November 23, 2022
-by Bonnie MacIsaac
Well, it is that time of year, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2022”. In the 50th annual report toy safety remains a critical concern during this holiday season as evidenced by recent recalls, injuries, and the wide range of potential hazards found in toys available for purchase this year.
At this year’s press conference in Boston, consumer advocates Joan E. Siff, president of W.A.T.C.H., and James A. Swartz, director of W.A.T.C.H., illustrated some of the potential safety hazards recently identified on toy store shelves and online. Among other safety concerns, these traps include coin cell batteries with the potential for ingestion and chemical burn injuries, toy weaponry with the potential for blunt force impact injuries, and plush toys that could lead to infant suffocation. Swartz and Siff also discussed toys sold with unrealistic warnings and instructions, the impact of online purchasing on toy safety, and up-to-date information about toy recalls.
At the annual press conference, W.A.T.C.H. demonstrated why “Disney Raya’s Action & Adventure Sword,” “Black Panther Wakanda Battle Claws,” “Cocomelon Musical Learning Watch,” and other potentially hazardous toys should not be in the hands of children. At a time when there are many unique challenges facing families while raising children, parents and caregivers have a right to expect that the toys they buy are safe, that manufacturers design toys with safety as the top priority, and that there are adequate safety nets in place to prevent a dangerous toy from being sold in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Swartz and Siff stressed the necessity for more stringent oversight of the toy industry. One reason the message today is so urgent: Many toy-related injuries are preventable.
W.A.T.C.H. cautions shoppers not to let their guard down. Safety traps can surface whether buying new or gently used toys, and whether you are shopping online, in popular retail stores, or at local yard sales. Families and friends have a right to expect that the toys they buy are safe and rely on manufacturers to make sure their children’s toys are designed with safety as the top priority. Unfortunately, there have been many deaths, disfigurements, and disabilities inflicted upon children as a result of poorly designed and tested toys. One child is treated in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes for a toy-related injury. For five decades, the “10 Worst Toys List” has tackled the issue of dangerous toys in the hope of bringing about change and reducing injuries to children. Nonetheless, dangerous toys remain on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-tailers’ websites. Shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels, continue to reappear in new generations of toys putting children at risk.
Once a dangerous toy is made available for sale, it can put generations of children at risk of harm. The reality is many unsafe toys end up in children’s homes and schools. The need for continued vigilance remains whether toys are new or used, purchased from popular e-tailers or consumer-to-consumer venues (i.e., eBay, yard sales), or in your home toybox. Although intended for fun and entertainment, many toys contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of injury or death. Beware of toys with deadly track records, recalled toys, and incomplete product information that may mask hazards at the time of purchase.
– Steps for a safer holiday season and beyond: Although there is much families haven’t been able to control during the uncertain times since the onset of COVID-19, continued vigilance and awareness about the types of toy hazards that have been associated with injuries in the past can help kids enjoy a safer holiday season. Beware of toys with deadly track records, recalled toys, and incomplete product information that may mask hazards at the time of purchase.
– Shop defensively: What can parents and caregivers do to arm themselves against toys that could injure children? Since there currently is no full-proof safety net in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching consumers, the message for parents this holiday season is to think defensively when it comes to toy safety. For starters, know what classic safety traps to look out for, inspect new and old toys for defects and poor design, learn to identify hidden hazards that reappear year after year, and do not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe because of a familiar brand name on a package or due to its availability at a well-known retailer or e-tailer. Ordering online is a convenient way to avoid holiday crowds, but shoppers face the disadvantage of not being able to physically examine the toy at the time of purchase. Whether buying a toy in-person or online, W.A.T.C.H. wants to remind families to thoroughly inspect a toy and its packaging for safety red flags before giving it to a child (go to ToySafety.org for more information).
– Toy-related injuries and deaths: According to the latest statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were an estimated 198,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2020, and a reported 51 children died from toy-related incidents from 2018 to 2020. Behind each injury and fatality is a child and family whose lives are often permanently affected. Even one injury to one child is too many, particularly when the injury is preventable.
W.A.T.C.H.’s “10 Worst Toys” list, is a hands-on tool for consumers, raising awareness of the different types of potential hazards to avoid while toy shopping. The particular toys nominated for the “10 Worst Toys” list are illustrative of some potential hazards in toys being sold to consumers and should not be considered as the only potentially hazardous toys on the market.
So, without further ado, here are five of the nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” List:
– NERF PRO GELFIRE MYTHIC BLASTERS: Manufacturer or Distributor: Hasbro Inc. Ages: 14+ HAZARD: Potential for eye and facial injuries. W.A.T.C.H. OUT! Children are encouraged to “grow 10,000 Gelfire rounds” by adding water, then firing using the “semi-automatic” blaster. Eyewear is included to protect against the force of the “polymer projectiles.” Initially, the manufacturer warns that “this is not a toy” despite its availability in the retail toy aisle for use by children.
– POP’N FIDGET SPINNERS: Manufacturer or Distributor: Best Brands Consumer Products, Inc. Ages: None stated HAZARD: Potential for choking injuries! W.A.T.C.H. OUT! Fidget spinners, like these multi-coloured versions, can be found in retail toy aisles. The Pop’n Spinners are made with three small rubber inserts, which present a potential choking hazard if removed. The manufacturer provides no warnings or age recommendations.
– BUNNY RABBIT CUDDLY PILLOW: Manufacturer or Distributor: Lazada Ages: “Not for children under 3 years”; “Suitable for any and all ages” (online) HAZARD: Potential for choking injuries! Small parts. Not for children under 3 years” (online). W.A.T.C.H. OUT! This plush pillow in the form of a “cuddly” stuffed rabbit is marketed as a “hugging pillow” which is “soft and squeezable.” There are no warnings or cautions on or with the product. Further, despite an online warning that the pillow is “not for children under 3 [years]”, a conflicting recommendation states it is “suitable for any and all ages.” The hazards associated with pillows sold for infants are well documented – a pillow can block a baby’s mouth, potentially causing suffocation.
– OOZE LABS CHEMISTRY STATION: Manufacturer or Distributor: Thames & Kosmos LLC Ages: 6years+ HAZARD: Potential for chemical related injuries! W.A.T.C.H. OUT! The “ooze labs chemistry station” is marketed for children to do “slimy, fizzy, colourful, and bubbly experiments.” There are numerous warnings and cautions on the box, in the manual, and on the packaging for the assorted chemicals and ingredients, including: “Do not get in eyes, in mouth, or on clothing. Do not ingest. Avoid breathing dust. Keep out of reach of small children.”
– DINGRAY MUSICAL BATH TOY: Manufacturer or Distributor: Munchkin, Inc. Ages: 12 months+ HAZARD: Potential for ingestion and choking injuries! W.A.T.C.H. OUT! This colourful, floating stingray xylophone is sold for babies as young as 12 months old. The manufacturer recognizes the ingestion hazard posed by the approximately six inch long “mallet”, with a warning on the packaging to “never allow child to put the mallet in their mouth.” Such slender, rigid accessories can potentially be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway.
Thanks to the folks at W.A.T.C.H. Next week more highlights from the press conference and the last of the worst toy list nominees. There are many warnings associated with several of these toys. I highly recommend you log on to their website at: www.toysafety.org and click on the '2022 Worst Toys List' link and get the full scoop!
Help spread the word: W.A.T.C.H.’s #SHOUT safety campaign is a call to action emphasizing the importance of sharing safety information to help reduce preventable injuries.