W.A.T.C.H. INC.'S 40TH ANNUAL "10 WORST TOYS" CONFERENCE
This year toys with the potential to seriously harm or kill children continue to be found on store shelves, in catalogues, and on e-retailers' websites. Consumer advocates James A. Swartz , nationally known trial attorney and a Director of W.A.T.C.H., and Joan E. Siff , President of W.A.T.C.H., will present W.A.T.C.H.'s annual nominees for its "10 Worst Toys" list at a conference in Boston at The Franciscan Hospital for Children. Parents and caregivers need to know what dangers to look for when they purchase toys for children this holiday season and year-round. Unfortunately, there have been many deaths and injuries to children as a result of poorly designed and tested toys. Many of these injuries can be prevented with education about the dangers lurking in toy boxes. The recurrence of many known hazards in toys, as well as numerous recalls in the past year, are clearly suggestive of a broken system that needs fixing before more children are harmed. In the twelve month period since W.A.T.C.H.'s last "10 Worst Toys" conference, there have been at least sixteen (16) toy recalls representing four hundred ninety five thousand one hundred forty (495,140) units of dangerous toys in the United Sates and Canada polluting the marketplace. W.A.T.C.H.'s "10 Worst Toys" list, a hands-on tool for consumers, raises awareness of the different types of hazards to avoid while toy shopping. One focus of this year's conference will be on the safety hazards to watch out for while making Internet purchases.
SAFETY HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH INTERNET PURCHASES INCLUDE INCONSISTENT WARNINGS AND AGE RECOMMENDATIONS
In 2012, nearly half (47.3%) of consumers plan to look for holiday gifts on-line . While such purchase methods make toy shopping convenient and more efficient, Internet toy shoppers are often provided with less product information prior to purchase. Many of the toys displayed and available for purchase on-line, for example, have retailer warnings and age recommendations that are inconsistent with those supplied by manufacturers. In some cases, the warnings may be omitted from the Internet description completely. Such omissions and inconsistencies regarding important safety information can lead to misinformed, and potentially dangerous, consumer purchases. Consumers buying toys on the Internet are already at a disadvantage not being able to touch and physically inspect a toy and its packaging for more obvious hazards. Without important safety information, an on-line toy shopper may not know hazards of a purchase at the time of sale.
BUYERS BEWARE— CLASSIC TOY HAZARDS REAPPEAR THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, SERIOUS INJURIES CAN RESULT
While there has been recent increased focus on toy safety by the government, dangerous toys are not a new problem. For four decades, W.A.T.C.H. has identified toys defectively designed or manufactured that could lead to serious injuries or death. Despite these efforts, there remain an alarming number of dangerous toys on retail shelves. In the United States, over three billion toys and games are sold each year. The CPSC reported that in 2010 alone, there were at least seventeen (17) toy-related deaths to children under 15 years old, and an estimated two hundred fifty one thousand seven hundred (251,700) toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. There is no excuse for manufacturing a toy that can kill a child since toys are embellishments of life, not necessities. Consumers have a right to expect the toys they select for their children are designed with safety as a priority.
Continued vigilance is needed to protect against enduring toy hazards that could lead to serious injury or death. Awareness of classic toy dangers that reappear year after year, such as, small parts, strings, projectiles, rigid materials and other defects, that lead to choking, impact injuries, strangulation, burns, impalement, lacerations, and puncture injuries, can save lives. Small parts on toys have been a perpetual, often deadly, and shockingly overlooked hazard. There remain an alarming number of toys on toy store shelves with easily detachable small parts or affixed small parts that can be aspirated, ingested, or occlude a child's airway. Young oral age children are at risk when they are able to break off pieces of shoddily made or inadequately designed toys. These classic hidden hazards, which have led to many incidents of deaths and brain damage, can still be found in newly designed toys. The seven (7) toys posing a choking risk recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the preceding twelve months, representing approximately four hundred thirty seven one hundred fifty (437,150) defective units in the United States and Canada, highlight the continued problem of small parts reaching the marketplace.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE - SAFE DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE
The best weapon in the fight to prevent injuries to children continues to be safely designed and manufactured products. The burden must be on manufacturers and retailers, not consumers, to identify the known hazards before their products enter the channels of commerce. There is a dangerous assumption among toy shoppers that all toys purchased from big-name manufacturers and retailers, such as Hasbro and Toys R Us, are not dangerous. In fact, seeing a familiar name on a package can lead to a false sense of security that the toy enclosed is safe. While proper labeling, regulations and recalls are important for toy safety, toy manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure safe products reach the marketplace. Certain toys on toy store shelves may be in compliance with industry or regulatory standards, but are clearly dangerous, proving the gross inadequacy of existing standards. For instance, toys with parts that can detach and become lodged in a child's throat are often not considered "small parts" by the industry. Moreover, recalls are reactive, not proactive. Unfortunately, many consumers never receive notice of toy recalls and may not know that a dangerous toy sits like a time bomb in their child's toy box. Many of the toys recalled in the last year are evidence of substandard manufacturing practices, as well as inadequate premarket testing, that put children at risk of serious injury or death.
NOMINEES FOR THE "10 WORST TOYS" LIST ILLUSTRATE HAZARDS
The "10 Worst Toys" list is one of the ways W.A.T.C.H. continues the fight to protect children from unsafe toys against a 20 billion dollar a year toy and game industry . Protecting children will, however, take more than a list of illustrative harmful toys. Safety for children in the year 2012 and beyond will only occur when preventing injuries caused by unsafe toys becomes the number one priority for the toy industry and the government regulatory agencies.
Attorney James Swartz detailed the potential hazards found in this year's nominees for the "10 Worst Toys" list. The list exposes toy hazards seen year after year, despite continued efforts to educate and inform the industry. Swartz stressed that "these particular toys are illustrative of some hazards in toys being sold to consumers, and should not be considered as the only potentially hazardous toys on the market." View Nominees for the year 2012.
i James A. Swartz is a nationally known trial attorney, consumer advocate, and a Director of W.A.T.C.H. His law practice at Swartz & Swartz includes many well-known cases involving product liability injuries. Attorney Swartz has authored book chapters relating to child and product safety, including “Hazardous Playthings Causing Injury to Children”, Children and Injuries (Lawyers & Judges Pub. Co., Inc.); and “The Common Law in the New Millennium-Protecting Our Children”, Civil Trial Practice-Winning Techniques of Successful Trial Attorneys, (Lawyers & Judges Pub. Co., Inc.), as well as numerous articles. Mr. Swartz earned his J.D. at Georgetown University Law Center. He is a member of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, serving as Massachusetts State Coordinator; The Massachusetts Bar Association; The Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys; The American Bar Association; and The Boston Bar Association, among many other associations. James Swartz has appeared on such national television programs including as "Take It Personally" on CNN, "Newsfront" on MSNBC, "Legal Cafe" on COURT TV, "Crook and Chase" on the Nashville Network (TNN), interview on BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS television network, and in news reports on CNN, and other national news networks.
ii Joan E. Siff, President of W.A.T.C.H., began presenting the “Ten Worst Toys” list with Attorney Edward M. Swartz (1934-2010) on behalf of W.A.T.C.H. in 1991. She earned her J.D. and Masters in Mass Communication from Boston University. After serving as an Assistant District Attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Norfolk County, Ms. Siff practiced product liability litigation. Ms. Siff is admitted to the bars in Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia. Ms. Siff is the author of "Toy Regulation Still Lagging In Protecting Children," which was published in the Leader's Product Liability, Law and Strategy in December of 1992. She serves on several non-profit boards relating to children’s causes and has given numerous media interviews on the prevention of harm to children.
iii National Retail Federation (NRF)
iv Research and Markets