Before You Shop: The Top Toy Safety Fails of the Last Decade
During the holiday season, we naturally turn our attention to the hottest toys to make our children’s holidays merry and bright. But as we all know, sometimes manufacturers and designers fail to keep their products safe for youngsters, and unfortunately those toys usually get recalled only after children get injured or die as a result of using them. As a point of reminder for parents to stay vigilant, let’s review a few of the biggest news stories about toy safety from the past 10 years.
When Buckyballs first rolled out to American consumers in 2009, they were a science geek’s dream—216 small rare-earth magnets that held together so well that you could shape them into innumerable designs. The problem was they didn’t hold together well enough to keep kids from ingesting a few of them, and when they caused havoc in the intestines, surgery was often required surgery to remove them. In 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission filed suit against Maxfield & Oberton, the company responsible for importing and selling Buckyballs. After a two-year legal battle, the company was forced to recall all their products and issue refunds. By that time, some 1700 children had visited the emergency room.
Ironically, Buckyballs are back on the market thanks to a countersuit filed by Zen Magnets, another company distributing the product. Their caveat: Buckyballs are not toys.
A couple of years ago, you almost couldn’t go into a store without seeing these little devices. The so-called “fidget spinner” was hugely popular and hailed as a stress-relieving toy for children. But it wasn’t long before watchdog groups were finding all sorts of problems with them. The U.S. Product Safety Commission issued a warning that some versions of the product presented choking hazards for young children, and the lithium batteries in the light-up versions could burn the esophagus if children tried to swallow them. To make matters worse, the consumer group U.S. PIRG discovered two models of the spinner sold at Target contained unacceptable amounts of lead. After some pushback, Target finally recalled the models. While no mandated recall was ever issued, you’d be hard pressed to find a fidget spinner in stores today.
Another example of an “it” toy gone bad, the hoverboard didn’t really “hover”—it was a two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter—but a number of companies made them, and they were all the rage during the holiday season of 2015. But a fatal design flaw in many of these devices caused their batteries to overheat and catch fire, causing injuries and damage—including a house fire that killed a 3-year-old girl. Before long, there was a long list of recalls from manufacturers of defective products. Hoverboards are still on the market today, but they have been banned in quite a few public areas, including many public transportation systems.
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