Attention holiday toy shoppers: A new study finds that toy-related injuries increased over recent decades — at least if you include one particular toy.
That toy is the collapsible, lightweight, foot-powered scooter, the kind popularized by Razor and other manufacturers starting around 2000. Those "kick" scooters appear largely responsible for a 40% increase in injury rates between 1990 and 2011, according to the study published Monday in Clinical Pediatrics.
Injuries associated with other toys, from toy food to toy guns, continued at a steady pace. Boys and young children were most at risk. Falls were the most common mishap.
"These continue to be very common injuries" and sent children to emergency rooms 195,363 times in 2011, up from 121,249 in 1990, says researcher Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus. The injury rate for every 10,000 children increased, from 18.9 in 1990 to 26.9 in 2011.
The study on children under age 18 is the first nationally representative long-term look at toy-related injuries, Smith says. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) publishes annual reports.
The most recent report from CPSC, for 2013, says toy-related injuries, including scooter injuries, have held steady since 2009. But CPSC says injuries linked to ride-on toys, led by foot scooters, continue to top the list.
Scooter injuries peaked, fell dramatically, then edged up again in the years after their introduction, Smith's study suggests. CPSC reported 52,500 such injuries and one scooter-related death in 2013.
Clearly, Smith says, it's time for renewed scooter safety messaging. The most important message, he says, is "wear a helmet, wear a helmet, wear a helmet." The American Academy of Pediatrics says riders younger than 8 should be closely supervised and children should never ride in moving traffic.
The Razor company website also recommends pads for elbows and knees and other safety measures. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
The Toy Industry Association issued a statement saying that "safety is the toy industry's top priority every day of the year," and that toymakers must meet "rigorous U.S. safety standards." It noted that the injuries in the study happened while children were using toys but were not necessarily caused by the toys.
The CPSC says toy recalls and deaths linked to toys have fallen in recent years. Smith says the industry and others "are doing a lot to prevent injuries … but we can do more."
Parents buying holiday toys can do their part by sticking to age-appropriate choices and buying a helmet when they buy a bike or scooter, says Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids Worldwide, an advocacy group.
"We want to see kids be adventuresome. We want to see kids play. But you need to think about the consequences if a toy is not appropriate for them," she says.
Carr says it's important to keep toy injuries in perspective. Emergency rooms treat nearly 12 million injuries annually in children and teens, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bicycles — not included in the new study — were involved 252,400 times in 2013, more than all toys combined, according to the CPSC.
Here are seven toys which caused deaths in 2013, according to the CPSC.
Balloons. "A 7-year-old girl reportedly collapsed at her elementary school after choking on a balloon, and she died later in a hospital," the CPSC states.
Tricycles caused seven deaths between 2011-2012, the CPSC states.
Nonmotorized scooters. "An 11-year-old girl was killed in a scooter accident. The victim did not look both ways before crossing the street, and she crashed into a truck and was run over by the left rear wheel of the vehicle. The victim was taken to a hospital where she later died," the CPSC study states.
Powered riding toys. "A 5-year-old boy died in an accident while he was driving a powered wheeled riding toy. The victim reportedly struck a trampoline and became pinned between the frame of the trampoline and the riding toy. The victim was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from either a neck injury or asphyxiation," the CPSC states.
Plastic toy food. "A 2-year-old boy died from asphyxia when he choked on a piece of a plastic toy cucumber, which became lodged in his throat and blocked his airway," the CPSC states.
Toy figures and doll accessories. "A 3-year-old girl was found deceased lying on her bedroom floor by her parents. Sometime during the night, the victim had choked on what appeared to be the tongue-shaped part of a toy figure. According to the coroner's report, the victim died of asphyxia due to foreign body obstruction of her upper airway," the CPSC states.
Marbles. "A 4-year-old boy choked on a 5/8-inch diameter glass marble. The victim was declared dead at the hospital emergency room," the CPSC states.
News10 contributed to this story.