Hall of Shame: 5 of the most dangerous toys of all time

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Photo Credit: *Ann Gordon via Creative Commons on flickr |

Sometimes a toy is dangerous in a way that isn’t obvious at first. For instance, a large flimsy plastic toy doesn’t appear to be a choking hazard, but when it cracks and small fragments start chipping away it suddenly becomes one. On the other hand, there have been some missteps in toy manufacturing and design that strike one as pretty obvious oversights. Here’s a rundown of five painfully obvious toy safety fails.

Austin Magic Pistol

Sold briefly in the late 1940s, the Austin Magic Pistol was a toy gun that fired a ping pong ball with the force of an explosive chemical reaction between calcium carbide and water. The reaction generated a fireball at the muzzle of the toy. By today’s standards, this “toy” is classified as a firearm in many states. Somehow, it seems it should have been obvious even in 1940 that firearms aren’t safe toys.

Sky Dancers

A more modern projectile, the Sky Dancers of the 1990s were dolls that, when launched out of their base with a pull-string, would fly into the air spinning their foam wings like a propeller. Once they launched, no one had any control over where these hard plastic things landed. Also, kids being kids launched these things at one another to disastrous results. Sky Dancers were recalled in 2000 after Galoob Toys Inc. received 150 reports of injuries including scratched corneas, broken teeth, temporary blindness, a mild concussion, a broken rib and facial lacerations that required stitches.

Lawn Darts

Lawn Darts or “Jarts” were giant plastic darts with weighted and sharpened metal tips that kids were supposed to throw into plastic hoops on the lawn – a sort of hybrid between darts and horseshoes. Sadly, the darts were found to be gravely injurious when they hit human targets and were actually responsible for the deaths of three children. They were banned in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy suffered brain injury when a lawn dart pierced his skull.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Forensic Lab Kit

The fingerprinting supplies contained within the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Forensic Lab Kit included a white powder that in 2007 was found to contain tremolite, one of the deadliest forms of asbestos. Tremolite falls in the amphibole family of asbestos and can increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma when ingested. Not exactly the kind of powder you want your kids playing with, is it?

Aqua Dots

Aqua Dots were supposed to be a fun creative toy that enabled kids to sculpt creations out of small beads that, when sprayed with water, would stick together. Unfortunately, for some of the units, manufacturers used 1,4-butanediol instead of the 1,5-pentanediol called for by the designers. 1,4-butanediol is metabolized into the drug gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, better known as GHB or “the date rape drug.” After ingesting the beads, affected children fell into comas and were hospitalized for several days before recovering.

At best, an unsafe toy results in a little scrape or another minor injury but at worst, unsafe toys can cause serious injury and even death. Remember to do your homework and think through the possibilities when you purchase play things to help keep the kids you care about safe.

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