World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2015” and demonstrated the reason “Jurassic World Velociraptor Claws,” and other potentially hazardous toys, should not be in the hands of children. With 46 percent of purchases this holiday season expected to be made via the Internet, W.A.T.C.H. is urging parents and caregivers to take extra precautions when buying toys online. This year’s toy report demonstrated the types of toy hazards available online and in retail stores that parents should watch-out for.
DANGEROUS TOYS: SERIOUS BUSINESS
For over four decades, W.A.T.C.H. has discussed the issue of dangerous toys in the hope of bringing about change and reducing injuries to children. Although parents have a right to expect that toys they give to their children are safe, unsafe toys remain an ongoing problem. One child is treated in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes for a toy-related injury. From 1990 to 2011, there was a 40 percent increase in toy-related injuries.
TOYS FOR SALE ON THE INTERNET: SAFETY TRAPS AND TIPS
A focus this year is the safety hazards to watch out for when buying toys online. The convenience of online shopping can make a hectic holiday season more manageable: no lines, no travel and no hassle. The upward trend of e-retail sales growing exponentially is no secret; more people are buying online and more retailers are selling online. In this millennium, nearly two-thirds of retail sales growth occurred online, a greater number of retailers are increasing their Internet presence to supplement physical store sales, and soon social networks will commonly serve as shopping platforms. Many toy shoppers may not be getting complete information when buying toys online so they may not know hazards of a purchase at the time of sale. In a year when about 46 percent of consumers plan to purchase holiday gifts online, we urge parents to look discerningly in their virtual ‘shopping carts’ and know what safety traps to avoid:
Limited product information online: Not restricted by bricks and mortar and, in many cases, regulations, consumers buying toys on the Internet are already at a disadvantage as they are unable to touch and physically inspect a toy and its packaging at the time of sale for more obvious hazards. As a result, once the toy is obtained, parents should thoroughly inspect the toy and it’s packaging prior to putting it into the hands of a child. Caregivers should not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe because of a familiar brand name on a package.
Inconsistent Warnings and Age Recommendations: Some toys available for purchase online may have retailer warnings and age recommendations that are inconsistent with those supplied by manufacturers. In some cases, the warnings may be omitted from the Internet description completely. Such omissions and inconsistencies regarding important safety information can lead to misinformed, and potentially dangerous, consumer purchases.
Recycled Toys-Internet Buyers Beware: As toy themes popular in the 70’s and 80’s are reappearing, such as “Star Wars” and “Jurassic park” inspired figurines, toys manufactured in past decades are in greater demand today. The Internet, an ever-growing frontier of “second-hand” toy buying opportunities, is largely devoid of regulations, safety protocols and checks and balances. Consumer-to-consumer sales on e-commerce sites such as Craig’s list and eBay are often inconsistently monitored, if monitored at all. Parents need to inspect these toy purchases for dangerous hazards and stay away from any toys that may have been recalled, caused injuries, or are defective.
CLASSIC TOY HAZARDS: WATCH OUT
Whether shopping in a retailer’s store or on their website, awareness of classic hidden toy hazards can prevent injuries. Shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials and inaccurate warnings and labels, resurface each year in newly designed toys. In the last twelve months, there have been at least sixteen toy recalls representing over three million units of toys with recognized safety defects in the United States and Canada proving the inadequacy of existing standards. In 2013, there were over 250,000 toy-related injuries and 50 children died in toy-related incidents between 2010 and 2013. Although even one injury to one child is too many, particularly when the injury is preventable, recent statistics emphasize that dangerous toys continue to pose a year-round threat. The 10 toy recalls due to choking and/or ingestion risks, issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the preceding twelve months, highlight the continued problem of small and ingestible parts reaching children. Recently “Build-A-Bear” recalled 34,600 stuffed animals because a seam could open exposing it’s stuffing and posing a choking hazard for young children. The recurrence of many known hazards in toys in the past year, are clearly suggestive of a broken system that needs fixing before more children are harmed.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE – SAFE DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE
The best weapon in the fight to prevent injuries to children continues to be safely designed and manufactured products. While recalls are an important safety measure, they are only a band-aid for the larger issue: dangerous toys shouldn’t reach the hands of consumers in the first place. Recalls are reactive, not proactive. Unfortunately, many consumers never receive notice of toy recalls and may not know that a dangerous toy sits like a time bomb in their child’s toy box. Many of the toys recalled in the last year not only put children at risk of serious injury or death, but also are evidence of substandard manufacturing practices and inadequate pre-market testing. Moreover, some toys that are in compliance with current industry or regulatory standards have proven to be hazardous demonstrating the inadequacy of existing standards.
With the unique considerations of online shopping- few monitoring systems, virtually no limitations to e-inventory supply, and access literally at our fingertips – it is more important than ever to stop dangerous toys at their source before they are available for sale. The burden must be on manufacturers and retailers, not consumers, to identify the known hazards before their products enter the channels of commerce. There is no excuse for manufacturing, importing and distributing a toy that can kill a child since toys are embellishments of life, not necessities. The problem of realistic looking toy guns is one of the hazards that W.A.T.C.H. has frequently addressed, most recently at its 2014 Worst Toy Conference and its 2015 Summer Safety Conference. There have been tragic consequences when toy guns are mistaken for real weapons by law enforcement officers. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took an important step in raising awareness about dangerous toys last week when he signed an ordinance to increase public safety by banning realistic looking replica guns in public. The key message today is to let caregivers know that while there are dangerous toys being sold in retail stores and online, awareness this holiday season and year-round can truly save lives.
W.A.T.C.H.’s 2015 “10 WORST TOYS” LIST
There remains an alarming number of dangerous toys on store shelves, in catalogs, and on e-retailers’ websites. In a toy industry generating approximately $22 billion dollars in sales a year in the United States alone, safety concerns must be a priority, not an afterthought. The particular toys on the “10 Worst Toys” list are illustrative of some hazards in toys being sold to consumers, and should not be considered as the only potentially hazardous toys on the market:
- “Bud” Skipit’s Wheely Cute Pull Along – potential for choking injury.
- Foam Dart Gun – realistic toy weaponry.
- Stats 38″ Quick Folding Trampoline – potential for head, neck and other bodily injuries.
- Poo-Dough – potential for allergy-related injuries.
- Splat X Smack Shot – potential for eye injuries.
- Kick Flipper – potential for head and impact injuries.
- Leonard’s Electronic Stealth Sword – potential for blunt force injuries.
- Kid Connection Doctor Play Set – potential for ingestion and choking injuries.
- Pull Along Zebra – potential for strangulation and entanglement injuries.
- Jurassic World Velociprator Claws – potential for eye and facial injuries.
Check out the slideshow for photos and additional description of the 10 most hazardous toys of 2015: http://toysafety.org/portfolio-items/toy1-2015/
Joan E. Siff, president of W.A.T.C.H., began presenting the “Ten Worst Toys” list with Attorney Edward M. Swartz (1934-2010) on behalf of W.A.T.C.H. in 1991. Siff is admitted to the bars in Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia. She is the author of “Toy Regulation Still Lagging in Protecting Children,” published in the Leader’s Product Liability, Law and Strategy.
James A. Swartz is a trial attorney, consumer advocate, and a director of
W.A.T.C.H. His law practice at Swartz & Swartz includes many well-known cases involving product liability injuries. Attorney Swartz has authored book chapters relating to child and product safety, including “Hazardous Playthings Causing Injury to Children,” Children and Injuries (Lawyers & Judges Pub. Co., Inc.); and “The Common Law in the New Millennium- Protecting Our Children,” Civil Trial Practice-Winning Techniques of Successful Trial Attorneys, (Lawyers & Judges Pub. Co., Inc.), as well as numerous articles.
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