Parents and grandparents lived a difficult life in trying times. You may have heard of the death-defying long walks to school, uphill, in two feet of snow. But their hardship didn’t end there. Some of the dangerous toys that came in prettily wrapped packages under the Christmas tree were downright deadly!
Santa brings toys for all the good boys and girls. Whether you believe in Santa or not, the magic of the season affects everyone. Watching the face of a child light up when they open a gift and see the one thing they have wanted all year is priceless. But what if the toys your child wants most are dangerous? Parents have had to deal with that problem over the years. While quality assurance is better these days, some dangerous toys still make their way into the stores. We explored some toys that have been marked “unsafe” and have listed our all-time favorites.
1. Javelin Darts (aka Lawn Darts or Jarts)
Lawn Darts were a favorite when they first arrived in 1970. Families bought these sets for picnics and backyard play. The darts were pulled off the market in 1988 due to more than 6,100 recorded emergency room visits. There were also two reported deaths from these dangerous toys. You can buy modified Lawn Jarts, which are similar, but have a round, weighted tip rather than the sharp pointy dart on the original toy. You might still be able to purchase vintage lawn dart sets, but we aren’t sure about the legalities of that.
2. The SnackTime Cabbage Patch Kid
While adorable, the mechanical jaw on this doll was not discriminatory. It didn’t mind if it was eating the supplied plastic food or a child’s hair or fingers. After several mishaps, this cannibalistic little munchkin was removed from store shelves. The SnackTime Cabbage Patch Kid was officially banned as a dangerous toy in 1997. Although you might still find this doll in a vintage store or on eBay, please don’t feed it.
3. Flubber by Hasbro
Buckle up, this one is a bouncy ride! Flubber first hit the toy market in the early 1960s. It was a gooey, slimy, lump of something that was originally made to compete with Silly Putty. Modeled after the marvelous invention portrayed in the Disney film “The Absent-Minded Professor,” this product sold well. The downfall of Flubber began with more than 1,600 rashes and sore throats allegedly tied to the product. Hasbro did a voluntary recall following an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There were TONS of recalled Flubber. There was no Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the time. There are many rumors about how Hasbro attempted to rid themselves of the burden of tons of recalled Flubber. They reportedly attempted to drop the dangerous toys into the depths of the ocean. Flubber floats. There is no evidence of this, but it does paint a hilarious picture! They tried to burn it but did nothing more than produce plumes of black smoke. Flubber doesn’t burn. There also is no evidence of this attempt at disposal.
The final rumor about the disposal of Flubber is that the goo was buried behind a new warehouse, under what later became a paved parking lot. Variations of this rumor claim that the substance is buried under Delta Drive in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Associated rumors include the periodic resurfacing of Flubber as it “bubbles to the surface.” Former Hasbro CEO Alfred Verrecchia, confirms the Delta Drive burial story but denies that the dangerous toy bubbles up from time to time. However, it should be noted that Verrecchia was known to have a great sense of humor and was not at the Hasbro helm during Flubber-gate.
4. Belt Buckle Derringer Toy Gun
This is exactly what it sounds like. The belt buckle design included a small Derringer cap pistol that swung out and could be removed. The problem arose when the mechanism to swing the cap gun out was released by normal movement. The cap gun could then “fire.” Cap guns were very popular and considered (mostly) harmless at the time (in the 1950s). However, this little gun was situated a bit too close to delicate parts of a child’s anatomy. The burns and projectile damage resulting from misfires with the cap gun still attached to the buckle… well… you get the picture.
5. Hasbro Easy Bake Oven, Circa 2007
Early versions of the Easy Bake Oven were pulled due to the high-wattage light bulb used in the “oven” to bake little cakes and brownies. The bulbs were replaced and the cooking times were adjusted to allow the use of a lower-wattage, safer bulb. There weren’t too many design changes in the oven itself. However, in the 2007 model, a change was made to the door assembly where the little pans slide into the oven. Rather than using the included utensil to slide the pans into the oven, kids were pushing the cold pans in with their bare hands. And their hands were getting stuck, making this a dangerous toy. The low-wattage bulb still produced enough heat to toast little fingers.
After several mishaps, the item was recalled by Hasbro and a retrofit kit was made available for those consumers not wanting to purchase a whole new oven. My daughter had this exact model and we never had a problem. She also never used the oven without hands-on adult supervision. We did install the retrofit kit and I don’t think she ever touched it after that. Such is life.
6. CSI Fingerprint Analysis Kit
TV shows like CSI, CSI Miami, Bones, and others made their debut in the 2000s. With that came an interest in becoming a Crime Scene Investigator. In 2007, the CSI Fingerprint Analysis Kit made its debut catering to the demand for interactive toys. Unfortunately, the powder sold with the kit contained varying levels of asbestos, with some registering as high as 7%! Asbestos is known to cause cancer many years after exposure, so this dangerous toy was yanked from store shelves in 2009.
7. Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab
We saved the best for last. More accurately, the most deadly of all the dangerous toys ever sold. The Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab was a phenomenal junior lab set for a curious child when it came out in the 1950s. It sold with a junior Geiger counter and a set of interesting books on how to prospect for Uranium and how atoms are split. There was also a small sample of “radioactive ores” included in the set. Yes, you read that correctly. The kit was sold with Uranium 238, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years!
Did the manufacturers know about the dangers of Uranium? They should have. As early as the late 1800s Uranium minors were displaying elevated risk of cancers. Radiation was suspected as the leading cause by the 1930s. By 1951, scientists knew that Uranium was deadly. This toy should never have been seen on the shelf in a toy store, but it was, and your grandparents might have played with it!
We hope you enjoyed this journey into the past. While dangerous toys will periodically surface, we think toy manufacturers have a better concept of safety now. Let us know if your parents remember any of these toys from their childhood!
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