Toy Shopping With a Lawyer

Some Great Gifts are Dangerous

The holidays are here again. It’s the season of giving. Children are especially fun to delight with a present. Unfortunately, dangerous toys and bad toy design can turn a special moment into a hospital visit.  Many of our cases involve serious injuries to children.  We hate seeing them and want to help reduce the number of children injuries this year.

Here are some hazardous warning signs to watch for when shopping for toys:

  • Beware of purchasing toys from the internet where the product descriptions, age guidelines, or warnings are missing from the listing.
  • Battery-operated toys are generally a bad idea for children under 8, as batteries can leak, overheat and explode — especially cheap lithium batteries commonly sold in scooters and hoverboards.
  • Toys with fur or hair are often unsafe for children under five as they can cause aspiration issues for small children.
  • Projectile toys can cause eye injuries and blindness in children of all ages.
  • Toys that have strings longer than 6 inches can strangle small children.
  • Crib or playpen toys that stretch across the crib or playpen may cause strangulation injuries or deaths.
  • Avoid toys with flammable materials, such as metal powders or sodium batteries.
  • Do not purchase toys with toxic surfaces or components that can be ingested or cause skin irritation. Some play make-up sets have been found to contain ferrocyanide, a poison.

Historic Toy Safety Failures

Reading the tips above, you may be thinking that only an idiot would make those “obvious” mistakes.  Well, the following toys were very popular and very hazardous:

  1. Aqua Dots – small beads arranged and spritzed with water to create cool designs. The only problem was the coating on the beads contained GHB, the date rate drug. The CPSC recalled the toy after three children went into comas after swallowing the toxic beads.
  2. The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab — from the inventor of the Erector Set —contained four types of uranium ore, a toxic metal like lead.
  3. Barbie and her dog, Tanner – the magnet inside the toy dog’s pooper scooper would come loose and children would swallow the magnet. Swallowed magnets cause serious internal damage.
  4. Buckyballs – small, very powerful magnets that were not marketed for use by children. They were recalled after more than 1,700 children were seen in emergency rooms after swallowing them.
  5. Clackers – acrylic balls connected by a string to a ring. Simple and dangerous. The goal was to clack the balls together continuously.  The problem was the balls would often shatter in children’s faces.
  6. The Easy Bake Oven by Hasbro – these toys have seen two recalls after children were burned when they got their fingers caught in the tiny ovens. The latest version contains a heating element instead of a light bulb.
  7. Fidget spinners – the CPSC has recalled many of these trendy (and cheap) toys due to choking hazards.
  8. Hoverboards – found to be dangerous after parents discovered they would burst into flames when overcharged.
  9. Lawn darts – perhaps one of the most famous dangerous toys, these were giant weighted spikes designed to be thrown into the air. They would then dive into the ground or anyone beneath them.  Jarts were banned by the CPSC in 1970.
  10. Magnetix – a popular building set that caused one death and several injuries after children swallowed the magnets that feel from the plastic pieces. The CPSC has recalled over four million kits. A redesigned version still sells today with updated labeling, but the hazard still exists.
  11. Mini hammocks – the absence of spreader bars allows these tiny hammocks to twist around a child’s neck as they are getting in or out of the hammock.
  12. Polly Pockets with Quik Clik clothing – faulty magnets falling off the parts caused some serious injuries that resulted in a recall of 7.2 million sets by Mattel in 2004.
  13. Rollerblade Barbie – this toy sparked a lot of controversy in the ’90s. The rollerblades had a device similar to a cigarette lighter in the skates that shot sparks when rolled over a flat surface. When the surface was flammable, it would cause a fire.
  14. Sky Dancers – these flying princess dolls are launched into the air by pulling a cord on the launcher. After more than 150 reports of injuries including facial lacerations, concussions, scratched corneas, and broken teeth, the product was permanently scrapped in 2000 when Galoob Toys Inc recalled 8.9 million units.
  15. Slip N’ Slides – these toys were safe for children but dangerous for adults and teenagers. The added height and weight meant older participants could stop suddenly enough to cause spinal injury. WHAM-O recalled 9 million slides in 1999. These slide are still sold in many forms.
  16. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Dolls – these cute dolls could be fed plastic veggies, fries and pretzels. Mattel offered a $40 refund to more than 500,000 owners after it was discovered the powerful mechanical jaws would chomp on fingers, hair or anything else that got to close when it was “eating.”
  17. Toy crossbows – anything that kids use to launch projectiles usually spells trouble. You can thank a missile shooting spaceship for modern choking warnings. Despite the new warnings, projectile toys are still sold every year. There was recently a crackdown on toothpick shooting miniature crossbows that had enough power to pierce a can from 60 feet. Similarly, NERF encountered some criticism for its Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt Crossbow in 2017.
  18. Toy Guns – There was one model from the ‘50s called the Austin Magic Pistol that used calcium carbide to launch ping pong balls. The problem occurred when water mixed with the calcium carbide, causing an explosion.
  19. Slingshots – more than 100,000 were recalled by the CPSC in 2006 after reports of broken teeth and blinding accidents. Even the type that shoot water balloons have caused serious injuries.
  20. Trampolines – these jumpy toys send more than 90,000 people to the hospital each year. Many homeowner’s insurance policies will not provide coverage if you have a trampoline.

Toy Safety

The following tips will help you prevent injuries to your children from toys.

  1. It’s easy to do a choke test on any toys. See if the pieces will fit in the empty cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll.  If so, it presents a choking hazard. Discard any toys that fail the choking test.
  2. Always throw away toys once any of its parts or pieces become broken and exposes underlying components.
  3. Keep toys for older children out of reach of babies and toddlers.
  4. Choose sturdy toys that don’t have small moving parts.
  5. Buy age-appropriate toys.
  6. Look for washable toys and toys that say “non-toxic” on the label.

Follow these tips along with the guidelines in the toy shopping section above to make wise decisions in the toys you allow your children to have.