A few weeks ago, W.A.T.C.H. released its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2020.” For parents and families, this list offers insights on how to avoid buying dangerous toys this holiday season. It also reveals some inappropriate advertising tactics.
When you see a toy online or in a store, you cannot just assume it is safe for your child. While there is a federal toy safety standard and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees recalls of unsafe toys, there are still many cases of dangerous and defective toys reaching families. According to W.A.T.C.H., one child is treated in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes for a toy-related injury. Between 2016 and 2018, 43 children died in toy-related incidents across the U.S. In 2018, there were an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries.
From this year’s W.A.T.C.H. “10 Worst Toys” report:
Calico Critters Nursery Friends. W.A.T.C.H. calls this set a potential danger because the small animal figures are flocked with clothing that can become loose. The set also includes small parts, such as a pacifier. Children can potentially choke on either the clothes or pacifier.
The Calico Critters set is being sold by Amazon, and also online and in stores by Walmart and Kohl’s. In this case, the age recommendation is 3+ and it carries a small parts – choking hazard warning. But the toy contains small play figures meant for young children, including a pacifer; it is inherently dangerous because of the small parts, the clothing and children may attempt to mimic the dolls and suck the pacifier.
A similar Calico Critters playset was also mentioned in the U.S. PIRG, “Trouble in Toyland” report this year. The set may be to blame for two children under age 3 choking in New Mexico and Utah; the child in New Mexico died (Source: 2020 Trouble in Toyland report which cited a court filing and a local news report).
Missile Launcher. According to W.A.T.C.H., this toy can cause potential eye or facial injuries. The launcher is intended for children age 5 and older. The packaging shows a child stretching the launcher out near his face, which supports the view that this toy is unsafe. This product is being sold by Home Goods.
Marvel Avengers Vibranium Power FX Claw. Kmart, Amazon and Walmart are selling this Hasbro toy. It is marked for children age 5+. W.A.T.C.H. warns children can use the claw to swing or hit people or animals. If a child makes contact with someone else, they could be seriously injured. The manufacturer even states this right out on the warning label.
Read Age Appropriate Labels and Warnings
Manufacturers must have toys intended for children 12 and younger tested by a third-party to ensure they comply with the federal toy safety standard. Toys which have small parts must also have age appropriate warning labels. We encourage consumers to protect themselves by becoming experienced at reading these labels – and be critical. The W.A.T.C.H. report highlights just how inadequate and in poor taste toy warnings can be. If you purchase a toy online, read the description on the screen before you buy, then double check the box when it actually arrives.
Free Legal Consultation
Boston Product Liability Attorneys – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in representing clients injured in personal injury and product liability cases across Massachusetts. Read about our experience representing clients injured in product liability cases in Boston. For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
You can also read more of our Project KidSafe holiday toy safety series.
Families often enjoy looking through toy catalogs together this time of year. After seeing what excites your child, you may be tempted to immediately order their holiday gifts. However, before you do, we encourage parents and grandparents to check the Trouble in Toyland report.
The 35th anniversary Trouble in Toyland report was recently released. This year, U.S. PIRG warned about the dangers of:
- Mislabeled choking hazards
- Flocked animal figures (toys with small attached pieces)
- Recalled toys which may still be available online
- Noisy toys
- In-app purchases
- Not advisable for children
Parents are advised to look for small part warnings on toys. “Small part” is not a subjective term. It is anything that fits within the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s toy test cylinder. The test cylinder measures 2.25 inches long and 1.25 inches wide and is roughly the size of a young child’s throat. A small part may be a game piece or a marble of the right size. It may also include a toy accessory, such as doll clothing.
The most common “small parts” warning: “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD–Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years.” Toys designed for children ages 3 through 6 must also carry warning labels indicating they are not safe for children under 3.
Parents can become familiar with the risks by reading this year’s Trouble In Toyland. Make it a priority not to purchase a product with small parts and bring them into your home. Always read toy safety and age appropriate labels. Doing so puts you on a path to protect your family.
If you purchase a toy figurine or doll that comes with accessories, such as ribbons or clothing, remember your child can put those small parts in their mouths. Calico Critters – the popular animal family figures – are now under scrutiny.
One child was killed while playing with a set containing a small pacifier in New Mexico, according to a court filing. Another child in Utah also choked on the pacifier accessory, according to the a local news website, and shared in the Trouble in Toyland report. Both children were under 3 years old.
Fortunately, there are many versions of toys. If you find a toy you like and it has small fabric parts, keep looking until you find one without removable accessories.
Online Toy Shopping
Trouble in Toyland shared a valuable insight about searching for holiday toys on Amazon. If you search for “toys for 2-year-old boys,” for instance, you may see a number of listings which do not provide a small part warning. Do not trust that searching by year means toys are screened for safety. Remember, Amazon is a marketplace of merchants, not just one company. Closely look at product descriptions before making a purchase. In addition to reading reviews, you want to confirm the details. Look at the product picture, then read the description. Double check the product packaging once it arrives by mail and open it to confirm it has the parts you expected.
Beware of recalled toys as well. Since the 2019 Trouble in Toyland, the Consumer Product Safety Commissioned issued 10 toy recalls in the U.S., according to this report. When a product is recalled, it should be immediately removed from the store shelves and online listings. Some toys were still being sold online after recalls. Researchers even found one toy – a Fisher-Price Barbie Dream Camper which was recalled in February 2019 – still on sale. The camper was an outdoor riding toy for children. The CPSC received 17 reports of campers continuing to travel after the foot pedal was released.
Not Advisable For Children
Also featured was a section called, “items not advisable for children.” These items are not really toys, but are given to children as toys. At the top of the list is high-powered magnet desk sets. We wrote about the dangers of high-powered magnet sets last holiday season. Magnet sets may seem like fun gifts for adults, but you should never purchase one because they are so dangerous and the small parts can stick around your home forever. Children can be tempted to play with these magnets and swallow them. At this point, the magnets can attempt to connect together in a child’s stomach. The magnets touched on some serious personal injuries.
In September 2020, a 9-year-old boy took two magnets from a Neutronball building set and placed them on his lip, pretending to have a piercing. He then swallowed them and had to seek medical treatment at a hospital. In May, another 9-year-old swallowed parts from a Zen Magnets LLC set. She hid this from her parents for a week, until she began suffering intense stomach pain. She required surgery, but survived.
Beware of Digital Apps
Parents may be asked to sign up for an app related to a “smart toy” their child received as a gift. Or a child may have received a tablet or cell phone and try to sign up for apps themselves.
While there is a case to be made for limiting your child’s screen time overall, beware of giving your child access to digital apps. These can be tempting and children may like the graphics and thought of winning a prize. The Trouble in Toyland report mentioned one app called Coin Master. This is rated for ages 13 and over, though the graphics may easily capture the attention of a younger child.
We are sharing this story because Coin Master offers in-app purchases. The most expensive option is $99.99. Children may only see higher options once they get into the game.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Our firm is highly experienced in the area of product liability and injuries caused by defective products. We are writing about holiday toy safety as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, where our goal is to protect children from injuries. For the past 8 years, our attorneys have also donated 30,000 bicycle helmets to children across Massachusetts to protect against head injuries.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
We urge parents to keep magnet toys off your holiday shopping list for young children. High-powered “rare-earth” desk magnet toys are highly dangerous and there are many painful stories of children ingesting them, then fighting for their lives in surgery. But there are also other types of magnet toys, including magnet tile building sets and magnet construction toys. While these are very popular, this doesn’t mean they are safe for your family. Take time to do your research, read age recommendations and really consider your children’s needs.
Magnet Desk Toys or Cluster Magnet Toys
Read by product type:
Magnet Desk Toys or Cluster Magnet Toys
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has worked to take desktop magnet toys off the market to prevent injuries to children. The problem is the average set has 125 or 216 strong magnet balls, though some have more than 1,000 pieces. The magnets are tiny and are extremely high-powered.
These magnet sets come apart and can be reassembled into unique shapes. In a child’s hands, the magnet clusters may become a necklace, triangle or whatever formation they imagine. When magnets are put in a child’s mouth, they can attract to each other, causing serious injuries in the digestive system as well as blood poisoning. Children usually require surgery for the intense pain.
New Magnet Safety Standard. Prior to 2014, “rare-earth” magnet sets were required to carry age recommendation labeling of 14 and older. In 2014, the CPSC established a federal toy safety standard which required magnets to be large enough to exceed the CPSC’s “small part” standard for toys or that magnetic parts have a force of attraction of 50 kG² mm² or less, according to the CPSC’s Final Rule: Safety Standards for Magnet Sets. The CPSC safety standard effectively made it illegal to sell “rare-earth” magnet sets in the U.S. and there was a positive response, an 80 percent reduction in magnet-ingested injuries, according to The Journal of Pediatrics.
You may guess young children are at the highest risk. But children age 4 through 12 suffered the most injuries in the CPSC’s analysis of ER visits over 5 years, from 2009 to 2013. According to the Federal Register dated October 3, 2014, the agency concluded an estimated 2,900 children had suffered magnet ingestion injuries. Children age 4 through 12 suffered 1,900 injuries – or 65 percent.
Tile Magnet Toys
For all this work, in 2016, the 10th Circuit of Appeals ruled the CPSC’s pre-requisite factual findings were “incomplete and inadequately explained.” The Court vacated the safety standard and remanded it back to the CPSC for further proceedings.
The lawsuit had been filed by Zen Magnets, one of the “rare-earth” magnet makers. The company is now selling its products again, under the Buckyballs and Mandala names, according to Tech Crunch. Again, we stress, please don’t buy these toys, especially if you have children or a pet. The parts are small and scatter easily. If you don’t find our blog compelling, we encourage you to read this article in STAT, called “Toy magnets are harming kids again. They need to be banned – for good,” August 6, 2019.
Tile Magnet Toys
These are magnets encased in plastic triangle and square shapes. These are popular, marketed as toys that help stimulate learning and imagination. Some of these are designed for children under age 3, some for children ages 3 and up; others are for age 6 and up. If you do purchase one of these sets, carefully check the age recommendation and secure it in a container out of reach of children.
There has been at least one case of the encasements opening and a child swallowing magnets. Last December, a Wisconsin mother shared her frightening story on social media and the Today Show reported on it. The woman’s 4-year-old son had swallowed 13 magnets from one of the tile magnet kits. After he began vomiting, she rushed him to a local hospital where surgeons had to remove part of his colon, intestine and appendix. The product manufacturer was not identified in the story.
The CPSC regularly issues recalls about toys containing small magnet parts. One of the largest recalls involving tile magnet building toys came in 2006, when Mega Brands America, Inc. recalled 4 million Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets. The recall was first announced on March 31, 2006 and re-issued and expanded in April 2007. The CPSC reported one child had died and one child had suffered aspiration. 27 others had suffered intestinal injuries, according to the CPSC news release.
The tragedy could have claimed even more lives; there had been 1,500 reports of magnets coming apart. Although the Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets were labeled age 6 and older, at least 10 injuries involved older children, up to age 11.
Magnetic Construction Sets
According to CBS News, in October of 2006, Mega Brands America settled a lawsuit with 15 victims for $13.5 million.
In 2009, consumers learned there was further wrongdoing in this case. On April 14, the CPSC announced that Mega Brands America, Inc. had agreed to pay a $1.1 million civil penalty to settle allegations that the company (and Rose Art Industries, which it had acquired) had failed to provide timely information about product dangers to children.
Magnetic Construction Sets
These sets include plastic rods and balls which can be snapped together with the magnet attraction.
Final Word on Safety
One problem is Consumer Reports found a full range of age recommendations across several popular products – and manufacturers unwilling to answer questions. Since age recommendations are the most fundamental tool consumers have, we recommend steering clear of these.
Final Word on Safety
The CPCS is responsible for overseeing product recalls and a quick search of its database can glean valuable information for parents. Visit www.cpsc.gov and search by product name or type of products. You can also visit the CPSC’s magnet information center.
With magnet toys, product regulations and age recommendations continue to change. They are very challenging to bring into any home safely, but especially homes with children of various ages and development skills and pets. In the end, you must make your own decision, but we urge you to be overly cautious and purchase other toys. There are so many other toys out there which can provide your child with a safe and enjoyable experience.
Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Toy Safety Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston law firm specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability. We wish Massachusetts families a safe and healthy holiday season and share our toy safety tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign.
If you have been injured, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck to learn your legal rights at 800-379- or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
The annual list is compiled by W.A.T.C.H. This year’s list includes:
Skipit’s Wheely Cute Pull Along
Every child loves a cute puppy, but this toy has hub caps which come off the wheels and pose choking hazards for young children. This product is marketed to children six months and older and is made by Bunnies By The Bay. Certain lots of this product were actually recalled on June 16, 2015. However, W.A.T.C.H. reported a similar toy was purchased online after the recall, so this risk may still be on the market.
Foam Dart Gun
This gun is manufactured by G.D. Jiefeng Toys and is marketed to children ages 3 and up. It is sold on Amazon.com and Ebay. W.A.T.C.H. says, “In today’s world, there is no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills. Existing regulations addressing the hazards associated with such ‘toys’ are inadequate.”
Stats 38″ Quick Folding Trampoline
Toys R Us manufactures and sells this trampoline, which is marketed to age 6 and older. Trampolines are associated with spinal cord injuries and this one even has a warning stating, “Landing on the head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed.”
Splat X Smack Shot
This $10 toy looks fun, but it actually poses the potential for serious eye injuries to the child using the toy and others around him. The toy, which is made by Imperial Toy LLC, comes with ammunition with can fire up to 100 feet away. It is sold at Walmart, Amazon.com and Kmart.
This $4.99 toy was included in W.A.T.C.H.’s list because it only has an allergy notice on part of the packaging.
This is basically a plastic board marketed as a “skateboard without wheels.” The packaging shows pictures of children using the Kick Flipper as they would a skateboard, but they are not wearing helmets or safety gear.
Leonardo’s Electronic Stealth Sword
This toy can cause facial and other impact injuries. It is manufactured by Playmates international Company Ltd and marketed to children ages 4 and up. It is sold by Toys R Us, Amazon and Ebay.
Kid Connection Doctor Play Set
This $5 play set is sold at Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Ebay. It is recommended for children ages 2 and up, but includes a small “tongue depressor,” which is 4 ¾ inches in length and could cause a choking hazard.
Pull Along Zebra
This toy poses a strangulation risk. It has a 21-inch cord and is marketed for children 12 to 36 months old. The toy is made by Early Learning Centre and sold at Amazon.com, Kmart, Brookstone and Village Toy Shop. It carries this warning: “Remember babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potential harmful, so supervision is important…”
Jurassic Word Velociraptor Claws
This $19.99 toy is marketed to 4-year-olds who want to “claw like a raptor!” The packaging warns there is a choking hazard and small parts will be generated. There are no warnings about potential facial or eye injuries. The claws were manufactured by Hasbro and are sold by Target, Amazon.com, Toys R Us, Walmart and Kohl’s.
Before you shop, please check out the Worst Toys of 2014 list by W.A.T.C.H. Since last year, there have been at least 17 toy recalls in the U.S. and Canada, accounting for 5 million defective toys, reports the watchdog group which releases its list annually.
Shop carefully, even at familiar and trusted stores. Of course you should avoid the toys listed below. But make your own judgments on the safety of the toys you are considering. The main things to beware of are:
- Marbles and small pieces
- Sharp edges
- Small magnets
- Flimsy toy accessories or pieces which are loosely attached
- Toys with strings (such as musical instruments and necklaces)
- Toys which shoot sharp projectiles
Also, remember to buy toys which are age-appropriate, read the warnings on the toy box and watch out for toy packaging materials. Toys and many products come with an almost-invisible plastic lining on mirrors, digital screens and other pieces. Many also come with a lot of plastic wrap. These are all choking hazards and you should remove them before giving toys to children.
Here are the W.A.T.C.H. nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” of 2014.
1) Air Storm Firetek Bow
This toy is designed for children 8 years and older, but it shoots arrows up to 145 feet high in the air and can cause eye injuries. It has glow pieces and is marketed for day or night use, thought it warns against use in the “complete dark.” Finally, the packaging carries several other warnings, more than most people want when buying a toy. It sells for under $25 at Walmart and Amazon.com.
2) Radio Flyer Ziggle
The seat on this bike is too low, just 8 inches off the ground, W.A.T.C.H. said. The bike’s packaging also features young children who are not wearing bike helmets, which puts them at risk for head injuries. The $39.99 bike is sold at Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.com and is recommended for children ages 3 to 8 years old.
This pencil is also a catapult. The packaging encourages children to enjoy target practice from their desktops and reads, “Because the pencil is mightier than the sword.” There are no safety warnings or age recommendations. This $3.99 toy is sold at Amazon.com, Ebay.com and Learning Express.
4) Alphabet Zoo Rock and Stack Pull Toy
This toy has a 20-inch cord, which is eight inches longer than industry safety standards. It creates a strangulation risk for young children and the manufacturer even warns parents about this risk on the packaging. This toy is sold for $19.99 at Amazon.com, Toys R Us and Magic Beans stores.
5) SWAT Electric Machine Gun
Junxing Toys Industrial Co. warns buyers on the packaging that its toy gun may be mistaken for an actual firearm by law enforcement officers and others. W.A.T.C.H. rightfully says there is “no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills.” The recent killing of a 12-year old, who was carrying a toy gun mistaken in for a real gun, in Cleveland is a serious reminder of this risk.
6) Wooden Instruments
This toy is designed for children 12 months and older, but includes a 4 ½ inch long drumstick which children can mouth and get lodged in their airway. Additionally, there are no warnings on the toy, which is sold at Walmart.
7) Bottle Rocket Party
This toy makes use of projectiles which can strike and injure a child. There are safety goggles advertised on the packaging, but they are not packed in the box. This toy by Norman & Globus is recommended for children age 8 and older and is sold for $14.99 at Walmart.com, Amazon.com and the Village Toy Shop.
8) Lil’ Cutesies – Best Friends
While advertised as the “perfect friend for your little one,” this toy is dangerous, according to the W.A.T.C.H. report. The decorative bow can detach from the doll’s head and pose a choking hazard. The toy is designed for children age 2 and older. It is sold for $7.99 or less at Kmart, Toysrus.com and Amazon.com.
9) True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer
This hammer is marketed to children as young as 3 years old, yet it comes with a hammer which stretches nearly 2 feet. Do not look for safety warnings and instructions–there are none! It is distributed by Toys R Us and sold at stores for under $15.
10) Colored Hedgehog
The hedgehog’s hair can be easily pulled out, posing a risk for ingestion and aspiration injuries, W.A.T.C.H. says. This infant toy is sold for $10.99 at Toys R Us.
Read the full Worst Toys of 2014 list. Photo credit on this blog: W.A.T.C.H. and the Worst Toys of 2014 report.
The World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. has released its 41st annual “10 Worst Toys” list. This year, the Boston-based non-profit nominated toys which posed a choking hazard, had improper labeling and several “toy weapons,” including toy guns, sling shots and boomerangs.
The report said, “These toys, that resemble real weaponry, have no place in the hands of children. Evidence of the potential for tragedy is the recent death of a thirteen-year-old boy in Santa Rose, CA, who was fatally shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon.”
In one case, the World Against Toys Causing Harm (or W.A.T.C.H.) caught a vendor selling slingslots on Amazon.com. Massachusetts law prohibits sale of slingshots and New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington have similar laws.
W.A.T.C.H. urged consumers to be vigilant even if they are purchasing toys from a well-known brand name. It stated there have been 29 toy recalls in the past 12 months, which included over one million units of unsafe and defective toys in the United States and Canada. Of these, 20 recalls were initiated for toys which posed choking and ingestion risks.
This year’s list includes:
1) Army Force Automatic Rifle
Hazard: Realistic toy weaponry and inconsistent age recommendations on labeling and Amazon.com.
2) Big Rock & Roll Ball Pit
Hazard: Potential for impact injuries because children as young as 3-years-old are encouraged to climb inside a rolling, inflatable ball. W.A.T.C.H. also criticizes the package, which shows children playing with no parental supervision.
3) Max Steel Interactive Steel with Turbo Sword
Hazard: Potential for impact and facial injuries.
4) Disney Princess Backpack Fishing Kit
Hazard: Potential for chemical ingestion injuries. The cardboard insert warns the play item may contain lead which may be harmful if eaten or chewed.
5) Black Widow Folding Slingshot
Hazard: Potential for serious bodily injuries. Illegal to sell in Massachusetts and three other states. On Amazon.com, the product carried a “for 6 months and up” age recommendation.
6) Little Drummer
Hazard: Potential for ingestion and choking hazards. The drum is sold for babies as young as 12-months-old and the drumstick could block a child’s airway.
7) Boomerang “Throw & Catch”
Hazard: Boomerangs should not be sold to children of any age. Online toy recommendations and those on the package were also inconsistent. Online, the boomerang was recommended for children 16 months and up versus on the package, which stated it was not for children under 3 years.
8) Disney Baby Snow White
Hazard: Potential for choking hazards. The toy is marketed for children 2 years old and up, but has small detachable pieces, such as hair accessories.
9) Nerf N-Strike Jolt Blaster
Hazard: This toy is marketed for children age 8 and older. It has a dart which can be shot and potentially cause eye injuries. On the Hasbro website, the product description reads “Hide it in your pocket to maneuver in close to your enemy, then pull down the cocking handle to ready your shot. Pull the trigger and reload fast to win the day!”
10) The Spooner-Freestyle
Hazard: Potential for head and other impact injuries. This toy resembles a skateboard without wheels and is marketed for children age 3 and older. It does not mention use of safety gear and none is worn by children on the packaging.
10 Worst Toys of 2013, W.A.T.C.H.
Trouble in Toyland, U.S. PIRG.