By MIKE BENBOW
EVERETT — If you’re one of the growing number of people expected to buy holiday toys online this year, do a little homework first.
That’s because toys sold online aren’t required to carry the same hazard warnings as those in stores, and you may unwittingly be putting a child at risk.
That was the warning issued Tuesday by the Washington Public Interest Research Group, a consumer group that has issued a toy safety report through its national organization for the past 12 years.
"It’s not that we’re trying to ban any of these toys. It’s that parents need this knowledge so they can buy responsibly," said WashPIRG member Aislingc Kerins.
Online toy and video sales are expected to reach $790 million this year, according to Shop.org and The Boston Consulting Group. While that’s only 2.4 percent of all toy and video sales, it will be twice last year’s online sales.
Kerins said toys sold online are required to pass along appropriate age recommendations but don’t have to list the warnings that are required on toy packaging.
Some general concerns, she said, are choking and toxic chemical hazards. The agency also wants consumers to pay particular attention to hazards posed by balloons and scooters, she added.
"Children are needlessly choking to death on toys," Kerins said. "And dangerous toys can still be found on store shelves."
Choking on small toy parts, balloons and small balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths, she said. Balloons that have been popped are a particular danger because small children like to put them in their mouths.
The consumer group also warned people of toys containing toxic chemicals known as phthalates, which are used as softeners in toys made of polyvinyl chloride plastic. The chemicals have been linked to liver and kidney damage.
As for scooters, their dramatic popularity in recent months has led to a sharp rise in injuries, Kerins said. Users should wear helmets and knee and elbow pads and should avoid riding them at night.
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