A couple of years ago, a Prince Georges County six-year-old was playing with a two-foot-high metal toy stove when her hand got caught.
When her mother tried to free the girl's hand, both received deep cuts requiring more than a dozen stitches. The same thing happened to a neighbor who tried to help the child and mother.
Yesterday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission approved a new set of safety tests for an estimated 150,000 types of toys intended for children younger than eight years old.
But as one CPSC official, George Rutherford of the Hazard Identification & Analysis Unit, puts it, "Even though the regulations are for products used by children under eight, the protection is for everyone."
The commission unanimously approved tests proposed by the CPSC staff after hearing testimony that more than 44,000 children under eight were treated in hospital emergency rooms last year for toy-related injuries.
"The commission found that certain toys intended for children under eight years of age can tear or cut skin and cause bleeding during normal use or reasonably foreseeable misuse, and thus present an unreasonable risk of injury," the commission said in its proposed regulation.
The new regulation calls for a special device to test edges of toys for sharpness. Shaped like a finger and covered by tape, the device rotates. The edge of the toy is placed against the turning finger and, if the tape is cut by the edge, the toy can be banned from sale.
Cribs and bicycles already are covered by rules written specifically for them.
The mandated testing method goes into efect one year after publication of the proposed regulation in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly.
The regulation will cover metal and glass edges, but not plastic, because "the research (available to CPSC staff) did not take into account the softness, elasticity, and other properties of plastics and other non-metal materials," according to a staff brief.