These Toys Were Banned For Being Seriously Dangerous
When purchasing toys for children, we tend to put our trust in the safety regulations that govern the industry. It’s fairly rare (although not unheard of) for toys nowadays to be deemed dangerous after they hit the shop shelves.
Still, that definitely hasn’t always been the case. All the children’s toys below had to be banned once it became clear they were likely to injure the kids who just wanted to play with them.
1. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid
The Snacktime Kid was released by Mattel in 1996, just in time for the Christmas season. The idea was that children would be able to feed the doll pretend food. Kids could feed their doll a variety of plastic snacks, which could then be removed from inside the doll and re-used again. One problem: the jaws on the toys were pretty powerful…
They’d only stop ‘chewing’ once they’d finished eating. So if a child happened to get their fingers or hair near the toy’s mouth, they’d struggle to get the doll to stop trying to ‘eat’ them. One parent even had to cut her daughter’s hair to free her from her Snacktime doll. In 1997 Mattel pulled the toy and offered a refund to anyone who had purchased one.
2. Rollerblade Barbie
Barbie is probably the most famous toy in the world, but some of her incarnations have been met with controversy – such as 1991’s Rollerblade Barbie. Rollerblade Barbie was unique for her flashing skates. While her skates flashed with harmless LED lights, they also literally fired out sparks when you rolled them over a flat surface.
Naturally, sparks + children = a bad combination. Parents expressed concern that their children were at risk of getting burned. Furthermore, some worried that the doll could potentially cause fires if the sparks got out of control. Unsurprisingly, Mattel quickly recalled the product before any children were seriously injured.
Heavy, metal darts with a rather sharp point at the end – what could possibly go wrong? Lots, as it happens. Before they were banned, there were over 6,100 reports of injuries from jarts – or ‘lawn darts’ – in the US alone. Tragically, in April 1987, seven-year-old girl Michelle Snow was killed when she was hit by a stray lawn dart.
Snow’s father was distraught and began to lobby for a ban on lawn darts, as he feared that it was only a matter of time before the same thing happened again. He wasn’t wrong – in 1988, an 11-year-old girl from Tennessee fell into a coma after a jart landed on her head. Luckily, she survived, but Snow succeeded in his lobbying and jarts were banned for good in 1988.
4. Sky Dancers
Sky Dancers were sold in several different colours and styles, including Mini-Sky Dancers and Fairy Flyers. The idea was simple: you’d pull a cord to make them spin up into the air, and they’d gracefully float back down to earth. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out that way. In their time, Sky Dancers resulted in over 100 reports of eye, teeth and facial injuries.
It turned out that the dolls were susceptible to firing off in random directions and it was very easy to accidentally launch them into peoples’ faces. The injuries reported ranged from temporary blindness to painful facial lacerations that required extensive stitches. After it became clear that the dolls weren’t safe, production was halted and an incredible 9 million of the toys were recalled by manufacturer Galoob.
5. CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit
Shockingly, the 2007 CBS-licensed toy CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit featured powder that contained 5% asbestos. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) filed a civil action back in 2008 once they were made aware of the danger. Tremolite asbestos – one of the most lethal forms of asbestos – was found in the toy’s ‘fingerprint dusting powder.’ Fortunately, no children or parents were harmed at the time thanks to the swift action of the ADAO.
“We were aghast to find asbestos in a children’s toy,” said ADAO Executive Director and co-founder Linda Reinstein at the time. “Even though the dangers of asbestos have been well-documented for more than 100 years, we’re still finding asbestos in common household products. That’s simply unacceptable.” The toy’s manufacturers were forced to stop production and sales of the kit immediately.
6. Easy-Bake Oven
In May 2006, Hasbro received a flurry of complaints following the new release of the Easy-Bake Oven. The toy manufacturer received reports of 29 children getting their hands or fingers stuck in the oven’s door. In addition, there were five reports of serious burns. To address the problem, Hasbro replaced the 2006 model with another model that included a plastic grate over the door.
Still, problems persisted. A further 249 reports were lodged, 77 of which concerned burns. Worse still, 16 of these were second-or-third-degree burns. One 5-year-old girl had to have part of her finger amputated because the damage caused by the oven burn was so severe. After Hasbro learned of this particular incident they issued a recall for a staggering 985,000 Easy-Bake Ovens.
7. Splash Off Water Rockets
While Splash Off Water Rockets initially seemed harmless, they actually injured a number of children following their release back in the late 90s. In some instances, the rockets broke apart while being filled up due to the water pressure. The toy’s manufacturer, Ohio Art Company, received 37 reports of the rockets breaking while being filled.
Many were injured as a result of this, with some injuries including hand, shoulder and forehead lacerations. The Ohio Art Company cooperated with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and went on to recall over 67,800 Splash Off Water Rockets. Who would have guessed that large rockets being sent sky-high due to an uncontainable build-up of internal pressure would have been dangerous?
Clackers were a popular toy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The premise was simple: you just had to knock the two plastic balls together as quickly as possible. As the balls were heavy and made of tough acrylic plastic, it quickly became apparent that the toy was something of a safety hazard. While it was fairly common to accidentally bruise oneself if your hand got in the way of an oncoming ball, that wasn’t the real danger with Clackers.
As kids moved the balls faster and faster they would occasionally shatter on impact, showering shards of plastic everywhere. Exploding Clackers posed a huge risk for blindness as it was very easy for the shrapnel-like plastic to fly into children’s eyes. You won’t be too surprised to hear that they caused a number of injuries before being finally banned in the US in 1985.
9. Atomic Energy Laboratory
In perhaps the most shocking example of a dangerous toy that we’ve ever come across, the Atomic Energy Lab was found to contain actual radioactive materials. The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory was a lab set released by the AC Gilbert Company in 1950. The set’s creator, Alfred Carlton Gilbert, had intended to create the kit so that children could create and watch chemical reactions and get inspired to pursue careers in science.
It’s fair to say that the product lived up to Gilbert’s desire to get children doing chemical experiments – but the kit had to be pulled in 1951 as it actually contained samples of the radioactive element uranium. Thankfully, the kit didn’t reach many children anyway – it was commercially unsuccessful and fewer than 5,000 kits were sold.
10. Aqua Dots
Aqua Dots – also known as Bindeez, Beados, Pixos, and Aquabeads – were a children’s toy from the early 2000s. Aqua Dots were essentially a bunch of small, coloured beads that could be used to create designs. However, it came to light in 2007 that one of the cheap chemicals used to make Aqua Dots broke down into GHB when ingested.
Several children in the US and Australia were taken to hospital for urgent care after ingesting a number of the beads. Some unlucky children suffered seizures, with two children in the US slipping into comas as a result of eating the beads. US officials recalled over 4 million of the toys, while manufacturer Spin Master was fined over $1 million.
11. Quik-Clik Polly Pocket
Toymakers Mattel had to recall over 4 million of their Quik-Clik Polly Pockets after it was found that the toy’s magnets were coming loose. Some of the magnets were being swallowed by young children, with the magnets potentially causing serious internal damage as they attracted each other once ingested. The Consumer Product Safety Commission received 170 reports of these small magnets coming loose from the dolls and accessories in the Polly Pocket sets.
The magnets were embedded in the feet of Polly Pocket dolls as well as on several accessories, so that the doll and her house could be customised. There were also instances of children inserted the magnets into their ears or noses, and even inhaling them in some cases. Three children were hospitalised and required surgery after swallowing these magnets and suffering intestinal perforations.
12. Barbie and Tanner
The Mattel Barbie and Tanner toy from 2006 was also cursed with faulty magnets that could come loose. The dog’s pooper-scooper contained a magnet that was prone to falling out and being swallowed by children. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, although there were three separate reports of the magnets coming loose.
Shortly after the reports were lodged, Mattel recalled all 683,000 units of the faulty toy in 2007. Customers were urged to send their Barbie and Tanner toys back to retailers and were offered a free toy as compensation. It’s lucky that no children were harmed, as swallowing magnets can, as proven by Quik-Clik Polly Pocket, cause serious internal injuries.
13. Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Game
You wouldn’t think that a card game could possibly be dangerous – but the Hannah Montana Pop Star Card Game from 2007 proved otherwise. After a whole host of toys were tested for lead levels in December 2007, it was discovered that the Hannah Montana Card Game was pumped full of lead. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no children’s toys contain over 40 parts per million lead…
…but lab tests revealed that the Hannah Montana Pop Star card game contained 75 times that level of lead. The game contained a staggering 3,000 parts per million. As a result of the tests, over 6 million toys had to be recalled. Other toys that exceeded the recommended levels of lead included a Go Diego Go! backpack and Circo brand shoes.
14. Yo-Yo Water Ball
Yo-Yo Water Balls (who knew that was their official name?) were a firm favourite among 90s kids. Unfortunately, these squishy balls were just as dangerous as they were surprisingly fun to play with. As it turns out, yo-yo water balls were a veritable death trap: They were made from a highly flammable material, the liquid inside the ball was toxic, while the toy’s stretchy cord posed a serious strangulation risk.
By December 2007, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission had received reports of 409 injuries. While the CPSC refused to ban the toys outright, they were subsequently banned in Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. The toy was also redesigned to limit the cord to a shorter length and reduce the risk of strangulation.
15. Slap bracelets
A simple but effective toy, slap bracelets were all the rage in school playgrounds in the 90s. The premise was simple – you would just slap the magnetic bracelet onto a friend’s wrist or your own. However, problems soon arose when cheaper, lower-quality slap bracelets that were prone to breaking hit the market.
Slap bracelets were all made of a flat strip of metal coated in a colourful fabric – but some of the cheaper knockoffs used poor quality fabric that the metal strip could rip through. One unlucky four-year-old girl cut her fingers on one of these knockoff bracelets, prompting several schools to ban them. Given the fact that these bracelets were being slapped around necks as well as wrists, banning them from playgrounds was probably a wise decision.
16. Aqua Leisure Inflatable Baby Boats
The Aqua Leisure Inflatable Baby Boat was essentially an inflatable boat that babies could sit in. While these looked adorable, in reality, they were actually rather dangerous and all too liable to break. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the boat’s leg straps were prone to snapping. The seat itself could also rip and in some cases send the baby straight down into the water.
Thankfully, no children actually drowned, although several were affected by the faulty boats and put at risk of drowning. Aqua Leisure were forced to recall over four million boats. Ultimately, the company was fined $650,000 by the CPSC in 2012, probably the biggest financial maritime disaster since that fateful day an iceberg collided with the Titanic, and it turned out all the lifeboats were Aqua Leisure Inflatable Baby Boats…
17. Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper
The Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper toy hit the shelves in 1978 following the TV premiere of Battlestar Galactica. Even though the original series was cancelled after just 24 episodes, the toys continued to fly off the shelves. However, tragedy struck in December 1978 when a four-year-old boy aimed the toy into his mouth and launched a missile down his throat.
Sadly, the young boy choked to death. The toy was subsequently pulled off shelves immediately. By March 1979, Mattel was embroiled in a lawsuit and a wider discussion had begun about toys that fired missiles, and this is the reason why most toys now come with a choking hazard warning. In fact, future versions of the toy were advertised specifically with a “pretend” laser torpedo that “will not leave toy,” assuring parents of its safety.
Any toy with small magnets is always risky, given children’s propensity to swallow virtually anything. Unfortunately, Magnetix – as the name suggests – completely centred around magnets, with kids using the magnet-filled plastic pieces to build structures with. The small magnets found in the toy’s plastic pieces could easily become detached and posed a serious choking hazard.
Tragically, Magnetix killed a 20-month-old baby after he swallowed a bunch of loose magnets that blocked his small intestine. Magnets are a particularly dangerous thing to swallow given the fact they will continue to attract each other once ingested. Several other children suffered serious injuries after swallowing magnets from Magnetix sets and the toys were eventually recalled in 2006.
19. Gilbert Glass Blowing Set
Glass blowing is a pretty cool skill to have – if you’ve learnt how to do it in a safe environment, that is. Glass blowing is also incredibly dangerous, involving as it does a person blowing into a wad of scorching hot molten glass. Glass has to be exceedingly hot before it reaches its ‘softening point’, which is around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that encouraging children to play with unbelievably hot glass isn’t the best idea. It’s no surprise that the Gilbert Glass Blowing Set was eventually taken off shelves for being too dangerous. It’s probably for the best, since the “instructive” fun that was promised wouldn’t have been helpful in today’s digital, non-glass-blowing job market.
20. Austin Magic Pistol
The toy gun market has always been pretty saturated, so manufacturers across time have had to think of new and interesting ways to get their product to stand out. The Austin Magic Pistol certainly stood out from other toy guns on the market back in the 1940s, but for all the wrong reasons. Namely, that it could probably be used as an actual weapon of war.
The pistol used ‘magic crystals’ – made from dangerous compound calcium carbide – that would explode when mixed with water. Using the force from the explosion, the gun would also powerfully launch plastic balls 70 feet or more. The Austin Magic Pistol was sold briefly in the late 1940s, but nowadays this ‘toy’ would probably be classified as a firearm. Original Austin Magic Pistols can fetch high prices at auction and are hugely collectible items.
21. Creepy Crawlers’ Thingmaker
Mattel launched the Creepy Crawlers’ Thingmaker – the perfect toy for kids who were into bugs and insects – way back in 1964. This toy came with an oven, a mould and a chemical gel called Plastigoop that allowed children to make casts of their favourite insects. While, in theory, this might sound like a great idea for a toy, the reality was not plain sailing.
For one, the oven could heat up to 199 degrees Celsius, which unsurprisingly resulted in a lot of reports of burns. On top of the blisteringly hot oven, the smoking Plastigoop produced toxic fumes that caused kids to fall ill. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the metal moulds caused many kids to scald or burn themselves. The toy was eventually taken off shelves. Mattel revised the product to make it safer before taking it to market again in the late 70s.
22. Fidget spinners
Fidget spinners were all the rage a few years ago, becoming immensely popular around the summer of 2017. The toys were not only fun, but also claimed to be a good stress-reliever for those suffering from autism, ADHD or anxiety. However, some kids found that they were able to pop the metal bearings out of some of the more shoddily-made toys that aimed to capitalise on the trend.
Naturally, this posed a choking hazard, as well as further issues if the bearings were actually ingested. Between March 2017 and February 2018, ten children were treated for swallowing fidget spinner components. Many fidget spinners also contained dangerously high levels of lead, leading Target to pull the product from its shelves in November 2017.
23. Fisher-Price Power Wheels
Fisher-Price is one of the biggest and longest-standing toy manufacturers in the world – but that doesn’t mean the company has been free of controversy in its 90 years. The Fisher-Price Power Wheels brand name dates back to 1984, but demand for battery-powered vehicles for kids really took off in the 90s. Unfortunately, the company were forced to recall a number of these products.
The first major recall was in 1991 when it was discovered that contacts in the foot pedal of a kid-sized Porsche 911 could weld together and make it impossible to stop the vehicle. Then in 1998, Fisher-Price were forced to recall a staggering 10 million units after the vehicles were denounced as a fire hazard that threatened the lives of those in the driving seat.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission received 150 reports of fires caused by the toys – including fires that started while the toy was not even in use. Nine children suffered minor burns as a result of these faulty cars. The CPSC also received an additional 700 reports of electrical components overheating, smoking or melting.
Although there were a far cry from the ones we saw in Back to the Future Part II, hoverboards were all the rage a few years ago – but their time in the spotlight was extremely short-lived. Hoverboards just look dangerous – it doesn’t take a genius to see that a ‘self-balancing’ scooter would inevitably cause kids to hurt themselves. Funnily enough, though, there was no endemic issue with kids injuring themselves by falling off the boards.
Instead, problems arose when reports claiming that the boards were exploding during use began to flood in. It turned out that the lithium-ion battery packs in hoverboards were prone to overheating and posed a serious fire risk. Ten companies recalled more than 500,000 hoverboards after almost 100 reports of the boards catching fire.
25. Mini Hammocks
Mini hammocks seem like a good idea in principle – after all, what could go wrong with hammocks for kids? Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. The mini hammock turned out to be one of the deadliest kids’ toys of the 20th century. To accommodate smaller people, these kid-sized hammocks lacked the ‘spreader’ bar that normally holds adult-sized hammocks open. Without this bar, mini hammocks were prone to getting twisted and ensnaring young children climbing in or out.
Tragically, at least a dozen children died of strangulation between the 80s and 90s after getting entangled in these dangerous hammocks. Ten manufacturers joined together to recall 3 million mini hammocks in 1996. Parents were encouraged to destroy their hammocks if they were unable to return them for a refund.
26. Burger King Pokémon toys
Burger King began giving out a seemingly harmless Pokémon ball toy with their kids’ meals towards the end of 1999. Like a giant Kinder surprise, the Burger King Pokémon ball would open up to reveal a small plastic Pokémon toy inside. It wasn’t the toys themselves which posed a problem – instead, the issue lay with the balls that concealed the toys.
Tragically, a 13-month-old girl and 4-month-old boy both suffocated to death when one half of the plastic balls became suctioned onto their faces and rendered them unable to breathe.
Another young girl was almost killed in the same way, but was luckily saved when her father pulled the toy off her face. In one of the biggest product recalls in history, Burger King recalled 25 million of the balls. The fast food chain was also later sued by the parents of the 13-month-old girl who tragically died – the two parties went on to reach a monetary settlement out of court.
It’s clear that children should really be kept away from small magnets at all times due to the potentially life-threatening injuries that can occur if the balls are swallowed. While Buckyballs were never marketed as a children’s toy, that didn’t stop kids from getting their hands on these extremely powerful magnets.
The product launched in 2009 and, soon after, reports of children ingesting them began to flood in. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that 1,700 children visited the ER after swallowing powerful magnets like Buckyballs. A recall was eventually forced in 2012 and the Buckyballs manufacturing company was made to shell out $375,000 in refunds. “It’s unfortunate that it took two years to get to this point,” remarked Scott Wolfson, a spokesperson for the CPSC, in a statement made back in 2012.
28. Kite Tubes
Kite Tubes are another toy where it’s hard to see how people didn’t realise how dangerous they were before they went on sale. The basic idea was that you’d be lifted into the air by a 10-foot-wide tube that dragged behind a speedboat. However, once the user was in the air, there was unfortunately no real way to control the tube.
Nor was there any way to stop the user from suddenly falling back down into the sea at great speed. Tragically two people lost their lives after sustaining fatal injuries as a result of using these dangerous gizmos. There were, in addition, many reports of injuries resulting from use of the gadget. The manufacturing company, Sportsstuff, voluntarily recalled the tubes in 2006.
29. Sky Rangers Park Flyer Radio-Controlled Airplane
The Sky Rangers Park Flyer toy was meant to be a pretty bog-standard radio-controlled airplane. The premise was simple: turn the plane on, give it a gentle throw, then steer it through the air using the radio controller. However, the batteries the toy required were prone to exploding while the plane was in use, leading to spate of miniature Hindenbergs across America.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission documented 45 reports of exploding planes that resulted in injuries. These injuries included damage to the eyes, ears, hands, face and chest due to the shrapnel-like debris flying from the exploding planes. There were also reports of temporary hearing loss. Eventually, in 2007, the company behind the Sky Rangers plane recalled over 21,000 units.
Slime-based toys are a firm favourite amongst kids – and Hasbro’s 1960s creation Flubber (a tie-in with Disney movie The Absent-Minded Professor, later remade as Robin Williams movie Flubber) was no exception. However, the company was flooded with a deluge of complaints shortly after the product hit shelves. Around 1,600 of reports came in detailing cases of rashes or sore throats in kids who played with Flubber.
Hasbro voluntarily recalled the product and a subsequent FDA investigation quickly got to the root of the issue. It turned out that Flubber could cause folliculitis – essentially a painful inflammation of one or more hair follicles. Hasbro was unable to burn all the useless Flubber due to the toxic fumes it would exude – and so, allegedly, the company buried it all under a parking lot outside one of their warehouses in Rhode Island.