Unsafe toys that made the Christmas naughty list this year

Advocacy groups alert parents to dangerous playthings

01 December 2019 - 00:03 By ALEX PATRICK
A slime toy that looks edible can turn Christmas into a disaster.
A slime toy that looks edible can turn Christmas into a disaster.
Image: Supplied

Keeping little people happy is big business, with global toy sales reaching R1.3-trillion last year.

But each December, some of them find their way onto Santa's naughty list.

The World against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) organisation and the Public Interest Group Education Fund have released reports listing toys that should not be on store shelves this festive season.

Among those that got the thumbs down were an interactive doll with the potential to be hacked, toys that are poorly designed or could choke children, and ones that have insufficient warnings and inappropriate age recommendations.

Eight of the items on WATCH's Bad Toys list were available on local online platform Takealot.com. A day after the online shopping company declined to answer questions put to it by the Sunday Times, all but three of the items were withdrawn.

But experts also warned that the onus is on parents to ensure that the toys they buy are safe and age-appropriate.

WATCH's Bad Toys list includes:

• Dart guns, whose high-speed projectiles could cause eye injuries;

• The controversial Bunchems balls, which have made headlines overseas for getting caught in children's hair;

• A slime toy that looks edible and has food names, but has a label warning of harmful chemicals;

• Replica toy guns, which WATCH warns could be mistaken for lethal weaponry;

• Die-cast cars with removable rubber wheels that might be swallowed;

• Pogo trick boards, because some children depicted on the packaging are not wearing safety gear; and

• A toddler's toy with a long rope that could wrap around a child's neck.

But perhaps the strangest warning comes from the Public Interest Group Education Fund's Trouble in Toyland list, for "smart" toys such as the interactive My Friend Cayla doll.

The doll uses Bluetooth to listen to and talk back to children but it has been criticised for using an insecure network.

The Vivid Toy group, manufacturers of the doll, said in response to a BBC question in February 2017 that they will consider making the network more secure after admitting there had been incidents of hacking.

In 2017 a German regulator, the Federal Network Agency, asked parents who had bought the doll to destroy it as it violates privacy by recording conversations and transmitting audio files to a remote server without parental consent.

The doll is no longer sold through Vivid and the My Friend Cayla website and FaceBook page are inactive.

WATCH | German watchdog tells parents to destroy 'My Friend Cayla' doll over hacking fears

A popular slime toy containing high levels of boron (an element found in ant-killer borax), also got a no from Trouble in Toyland.


On the list is also the popular Nerf gun, the Nerf Ultra One.

This is despite the manufacturer Hasbro already having modified the older design for the Nerf Recon CS-6 Blaster, after a 2008 recall of 300,000 units following complaints that the gun left children with bruising, abrasions, pinch marks, blood blisters and welts.

This year the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town has treated 99 children for injuries caused by toys.

These included 23 children with minor to moderate injuries resulting from beads found on toys, and nine children from falling off mobile toys like rollerblades.

This year the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town has treated 99 children for injuries caused by toys

DSC personal injury attorneys MD Kirstie Haslam said the onus is on parents to scrutinise toys to ensure they are safe and age-appropriate for children.

"Warning labels do mitigate risk to a company, but they are only as good as the people paying attention to them.

"The difference in SA is that there is not enough legislation requiring compliance to safety standards and the safe manufacturing of articles for children," she said.

South African Bureau of Standards acting CEO Garth Strachan said the bureau develops voluntary national standards that can be referenced by regulators.

"Standards relating to the safety of toys have been developed, but these have not yet been referenced in legislation as compulsory," he said.

Child safety advocacy group Childsafe, part of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of SA, said it used four basic guidelines to help parents when choosing a toy:

• The smaller the child, the bigger the toy needs to be;

• No sharp or rough edges;

• Nontoxic and non-flammable surfaces;

• No cords, ropes, ribbons or strings on a toy for a young child.

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