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Unsafe toys: What every parent needs to know

If you're a parent, one of the worst nightmares you can face is a serious injury to your child.

Unfortunately, a child ends up in an emergency room every three minutes due to injuries from unsafe toys. You can't really rely on a recall to keep your child safe since many recalls come along well after numerous injuries are reported. Recalls also may not be publicized well enough for you to hear about them -- no matter how hard you try to pay attention.

Instead, the best thing you can do is exercise an abundance of caution when choosing toys for your child. Experts say that there are some basic toy-safety rules you should keep in mind. One of the most important is the warning that parents need to avoid toys from internet marketplaces -- particularly if they don't come with warning labels and age-of-use recommendations.

Why is this so? Because online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay don't actually have a hand in making sure that product descriptions on their site are accurate. Many foreign manufacturers, who are not held to the same product safety standards as manufacturers in the United States, distribute toys through online marketplaces.

Some of the problems that can come from cheap toys include batteries that leak or explode and the use of dangerous or toxic substances in everything from markers to makeup. Most of the time, it's far safer to stick to branded toys that you recognize, even if they cost a little more.

In addition, parents need to inspect every toy before they turn it over to a child, no matter who manufactured it. Look for loose parts, projectiles, strings that are over six inches long, flammable materials and removable attachments that are small enough to swallow.

If your child is injured due to a defective or dangerous toy, it may be possible to hold the manufacturer or retailer liable. However, it's far better to avoid the whole problem in the first place. Use your best instincts -- even if that means enforcing rules about toys that your friends and relatives don't quite understand.

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