Consumer watchdog group names 10 most dangerous toys of the year

(WSAV) – This is the week many of us are eyeing the ads for the best toy deals.
The hottest toys typically fly off the shelves early Friday morning and some of you are already mapping out your shopping plan.  Just in time for your shopping, though, a watchdog group has released a list of the Top Ten Dangerous Toys of 2017, according to their research.

Five-year-old Carolina Wiltse wants all those tiny little toys that can sometimes prove crippling for a barefooted parent.
Right now it’s Shopkins and any accessories for her baby dolls.

“She’s very into it and she’s good with babies,” her mom Lynn said. “But there are a lot of little pieces that go with that too to try to keep track of because she likes to carry stuff around with her and losing them, or playing with other friends who are smaller, making sure they’re not putting things in their mouth,” Lynn added.
Lynn’s consideration of other kids who might play with Carolina’s toys is just what a Boston-based consumer safety watchdog group hopes for in a toy shopper.
Just last week- the group called World Against Toys Causing Harm- or W.A.T.C.H. – released their annual list of 10 worst toys.
Topping at number one- the Itty Bittys Stacking Toy by Hallmark- which was recalled last year but still available for sale online.

Watch President Joan Siff said it’s an example of a toy that may look harmless at first glance but could quickly turn dangerous.
“One of the toys on the list has a long string sold to babies,” Siff said.  And we know strings 12 inches and under are not allowed to be sold if they’re categorized as crib toys.”
Other toys making the top 10: a Nerf Zombie Crossbow that the group deemed inappropriate because it can cause eye and facial injuries.

The oval xylophone that comes with a nine-and-a-half inch long stick that could be placed in the child’s mouth and obstruct their airway.

Melissa and Doug’s Brianna baby doll that comes with removable clothes and ponytail holders– which could become choking hazards.

Fidget spinners remain popular with kids and WATCH says “buyer beware.”

Many come with small parts that can easily become loose.
But 13-year-old Corbin found another problem with them.
“Someone was nearby and it got tangled in their hair. And it was a meltdown.”, Corbin joked.
While that fidget spinner faux pa goes down as a funny memory, WATCH believes the hazards in many toys out there are serious.
As they aim to put more pressure on the toy industry to label potential dangers- and avoid them altogether, they feel parents are left carrying the burden of researching until manufacturers meet their standards.
Don’t be fooled they say- by the brand- the store or the super-hero status.

“Don’t have a false sense of security just because a name of a manufacturer or a store sounds familiar and just because a super hero is popular does not mean the toy with the same name is going to be necessarily safe. So due diligence is going to be needed,” Siff said.
The Toy Association reports that the annual top ten dangerous toy list creates unnecessary panic.
All toys that are sold in the United States must meet more than 100 safety and standards test, the association said.
However, it’s certainly a good idea to do your research, read reviews and when in doubt…do without.

1. Itty bittys baby plush stacking toy by Hallmark.

2. Pull Along Pony by Tolo Toys Limited.

3. Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword by Mattel.

4. Hand Fidgetz Spinners by Kipp Brothers.

5. Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition by Marvel and Skyrocket Toys 

6. Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt Crossbow by Hasbro and

7. Slackers Slackline Classic Kit by Brand 44.

8. The Oval Xylophone by Plan Toys Inc. and Plan Creations 

9. Jetts Heel Wheels by Razor USA

10. Brianna Babydoll by Melissa & Doug.

The following was released from W.A.T.C.H:

(Boston, MA—Nov. 14, 2017)  World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) today revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2017” and demonstrated why the “Wonder Woman Battle Sword,” “Spiderman Spider-Drone,” and other potentially hazardous toys should not be in the hands of children. This year’s toy report addressed the types of toy hazards available online, as well as in retail stores, so parents know what traps to avoid when buying toys.


In a year when consumers are expected to spend 51% of their holiday budget online[1], W.A.T.C.H. highlighted the impact of online purchasing on toy safety. Although parents have a right to expect that toys they give to their children are safe, unsafe toys remain an ongoing problem. Due to poor design, manufacturing and marketing practices, there are toys available for purchase today with the potential to lead to serious injury and even death. W.A.T.C.H. urges parents and caregivers to take precautions when buying toys— especially during the upcoming 2017 holiday season.


At this year’s press conference, 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 toys with inconsistent and inadequate warnings, cautions and age recommendations as well as other classic safety hazards that continue to re-appear year after year. Swartz and Siff also provided up-to-date information about toy recalls and stressed the necessity for more stringent oversight of the toy industry and continued vigilance by parents and caregivers:


Online Shopping — Toy Safety Traps: In a year when big box stores, such as Toys R’ Us, struggle to keep their brick and mortar storefronts open, Walmart is tripling the number of online products, Amazon leads the pack with online toy sales, and consumers continue to embrace the convenience of Internet shopping, shoppers need to know the safety hazards to watch out for when making online purchases. E-shoppers should beware of recalled toys, toys with deadly track records, and incomplete product information that may mask hazards at the time of purchase. 

Recalled Toys – Internet Buyers Beware:  The Internet has been compared to the Wild West when it comes to outlawed toys. Shoppers may expect that there are checks and balances in place to prevent the online sale of recalled toys, toys already deemed to be unsafe, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Regulations and safety protocols for e-commerce transactions are often nonexistent or inadequate. Consumer-to-consumer “second-hand sales”— which are inconsistently monitored, if monitored at all — provide new opportunities for recalled toys to surface. On the “10 Worst Toys” list this year is itty bittys® baby plush stacking toy, purchased online after the toy’s recall on August 31, 2017.  W.A.T.C.H. has repeatedly addressed the issue of recalled toys sold online — it’s unacceptable that these toys with proven safety defects continue to reappear and put children at risk. 

Limited Product information online:  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. In some cases, limited product information on e-commerce sites can lead to misinformed, and potentially dangerous, consumer toy purchases.


Toy Safety — 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. Nonetheless, there remain an alarming number of dangerous toys on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-retailers’ websites.  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 a toy industry generating approximately $26 billion dollars in sales annually across the nation, safety concerns must be a priority, not an afterthought. 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% increase in toy-related injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2015 there were over 254,200 toy-related injuries, and between 2010 and 2015, 72 children died in toy-related incidents. 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 recurrence of many known hazards in toys in the past year is clearly suggestive of a broken system that needs fixing before more children are harmed.


First Line of Defense — Safe Design and Manufacture:   The first line of defense is always the safe design and manufacture of products.  Recalls are important safety measures but they are reactive not proactive.  Dangerous toys should not reach consumers in the first place.  As highlighted by the incidences of recalled toys resurfacing on the Internet, once a toy is available for sale, it could end up in the hands of a child. The best weapon in the fight to prevent injuries to children continues to be preventing unsafe toys from reaching consumers in the first place. The difficulty in purging the market of goods that have been recalled shows that the burden must be on manufacturers and retailers, not consumers, to identify the known hazards before their products enter the channels of commerce. 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. Other toys that are unsafe may never be recalled in the first place. Enforcement agencies, such as the CPSC, may have limited resources to police such a large industry.  Moreover, some toys that are in compliance with current industry or regulatory standards have proven to be hazardous, demonstrating the inadequacy of existing standards. Regulators often scramble to catch up with new technologies, as seen by the deadly issues that arose when hoverboards with lithium batteries hit the marketplace and began bursting into flames (a hazard previously addressed by W.A.T.C.H). Toys are embellishments of life, not necessities, and there is no excuse for manufacturing, importing and distributing a toy that can kill a child.  


Keeping Kids Safe- Advocacy and Awareness Make A Difference:  More important than ever are the efforts of advocacy groups like W.A.T.C.H. that hold the industry and regulators accountable to make safety a priority. Thanks in part to the efforts of W.A.T.C.H., toy safety has become an active conversation. While regulations, such as the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008, are a step in the right direction, regulations should be a floor, not a ceiling, for toy safety. As a result of advocacy, some toys have been redesigned, recalled, or otherwise identified to consumers. In September 2017, Amazon informed purchasers that the Baby Kids Long Nose Elephant Stuffed Toys “may have been inappropriately described as a pillow or sleeping aid for infants 12 months and younger” after it appeared on W.A.T.C.H.’s 2016 “10 Worst Toys” list. There is more work to be done to prevent needless and tragic injuries to children as a result of poorly designed and manufactured toys. The key message today is to let consumers 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. What can parents and caregivers do to arm themselves against toys that could injure children? 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 re-appear 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.


W.A.T.C.H.’S 2017 “10 WORST TOYS” LIST: Consumers can help children enjoy a safer holiday season knowing what traps to avoid when selecting toys.  W.A.T.C.H.’s “10 Worst Toys” list, a hands-on tool for consumers, raises awareness of the different types of potential hazards to avoid while toy shopping. 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.



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. She earned her J.D. and Masters in Mass Communication from Boston University. After serving as an Assistant District Attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Norfolk County, Ms. Siff practiced product liability litigation. Ms. Siff is admitted to the bars in Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia. Ms. Siff is the author of “Toy Regulation Still Lagging in Protecting Children,” published in the Leader’s Product Liability, Law and Strategy. She has given numerous lectures on behalf of W.A.T.C.H. to increase awareness about unsafe children’s products. Joan Siff has appeared on Fox and Friends, Fox News Live, LawLive (FATV), CNN Radio Atlanta, NECN, The Michael Smerconish Morning Drive Radio Program (Philadelphia). Having served on several non-profit boards relating to children’s causes, she is currently a Board Member of Franciscan Children’s. 

James A. Swartz is a nationally known 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. Mr. Swartz earned his J.D. at Georgetown University Law Center. He is a member of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, serving as Massachusetts State Coordinator; The Massachusetts Bar Association; The Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys; The American Bar Association; and The Boston Bar Association, among many other associations. James Swartz has appeared on such national television programs including as “Take It Personally” on CNN, “Newsfront” on MSNBC, “Legal Cafe” on COURT TV, “Crook and Chase” on the Nashville Network (TNN), interview on BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS television network, and in news reports on CNN, and other national news networks.



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