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Here’s one thing parents should know before buying a fidget spinner

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 2017-05-19 Kari Paul
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Video by USA Today

Fidget spinners, the hottest new twirling gadget for kids, aren’t just driving teachers crazy — they may also be dangerous.

Kelly Rose Joniec, a mother in Texas, posted a cautionary tale on Facebook to other parents after her 10-year-old daughter reportedly choked on a piece of a fidget spinner on Sunday. Teachers have reported confiscating dozens of the toys a day as the toy has taken the nation by storm — and experts say the meteoric rise of the device could lead to lax safety practices.

Joniec said her daughter Britton was sent to the hospital after a piece of the spinner had apparently broken off the device after she put it inside her mouth to clean it. She was, Joniec reported, put under anesthesia so the doctor could perform an endoscopy, using internal tools to locate the bearing (about the size of a quarter) in her esophagus.

“The GI doctor was fascinated,” she wrote. “He’d only just learned of fidget spinners that morning when he was at the mall with his son, so it was a surprise to be faced with one in a case a few hours later.”

Toy industry experts say parents should be careful where they buy them. “When a toy craze like the spinners hit, you may be tempted to buy one for your kid on the corner when you see a street vendor has them, but the safety of products sold outside a reputable retailer cannot be verified,” Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of Standards & Regulatory Affairs at trade group for toy manufacturers and distributors the Toy Association, said.

This fidget spinner reportedly lodged in the throat of a 10-year-old girl.© Provided by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. This fidget spinner reportedly lodged in the throat of a 10-year-old girl.

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She added parents should be sure to buy products from a reputable toy retailer that complies with strict U.S. safety standards, and as with all toys, make sure the product is age-appropriate, though many fidget spinners don’t have an age range on the packaging because they’re being sold by multiple companies on U.S. streets, and not always by toy stores.

And while some have age-appropriate warnings on these gadgets being sold at major toy stores, some are still prone to breaking. This fidget spinner sold online for just $6 clearly states it’s for use by people 12 years and up, and claims to relieve stress and anxiety. But the reviews were less-than-stellar. “Bought this for my son!” one reviewer wrote. “Not even one day and it broke! Wouldn’t buy again!” Another wrote, “The middle bottom and top pieces where you hold it from just broke apart.” Other higher-end variations on the spinner can cost as much as $190.

It isn’t the first time a fidget spinner has led to injury. One Australian mother reported that her son nearly lost his eye after tossing a fidget spinner in the air and being hit with it. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission bans toys for children under three that have small parts under 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide. With bearings around that size, fidget spinners would fit that description, but as Joniec found, even older children can be at risk.

“From this I wish to offer some word of caution to parents,” she wrote. “Fidget spinners are the current craze so they are widely distributed. Kids of all ages may be getting them, but not all spinners come with age-appropriate warnings. The bushings pop out easily, so if you have young kids (under 8 yr old) keep in mind that these present a potential choking hazard.”

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