'Tis the season to be wary of children's toys
In this story:
November 25, 1997
Web posted at: 8:59 p.m. EST (0159 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the eve of the Christmas shopping
season, two public interest groups warned parents Tuesday
about violent and dangerous toys they say should not be found
under the tree -- or anywhere else -- this year.
The Lion & Lamb Project released its "Dirty Dozen" list of
violent toys to avoid. It also announced it is sponsoring
trade-ins and buy-backs of violent toys in a number of cities
during the coming weeks to draw attention to the link between
such toys and violent attitudes.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), meanwhile,
announced its 12th annual survey listing 18 dangerous toys.
A L S O :
Lion & Lamb Project's list of dangerous toys
PIRG's list of dangerous toys
Many of the toys on PIRG's list have small, removable parts
that might be swallowed by small children. One such toy was
recalled last year but was still available in some stores.
Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for PIRG, said
that although things have improved, children choking on small
objects continues to be one of the most common toy-related
injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety
Commission, at least 259 children have choked to death on
children's products since 1980.
The 1994 Child Safety Protection Act banned toys that contain
small parts for children under 3 and ordered choke hazard
warnings for those between 3 and 6.
"Even though there is less trouble in toyland, it's important
for toy-givers to understand they need to shop around,"
'Parents have to inspect the toy'
The group recommends buying a choke tube -- which are
available at toy stores -- to determine whether toy parts are
too small for young children.
As an example, the group listed Mattel's 101 Dalmatians --
toys that feature hard, fuzzy dogs with accessories -- as
dangerous because of concerns that the accessories might be
removed and swallowed by small children.
Mattel spokesman Sean Fitzgerald objected to the PIRG rating
and pointed out that the toys come with warning labels. "In
terms of packaging the product and informing the consumer,"
he said, "we don't believe we can do any more."
"Parents have to inspect the toy first, read the box and
explain it to their kids," said Nikki Galvan of D&L Company,
which makes a rocket launcher called the Stomp Rocket. PIRG
reported that a child suffered a detached retina because of
the product this year.
But Galvan said the product itself is not dangerous when
directions are followed.
"It's like with any other toy. Used incorrectly, you are
going to get hurt," she said.
Buy-backs to include law enforcement groups
Ironically, the Stomp Rocket considered an eye hazard by PIRG was touted by the Lion & Lamb Project as a non-violent
Project Executive Director Daphne White said some of the
buy-backs her group would sponsor are modeled after similar
events for guns and would involve local law enforcement
"Toys that glorify violence encourage children to act out
that violence -- violence which appears fun, cool and
amusing," White said.
Along with its "Dirty Dozen" list, Lion & Lamb also listed 20
products that parents and other gift-givers could use for
ideas on creative, exciting and non-violent toys.
Topping its list was the Laser Challenge mobile blaster made
by Toymax Inc., which fires a 360-degree laser burst over 25
feet and has two delay modes.
White said the toy encouraged children to play out
premeditated attacks on their friends.
"These toys and games suggest that shooting, killing and
maiming are fun, and violence is a harmless, entertaining
pastime," White said. "This merchandising of violence to
children is a totally new phenomenon."
'It requires constant vigilance'
Toymax spokesman Barry Schwartz said he was surprised at the
criticism, citing praise for the Laser Challenge line of toys
from consumer magazines and organizations running activities
Parents say that while they do what they can to protect their
children, locating the hidden dangers in toys can be
"The biggest problem is that we are not kids. We don't look
at toys the same way," said Lou Nemeth, a Washington father
of a 13-month-old daughter. He noted that some toys that look
harmless can be disassembled into small dangerous pieces.
"There are so many hidden things. It requires constant
Reporter Kathleen Koch and Reuters contributed to this report.