Prominent New York Products Liability Lawyer Offers tips for Keeping Kids Safe this Holiday Season

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With only 8 shopping days left before Christmas and 4 days to the start of Chanukah, the rush to buy and wrap toys for the tots in your life isn't an excuse to put dangerous products into your child's hands at holiday time.

Take a moment and look online for product recalls, customer reviews, and reviews about the manufacturer

With only 8 shopping days left before Christmas and 4 days to the start of Chanukah, the rush to buy and wrap toys for the tots in your life isn't an excuse to put dangerous products into your child's hands at holiday time.

Nor is saving money, while a good idea, a reason for parents to get careless and overlook the importance of safe toys for kids.

"Take a moment and look online for product recalls, customer reviews, and reviews about the manufacturer," warns Richard Gurfein, a New York products liability lawyer and past-president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. "And be sure to visit websites provided by the government and concerned citizen groups that advise parents on toy safety, such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission," (http://www.cpsc.gov)    

Just this week, Mattel Inc., the world's largest toymaker, agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims the company shipped toys tainted with lead paint to 39 U.S. states, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.

"Everything from toys to children's furniture to cribs and even clothing can contain toxic levels of lead," Gurfein said.

The Mattel products, made by third-party contractors in China, contained lead levels of as much as 50,000 parts per million, according to court papers. New federal standards cut the permissible lead content to 90 parts per million from 600 parts per million.

"If lead is ingested by a young child," Gurfein explained, "it can cause a brain injury that can lead to significant learning disabilities and impede the progress of normal intellectual development."

Gurfein advises that if a child is injured by a toy, parents should seek medical attention immediately. He also advises parents to notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and report the toy they found to be dangerous.

"After the child has received proper medical attention," Gurfein said, "parents should consult with a lawyer who has experience handling htp://products liability cases.

"If the child's injury is caused by a dangerous product," he added, "it could result in an action against the manufacturer and anyone else who participated in putting the product into the 'stream of commerce. What's more, when a middleman gets involved with the product, like for example a retailer who explains a product's use, they become liable to the injured parties as well."

Gurfein cautions parents never to buy toys for very young children with parts small enough to fit through the cardboard tube on toilet paper role. He warns that these toys are not safe for children under 3, or for any child who still puts things in their mouths. "Even latex balloons can present a choking hazard for small children. Mylar balloons are safer," he said.

"Children under 6 years of age do not always play with toys in a safe manner," he explained. "Toys with sharp edges or pointed tips should be avoided. And, toys that run on batteries should be inspected to make sure that battery terminals don't come loose and rub against each other. If the two terminals do come in contact, they can cause the battery, and the toy, to overheat and burn an unsuspecting child."

As a father and grandfather himself, Gurfein recommends that parents follow these 4 simple steps to prevent some of the most common accidents to children caused by toys they receive as holiday gifts:

Step 1
Buy American.
It's a good way to make sure toys meet safety standards set forth by the federal government.

Step 2
Visit HealthyToys.org
HealthyToys performs independent safety tests and chemical analysis of common toys to determine their true levels of toxic materials, like lead. The HealthyToys.org consumer guide to toxic chemicals tested 1,500 toys in 2008, and found medium to high levels of cadmium, arsenic, lead, PVC or other harmful chemicals in a third of them. Lead was found in 20 percent of the toys tested. Healthy Toys also provides a list of the best and worst tested toys, reviews of independently tested products, and will even test specific toys upon request.

Step 3
Check for recalls.
Look online for recalls and customer reviews before buying a child a toy. Look for reviews of the manufacturer and for possible recalls of other toys they have produced.

Step 4
Shop Online.
Shopping online gives parents an opportunity to research as they shop. There are often a wider variety of healthy toys online than can be found in a department store.

Gurfein suggests that parents might also want to check out two additional websites that provide child product safety information: The U.S. Public Interest Research Group http://www.uspirg.org; and World Against Toys Causing Harm, or W.A.T.C.H http://www.toysafety.org.

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Richard Gurfein

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