POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Save the Children

by David Trumbull

March 7, 2008

Mr. Mainway, your company manufactures the following so-called harmless playthings: Pretty Peggy Ear-Piercing Set, Mr. Skin-Grafter, General Tron's Secret Police Confession Kit, and Doggie Dentist. And what about this innocent rubber doll, which you market under the name Johnny Switchblade? Press his head, and two sharp knives spring from his arms. Mr. Mainway, I'm afraid this is, by no means, a very safe toy.
--Saturday Night Live (Season Two, Episode 10)

Over the past several weeks I’ve touched a few times on the role of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety in protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $800 billion annually.

More than thirty years after that SNL sketch that first aired December 11, 1976, very unsafe toys are no longer a joking matter but a well-founded concern for American parents. Just in the month of February the CPSC announced product recalls affecting the following popular toys—

  • Magnetic dart boards from China
  • Children’s metal necklaces from China
  • Spiderman water bottles from China
  • Cinderella battery-powered toy cars from China
  • Girl's bracelet sets from China
  • Remote-controlled helicopter toys from China
  • Egg-shaker toy Instruments from China
  • Bikes from China and Taiwan
  • Children’s sketchbooks from China
  • Children’s toy gardening rakes from China

Oh, you readers from the Peoples’ Republics of Cambridge and Brookline (if I have any such) don’t be smug about your “educational toys.” Memory testing cards sold as part of educational testing kits (and made in China) were recalled for risk for lead poisoning.

The kids aren’t even safe sitting our lying down. Last months also saw recalls of unsafe baby cribs from China and Indonesia and children's chairs made in China. February—which appears to have been a fairly typical month for the discovery and recall of dangerous children’s products—also saw two recall notices regarding children’s sweat-shirts made in China.

My last column on this subject prompted a helpful response from one reader who commented:

“There ARE options to purchasing toys made in China. There are over 40 companies from all over the world. You get free, text messages on toy recalls. There is a solution at”