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World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) held it’s 36th Annual “10 Worst Toys” Conference in Boston this past November after seeing at least 66 toy recalls resulting in more than 7,890,000 units of toys recalled for various dangers in the past year.

W.A.T.C.H., a Massachusetts charitable non-profit corporation, called for toy manufacturers to provide accurate and complete language on packaging when it comes to warning consumers about hazards. The 2008 “10 Worst Toy” list includes examples of packaging and labeling which fail to give consumers fair warnings of known dangers. The high number of recalls proves that manufacturers put profits before child safety. At least 26 recalls were the result of toys with excessive lead content, and many other recalls involved small parts violations. Choking is the cause of 44 percent of toy-related deaths, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued recalls for at least 25 toys with choking ingesting or aspiration risks.

While the CPSC issues recalls for some dangerous toys, many still remain on store shelves. Hazards that reappear every year include choking, strangulation, impact injuries, burns, impalement, puncture wounds, and lacerations. In 2006, the CPSC reported nine deaths of children when they choked on or aspirated a toy, 22 toy-related deaths of children under 15 years old, and about 220,500 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, signed into law on August 14, expands the authority of the CPSC and places stricter restrictions on toy-makers and the entire distribution chain. W.A.T.C.H. notes, however, that policing such a large industry will remain a challenge, and that toy manufacturers must put safety before profits. The toy industry makes $30 billion a year, and more than three billion toys are sold each year in the United States.

Nominees for the 2008 “10 Worst Toys” are:

Sportsman Shotgun

Hazard: Potential for eye injuries. This realistic looking weapon is sold online as a “toy”, and uses rubber bullets, which are loaded into the shotgun’s magazine and then pushed into the gun’s chamber. “You are now ready to shoot,” boasts the advertising. This weapon is not a toy and should not be sold for use by children.

Go Go Minis Pullback Vehicle

Hazard: Potential for choking injuries. The rear tires of these miniature fire trucks, garbage trucks and school buses are removable, presenting a serious choking injury hazard. Though there is a “choking hazard” warning, it only appears on the display box and not on the individual toys.

Inflatable Giga Ball

Hazard: Potential for impact and other serious injuries. Children 4 years and older are encouraged to crawl inside this inflatable ball. The box warns against use on hills and in water, and that parent supervision is “required,” however the toy itself indicates that adult supervision is only “recommended.”

Animal Alley Purse Set

Hazard: Potential for ingestion/aspiration injuries. These soft toys are sold for infants. The ponies have long, fiber-like hair that is not adequately rooted and is easily removable. This presents the potential for ingestion or aspiration, but these hazards are not referenced anywhere on the product or product tags.

Spider-Man Adjustable Toy Skates

Hazard: Potential for wrist and other impact injuries. The skates, recommended for “Ages 3 To 6”, have warnings on the packaging, including a requirement that children wear helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads while skating, but only include knee and elbow pads.

Pucci Puppies – My Own Puppy House Golden Retriever

Hazard: Potential for choking injuries. Children ages “2 years +” are encouraged to play with this golden retriever puppy, dog house, and accessories including a bone, cookie, chew toy and food bowl. The accessories are easily ingestible small parts.

Walk’n Sounds Digger The Dog

Hazard: Potential for strangulation/entanglement injuries. The toy industry has voluntary standards requiring strings on playpen or crib toys to be less than 12 inches in length. This pull-toy’s cord measures 26 inches. This toy is intended for “infants” and recommended for children “over 12 months,” and is a prime candidate for cribs and playpens.

Meadow Mystery Play-A-Sound Book With A Cuddly Pooh

Hazard: Potential for choking injuries. A soft Winnie-the-Pooh doll sold, sold with a book, has a cloth mask which, once removed, poses a potential choking hazard. The package states that the toy has been safety tested for children “18 months+,” but the tag attached to Pooh states that it is “[r]ecommended for all age groups.”

Extreme Spiral Copters

Hazard: Potential for eye injuries. Children “Ages 5 and Up” are encouraged to launch the copter projectile into the air with an elastic band, in a fashion similar to a slingshot. Cautions include “DO NOT SUBSTITTUE THE SUPPLIED COPTER WITH ANY OTHER PROJECTILE” and “DO NOT AIM AT EYES OR FACE”.

Ninja Battle Gear – Michelangelo

Hazard: Potential for blunt impact injuries. This line of toys encourages children to wield weapons while pretending to be a ninja. Michelangelo’s “Nunchaku”, recommended for children 4 years and older, consists of two long plastic handles connected by a plastic chain. The manufacturer describes the toy as a “Kick-butt signature weapon.” There are no cautions or warnings relating to potential impact injuries.

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