World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) this week revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2014” and demonstrated the reason “toy bottle rockets,” and other potentially hazardous toys, should not be in the hands of children this holiday season.
See the nominees below
This year’s toy report, announced by Consumer Advocates Joan E. Siff, President of W.A.T.C.H., and James A. Swartz, a nationally known trial attorney and Director of W.A.T.C.H., demonstrated the types of toy hazards parents should watch-out for. Siff and Swartz also provided up-to-date information about toy recalls and stressed the necessity for vigilance during holiday shopping.
The particular toys on the 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.
Misleading marketing of toys puts "Sales before Safety"
One focus of this year’s nominees for our “10 Worst Toys of 2014” is toys designed and marketed for sales over safety. Toys that reflect themes promoted in the entertainment media and toys that are marketed inconsistently with warnings and instructions can mislead parents and present hidden hazards to children. Toy guns, bottle rockets and bows and arrows, on the list this year, may seem exciting and intriguing to children, but have the real potential to lead to tragic, sometimes deadly, consequences.
Some toy manufacturers are looking to capitalize on the fan frenzy created by blockbuster movies or hit television shows by riding the coattails of these popular programs. Toys fashioned after these favorite props or characters can translate into large profits. Well-known movie franchises, such as Hunger Games, may lead to increased sales for toys like the bow and arrow on our list. However, the appropriateness and safety of such a toy for its intended users must remain a priority. Due diligence to ensure that the safety of a product is not compromised is of utmost importance, especially when that product is intended for use by children.
To make a toy seem more appealing, marketing efforts are often inconsistent with a toy’s own warnings and instructions. For instance, the packaging of a riding toy may depict a child using the toy without any safety gear when the product’s own instructions require a child to wear a helmet. In other cases, a toy may be marketed with a litany of instructions that make compliance unrealistic in real-life situations. A toy such as the bow and arrow set on this year’s list that warns not to “aim at eyes or face” may be a warning that is unfeasible for a young child to follow while playing. In a toy industry generating over twenty-two billion dollars ($22 Billion) in sales a year in the United States alone, safety concerns must be a priority, not an after-thought.
Classic toy hazards re-appear year after year
The numerous recalls in the past year, as well as the recurrence of many known hazards in toys, are clearly suggestive of a broken system that needs fixing before more children are harmed. Shockingly, many of the same hazards with the potential to seriously harm or kill children listed over the last four decades can still be found in newly designed toys. In the twelve months since W.A.T.C.H.’s last “10 Worst Toys” conference, there have been at least seventeen (17) toy recalls representing over four million eight hundred thousand (4,800,000) units of dangerous toys in the United States and Canada. The CPSC reported that in 2012 alone, there were eleven (11) toy-related deaths of children under 15 years old, and an estimated two hundred sixty five thousand (265,000) toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. While there were 47 toy-related deaths of children within the three-year period between 2010 and 2012, even one injury to one child is too many, particularly when the risk is known and preventable. Existing regulations addressing the dangers associated with these and other toys are inadequate. Continuous and persistent vigilance is essential to protect against enduring toy hazards that can lead to serious injury or death.
Toy hazards with deadly track records top this season’s nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” list. Classic toy dangers such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels resurface each year. There is no excuse for providing children with toys like the realistic toy “weapons” or pull toys with long cords on our list when toys with similar hazards have led to tragic consequences. Toys with easily detachable small parts or affixed small parts that can be aspirated, ingested, or occlude a child’s airway continue to be a serious threat to children’s safety. The eight (8) 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 our children. Recently “Hello Kitty ™ Birthday Lollipop” whistles distributed at McDonald’s, representing over two million eight hundred thousand (2,807,355) defective units, were recalled because of an aspiration hazard.
Increased awareness can save lives
Children and their parents tend to purchase toys popularized by favorite movie or television characters. Parents should avoid these impulse purchases, know the hazards to look out for, and thoroughly inspect a toy and its packaging prior to purchase. Awareness of the classic hidden hazards that have led to serious consequences can prevent injuries. The thousands of deaths and injuries to children due to poorly designed and tested toys are a tragedy; many of these incidents can be prevented with safer designs, stronger regulations, and education about the dangers lurking in toy boxes. We are warning parents not to assume the toys they buy are safe. Many consumers are under the impression that heightened public attention to toy safety, increased government regulations and screening by big name manufacturers and retailers have eliminated hazards from toy store shelves—but this is not the case. The key message today is to let caregivers know that while there are dangerous toys being sold in retail stores, awareness this holiday season and year-round truly can save lives.
First line of defense – safe design and manufacture
A familiar brand name on a package, whether a well-known manufacturer or a character from a favorite movie, can often create a false sense of security that a toy is safe. There is a dangerous assumption among toy shoppers that toys purchased from big-name manufacturers and retailers such as Kmart, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon and Target are not dangerous. Consumers have a right to expect the toys they select for their children are designed with safety as a priority. While proper labeling, regulations and recalls are important for toy safety, toy manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure safe products reach the marketplace.
Some toys that are in compliance with current industry or regulatory standards have proven to be hazardous, proving the inadequacy of existing standards. It is unbelievable that toys with parts that can detach and become lodged in a child’s throat are often not considered “small parts” by the industry. Moreover, 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 clear evidence of substandard manufacturing practices, and inadequate premarket testing.
The best weapon in the fight to prevent injuries to children continues to be safely designed and manufactured products. 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 burden must be on manufacturers and retailers, not consumers, to identify the known hazards before their products enter the channels of commerce.
The fight for safer toys continues
Although there has been a recent heightened focus on toy safety by the government, dangerous toys are not a new problem. For over four decades, W.A.T.C.H. has identified toys defectively designed or manufactured that could lead to potentially serious injuries or death. Despite these efforts, there remains an alarming number of dangerous toys on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-retailers’ websites. The “10 Worst Toys” list is one of the ways W.A.T.C.H. continues the fight to protect children from unsafe toys. Protecting children will, however, take more than a list of illustrative harmful toys. Preventing injuries caused by unsafe toys must become the number one priority for the toy industry and the government regulatory agencies for 2015 and beyond.
The 10 Worst Toys