Media Contacts: Dominic Amenta, Lisa Bell | DPA Communications
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Speakers:  Joan E. Siff, President; James A. Swartz, Director
Date/ Time:  Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET
Location: Franciscan Children’s, Chamberlain Conference Room, 30 Warren Street, Brighton, Mass.

W.A.T.C.H. Reveals Nominees for “10 Worst Toys” for 2021 Holiday Season

48th Annual Report Cautions Parents:
Beware of the Danger of Purchasing Potentially Harmful Toys

(Boston, Mass.—November 17, 2021) World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) today revealed its nominees for the “10 Worst Toys of 2021.” Toy safety remains a critical concern during the holiday season with an expected toy shortage due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues. At the 49th annual press conference, W.A.T.C.H. demonstrated why the “Radio Flyer Spin ‘N Saucer,” “Snake Eyes G.I. Joe Origins Ninja Strike Sickles,” “Walmart ‘My Life As’ Shopping Basket,” and other potentially hazardous toys should not be in the hands of children. Although intended for fun and entertainment, many toys contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of harm.  W.A.T.C.H. offered practical tips for identifying hazards, so parents and caregivers know what traps to avoid when inspecting toys already in their homes and when buying toys—especially during the upcoming 2021 holiday shopping season.

Consumer advocates Joan E. Siff, President of W.A.T.C.H., and James A. Swartz, Director of W.A.T.C.H., illustrated some of the potential safety hazards recently identified on toy store shelves and online. Among other safety concerns, these traps include toy weaponry with the potential for blunt force impact injuries, plush toys that could lead to infant suffocation, and small parts, such as button batteries, with the potential for choking or chemical burn injuries, a particular worry for young children. In a year when children may be gravitating towards outdoor activities after home-centered social distancing and remote learning mandates, W.A.T.C.H. highlighted toys with wheels, such as “My First Hoverboard” and “Rollers Light-Up Heel Skates,” that could lead to potential head and other impact injuries. Toys like these could be sold without the proper safety gear, marketed with inconsistent safety messages, or provide unrealistic warnings or instructions. Swartz and Siff also provided up-to-date information about toy recalls and stressed the necessity for more stringent oversight of the toy industry. One reason the message today is so urgent: Many toy-related injuries are preventable.

Expected Toy Shortage—Toy Safety Considerations:

With the predicted toy shortage, shoppers may be casting a wider net procuring toys from a variety of sources. W.A.T.C.H. cautions shoppers not to let their guard down. Safety traps can surface whether buying new or gently used toys, and whether you are shopping online, in popular retail stores, or at local yard sales. Families and friends have a right to expect that the toys they buy are safe and rely on manufacturers to make sure their children’s toys are designed with safety as the top priority. Unfortunately, there have been many deaths, disfigurements and disabilities inflicted upon children as a result of poorly designed and tested toys. One child is treated in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes for a toy-related injury.[i]  For over four decades, the “10 Worst Toys List” has tackled the issue of dangerous toys in the hope of bringing about change and reducing injuries to children. Nonetheless, dangerous toys remain on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-tailers’ websites. Shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials, and inaccurate warnings and labels, continue to reappear in new generations of toys putting children at risk.

Steps for a Safer Holiday Season and Beyond: 

Although there is much families haven’t been able to control during the uncertain times since the onset of COVID-19, continued vigilance and awareness about the types of toy hazards that have been associated with injuries in the past can help kids enjoy a safer holiday season. Beware of toys with deadly track records, recalled toys, and incomplete product information that may mask hazards at the time of purchase.

  1. Safety Spotlight—The Rise in Popularity of Toys with Wheels During COVID-19: Post-pandemic lockdowns, families and children are looking to outdoor activities to keep kids entertained. Already this year, ‘outdoor and sports toys’, which includes skates, skateboards, and scooters, was the category of toys with the most sales ($2.9 billion).[ii] Wheeled activities will likely continue to play a prominent role in children’s free time as the holidays roll in. One focus of this year’s conference was the potential hazards associated with some wheeled toys, such as ride-ons, skates and hoverboards. A.T.C.H. cautioned toy shoppers to beware of certain wheeled riding toys with the potential for head or other impact injuries. After a year focused on home-based learning and limited social opportunities, many outdoor wheeled toys allow kids to be active while social distancing together. As the use of wheeled toys grew during the pandemic, so did the number of injuries. From March to September 2020, estimated injuries for scooters, skateboards and hoverboards increased significantly by 39% from the previous year.[iii] One wheeled toy, traditional non-motorized scooters, for another year in a row was associated with the most toy-related injuries. [iv] Wheeled toys designed low to the ground may be particularly difficult for motorists to see in driveways and near roads. Some wheeled toys are being marketed without appropriate cautions or protective gear. Others have instructions or warnings that are unrealistic to follow in real life. “My First Hoverboard,” one of this year’s wheeled nominees, is sold to children ages 5+ and cautions, among other warnings and instructions, “Do not ride without proper training and guidance.” The label on the product itself states, in part, that failure to follow instructions “can result in death or serious injury….” The label of another toy, “Radio Flyer Spin ‘N Saucer…,” marketed to children 1 ½ to 5 years old, depicts a young child riding the saucer on a sidewalk, despite warnings to “never” use near “motor vehicles, streets, roadways…[and] sloped driveways….” Warnings and instructions are necessary and important, but this does not mean manufacturers can absolve themselves of responsibility by simply adding a label to a toy. A toys’ marketing and design may encourage contradictory uses. Kids’ play is predictably unpredictable. As such, parents and caregivers should carefully weigh the risk of injuries when selecting toys for children. In some cases, families may decide that certain toys are inherently too dangerous to be used by children in the first place.
  1. Shop Defensively: In this new world where so much has changed, parents and caregivers still need to remain vigilant when it comes to toy safety. Since there currently is no full-proof safety net in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching consumers, the message for parents this holiday season is to think defensively when it comes to toy safety.  Some hidden hazards and safety traps are difficult to identify by simply examining a toy, knowing how to spot certain safety red flags remains an important tool in keeping kids safe. Awareness about these less obvious dangers can save lives. An influx of counterfeit toys has raised safety concerns, but W.A.T.C.H. cautions toy shoppers not to be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe because it has a familiar brand name on the package or it is available from a well-known retailer or e-tailer.
  1. What’s in Your Toybox? Whether selecting gently used toys from consumer-to-consumer venues (i.e., eBay, yard sales) or new toys from big-name retailers or popular e-tail sites (i.e., Amazon), the need for continued vigilance remains.  Although intended for fun and entertainment, many toys contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of injury or death. A.T.C.H. is alerting parents to be vigilant when it comes to toy safety and regularly examine the toys in their child’s toy box for hidden hazards that may or not be easily detected, such as toys with small parts sold to babies. Consumers may expect there are sufficient checks and balances in place to prevent dangerous toys from reaching store shelves and e-commerce sites, but unfortunately this is not always the case. The reality is many of these unsafe toys end up in children’s homes and schools. Even toys that pass existing safety standards can be dangerous. Toys with small parts that could detach during play or long pieces that could be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway are examples of less obvious hazards. On the 2021 “Worst Toys” list, both the “Learn to Play Drum” and the “Perfectly Cute My Lil’ Baby Feed & Go Set” have parts that could be potential choking hazards for young children. Choking is one of the most significant contributors to toy-related injuries and deaths. [v]  The “Squeakee Minis Poppy the Bunny” has a compartment in the rear containing three button cell batteries, which are known to potentially cause severe injuries and death when ingested, due to internal chemical burns. Button batteries are found in many toys and home devices. This past December, an 18-month-old child died after swallowing a button battery from a remote control.[vi