HIBBING — As parents across the area begin to think about their children’s Christmas lists, they don’t often think about an emergency room visit around the holidays.

But it does happen.

A Christmas toy can often become a dangerous plaything.

In 2015, there were an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC).

Of those visits, 73 percent occurred to children who were under 15. Only a handful of cases resulted in death.

Because of this reality, the Minnesota Department of Commerce (MDC) — the regulatory body overseeing the state’s marketplace — wants to make sure consumers shop smart by following toy safety guidelines and age restrictions.

“We want kids to have fun with their toys and not be harmed by them,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman in a release. “As we work with business to keep dangerous products off the shelves, we also encourage parents to exercise care in their shopping to make sure kids have a safe and happy holiday season.”

Most toys sold in area stores are actually very safe.

The MDC enforces strict state laws that prohibit the sale of any product that has been recalled due to a safety-related reason, and any toy that is deemed hazardous due to an electrical or mechanical issue, a temperature issue, any form of toxicity, flammability or the possibility of causing suffocation.

All toys and children’s items banned by the CPSC are also banned by the Commissioner of Commerce. The full list of recalled items can be found on the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/.

A recent example includes the 2015 ban on the sale of children’s products that contain the toxic chemicals formaldehyde and bisphenol-A (BPA).

While the list is helpful on what toys and items to avoid, toy safety begins with parents. The MDC encourages parents to use common sense when shopping for their children.

One of the biggest ways to avoid injury is by following age restrictions on toy labeling.

Toys for infants and children under 3 should be free of small removable parts that can be swallowed or fit into the mouth, ears or nose, the Minnesota Safety Council notes.

The MDC also suggests that paying attention to toy instructions and keeping cribs and playpens free of toys with strings, cords or ribbons are ways to improve safety.

Toy buying safety tips provided by the

Minnesota Department of Commerce:

• Choose toys with care. Keep in mind the child’s age, interests and skill level.

• Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages.

• Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear — to you, and when appropriate, to the child.

• Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded at once before they become deadly playthings.

• Look on the label for — and follow — age recommendations, such as “Not recommended for children under age 3.”

• Look for other safety labels, including: “Flame retardant/Flame resistant” on fabric products, and “washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls.

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