Don't Believe the Hype About "Dangerous" Christmas Toys

Welcome to the season of bogus scare stories.


Oh my God, what is that terrifying toy doing anywhere near your child? Don't you read the warnings this time of year? Run! Hide! Douse it with gasoline, light a match, and duck! Otherwise your child might be tempted to play with the darn thing: a pull toy.

According to "World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.)," a website run by trial lawyers, every year there are exactly 10 terribly dangerous toys out there. And every year, this self-styled watchdog group puts out a press release. And every year the media dutifully report that we are living in a world brimming with peril and it's amazing there are any kids still alive, much less with two working eyes, come December 26.

So this year I've decided to offer a public service of my own and highlight the most ridiculous non-threat on the annual list of supposedly threatening toys.

This year that honor goes to the Vtech Baby Explore & Learn Helicopter. What landed this seemingly innocuous object on W.A.T.C.H.'s un-safe toy list? The fact that it can be pulled by a string measuring approximately 24-inches in length.

"Despite the industry's standard requiring strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12 inches in length," the W.A.T.C.H. site declares, "manufacturers are still permitted to market pull toys such as this." W.A.T.C.H. also fulminates that the manufacturer goes so far as to encourage "little ones to discover and learn with a cute puppy friend."

A puppy friend! What could be more nefarious than that? Well, maybe my runner-up for most ridiculous non-threat on the list, a little xylophone. This one comes with a 5-inch wooden dowel rod drumstick to bang on the keys. But, as W.A.T.C.H. warns, "It could be mouthed and occlude a child's airway."

As opposed to say, I don't know, any pen or pencil in the house? Or world?

Of course, if it was just a few trial lawyers practicing the sky-is-falling business, the whole idea of super-dangerous toys wouldn't have gone so viral. But the U.S. Public Interest Research Group also publishes an annual "Trouble in Toyland" survey—this year in its 27th iteration—making it seem like anyone who thinks toys are pretty safe is a soon-to-be-sorry sap.

Just like W.A.T.C.H., the survey warns about string: "Drawstrings on children's clothing lead to deaths and injuries when they catch on playground equipment, bus doors or cribs." How big a threat do drawstrings pose? "From January 1985 through June 1997, the CSPC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] received reports of 21 deaths," says the report. That's 21 deaths over the course of 12 years. Still, "CSPC recommends parents remove drawstrings from all children's upper outerwear sized 2T to 12 and buy clothing with alternative closures, like snaps, buttons and Velcro."

Let me repeat that recommendation: Remove the drawstrings on all children's clothes up to age 12.

While the death of any child is horrifying and tragic, let's review the numbers. Drawstrings have been implicated in roughly two deaths per year over the course of 12 years. That's out of approximately 48,000,000 children age 12 and under in the United States. So we're talking about something that is safe 23,999,999 times out of 24,000,000. If that constitutes a risk, we have entered some kind of altered state where we believe every single thing that has ever hurt anyone anywhere, even once, is out to get us.

This used to be called paranoia.

The "Trouble in Toyland" report goes on to list other ostensibly dangerous toys, including balloons, which it says should never be used by anyone under age 8; and some little toy cars whose hubcaps could fall off and "pose a choking hazard." The same could be said about any thumbtack, screw, dime, eraser, earring, or pea, though perhaps it's only a matter of time before we ban those for anyone under age 12, too.

Come to think of it, maybe we do live in very dangerous times: Fear is frying our brains.

NEXT: Top Egypt Election Official Resigns

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  1. “Fear is frying our brains”.

    No truer a statement in a time when schools are regularly put in “lockdown” over pranks. We’re terrorizing ourselves, and by extension, we’re terrorizing our own kids.

  2. I think someone needs to educate Leonore (or whatever intern is reposting her blog posts fro her) on the dangers missing alt text

    1. I’m probably getting in of my head here by even mentioning this, but what is the big deal with alt text? I see people commenting on this a lot here. I’m not HTML literate, so I’m just asking what the practical application is here.

      1. over* my head

  3. Let’s just ban everyone under age 18. They are clearly incompetent to do anything (other than, of course, receive an abortion or birth control pills without parental consent.)

    1. Given last Friday’s events, perhaps you should amend your proposal to include everyone under age 21.

  4. When I was a kid, my brother used his Godzilla Shogun Warrior’s flying fist to hit me in the dick. Did I complain? Did I try to sue? Did I work to get the toy banned? Yes, but it didn’t go anywhere because back then children were expendable.

    1. I admit this made me laugh for several minutes. Bravo.

    2. awww I had that toy. it was all kinds of awesome.

    3. You know, I just shipped my nephew’s Christmas present–a pump-action, detachable-stock, clip-loaded Nerf assault rifle that shoots glow-in-the-dark discs 60+ feet–and was bitching about how much toys sucked when I was a kid.

      Then I Googled the Godzilla Shogun Warrior, which looks like something an Eastern Bloc dictator would design for the hapless proletariat masses. Turns out that Spotbot and the NES aren’t so bad after all.

    4. My brother and I each had one. Insane fun. IIRC along with the spring action disc, the legs were weighted with bags of powdered lead. These of course were busted open and scavenged to become lead figurines when I started playing AD&D.

    5. For my 4th Christmas, my father bought me a 2 foot tall shogun warrior that shot missiles out of its nipples.

      34 years later, I still can’t stop thinking about boobies. Thanks, Dad.

      1. Thanks very much for that link. I couldn’t remember the name of the Shogun warrior I had: it was Raydeen. My brother had Godzilla.

  5. All I know is that I had many hours of fun with Bag O’Glass…..robe.phtml

  6. Apparently, one of the most dangerous things in the house for toddlers is . . . the TV.

    Every year, if memory serves, kids are killed when the TV falls on them. No kidding.

    Yet no one is calling for banning TVs in households with children under 12.

    1. Here you go: 29 deaths, “mostly” children, in 2011.…..le-in-2011

      1. if it would make my life suck, then fuck the little bastards. if it will make their lives suck and make me feel better about myself, then fuck the little bastards.

        Hmm, i think i’ m starting to see how this works.

  7. Apparently children playing should be held to the same clothing standards as mill workers operating the saw. If drawstrings are a problem then so are shoelaces, unzipped jackets, and baggy clothing. I can only assume children of the future will wear form-fitting unitards with reflective strips on all sides.

    The worst thing a drawstring ever did to me was get lost inside the clothing, never to be removed again. Snaps and buttons, however, did pinch my fingers on more than one occasion, and metal ones come scorching how out of the dryer. And velcro caught all sorts of gunk, dirt and even bugs from playing outside, in addition to wearing out faster than snaps, zippers, or strings. I often had shoes where the aging velcro strips would limply hold each other for five seconds before separating again, like a loveless marriage above my shoelaces.

    1. I can only assume children of the future will wear form-fitting unitards with reflective strips on all sides.

      I imagine they would all look like Mork from Ork then. (yes, I had one of these as a kid too.)

      1. You truly had a blessed childhood.

  8. “a website run by trial lawyers”

    You could make a toy out of dynamite wrapped in matchbooks and there’s no way it could be as dangerous as that.

  9. It is a tribute to American exceptionalism that a disgruntled school board member used dyanamite wrapped in matchbooks to level one wing of the Bath Michigan Consolidated School in 1927.

    Attack type School bombing, mass murder, murder-suicide, suicide truck bombing, arson & uxoricide
    Weapon(s) Dynamite, pyrotol, firebombs, club
    Deaths 45 (38 children, 2 teachers, 4 other adults and the bomber)
    Injured 58
    Perpetrator Andrew P. Kehoe
    Motive Revenge for defeat in local election; personal and financial stress

  10. Wow why didnt I think of that dude?

    1. Because you can pass the Turing test, you idiot!

  11. Responsible parents give their children firearms for Christmas.

  12. I can’t believe they don’t have “Bag O’ Glass” or the “Human Torch” toys on the list. Irresponsible agency indeed!

  13. I get the feeling that if the bicycle were invented today, and any company dared to market it to persons under 18 years of age, the CPSC and the trial lawyers would shut them down faster than you can say brain injury.

    1. Imagine if someone tried to sell GASOLINE!
      The *horror*!

      1. I’m pretty sure that if automobiles were invented today, they would not be allowed either. For two reasons.

        First: Is ‘safety’ of course. “You want to put average citizens in charge of 3000 pounds of metal capable of speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour? You must be insane!”

        Second: Its crazy to allow people to travel as much as 1200 miles in a day without some government stooge knowing who is going where and why.
        Freedom of travel is one thing when the most a person can realistically travel is about 20-40 miles a day by horse and buggy. Trains and planes however would be acceptable modes of long distance travel since operators can be compelled to collect passenger names, and they can be shut down by general order that is enforced with minimal manpower.

        1. And the moon landing would have been nixed. Too much radiation risk beyond the Van Allen belt, y’see.

          So much for Neil Armstrong…

  14. Just like drawstrings the odds of an American preteen being murdered with a gun by a stranger is basically zero yet that doesn’t stop the authoritarians.

    1. In the Real World of Sandy Hook Elementary School, basically zero equals 20.
      But apparently thats what…new math?

      1. 20/48,000,000 = 0.00004%

        1. “I am the 0.00004%” will look good on their grave stones.

  15. Merry Christmas to you 2012.

  16. Benjamin Disraeli wrote: “The east is a career.”

    Now we can say “safety is a career.”

    I think this is connected to the mass shooting phenomenon. Both stem from social fragmentation, alienation and a sense of powerlessness and dispossession. It has nothing to do with paranoia, which is a severe mental disturbance. The safety response is a more or less rational reaction to the social forces society is putting on people. Attributing it to paranoia is only mystification.

  17. I live in Mexico where nobody thinks this way, and I doubt we have any higher a percentage of dead children than the United States does. What errant nonsense.

  18. I never Believe the Hype About “Dangerous” Christmas Toys

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