Safety is not child's play Lethal toys: Government recalls don't absolve parents of the need to look out for their kids' safety.

December 23, 1998

IF IT'S Christmas, it must be time for the annual rash of toy safety warnings. Topping this year's list of lethal toys: adjustable plastic basketball hoops.

Surely you've seen them. More than 10 million have been sold -- and now recalled. In spite of their popularity with the preschool set, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that these adjustable plastic basketball hoops can be dangerous, even deadly.

Here's how: If the basketball net comes unhooked from the hoop's rim, it can form a gap large enough to snag the head of a young child. While such a scenario may sound unlikely, within the past 10 years, 20 children got their heads caught in the nets and one 18-month-old child was strangled.

The basketball sets are one of 13 dangerous toys that the federal government has recalled recently. Several feature tiny plastic parts that can break off and pose a choking hazard. Then there are the "flying dolls" and lawn darts that can cause eye injuries; the toy chests with lids that can fall and crush a child's head; and the Fisher-Price ride-on vehicles that can overheat and cause fires.

In theory, the dangerous toys have been pulled from store shelves. But the government has discovered that more than a few parents fail to search out and return dangerous toys following a recall. Only 5 percent of recalled toys are turned in compared with a 90 percent return rate for some recalled appliances.

Informing the public about safety hazards is a vital role of the federal government. But any toy can be dangerous if it is misused -- or used without appropriate adult supervision.

Parents form the first line of defense between children and their toys -- not just during the holidays but year round.

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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