and spikes: Toys with loose strings should be avoided, as they can cause the child to get entangled. Toys with sharp ridges, spikes and rods are potentially injurious. It is good to choose toys that do not break upon impact, as the shreds can cause harm.

Most important of all is supervision. Whether it is providing safe indoor/outdoor environments or keeping regular checks on the condition of toys, elders and parents have an important role to play. Toys are meant for the joy of children and adhering to toy-safety guidelines will only improve their experience.