Choking Hazards: Six Ways To Safeguard Your Child!

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Small parts from toys are an ever present choking hazard to children under 3, because children put everything in their mouths. Despite the measures in place to protect children, 15 die annually from choking (CPSC#04-216). We don't know how many parents/caregivers find and remove small parts from children's mouths, without reporting the incident.

Government and Industry Safeguards:
Small parts are not allowed in toys that are intended for use by children under 3. So how come children die every year from choking? The answer is not simple and sometimes involves conditions that are beyond the control of government and industry… but not beyond your control!

Small Parts Testing:
Toys for children under 3 first undergo a battery of "use and abuse" tests, which are designed to simulate the way children use them. One test is to pull attached parts with 15 pounds of force (25 lbs. for European Tests). The objective is to identify parts which can come off during play which then create a choking hazard. Naturally, these toys should not have small parts to begin with.

A cylinder (which represents a child's throat) is used to determine if a part is "small" or not. Parts which fit wholly inside on the cylinder, uncompressed, are classified as small parts and cause a product FAILURE! If the part remains attached to the main toy, then the whole toy must fit in the cylinder to fail. Paper and fabric parts are not tested. However, a small stuffed part IS tested.

Small Parts Test Cylinder Make One Yourself
You can make a small part test cylinder at home, by cutting a toilet paper core as shown in the photo. Your cylinder should be 2-1/4" tall. Obviously it's not the same but here's what you can check.

- If a part does NOT fit wholly within the cylinder, then it's NOT A SMALL PART.

- If a part fits wholly inside, it may or may not be a small part. The toilet roll has a larger diameter and does not have the angled bottom.

- So this test is effective to determine parts which are not choking hazards for children under three.

Problems Arise Which Testing Can't Identify

In my experience there are conditions which can cause small parts to become detached weeks or even months later.
* Teething on attached parts (like buttons) can weaken and even tear the stitching which holds them.
* Repeated washing may weaken fabrics and threads, permitting attached small parts to come off with 15 or less pounds of pull.
Also toys that are already in your home, for children 3 and over, may have small parts. Unfortunately, these can easily wind up in your young child's mouth.

What Should You Do To Prevent This?
Here are my recommendations. You have likely child-proofed your home already, but now it's time to stand guard!

1. Buy a small part test cylinder NOW. They are very cheap (link… link).
2. Check for small parts attached to the toys that your child currently plays with. You'll soon know which parts could become a choking hazard, if they ever become detached.
3. Imagine the weight of three five pound bags of sugar. This is the force you should use to pull on attached parts. Pull on the parts to see if they come off or not.
4. If your child is in the height of teething, I recommend eliminating all toys which have small parts attached. Even if the parts withstand a pull today, repeated washing or continued teething may allow them come off and wind up in your child's mouth.
5. Inspect toys periodically after washing or continuous use/mouthing.
6. Alert older children in the home of these hazards. By simply showing and demonstrating which of their toys could cause harm to a younger sibling, you reduce the risk and even gain another watchful eye.

Pom-poms, balloons (uninflated/broken), marbles, games with balls
To Report A Small Part or any toy hazard/incident go to:

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Michael Pietrafesa is an expert/consultant in toy
manufacturing, product development and safety. Please visit the
Ultimate Parent's Help Center~ for invaluable information on keeping your
child safe from toys and see the featured Toy Safety Checklist.

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