Federal agency would put warning labels on marbles because of risk to youngsters

January 31, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Washington -- Baby Boomers who once got down in the dirt to play marbles may be surprised to hear the government may soon get in the age-old game.

The little glass balls are dangerous, warns a staff report of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Between 1980 and 1991, children under age 10 choked to death on marbles, the agency reports.

The government wants a stricter labeling law to warn parents. Already, a law exists requiring labels on small toys that pose a danger to children under 3, but marbles, small balls and balloons are excluded. A proposed regulation would include toys that pose a potential risk for children under 6.

Consumers are skeptical.

"Parents should know not to buy marbles for a 3-year-old," said Beth Kopta, 21, of suburban Washington. "Besides, the child wouldn't even know how the game is played."

Dr. David Sutphin of Greenbelt, says enough is enough. "They tell me I have to wear a seatbelt, a motorcycle helmet and have an airbag in my car. I'm sick of it." He swallowed a marble when he was 5.

The Toy Manufacturers of America Inc., a trade group with 250 members, says the government is "opening up a literal Pandora's Box by requiring labeling for all products" for children under 6.

"How many choking incidents or fatalities have occurred as the result of the ingestion of coins, jewelry, puzzles, non-functional accessories on clothing and the innumerable other items . . .?" asks Aaron Locker, a New York lawyer representing the trade group.

Dan Rumelt, a representative of the safety commission, says labels would be a reminder to parents. "It's like the warning label on dry cleaning bags that says the plastic is hazardous for young children," he says.

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