Making a List, Checking it Twice

As you get started on your holiday shopping this weekend–Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us–you’ll want to keep your eyes open for a lot of things: a great deal, that can’t-miss gift, a parking spot that isn’t in the next county. There are, however, some other things you’ll need to keep an eye out.

  •  Look out for drawstrings on children’s clothes. They can easily get caught in playground equipment, furniture, or other objects and pose an entrapment or strangulation hazard. Earlier this year, at my urging, CPSC found that neck drawstrings in children’s clothes sized 2T to 12 are substantial product hazards. They shouldn’t be on the shelves anymore. If they are, they certainly shouldn’t be on your children.
  •  When you’re choosing toys and clothes, make sure they’re age appropriate for the child. Working with CPSC and industry groups, manufacturers have gone to great lengths to decide the right age range for their products, and those should be noted right on the packaging. Look for the label and take it seriously.
  •  A big part of those ratings is choking hazards. Always remember one simple rule: If kids can put something in their mouths, they will. Make sure toys for younger children do not have small parts that can easily pop off or break off. Small magnets and tiny button batteries pose special hazards. If swallowed, magnets can stick together inside the body and injuries like punctured intestines or blood poisoning can result.  Button batteries, if swallowed, can also result in severe internal injuries. 
  •  If a new TV is on your list, look for a good, safe place to put it. Children have been injured and killed from TVs tipping over and falling on them. A professionally-installed wall mount might be the best plan, but, if your new set will be standing on furniture, make sure to pick up some anchor straps. They’re an inexpensive way to prevent an unimaginable tragedy.
  •  If you’re picking up a tree to put those goodies under, keep a few things in mind. For natural trees, green is good. Not only will a fresher, greener tree look and smell nicer for longer, it will also be less of a fire risk. For artificial trees, look for “Fire Resistant” on the label. For either kind of tree, keep it away from heat sources.
  •  When you’re putting the lights up, check them for bare wires, loose connections, or cracked or broken sockets. If it’s time to replace them, look at the labels. Make sure they’re lab tested and make sure they’re certified for the use you’re planning: Outdoor displays need outdoor lights.
  •  Finally, if a power outage turns a bright holiday into a dark one, use care when you pick your solution. Keep candles away from flammable surfaces, and do not use a generator indoors. The carbon monoxide fumes can build up and suffocate quickly.

As much as CPSC, manufacturers, and retailers have worked , and continue to work, to make every product on the shelves as safe as it can be, there will always be some risks, and people will make some mistakes. We have put out a lot of new rules this year, and, while I haven’t agreed with all of them, I will always support the goal of making products safer. But safety is a joint effort shared by regulators and consumers. In many ways, you can do more to keep your family safe than my colleagues and I ever could, just by staying informed and making sound, responsible decisions.

The holiday season should be a time for family and fun, not emergency room visits or worse. A little information and a good dose of caution can help ensure your holiday is a safe and happy one.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe and joyful holiday season!

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