Toy Safety Standards blamed for child accidents

Research done by the University of Leeds into the strength of a child’s bite has sparked fears that the toys they play with may not be suitable for the age groups at which they are aimed.

Studying over 206 children under the age of five, Dr Gary Mountain, from the university’s School of Healthcare, developed an instrument that could measure how forcefully a child could bite and discovered that children as young as three could bite with as much force as a dog. The research has caused scientists to call upon toy-makers to review their safety standards and introduce a standardised biting test as part of their toy-safety regulations amid fears that children could easily bite off, then choke on or swallow parts of their play things.

Dr Mountain said: “The research was based on the number of cases of young children admitted to hospital emergency departments after swallowing or inhaling small parts from objects and toys”.

In the current absence of a standardised bite test, Dr Mountain also went on to point out that the only precaution taken against the choking hazards posed by children’s toys were the warning labels, which he claims most parents do not read, or misunderstand, “think[ing] that the age labels on toys relate to a child’s developmental capability rather than the fact that the toy may pose a potential risk from having small parts”.

The research is the first of its kind to have been done in the UK and has led to Dr Mountain receiving a grant from the Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowship, to develop a commercial version of the instrument that could be able to be used in standardised testing, by such groups as toy manufacturers to accurately measure the force of a child’s bite against their own products. The instrument could also be used by dentists, orthodontists and other clinicians involved in oral health and facial work.

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