Information Provided by World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.
One child is treated in U.S. emergency rooms every three minutes for a toy-related injury. World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) is working hard to prevent those dangers by informing consumers and warning, buyers beware.
W.A.T.C.H. revealed on Thursday their 50th annual nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” of 2022. Toy safety remains a critical concern during this holiday season as evidenced by recent recalls, injuries, and the wide range of potential hazards found in toys available for purchase this year.
At a time when there are many unique challenges facing families while raising children, parents and caregivers have a right to expect that the toys they buy are safe, that manufacturers design toys with safety as the top priority, and that there are adequate safety nets in place to prevent a dangerous toy from being sold in the first place; Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Although intended for fun and entertainment, many toys contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of injury or death emphasizing the necessity for more stringent regulation of the toy industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the U.S. regulatory agency charged with the oversight of toys and other products, often cannot inform consumers in a timely fashion about even life-threatening hazards due to a regulation requiring cooperation from manufacturers. Time can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to notice of toy hazards.
At the annual press conference, W.A.T.C.H. demonstrated why “Disney Raya’s Action & Adventure Sword,” “Black Panther Wakanda Battle Claws,” “Cocomelon Musical Learning Watch,” and other potentially hazardous toys should not be in the hands of children.
W.A.T.C.H. offered practical tips for identifying hazards so parents and caregivers know what traps to avoid when inspecting toys already in their homes and when buying toys—especially during the upcoming 2022 holiday shopping season. Consumer advocates Joan E. Siff, President of W.A.T.C.H., and James A. Swartz, Director of W.A.T.C.H., illustrated some of the potential safety hazards recently identified on toy store shelves and online. Among other safety concerns, these traps include coin cell batteries with the potential for ingestion and chemical burn injuries, toy weaponry with the potential for blunt force impact injuries, and plush toys that could lead to infant suffocation. Swartz and Siff also discussed toys sold with unrealistic warnings and instructions, the impact of online purchasing on toy safety, and up-to-date information about toy recalls.
One reason the message is so urgent: Many toy-related injuries are preventable. The full list of nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” of 2022 include:
- Cocomelon Musical Learning Watch: Potential For Battery Ingestion Injuries!
- Disney Raya’s Action & Adventure Sword: Potential For Blunt Force and Eye Injuries!
- Li’l Woodzeez Tickle-Your-Taste-Buds Bakery: Potential For Choking Injuries!
- Zeus Lion: Potential For Ingestion/Aspiration Injuries!
- Dingray Musical Bath Toy: Potential For Ingestion and Choking Injuries!
- Ooze Labs Chemistry Station: Potential For Chemical-Related Injuries!
- Bunny Rabbit Cuddly Pillow: Potential For Suffocation!
- Pop’n Fidget Spinners: Potential For Choking Injuries!
- Nerf Pro Gelfire Mythic Blasters: Potential For Eye and Facial Injuries!
- Black Panther Wakanda Battle Claws: Potential For Eye and Facial Injuries!
W.A.T.C.H. cautions shoppers not to let their guard down as there have been many child deaths, disfigurements and disabilities as a result of poorly designed and tested toys. For five decades, the “10 Worst Toys List” has tackled the issue of dangerous toys in the hope of bringing about change and reducing injuries to children. Nonetheless, dangerous toys remain on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-tailers’ websites. Shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels, continue to reappear in new generations of toys putting children at risk.
Toy-Related Injuries & Deaths
According to the latest statistics from the CPSC, there were an estimated 198,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2020, and a reported 51 children died from toy-related incidents from 2018 to 2020. Behind each injury and fatality is a child and family whose lives are often permanently affected. Even one injury to one child is too many, particularly when the injury is preventable.
- Stricter Government Enforcement: More tools are needed to oversee a $25 billion U.S. toy industry and ensure the manufacture of safe products for children. The CPSC should be granted the authority to act independently from manufacturers to warn consumers immediately when there is a toy with an identified hazard or a record of harming children. Additionally, the CPSC needs increased funding, an expanded workforce, more product testing, stricter safety requirements, broader and better-publicized notification of recalls and hefty fines imposed on manufacturers whose toys are recalled or found to be defective.
- Recalls: The recurrence of many known hazards in toys that have been recalled is suggestive of a broken system that needs fixing before more children are harmed. This year, toys available for sale were recalled for a wide range of defects, such as a shape sorter that could come apart posing a choking hazard to infants, a toy house with lead that is a known toxin, and blocks with magnets that, if swallowed, could link together causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, blood poisoning and death. There is clearly more to be done to protect children. Many of the toys recalled contain types of hazards, such as choking and lead poisoning risks, that have been well-known to the toy industry for years. In 2022, in a 10-month period, the CPSC announced 27 toy recalls representing more than one million three hundred thousand (1,300,000) units of toys in the U.S. that could lead to serious injuries or death. While recalls are important safety measures, they are reactive, not proactive. Recent CPSC toy recalls highlight the importance of making sure products are safe before reaching retail or ecommerce outlets. Once these toys are on the market, they can resurface in stores, online, at your child’s school, or at a neighbor’s home. Further, it’s important when choosing toys to remember not all unsafe toys are necessarily recalled; enforcement agencies, such as the CPSC, may have limited resources to police such a large industry, existing standards can be inadequate, and regulators often scramble to keep up with emerging technologies.
Safety Spotlights: What’s in Your Toybox?
Once a dangerous toy is made available for sale, it can put generations of children at risk of harm. The reality is many unsafe toys end up in children’s homes and schools. The need for continued vigilance remains whether toys are new or used, purchased from popular e-tailers or consumer-to-consumer venues (i.e., eBay, yard sales), or in your home toybox. Although intended for fun and entertainment, many toys contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of injury or death.
- WATCH OUT! Hidden Hazards—Button and Coin Cell Batteries: Foreign body ingestion, such as batteries, is the fourth leading cause of calls to the poison control center in the U.S. for children 5 and under. Recent devastating injuries reported after children ingested button or coin cell batteries have raised an alarm about the importance of promoting awareness and protecting children from this potentially deadly hazard. These small, shiny discs may fall out of toy battery compartments during play and become an attractive lure for toddlers who have a propensity for putting small objects in their mouths. The number of serious injuries or deaths caused by button or coin-shaped batteries has increased nine-fold in the last decade. The “Cocomelon Musical Learning Watch” has a compartment in the back containing a coin cell battery, which are known to potentially cause severe injuries and death when ingested due to internal chemical burns. After many reported tragedies, including the death of 18-month-old Reese Hamsmith who swallowed a button battery from a remote control, new legislation (Reese’s Law) was passed to add more stringent regulations to batteries in toys and other products. Advocates caution families to remain vigilant as coin cell and button batteries are found in many toys and home devices. Tragically, in the United States there are an estimated 2,800 children treated for button battery ingestion each year, many involving catastrophic consequences. In 2020, children were home more often and battery-related injuries for 5 to 9-year-olds increased an alarming 93%.
- WATCH OUT! Small Parts Choking Hazards: W.A.T.C.H. is alerting parents to be vigilant when it comes to toy safety and regularly examine the toys in their child’s toy box for hidden hazards that may or not be easily detected, such as toys with small parts sold to babies. Consumers may expect there are sufficient checks and balances in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching store shelves and e-commerce sites, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Toys with small parts that could detach during play or long pieces that could be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway are examples of less obvious hazards. On the 2022 “Worst Toys” list, both the “Dingray Musical Bath Toy” and the “Li’l Woodzeez Tickle-Your-Taste-Buds Bakery” have parts that could be potential choking hazards for young children. Choking is one of the most significant contributors to toy-related injuries and deaths.
Steps For A Safer Holiday Season and Beyond
Beware of toys with deadly track records, recalled toys, and incomplete product information that may mask hazards at the time of purchase. Unfortunately, even toys that are in compliance with current industry or regulatory standards have proven to be hazardous, further demonstrating the inadequacy of existing standards.
Shop Defensively: What can parents and caregivers do to arm themselves against toys that could injure children? Since there currently is no full-proof safety net in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching consumers, the message for parents this holiday season is to think defensively when it comes to toy safety. 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 reappear 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 or e-tailer. Ordering online is a convenient way to avoid holiday crowds, but shoppers face the disadvantage of not being able to physically examine the toy at the time of purchase. Whether buying a toy in-person or online, W.A.T.C.H. wants to remind families to thoroughly inspect a toy and its packaging for safety red flags before giving it to a child (go to ToySafety.org for more information).
First Line of Defense– Safe Design and Manufacturing: The time to prevent injuries is during the design and manufacturing phase, before a toy is available for sale. Toys are embellishments of life, not necessities, and there is no excuse for manufacturing, importing, and distributing a toy that can injure or kill a child. Many toy-related injuries and deaths could have been prevented with better designed, manufactured, and marketed toys. In a toy industry generating approximately $90 billion dollars in global sales annually, safety concerns must be a priority, not an afterthought. The difficulty in purging the market of goods that have been recalled shows the burden must be on manufacturers and retailers, not consumers, to identify the known hazards before their products enter the channels of commerce. Recent injuries and recalls highlight the importance of the safety messages W.A.T.C.H. has been promoting for years. Many of the toys recalled in the last year not only put children at risk of serious injury or death but are also evidence of substandard manufacturing practices and inadequate pre-market testing. The best weapon in the fight to prevent injuries to children continues to be preventing unsafe toys from reaching consumers in the first place.
Advocacy Can Save Lives: Armed with information about what types of defects have been associated with injuries in the past, more consumers can make informed decisions when choosing children’s products. Thanks in part to the efforts of W.A.T.C.H., toy safety has become an active conversation that has helped reduce preventable injuries, resulted in significant changes in the industry, and led to increased regulations. W.A.T.C.H. works to inform families about toy hazards and to reduce preventable injuries to children. As a result of advocacy, the industry and regulators continue to be held accountable to make safety a priority and millions of toys have been re-designed, recalled, or otherwise identified to consumers. While a step in the right direction, regulations should be a floor, not a ceiling, for toy safety. There is more work to be done to prevent needless and tragic injuries to children as a result of poorly designed and manufactured toys.