Beware of the danger of buying dangerous toys that can cause injury and death this Christmas…

Those looking to buy children’s toys for Christmas presents need to be aware that dangerous toys are for sale in store and online, many of which contain hidden hazards unnecessarily putting children at risk of injury and death, therefore one needs to be vigilant when purchasing.

This is according to Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys, who says that these dangers are highlighted in the 2019 report from World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) which has just released and named its 2019 list of toys most likely to cause injuries such as the ‘Nerf Ultra One’ dart gun, a Power Rangers electronic ‘Cheetah Claw’ the ‘Pogo Trick Board’, and other potentially hazardous toys, which should not be in the hands of children.

Poorly designed toys, inconsistent and inadequate warnings, cautions and age recommendations

In its report, WATCH highlights some of the classic safety hazards that continue to re-appear year after year. These include poorly designed toys, as well as inconsistent and inadequate warnings, cautions and age recommendations.

WATCH also highlighted projectile toys that could fire with enough force to potentially cause eye injuries and toys that encourage children to jump or ride with the potential for head injuries. Some of these toys are sold without the proper safety gear or marketed with inconsistent safety messages.

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WATCH points out that shockingly, classic toy dangers, such as small parts, strings, projectiles, toxic substances, rigid materials and inaccurate warnings and labels, continue to be manufactured by the toy industry in newly designed packaging.

The report also outlines the impact of online purchasing on toy safety, up-to-date information about toy recalls and the necessity for more stringent oversight of the toy industry.

Haslam agrees and says that unfortunately there have been many deaths, disfigurements and disabilities inflicted upon children as a result of poorly designed and tested toys. “This is alarming considering that many toy-related injuries are preventable,” she adds. “In South Africa thousands of potentially dangerous toys hit the shelves which end up in the hands of children because of the lack of legislation ensuring toys that are sold are safe.”

She continues: “Warnings on toys for sale in South Africa should certainly at a minimum comply with the SABS, South African National Standard. Beyond any regulatory/ statutory requirements however, there is a duty on a toy manufacturer to take reasonable measures to ensure not only that a toy is safely constructed/manufactured, but further to ensure that adequate warnings are given regarding the safe use of a toy.”

There have been many deaths, disfigurements and disabilities inflicted upon children as a result of poorly designed and tested toys

WATCH’s 2019 nominees of worst toys (many of which are available in South Africa) that are deemed to be unsafe are:

1. NERF Ultra One

According to WATCH, the manufacturer of this dart ‘blaster’ boasts that the ammunition ‘fires up to 120 foot’ with ‘powerful speed’ making this the ‘farthest flying NERF dart ever’. The darts provided can shoot with enough force to potentially cause eye injuries.

2. Spike the fine motor hedgehog

This ‘hedgehog’ sold for oral-age children as young as 18 months old, comes with 12 removable, rigid-plastic ‘quills’ measuring approximately three and a half inches (8cm)long. The quills can potentially be mouthed and block a child’s airway.

3. Bunchems Bunch

Bunchems are multi-coloured activity balls that are meant to stick together when children engage in building activities. There have been reports of the plastic, connective toys becoming ensnared in children’s hair.

4. Yeti

This soft creature is sold for oral-age childen. The ‘cuddle’ toy has long, fibre-like hair that may not be adequately rooted, such that pulling with minimum effort could lead to removal. Once separated from the toy, the hair presents the potential for ingestion or aspiration injuries.

5. Nikelodeon frozen treats slime

This colourful ‘slime’ is offered to children with the appearance of some of their favourite frozen treats, including ‘mint chocolate chip’, ‘berry smoothie’, and ‘soft serve’. At the same time, the manufacturer issues a warning regarding ‘harmful chemicals’ while advising: “Not real food – do not eat.”

6. Anstoy electronic toy gun

Given the numerous tragedies resulting from outfitting children with realistic toy weapons, there is simply no excuse for marketing toys such as this ‘submachine gun’. Detailed replicas mistaken for lethal weaponry have resulted in numerous deaths over the years, and should never be sold as toys.

7. Diecast school bus

These miniature yellow school buses are sold with a ‘choking hazard’ warning on a removable, stick-on label. The firm rubber tires, mounted on plastic wheels, can be removed, presenting the potential for a serious choking injury for oral age children.

8. Pogo trick board

Children using this pogo trick board with ‘high bounce ball’ are provided dual handles for tricking out. Despite the manufacturer’s warning to wear a helmet and other protective gear, only two of the three children shown on the packaging are wearing helmets, and none are using other protective items.

9. Power Rangers electronic cheetah claw

The Power Rangers ‘BEAST Morphers’ claws are made of rigid plastic. Five-year-olds are encouraged to use the ‘strength of the Cheetah Claw’ to ‘take on enemies!’ The manufacturer simultaneously advises children not to ‘hit or swing at people…’.

In South Africa thousands of potentially dangerous toys hit the shelves which end up in the hands of children because of the lack of legislation ensuring toys that are sold are safe

10. Viga pull along caterpillar

Despite the industry’s standard requiring strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12 inches (30cm) in length, manufacturers are still permitted to market ‘pull toys’ such as this one with a cord measuring approximately 24 inches (60cm). No warnings are provided.

Product liability claims in South Africa

Haslam says that it is scary how many of these products or similar products are readily available in store and online in South Africa.

“If you or a dependent are injured by a dangerous toy that doesn’t carry the required warnings, you might be entitled to claim damages,” she explains. “Under South African law, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and suppliers can all be held liable for damages caused by defective or hazardous products.”

However, Haslam says that these types of personal injury cases are complex so it is wise to seek the advice of a personal injury attorney, who has extensive experience in handling product liability claims including claims involving injuries to children.