Loud toys, music damaging kids' ears

By Kevin Dougherty

QUEBEC - Some battery-powered toys are as loud as jet aircraft and could make children go deaf, says a coalition of experts and consumer advocates that has called on Health Canada to ban such toys.

"It is well documented," said Richard Laroque, an audiologist. "Our children are more deaf than they were yesterday."

A Quebec news conference Wednesday showed a toy cellphone for toddlers which generates 104.2 decibels when held one centimetre from the ear. Under federal law, toys are supposed to generate less than 100 decibels. But that standard assumes the child will keep the toy 30 cm from his ears.

"Normally children do not play with toys the way they are supposed to play with toys," added Genevieve Reed, of Option Consommateurs, who bought the toy for a child, "and I took it away from him."

The coalition wants Ottawa to impose an 87-decibel limit on the sound powered toys emit. Reed also suggested the government require on-off buttons and volume controls on the toys. She said a toy is too noisy when it drives parents from a room. They should shut it off.

Laroque held up a PT Cruiser convertible that makes 115 decibels of noise - the equivalent of a jet aircraft taking off. "It exceeds all the norms that workers in an industrial setting face." Reed presented a talking frog that wouldn't stop. "It won't shut up," she said. "It can wake up a sleeping baby."

The experts said the toys can cause temporary deafness, which can lead to other health problems, from agitation to cardiac difficulties, and can result in accelerated hearing loss over time.

That can diminish a child's capacity to learn language and to follow along in school. Such hearing problems are sometimes misinterpreted as a lack of intelligence.

Laroque blamed such toys, along with noisy daycare and school environments, and later on, portable music systems, discos and rock concerts, for more hearing loss in young adults.

Montreal Gazette

CONSUMER SAFETY: Some toys pose problems for tots

During a Washington, D.C., news conference by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), Lindsey Johnson holds up a box of nail polish marketed to children that contains toxic ingredients. The advocacy group demonstrated several toys that where bought in the D.C. area in the last month that it warned could pose noise, poison, choking and strangulation dangers to pre-teens.
- The Province

On December 5, 2004 The Province published a full page about gadgets, meaning robots. A selection of them was depicted and briefly described. While some of them are meant for "useful" tasks, many are just "toys". Most of them will inadvertently generate a wide variety of sounds, not all of which will be pleasant. Certainly, they will contribute to further burden the soundscape. Below is part of that report:

Robot baby boom - A United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ENECE) census estimates there are already 607,000 domestic and 700,000 entertainment robots in existence (and close to a million industrial robots). And there's a massive robot baby-boom on the horizon: the personal robot population is expected to swell to 6.6 million by 2007. "In the long run, service robots will be the everyday tools for mankind," states the 2004 World Robotics report. "They will not only clean our floors, mow our lawns and guard our homes, but will also assist old and handicapped people with sophisticated interactive equipment, carry out surgery, inspect pipes and sites that are hazardous to people, fight fire and bombs."

One quiet contribution: Friendly Robotics' RL 1000 Robomower ($2,500) makes lawn-mowing a thing of the past - it uses sensors to cut, then mulch grass. It charges itself and can be set to run on a schedule: even at night (it's almost silent), or in the rain (it's weatherproof).

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Winter 2005
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