Original Print Date: August 2014
It doesn’t take much imagination to see why steel missiles with weighted skewers could make for a dangerous toy. Originally designed to pierce lawns in a game similar to horseshoes, children found different ways to use the darts. After the deaths of at least three children lawn darts were banned by the CPSC. The agency also recommended the destruction of existing sets. But unless you’ve spent hours heaving these bad boys straight overhead and then running for dear life, you haven’t REALLY lived.
Sky Rangers Park Flyer Radio Control Airplanes (dang that’s a long title) were voluntarily recalled after 45 reports of exploding airplanes, 5 of which involved minor burns. Fun Fact: the actual Navy plane this is modeled after had almost a 90% mishap rate while in service. Maybe the makers of this toy were just trying to be realistic. Mind = Blown.
POWER WHEELS MOTORCYCLES
Fisher-Price recalled 218,000 Power Wheels Motorcycles after nine reports of injuries; the gas pedal would often get stuck in “go” mode, causing one child to drive himself into his house at full speed. Don’t worry, he was fine. In fact, he later grew up to jump the Grand Canyon.
Chinese-made Aqua Dots, small dots which were constructed to make colorful images, were recalled after the date rape drug GHB was found inside the product. There were reports of slowed breathing and heart rate and even coma in children who licked the dots. Don’t think too badly about the Chinese though. In China it’s used to increase male virility and a setting agent for concrete. Those Chinese sure are innovative.
The popularity of the Eas
y-Bake Oven, which uses a real heating element to actually bake dessert items, may have reached its apex in 2006. That year, it was voted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. But Hasbro, the makers of the Easy-Bake Oven, didn’t have long to celebrate. A year later they were forced to recall one million of their plastic models when it was discovered that a design flaw allowed the oven to easily trap and severely burn children’s tiny little fingers.
This is obviously a recipe for disaster, especially given that the ovens could reach temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius (400 °F). All told, nearly 250 incidents were reported, including 16 cases of second- or third-degree burns. One unlucky five-year-old girl was even forced to undergo a partial finger amputation. But I bet those were some damn delicious cookies.
GILBERT U-238 ATOMIC ENERGY LAB
Maybe you think it’s obvious that including uranium in a child’s toy isn’t an especially good idea. But apparently that never occurred to the makers of the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab. Described when it was sold in the early 1950s as “the most elaborate Atomic Energy educational set ever produced” it featured four Uranium bearing ore samples and a preformatted order form for more. Even in an age when science sets routinely came with substances like potassium nitrate (a component of gunpowder) and sodium ferrocyanide (these days classified as poison), the Atomic Energy Lab was po
sitively glowing with danger. We bet if they look back far enough they’ll see a bunch of these were sold to North Korea. Kim Jong Il was a curious and enterprising little scamp before sending an entire country into poverty.
THE AUSTIN MAGIC PISTOL
In the 1950’s, when BB guns weren’t considered particularly dangerous, it took something special for a gun to stand out. The Austin Magic Pistol managed to do that with its gas-powered combustion. The gun used what the manufacturer called “magic crystals” made from calcium carbide – a hazardous material. When mixed with water the crystals would explode and fire a plastic ball 70 feet or more. Automatic airsoft guns just don’t seem very epic anymore after reading this do they.
CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS “SNACKTIME” EDITION
The Cabbage Patch dolls were the must-have toy of their time, sparking department store fights and pulling in billions of dollars in sales. The Snacktime edition pulled in more than just money however, as its mechanical jaws tried to consume the fingers and hair of inquisitive and unlucky children. The Snacktime’s mechanism was a one-way battery-powered roller with no off switch. It was supposed to be activated by the accompanying snacks, but the little tykes made no distinction between “food” and fingers. The dolls were eventually pulled from the shelves… after the Christmas season. Because capitalism shows no mercy.
These single page pieces are always fun to do. They’re not deep or introspective or really do anything to further human knowledge. Usually they’re just stupid and funny. They give the reader what we hope is a fun break from the “deep” stuff to allow them a chuckle or to reminisce. EXPLORE is about “the story” but I think these pieces shed light on the personalities of the people behind the scenes. – Ben Weber