Dangerous Toys Lists – Are NGO’s Practicing Vigilante Justice?

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Its a vigilante raid where toy companies are hung without a trial.

Every year, like clockwork, NGO's release dangerous toy lists and I and a lot of you get aggravated. The lists are low on facts, high on self-righteousness and in general a danger to hard working toy people at the companies that are targeted.

W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) is an organization with a name right out of a Marvel Comic book. I am sure that on some level they mean well but their consistent disregard for facts and use of overly emotive rhetoric take what could be a service to children, parents and the toy industry and turn it into  a slapdash effort to score points with the media and raise funding for their organizations. Its a vigilante raid where toy companies are hung without a trial.

The Toy Industry Association has released a solid defense in a press release titled: "Don't Believe The Hype This Holiday Season – Toys Are Safe". You can read it in full by clicking here.

This year's list from W.A.T.C.H. is actually a little better than last year's list issued by P.I.R.G. (see my article from 2015, "Hypocrisy in NGOland; PIRG Must Do a Better Job". I believe it is due to some very strong push back from the Toy Industry Association in 2015  I would like to think some of my critical remarks made a difference as well. 

Is W.A.T.C.H. list an improvement? I'll let you decide. Here are the differences:

  • The title is different. Last year's PIRG list was called "Trouble in Toyland." This year's W.A.T.C.H. list is called  The "10 Worst Toys".  Is that an improvement? Well for me it seems to be a move from being ominous to being confusing.  But, what exactly does "10 Worst Toys" mean? Are they lacking in fun, lacking in value, bad looking? W.A.T.C.H., of course, means to imply that the toys are dangerous but what would the average person think seeing that title? I think very confused
  • The PIRG list included a large number of items that were not toys. They included backpacks, headbands and towels. This year's W.A.T.C.H. list is all toys except for one baby item. That's a step in the right direction.
  • The PIRG list claimed that the it tested the "dangerous" toys in a CPSC certified lab. That was proved not to be true. The W.A.T.C.H list, interestingly, makes no claims to have tested anything. Therefore, all of their opinions are subjective rather than pretend factual.
  • None of last year's list of products had been recalled by the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) before or after the PIRG report. This year, unfortunately, we again see that none of the toys included have been recalled. 

What is most conspicuous about these lists is its desire to remove any elements of fun that can come from any small percentage of risk. For example, W.A.T.C.H. cites a hollow plastic toy Warcraft hammer as dangerous because a child can get bopped. As someone who got bopped a lot of times as a child I can say that I am not concerned (unless that opinion comes as a result of having been bopped too many times).

Here is my statement to all NGO's.: "Work with the toy industry in making toys safer and stop shooting at us from the sidelines. We want safe toys too. You can make a real difference."     

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