Toy designs 'need testing for bite-resistance'

Toy manufacturers need to urgently review their safety tests to take account of how strongly children can bite, according to researchers who say their work shows that children as young as three can have a bite as firm as that of the average dog.

The scientists from Leeds University School of Healthcare and the Leeds Dental Institute carried out what they claim is the UK’s first research into this aspect of bite force and dynamics. They tested more than 200 children aged between three and five using simple instrument that they had designed themselves.

The research, prompted by the number of cases of young children admitted to hospital emergency departments after swallowing or inhaling small parts from objects and toys, showed that bite force is affected by a range of factors including dental health, weight and even ethnicity.

“There is a real need to develop robust bite testing standards for children’s toys but until now we didn’t have the research on which to base them,” said project leader Dr Gary Mountain, who believes age labels alone are not sufficient to prevent accidents.

“Evidence shows that parents are not reading the warning labels. Or if they do, then sometimes they think 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,” he said.

“In addition there is currently no standard that would safeguard children when biting and/or chewing toys or play products and breaking off pieces which may then be swallowed or inhaled”.

Mountain has received funding to develop a commercial version of the instrument that he hopes will be useful for dentists and other clinicians as well as toy designers.

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