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Remember Dan Akroyd as Irving Mainway hawking "safe toys" such as "Bag O’ Glass," "Doggy Dentist" and "Mr. Skin-Grafter" on Saturday Night Live? The joke was, nobody would sell toys that were as dangerous as those, right? Wrong.

The statistics, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission are downright scary: In 2007, 18 children died in toy related deaths and there were 170,000 Emergency Room visits involving toy related injuries for children under 15. According to the Keenan’s Kids Foundation, 20% of the toys presently on the market will not meet the safety requirements of that commission’s Safety Modernization Act, which takes effect on February 29, 2009.

For a parent who does not want to wade through all the fine print – what to do? On this issue, good old common sense is the order of the day. Go through your child’s Christmas gifts. Are any of the toys from a foreign country? If so, they may contain unsafe levels of lead. Do any of them have sharp edges? Are they small enough to get caught in a toddler’s wind pipe? Do they involve special batteries, magnets, chemicals or moving parts? Make a list, and then head for the internet. Searches for "2008 toy recall," "dangerous toys," or the like will give you plenty of information. Alternatively, you can do a search of the particular toy in question. Even if you don’t turn anything up, if you that that the toy is unsafe, it probably is.

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