Balloons are top cause of non-food choking deaths

Balloons are the top cause of non-food choking deaths in children. And some toys that pass federal safety standards can choke and kill too, says today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission says it already has taken steps to reduce the hazards.

Researchers led by Dr. Frank Rimell of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, looked at 449 non-food choking deaths reported to the commission over 20 years. They found:

Some of those deaths involved toy figures with small heads. Voluntary standards expected by spring should keep such items off store shelves, says CPSC head Ann Brown. And warning labels went on balloons in January.

She suggests parents "use common sense, read labels . . . and if it's smaller than a golf ball, I wouldn't buy it for a child under 3."