Having a dangerous toy that tends to injure the people you’re marketing it to is never a good business move. Here are some of those toys that found their way onto the banned list.
The YoYo Ball was a popular toy at the start of the 2000s, but by 2003, reports were beginning to come in that it wasn’t as much fun as previously thought. Over 400 cases of near-strangulation had been reported with the use of the YoYo Ball.
The toy had colorful balls attached with a cord of bungee-like material. The cord was getting wrapped around the necks of kids, and in some cases, causing them to blackout. To make matters worse, the cord material was rather sticky, making it difficult to release if it did get around a neck.
Canada, Brazil, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom all banned the YoYo Ball, and the State of Illinois did as well. Many large retailers in the U.S. quit selling them, as did eBay, but it’s unclear if the United States ever came out with a federal ban on them. A quick search on Amazon showed that they are still for sale, so obviously not.
Why not go for a flight in a tube being dragged by a speed boat? That was the basic idea around the Kite Tube, a ten-foot wide, flat tube that engaged a way to go airborne when riders pulled on a cord. The problem was, once the rider was in the air, there was little in the way of control of the tube. There was also little in the way of protection to keep the rider from forcefully plummeting back to Earth.
The result was two deaths and many injuries. The company, Sportsstuff, voluntarily recalled the tubes before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) could take action.
Aqua Dots were arranged into designs, and when given a spray of water from a handy dispenser, the design formed into a cohesive unit. The problem with the magical dots was that they contained some particularly hazardous chemicals. Kids could suffer seizures, drowsiness, or even become comatose.
One of the chemicals in Aqua Dots, when ingested, metabolized into gamma hydroxy butyrate, or GHB, which is also known as the date rape drug. Over four million of the toys were recalled, and it was later found that the Toronto based maker of Aqua Dots, called Spin Master, knew that their product formed into the drug. They were fined $1.3 million by the CPSC.
You’ll notice from the picture that the Aqua Dots even received the ATA 2007 Toy of the Year. After an extensive search, the ATA might be the Australian Toy Association, but we can’t confirm it because we could find no mention of Aqua Dots anywhere as the Toy of the Year for 2007. Not much of a surprise, because who would want to be associated with a toy that could produce the date rape drug.
The Cabbage Patch Kids were huge in the 80s, but this one wasn’t as big a hit as it tended to clamp down on the fingers of children.
The Snacktime Kid had a motorized mouth that would munch down on plastic goodies that were fed to it, but it didn’t take long for little fingers and hair to get caught up in the action. Plus, there was no way to turn the munching off since the toy had no off switch. Once something got in the Snacktime Kid, it was going to keep going. Mattel pulled them off the shelves as the problem became apparent that this doll wasn’t going to be full with just little plastic pieces.
In the 1970s, a toy called Clackers seemed harmless enough, that is until it was played with. Clackers did just what the name implied. Two balls attached by a string could be clacked together for hours of endless fun. The problem occurred when those two balls would break apart when clacked, or the string would break. They had a tendency to cause damage to a kid’s face when these things happened.
Surprisingly, although there were many safety warnings, Clackers were never banned, but it sure seemed like they should have been. It was the 1970s, remember?
The Easy-Bake Oven has been around a long time, cooking up semi-delicious treats. Amazingly, the oven hadn’t had a recall until recently. A model that had been introduced by Hasbro in 2006 quickly began having reports of kids’ fingers getting caught in the oven and causing burns.
Seventy-seven burns were reported, with 16 being severe. In total, 249 incidents were reported with one little girl requiring a partial finger amputation. Hasbro had to recall one million Easy-Bake Ovens only a year later in 2007.
No banned toy list is complete without the mother of all dangerous toys, the lawn dart. These pointed projectiles caused over 7,000 injuries and four deaths. They were originally weighted at one end so they would stick in the ground, the object being to see who could get it in a circle on the ground and not into the cranium of an opposing player.
They lasted through the 70s and 80s until the CPSC implemented a full on ban in 1988. Jarts, one of the original lawn dart makers, finally came up with a much safer version with rounded tips made of plastic. Now everyone can re-enjoy a game where people once took their lives in their hands to play.
Honorable Mention-The Consumer Product Safety Commission
While it wasn’t exactly a toy, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency that looks out for toy safety, had its own recall. In 1974, the CPSC had to recall 80,000 lapel buttons promoting toy safety that it had distributed because the buttons had sharp edges, they had paint with too much lead, and the clips could break off and be swallowed. It just goes to show you that making something safe isn’t as easy as everyone would think.