For 40 years, the non-profit organization World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) has been educating consumers about child safety and warning parents about potentially dangerous toys and recreational activities.
The group arose from some of the problematic toys of the mid-20th Century. Toys like The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab which contained real uranium ore and The Gilbert Glass Blowing Kits, which not only allowed kids to play with glass but to heat up the glass until it was malleable to be molded. Then add in the old favorites like the trampoline, slingshots, and slip and slides – it is obvious that a watch group was needed to alert parents to the apparent hazards.
2022 marks the 50th anniversary of W.A.T.C.H.’s annual nominees for the 10 Worst Toys of the holiday season. The list of dangerous toys and children’s products is not so obvious. Now, many of the dangers are hidden.
At W.A.T.C.H.’s annual press conference, parents and guardians were offered practical tips on inspecting toys and identifying risks when buying new toys or toys or products that are already in the home.
For five decades, W.A.T.C.H. has facilitated the conference to provide test results and review dangerous or poorly designed toys. Their intent is not only to increase awareness but to enact positive changes in testing, manufacturing, and regulating toys to reduce child injuries that may result in disabilities, disfigurements, and death.
The conference is always held right before the upcoming holiday shopping season to recognize concerning products while they are still on store shelves and online outlets. The conference reiterates the urgency of diligently researching all the toys that parents buy because if they know which toys are associated with these troubling issues, then most toy-related injuries can be prevented.
A few of these the potential dangerous and troubling issues that continue to commonly occur in newly manufactured toys include:
W.A.T.C.H.’s nominees for 2022’s “10 Worst Toys” are:
The oversight of toys is regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States. Because regulation depends on manufacturers’ cooperation, the agency often misses critical concerns and life-threatening hazards in new toys.
This is evidenced by U.S. emergency rooms treating a child every three minutes for toy-related injuries and the rash of recent recalls. According to CPSC’s most recent data, 2020 saw an estimated 198,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. From 2018 to 2020, more than 50 children died from preventable toy-related incidents.
In any given year in the United States, there are an estimated 2,800 children treated for button or coin battery ingestion, most causing devastating injuries. During the pandemic, these battery-related injuries increased by more than 90% because of children spending more time at home.
W.A.T.C.H. calls for stricter government enforcement to regulate the United States’ $25 billion toy industry. The agency pushes for the assurance of safe products being manufactured for children by allowing the CPSC authority to act independently and warn consumers of identified hazards immediately instead of working with manufacturers to ensure quality products through recalls.
In the last year, toys on the market were recalled for an assortment of defects. Some were choking hazards to infants. The known toxin, lead, was found in a toy house. Magnets were attached to blocks causing intestinal punctures, blockages, blood poisonings, and death if swallowed.
During a 10-month period, more than 1.3 million dangerous toys were pulled off shelves in 27 recalls. These safety measures are not proactive – recalls are reactive, meaning the danger is already in homes and schools, in children’s hands, before they are called back for concerning issues. And it still does not mean every unsafe toy has been recalled.
Because the CPSC has limited resources as an enforcement agency to such a large industry, W.A.T.C.H. also lobbies for additional and increased funding for the CPSC, claiming the agency needs more employees to do more product testing and enforce stricter safety requirements with more substantial fines levied on toy manufacturers whose products are defective or recalled.
The watchdog group also advises CPSC regulators to receive adequate training strategies to keep up with emerging technologies and recall notifications should be given more signal strength, making them more publicized.
A defective or dangerous toy can make generational impacts. Once an unsafe toy is on the market and purchased, it has the potential to circulate, passing on a litany of hidden hazards. These hazards can lead to a multitude of injuries or even death.
New toys make the rounds through homes and schools. Once these toys are used, they can find their way back on the market through second-hand stores, yard sales, and consumer-to-consumer retailers like eBay.
W.A.T.C.H.’s “10 Worst Toys” list provides a tool to raise that awareness, but it is only the beginning. The toy market is full of both known and unknown dangers, and the list and the explanations help provide a starting point for identifying these potential dangers and avoiding preventable tragedies.
Informed consumers make for safer consumers. Knowing the pitfalls of problematic products can lead to better purchases, ensuring children enjoy a safe and joyful holiday season.
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