As a parent, we only want the best for our children – from their milk to their clothes and even their toys. This is why we give them high-quality toys that could help them in their learning and development, or in my case, are similar to the cool toys I had in the 90s.
Living in the 2020s where technology has become far more interesting to kids than the typical plastic and wooden toys we all grew up with. Safety standards today have come a long way and toys are now far more boring and simple than in the 80s and 90s and even earlier when everyone was competing for the best gimmicks and features.
Over the years, a lot of toys have been recalled due to their poor design and/or functionality. Some of them were inappropriate, made in bad taste, could hurt children, and in some cases, led to serious injury and even death. There were even toys that were radioactive and toxic.
In this article, I’m going to try to list as many of the crazy children’s toys that got banned and recalled over the years.
Recalled Science-based and Educational Children’s Toys
The idea of introducing science-based toys to children is certainly praiseworthy. However, some of them just didn’t work out as you’d see with our list below. They are dangerous, considered hazardous, and pose health risks to children.
1. Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
While it wasn’t the first, the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab was certainly the most elaborate educational set. It included four jars of actual URANIUM – which is a highly radioactive element that is used to power atomic bombs. But to be fair with the company, they did add a warning in their kit. It said:
“Users should not take ore samples out of their jars, for they tend to flake and crumble and you would run the risk of having radioactive ore spread out in your laboratory.” They also guaranteed parents that it was perfectly “Safe!” for children. But with anything radioactive in it, we highly doubt that.
Other than the uranium, the Atomic Energy Lab had a beta, gamma, and beta-alpha radiation sources. It also contains a spinthariscope which is used to watch atoms decay, a cloud chamber, a Geiger counter, and an electroscope. Unfortunately for the company, the toy didn’t last long in the market. From 1950 to 1951, it only sold less than 5,000 kits. This may have been because of its highly expensive price tag. It used to cost $49.50 a set or $400 to $500 when adjusted to today’s dollars.
While this toy may never be played by kids again, it has made quite a reputation for toy collectors and enthusiasts. Nowadays, it can cost as much as $1,750 to $2,000 for a set.
2. CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit
Here’s a toy based on the CBS hit crime show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It encouraged children to act as detectives and investigators, providing them with special brushes and powder to look for fingerprints. However, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) conducted tests in 2007 which showed the white fingerprint powder to contain tremolite – one of the deadliest types of asbestos.
So in the same year, the toy was deemed hazardous and the company behind it, Planet Toys Inc., sent out a “Stop Sale” notice. But the case was only settled in 2009 when the toys were finally recalled.
3. Professor Wacko’s Exothermic Exuberance
This is another chemistry set that was designed to inspire kids to get into science. It was intended to teach children about heat and fire which are generated through chemical reactions. The toy included two bottles of potassium permanganate and glycerine. These bottles were too identical that it was easy for anyone to accidentally switch the bottle caps – that could result in unexpected fires.
This toy caused several incidents, including two house fires. The kit also didn’t have enough warnings and directions for safe use. That said, the Wild Goose Company voluntarily recalled about 5,100 Exothermic Exuberance chemistry kits in 1994.
Recalled Creative Children’s Toys
Some of the most popular types of toys are designed to improve a child’s creativity. However, these types of toys have also caused the most incidents among children. Here are just some of the creative toys that were recalled in the past years.
1. Magnetix Magnet Building Set
The Magnetix Magnet Building Set was a popular toy during the mid-2000s. However, they quickly became a parent’s worst nightmare with their children swallowing the small and powerful magnetic balls. This toy was reported to cause one aspiration, 27 intestinal injuries, and one death in children.
There were thousands of reports about the tiny magnets falling out from its plastic pieces. If one or more of these magnets were ingested, they can attract inside the body. This causes infection, gastrointestinal damage, and potentially fatal injuries. Because of the outrage and complaints from parents, the manufacturer finally recalled the Magnetix Magnet Building Set in 2006.
But even with the recall in 2006, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) continued to receive reports of serious injuries from the Magnetix Magnetic Set. So in 2007, an expanded recall of the toy was announced.
While never really marketed for children, kids still found a way to play with Buckyballs. And we already know what happens with small powerful magnets when in the hands of children, right? This toy got 1,700 children sent to the ER, which of course, caused the CPSC to recall it in 2012.
3. Aqua Dots
Aqua Dots, which are known and sold in Australia as “Bindeez”, is a toy that allowed kids to create their 3D designs. Children only needed to arrange the small beads, spray them with water, and it will all fuse. Pretty simple, right?
The problem was that when ingested, the adhesive coating releases the GHB compound which you probably know better as the date rape drug. Since these were small objects, several children were reported to have swallowed the beads. In particular, there were two cases in the United States and three in Australia. These children suffered from vomiting, dizziness, and even slipped into a coma for as long as 5 days. Due to this, the CPSC recalled the Aqua Dots toys in 2007.
4. Creepy Crawlers’ Thingmaker
Mattel launched the Creepy Crawlers’ Thingmaker for kids who were into creepier things like insects and crawlers in 1964. This toy came in with an oven, metal mold, and chemical gel called “Plastigoop” that allowed children to “bake” their wiggly crawlers.
The oven can heat up to 199-degrees Celsius which caused a lot of children to burn their fingers on the hot plate. As if that’s not enough danger, this process produced toxic fumes that can make kids sick. Plus, the metal trays were also causing scalding.
5. Hasbro Easy-Bake Oven
Easy-bake ovens were seemingly the perfect toys for kids who wanted to be creative and bake cupcakes. But when Hasbro started making their version in 2006, they changed their design and altered it to be loaded through the front just like how regular ovens are. However, this allowed kids to stick their hands inside.
This resulted in a lot of children burning their fingers. There was even one case when the child’s finger needed to be amputated. In 2007, Hasbro recalled their Easy-Bake Oven twice. But after more incidents, the company had to cancel the production of the toy.
The company did, however, release a newer version that used an electric heating element instead of the usual light bulb.
Doll Toys that Got Recalled and Banned
Now let’s move on to the other popular types of toys: dolls and action figures. A lot of these types of toys were recalled but we’ll focus more on the most famous ones.
1. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Doll
Toy doll makers are always on the move to create a doll that’s as real as possible. Some dolls could talk, drink, and even pee. But with the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Doll, Mattel took it to the next level and made their dolls eat.
This Mattel toy set came with plastic food that a child can use to feed the doll. However, what the manufacturer failed to see was that its mechanical jaws were too powerful that it can suck anything that came close to it.
The Cabbage Patch Doll was chomping down on children’s fingers, hand, and hair. This resulted in many injuries and complaints from parents. Thus, Mattel offered a cash refund of $40 to the doll owners. The company still tried to sell these dolls by putting a warning sign in front. But in January 1997, the feeding frenzy was finally ended when the CPSC announced that the company shall pull out the dolls from the shelves.
2. Barbie and Tanner
Here’s another toy that’s recalled due to its faulty magnet design. In particular, the Barbie and Tanner playset included a “scooper” accessory which had a magnetic end. This small magnet was reported to come loose, which small children can swallow. And since magnets can attract each other and cause blockage in the intestines, this toy was deemed hazardous. As a result, Mattel voluntarily announced a recall in 2007.
3. Polly Pockets with Quick Clik
Yet again, faulty magnets caused this toy to get recalled and pulled out from shelves. The Polly Pockets with Quick Clik had clothes that are equipped with small magnets to help it snap on the doll. However, this magnet could easily fall out and cause serious harm to young children. There were three reports of kids who ingested more than one magnet and all three required surgery. This made Mattel recall about 7.3 million of these playsets in November 2006 and again in 2007.
4. Marvel Toy Biz 1999 Punisher Shapeshifter
In 1998, Marvel Toy Biz released the deluxe shapeshifter set featuring Wolverine, Iron Man, Juggernaut, Lizard, and many others. The following year, they released the Punisher which is also known today as the “Crotch Rocket Punisher.” Why?
Well, this toy can transform from an action figure to a power pistol. However, parents were quick to realize that in the gun mode, the Punisher’s canon seemed like it came from his butt. Of course, it didn’t take a while until the kids figured out that when you position the pistol in a certain way, you’ll have a crotch rocket.
Parents deemed the toy as too inappropriate, especially since it was targeted for children. This caused the product to be pulled out from stores. Today, the 1999 Punisher Shapeshifter can cost around $200 in the box.
5. Disney Tarzan Rad Repeatin’ Doll
In 1999, Mattel released an inappropriate doll too with their Tarzan Rad Repeatin’ Doll. This toy had two features, making a jungle call sound and moving his arm up and down. In its original packaging, shoppers can see these features for themselves before making a purchase. However, people quickly noticed that when they move Tarzan’s arm to a lower position, he looked like he was masturbating.
Sure, Mattel’s spokesperson was correct when she said adults can see things differently and that kids are more innocent. But can you just imagine being a parent and seeing your kid play with it every day?
The company then followed the customer’s feedbacks and changed the doll’s packaging, making sure that its arms couldn’t drop below the waist.
6. Sky Dancers Flying Dolls
Do you remember the flying fairy dolls that had wing-covered arms and base launcher? At first, it was a perfect idea. The kids simply had to pull the cord and the doll will fly. But soon, everyone realized how dangerous it was especially with the children. It often launched itself right into the kids, causing reports of broken teeth, serious cuts, eye injuries, mild concussions, a broken rib, and even lacerations in the face that required stitches.
Considering all these injuries, Galoob Toys Inc. announced to recall these Sky Dancers Flying Dolls in 2000. That’s 8.9 million dolls pulled out from the shelves!
7. Django Unchained
The action figures based on Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Django Unchained” was pulled off from stores and has stopped production due to several protests. Many people deemed the dolls inappropriate and offensive to the African American community. While this isn’t a doll for kids, we believe it’s still worth mentioning especially since their prices reached up to $5,000 after they were announced to be removed.
Recalled and Banned Toys for Physical Activity and Dexterity
There are also quite a lot of toys for physical activity and dexterity that were recalled. Here are just some of them:
Jarts, also known as lawn darts, were all the craze in the 1980s. Jarts are weighted darts with metal spikes at the bottom. These spikes ensure that they will stick where they landed, hopefully inside the target hoop which is included in the set. While it may sound harmless, one piece of Jart can pierce through a person’s skull when thrown with enough force.
This toy caused around 6,000 reported injuries and four deaths, three of them were children. It was so dangerous that the US and Canada government banned them in 1988 and recommended for existing sets to be destroyed.
2. Austin Magic Pistol
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, guns were popular toys for kids. So manufacturers had to come up with unique ideas to make their products stand out. Thus, the Austin Magic Pistol was created.
This toy gun creates an explosive reaction by mixing real Calcium Carbide with water. So it can launch ping-pong balls from 70 feet or more at an alarmingly high speed. Thus, needless to say, it caused a lot of fireball-related injuries which resulted in the item being quickly taken off the shelves.
Today, the Austin Magic Pistol has become quite a highly sought after toy for collectors.
3. Fidget Spinners
Fidget spinners were the top toys in 2017, claiming a lot of development and calming benefits. It was so popular that every kid had one. However, it was found out that children can remove metal bearings and swallow them. There were two reports regarding such incident and as if that’s not enough, many of the fidget spinners showed to contain high levels of lead. Thus, Target pulled out some fidget spinners off their shelves in 2017.
Long ago, slingshots were considered classic and popular toys for children. But with injuries and reports of broken teeth and blinding, we have to agree that some things are just better left in the past. CPSC seems to agree with this too as they recalled more than 100,000 slingshots in 2006.
5. Super Jumper Trampolines
Here’s a more recent case of toys being recalled. In 2019, the CPSC posted a notice on their website about recalling 23,000 Super Jumper Trampolines for “posing fall and injury hazards”. There were 97 reports about the trampoline’s metal railing welds breaking and four people suffering minor injuries.
This isn’t a surprise as we know that trampolines are the most dangerous toy ever made. To give you an idea, 11 deaths related to trampolines were recorded between 1990 and 1999. There are also 90,000 people sent to the hospital every year due to trampolines. And since its release, the toy had sent more than 1 million people in the ER.
Trampolines are known to cause collisions, falls, and most of all, improper landings – which then can lead to concussions, broken bones, paralysis, and sometimes even death. However, while trampolines are considered the most dangerous toys of all time, it’s still not banned.
6. Slip N Slides
Slip N’ Slides have become popular toys for kids who are looking for physical activities and just plain old fun under the sun. But unlike the other toys in this list, the Slip N Slides are ideal for children. However, it’s not recommended for adults or teenagers. The CPSC has reminded consumers to avoid backyard water slides. This is because an adult’s added height and weight can cause you to slide and stop too suddenly. This may then result in permanent spinal injuries.
Yes, this CAN happen. There are 7 adults and 1 teen who had already suffered paralysis and neck injuries because of these toys. These incidents also forced WHAM-O to recall 9 million of their slides in 1999.
Clackers, also known as Knockers or Click Clacks, have acrylic balls that were designed to get knocked together as hard as possible. These balls were proven to crack and shatter into tiny pieces – which could then hurt your child. After reports of injuries and a lot of shattered things, the toy was banned in 1985.
Recalled and Banned Electronic Toys
Do you remember the time when hoverboards were all the trend? There were all these videos with people riding on one and some were even falling off them. In 2015, everyone just seemed to have this new cool toy… Well, until they found out that it can catch fire.
There were several reports of these self-balancing scooters exploding that prompted city officials to ban the toy and retailers to pull them off the shelves. After a hundred reports of fire-related incidents, 10 companies were forced to recall more than 500,000 hoverboards.
2. Fisher-Price Power Wheels
Aside from hoverboards, here’s another popular explosive toy that you might have heard of. The Fisher-Price Power Wheels is a ride-on fully powered by batteries. In 1990, it was branded as a fire hazard due to incidents where 9 children were burned. Some units caught fire even when not in use. And after reporting 150 cases of fire and hundreds of melting and smoking parts, Fisher-Price had to recall 10 million kiddie cars and trucks.
Additionally, Fisher-Price also had to recall their Power Wheels Barbie Dream Camper in 2019 due to some reports of the toy continuing to run even without pressing on the foot pedal.
Now there you have it. These are just some of the most popular children’s (and some adult’s toys) that were recalled and banned due to poor design, functionality, and safety hazard. Hopefully, you can use these incidents as a reference for choosing the right toys for your child.