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Beware of unsafe toys, firecrackers during festivities

All of us know that guns are lethal. But most of us do not know that toy guns are not safe either. As a result, pediatric hospitals around the world report a variety of toy gun related injuries suffered by children every year.

delhi Updated: Oct 22, 2011 22:36 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

All of us know that guns are lethal. But most of us do not know that toy guns are not safe either. As a result, pediatric hospitals around the world report a variety of toy gun related injuries suffered by children every year.

In the USA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled last year 1.8 million toy dart guns, following the death of four children, who choked on the soft, plastic darts provided with the gun. The seller had to pay $1.1 million as penalty for failing to (a) report on the toy gun hazard to the CPSC and (b) voluntarily recall the product.

Similarly, two years ago, the Consumer Affairs Ministry in Australia destroyed over 4,000 toy guns in the market, on the ground that they were unsafe, posed serious risk of blindness and other injuries in children and that such guns had been banned as unsafe since 2002.

In fact, in many countries around the world, there is a heightened campaign for a ban on unsafe toy guns. The most recent entrant to the campaign is the medical fraternity and the health ministry in Iraq, where pistols with plastic pellets have reportedly caused eye injuries in hundreds of children. In India too, pediatricians and ophthalmologists regularly warn of serious injuries inflicted by unsafe toy guns, particularly to the eye. Yet such guns continue to be sold in markets around the country.

Two years ago, during diwali, newspaper reports had referred to China-made toy guns, with specially designed ‘dot caps’ and ‘bullets’ that posed considerable risk of injury. The guns were meant to be fired in the air, but if fired at close range, they were capable of causing grievous harm.

Obviously, such guns continue to come into the market because this year again, the Delhi Police have warned parents of a Chinese toy gun with pellets that could well be dangerous. We need to take these issues concerning the safety of children more seriously and ensure that such guns are not in the market at all. The same rules should apply to toy guns manufactured in India too. We have to have stringent safety standards and all those that pose even the minutest danger, should be strictly prohibited.

Parents too need to be far more safety conscious when they succumb to pressures from children and buy them toy guns. Or even firecrackers for that matter. Remember, no pyrotechnic device is safe. Even ‘Phooljaris’, considered ‘safe’, have caused ocular damage in children.

Supriya Ghosh: I bought my son a toy gun for Diwali. However, after I saw my son and his friend ‘exchange fire’, I realised that the gun was dangerous and buying it was a mistake. However, the shopkeeper is not taking it back. What can I do?

Answer: If this is a banned China-made toy gun like the one referred to by the police, the shopkeeper cannot sell it at all in the first place. So report it to the police. Even otherwise, you as a consumer, have a right to safety and safe goods. So tell the shopkeeper that if he has sold an unsafe product, he is not only violating your right to safety, but will be responsible for any consequences. You can also quote him the case of M/S Anil Fire Works Factory Vs Mr Shivan Kumar, (RP no 2137 of 2003), where the national commission awarded a compensation of R50,000 (along with interest calculated from the date of the accident in 1997) to the consumer, who suffered burn injuries on his right hand on account of a defective ‘Anar’. I am sure the shopkeeper will readily take it back once he realises the extent of his liability in case of an accident.