Black Panther Slash Claws and Nerf Rapid Disc Shooter Among Group’s Picks for Worst Toys of 2018
Marvel Black Panther “slash claws,” a plush ceiling nightlight projector for babies, and a Nerf disc blaster made the list of the 10 worst toys of 2018 from the World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) group.
True, the Marvel-branded slash claws come with a “caution” label on the box that reads, “Do not hit or swing at people or animals,” but the product is advertised with the text, “Kids can imagine slashing into action like the warrior hero, Black Panther.” The recommended minimum age? 5 years old. Marvel, which licenses its product to many toy makers, didn’t immediately reply to a request from Fortune for comment.
And while a projector aimed at the “0+” crowd warns “product is not intended for crib,” it’s made of colorful plush with small parts that could be torn off—and carries a warning that “Battery acid leakage can cause personal injury.”
WATCH said that because an increasing percentage of holiday shopping takes place on line, parents don’t evaluate a product in person, and rely on representations and information at e-commerce sites. This can be problematic when product warnings and other data aren’t included. On Amazon’s page for the Black Panther claws, no warnings appear. On Target’s page, the only warning is about small parts making it unsuitable for kids under 3 years old, even though the age recommendation elsewhere on the page is for 5 years and older.
The nonprofit WATCH has presented a top 10 list annually since 1973 of toys that appear to have significant safety risks for intended age groups or any age to highlight the continued presence in toys of pieces, designs, or functions known to cause harm or even death.
The Toy Association, which represents many toy manufacturers, including most of those on this year’s list, also annually puts out a statement that said WATCH and other groups’ lists “are consistently riddled with inaccuracies and unnecessarily frighten families.” Though it didn’t mention WATCH by name, this year’s statement was issued the same day as WATCH’s press conference, Nov. 13.
The association points out that the incidence of injury in the U.S. is exceptionally low in absolute terms and compared with most of the rest of the world. It notes that 0.003% of 3 billion toys sold each year are recalled, and that such recalls have declined in recent years.
However, high volume means that low percentage still involves 240,000 toy-related injuries treated in hospital rooms in 2016 and reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), as well as 35 deaths from 2014 to 2016. The deaths largely involved scooters without motors and choking or asphyxiation from balloons. Millions of children’s toys have been recalled in recent years, but it’s impossible for retailers to contact all purchasers, meaning many remain in childrens’ hands.
The Toy Association on Nov. 7 released results of a survey that found parents failed to follow toy maker’s labeling and recommendations. The association said that 41% of parents don’t always check a toy’s age label before buying it, and 94% “still purchased a toy even when the age label indicated their child was too young to play with it.”
Besides the claws, sword, and projector, the WATCH list also inclues the Nerf Vortex VTX Praxis Blaster, which shoots up to 10 tiny plastic and foam discs in rapid succession (“Caution: Do not aim at eyes or face”); the Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket, marketed to ages 6 and up, which can launch a foam rocket up to 200 feet in the air (“Warning: To prevent serious eye or face injuries:…Do not aim at your eyes or face”); and Cutting Fruit, for 2 and up, which comes with a plastic knife that WATCH claims could cause puncture wounds, and which features no warnings about the knife.
The top 10 list is meant to focus media attention before Black Friday and the bulk of holiday shopping on risks, but it’s not intended to be definitive, the group said. Nor does WATCH test these products or nominate them as worst because of injuries that have already occurred.
Rather, the group’s president and its primary director look to CPSC reports on recalls, injuries, and deaths for guidance, as well as their extensive careers as product-liability litigators and authors on the specialized field of safety for kids’ products.