Children’s toys may look innocent and tempting when displayed at shopping malls, but according to a US child safety advocate group, the shiny boxes could be hiding undisclosed safety hazards.
On Tuesday, World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) released its annual "10 worst toys" list ahead of the holiday season, placing little plastic pig figures with inconsistent choking hazard warnings, purple elephant pillows that could potentially suffocate infants, and body bumpers advertised without protective gears on its black list.
"Although parents have a right to expect that toys they give to their children are safe, unsafe toys remain an ongoing problem," the group said in a press release. "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.”
WATCH has been compiling the list annually to prevent injuries before they might happen, but some suggest that the group needlessly promotes fear among parents about extremely rare safety hazards. Consumer advocates and a trial attorney with the group prepare the list. While the ominous report has been criticized by the industry, toy-related injuries and deaths do occur, sending children to the emergency room every year.
"There's nothing that has zero risk," Lenore Skenazy, founder of the free-range kids movement and a contributor to the online commentary site Reason.com, told Reuters. "If you are a plaintiffs' attorney you want to make it seem like anything that ever happens to a child is someone else's fault. If there are no accidents, the world is your courtroom."
The criteria that WATCH tracks cover advertising that fails to depict children using the toys in inappropriate circumstances, inadequate warnings about age recommendations and potential injuries, along with the design of the toy that could itself pose harm.
For example, the Slimeball Slinger that can be fired more than 30 feet, along with a Nerf gun, landed on the list for possibly being able to inflict serious eye injuries. The Warcraft Doomhammer was listed for failing to provide warnings regarding “potential impact injuries associated with foreseeable use of the heavy, rigid plastic battle hammer.” A “Baby magic feed and play baby” set contained a plastic spoon that could be swallowed and can clog a child’s airway.
According to the latest data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 11 reports of toy-related deaths and 251,800 toy-related injuries treated in emergency departments in 2014. There was not a statistically significant trend in number of cases over the years, but for children younger than 12 and 15, non-motorized scooters are the most common source of injuries.
Another study in 2014 that was published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics identified choking, ingestion, and asphyxiation hazards as the biggest issue for children under the age of two, as reported by CBS News.
In response, the Toy Industry Association dismissed the concerns, criticizing the group for causing needless fear.
"The toy community remains steadfast in its year-round commitment to creating safe toys and games that bring joy and learning to children all over the world," Steve Pasierb, chief executive officer of the Toy Industry Association said in a statement to NBC News. "All toys sold in the U.S. are highly regulated 365 days a year by the federal government and must meet more than 100 safety requirements.”