Consumer watchdog group and doctors warn about toy dangers this holiday season

Water beads, button batteries, and high powered magnets are major concerns
Consumer watchdog group and doctors warn about toy dangers this holiday season
Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 08:28:59-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Before you buy and wrap those presents it’s important to know what toys are safe and which ones could be trouble.

Water beads, button batteries, and high powered magnets are some of the items emergency room doctors say children put in their mouths and swallow, leaving them in situations where they are fighting for their lives.

A lead doctor at Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs says these situations are a major concern during the holidays because they are already seeing about one emergency a month with button batteries alone.

”So, this is a bag of water beads and again, they look like sprinkles. These are very, very small,” said Colorado Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Danny Katz as she showed us a bag with water beads inside.

He says when you add water, or if a child puts them in their mouth the water beads grow. The choking hazard and the potential to block digestive tracts of children landed these sensory toys in his organization’s 38th annual Trouble in Toyland Report.

Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado Michael Distefano says unfortunately he’s seen just how dangerous these situations can be for many families.

”These ingestions happen within seconds, however if they’re not treated quickly it can have lifelong consequences and potentially have really bad outcomes from it,” said Dr. Distefano.

Another ongoing concern, children finding and swallowing high powered magnets or button batteries. These are often found in remotes, decorations, and even greeting cards.

”Button batteries are very time sensitive. We want to try to get those button batteries out within two hours from ingestion. You can have an injury as quickly as five minutes of being ingested,” said Dr. Distefano.

Consumer watchdogs also say we should be aware of accidentally buying recalled items in online marketplaces. The Trouble in Toyland report noted online retailers listed all types of products that had been recalled and it wasn’t until after buying a product a letter was sent saying “oops this has been recalled.”

Emergency room doctor Clayton Leal says his team at the new St. Francis Interquest hospital will also be ready to help during a crisis. He says supervision goes a long way in preventing problems.

”It’s just being aware and if you have little kids just making sure that you’re watching them when they are playing with their new toys,” said Dr. Leal.

And it's not just tiny children, but bigger kids are often hurt during the holidays too.

”A lot of times kids come after getting presents from their family. They get those hover boards and skateboards and unfortunately sometimes they don’t get a helmet with that. So, they fall and injure themselves. So definitely during the holidays we see a lot of those things,” said Dr. Leal.

A last note from the doctors at Children’s Hospital, sometimes age appropriate toys for one sibling end up in the hands of the little brother or sister.

”You want to make sure that toys and substances that may be harmful to a child are stored in a way that they can’t get to,” said Dr. Distefano.

CoPIRG recommended using a toilet paper roll to determine if a toy is safe for a child under three. If it passes through the roll, it is a choking hazard.

If you want to review the full 2023 Trouble in Toyland report you can find it here.


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