Choking hazards are leading cause of unintended wrongful death and serious personal injury in small children. Every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls for toys that can pose a risk of injury to children, including choking hazards. Just recently, the CPSC and Health Canada announced the recall of the Colorful Hearts Teddy Bear By Build-A-Bear. The recall was announced because the teddy bear's eyes could loosen and fall out, creating a choking hazard for small children. For additional information on this recall and other recalled toys, visit the CPSC website at http://www.cpsc.gov/.
Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under 5. The size of a small child's trachea is about the diameter of drinking straw. Thus, any small item can pose a serious risk of choking. Common sources of choking hazards include toys, household products and foods. Toy manufacturers often label their products as choking hazards. However, just because product manufacturer does not provide such a warning is no guarantee the product poses no choking hazard, particularly if it breaks. Indeed, there have been many product liability lawsuits that involve a failure to warn by the manufacturer, including those involving choking hazards.
Virtually any toy or household product can pose a choking hazard if it is small enough or if a component part of the product breaks off. Products that should be kept away from small children include latex balloons, coins, marbles, toys with small parts, pens or pen caps, button type batteries, medicine syringes, screws, stuffing from a bean bag chair, rings, earrings, crayons, erasers, staples, safety pins, and holiday decorations. Of course, the above is only a list of common choking hazards and is, in no way, intended to be exhaustive.
There are certain precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of choking on toys and other items by small children. For example, parents and caregivers should only allow small children to play with age appropriate toys. As discussed, warning labels may discuss whether a toy is a choking hazard risk but the lack of such a label is no guarantee the product cannot pose a choking hazard risk. This is why small children should never be left unattended while playing with any toy that could pose a choking risk. Parents and caregivers must also be familiar with life-saving techniques such as CPR on children and the Heimlich maneuver on children, as well as be prepared to call 911 immediately.
US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Build-A-Bear Recalls Colorful Hearts Teddy Bears Due To Choking Hazard, December 23, 2011.
New York State Department of Health Website, Choking Prevention For Children, December 30, 2011.