Toy safety: Holiday shoppers urged to avoid knock-off products, unfamiliar retailers

Experts warn about unsafe products that could cause injuries to children

Experts are warning families and loved ones to be smart about where they purchase toys for children this holiday season, and not to cut corners and turn to unfamiliar retailers.

Experts are warning parents and families to be aware of where their kids’ toys are coming from this holiday season to help avoid any toy-related injuries.

With some toys in short supply amid pandemic-related shipping and supply chain issues, shoppers might turn to unfamiliar online retailers to get gifts in time for the holidays -- but experts say that now is not the time to cut corners, especially when it comes to shopping for children.

Related: Check the receipt: You may have paid an extra fee due to supply chain issues

Last year, there were reports of nine deaths and nearly 150,000 toy-related injuries that were treated inside emergency rooms across the U.S. Doctors are warning that injuries can occur because of toys.

“Most injuries turn out to be relatively minor and can be treated in the emergency department,” said Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge. “Unfortunately, about 7% of the time, the injuries are more serious and require more advanced care.”

A Consumer Product Safety Commission report says the majority of injuries and deaths in 2020 were caused by young children choking on small toy parts. Items like building sets, small balls and deflated balloons were of the greatest concern.

And for children under 14 years old, nearly one out of every four visits to the emergency department was caused by non-motorized scooters.

“It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how a child could get injured using a scooter,” Dr. McGeorge said. “Whether you’re thinking broken bones and wrist injuries, cuts and scrapes or a head injury -- you should be sure your child knows how to use a scooter before setting them loose on one.”

Experts encourage consumers to always read the label to see if a toy is age-appropriate for a child. Children under 3 years old should be kept away from small balls, high powered magnets and toys with small parts or button batteries, for example.

Related: If you want your packages to arrive on time for the holidays you should ship them ASAP

For those who are shopping online, be sure to only use retailers that you know and trust. Many toy injuries can come from fake goods.

The annual Trouble in Toyland report was just released, warning consumers about knock-off or counterfeit toys; some of which can be made cheaply, including with dangerous chemicals. For instance, some Lagori Seven Stones were seized by Customs and Border Protection in Baltimore this fall. The toys were reportedly coated in lead, cadmium and barium at unsafe levels.

Fire hazards are another concern, like with counterfeit hoverboards seized in 2016. Experts say when buying hoverboards or anything with lithium ion batteries, always inspect the packaging, labels and hoverboard itself.

The Go PoP! toy made by FoxMind is a popular holiday toy this year -- but, according to the Trouble in Toyland report, there are hundreds of less expensive knock-offs that might not be tested for safety and may pose a choking hazard.

To spot knock-off toys before you buy them, shoppers should look out for the following:

  • Check web listings for misspellings and poor quality pictures.
  • On websites that act as a middleman between sellers and buyers, always check the seller’s information, including what else they sell and where they are located. Also be sure to conduct an internet search on the seller.
  • Make sure to read the reviews on the product and seller.
  • If the price is too good to be true, it likely is: Knock-offs are often cheaper than the original product.

Counterfeit toys can be found everyone, and are even sold in advertisements on social media.

Shoppers should take the time to become familiar with who and where they are buying toys from to avoid any potential danger.

You can read the entire Trouble in Toyland report online right here, or in the document reader below.

More: Here’s why you should get all of your holiday shopping done early this year

About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.