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Toys Contributed to 11,000 Eye Injuries in Children
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 17, 2003

Choose Toys Wisely this Holiday Season to Prevent Blindness

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - Every holiday season, millions of parents flock to their local malls or toy stores, sometimes waiting in line for hours, to snag the "hot" toy of the season for little Billy or Susan. Sometimes, this "hot" toy has what seems like zillions of small parts that have to be put together by parents who toil for hours to ensure a special holiday for their child.

"When choosing toys for your children, you need to make sure the toys are well constructed and appropriate for their ability and age," said Daniel D. Garrett, Prevent Blindness America (PBA) spokesperson. "It is easy to get caught up in buying the "hot" toy for your kids, especially when they beg and plead, but some toys, including those with a lot of small parts, may be poorly constructed and could cause serious injuries."

In 2002, more than 11,000 children under the age of 14 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for eye injuries caused by toys and sporting equipment. Toy guns contributed to the largest number of eye injuries, followed by playground equipment, bicycles, and balloons. These injuries can result from accidents (e.g., a child tripping over a toy that is left on the floor), unintended misuse of the toy, or an inherent flaw in the toy's design or material.

"The fact is that virtually all of these eye injuries are preventable. You can help keep your kids safe by showing them how to use the toys properly, by supervising them if they are very young, and by using sound judgement, rather than following the latest fad, when making a purchase," added Garrett.

Toy sales in the U.S. exceeded 20.5 billion last year, and a huge percentage of those sales were around the holidays. With the holiday season just around the corner, PBA has the following tips on how to make this a safe holiday season.

Inspect toys for safe construction. Products given to young children should be made of durable plastic or wood with no sharp edges or points. The toys should be able to withstand impact. Avoid purchasing toys with small parts for young children, as they tend to put items in their mouths, increasing their risk of choking.

Check your children's toys regularly for broken parts. Throw broken toys out immediately if they cannot be safely repaired. Older kids often alter their toys and misuse them, making them unsafe. It is better to be vigilant, even with older kids, so that serious eye injuries can be prevented.

Read the instructions and the suggested age level on the packaging. Assess whether the item is appropriate for the child's ability and age. Age labeling is provided not just for developmental reasons, but for safety reasons as well.

Avoid toys that shoot projectiles such as toy guns - they contribute to a large number of serious eye injuries and can rob children of their sight. Last year, 2,600 eye injuries occurred in children age 14 and younger related to toy weapons, BB guns, slingshots and other propelled toys.

Look for the symbol ASTM F963. This indicates the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Make recommendations to family members and friends about gifts that you feel are appropriate for your child.

Remain aware of recalled products. Large toy retailers post regular notices of recalled toys usually at the front of stores. Take recalled products back to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. For further information on toy and product recalls, visit the U.S. Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov.

PBA is offering two free fact sheets, Tips for Choosing Safe Toys, and Most Dangerous Toys to Children's Eyes, hoping to reduce the number of toy-related eye injuries that occur among children during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening training, community and patient service programs and research. These services are made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a network of affiliates, divisions and chapters, it's committed to eliminating preventable blindness in America. For more information, or to receive a free fact sheet, call 1-800-331-2020 or visit us on the web at www.preventblindness.org.

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