A U.S. toy safety group released its annual "10 Worst Toys" list Tuesday, highlighting both hidden dangers like lead paint on a bathtub boat and more obvious hazards, such as a spinning plastic pirate's dagger.
World Against Toys Causing Harm has released the list around the holidays for 35 years, but this year it came amid a number of recent high-profile recalls, particularly of toys made in China.
Most recently, millions of the "Aqua Dots" toy beads were recalled and the Chinese government confirmed they contained a substance that can turn into a "date-rape" drug after ingestion.
Among the toys identified on the list as hazardous were Sticky Stones - magnetized stones that, if swallowed, could stick together inside a child's stomach - and the Rubber Band Shooter, which could cause eye injuries, according to the group.
One toy on the WATCH list, Go Diego Go Animal Rescue Boat by Mattel's Fisher Price, was recalled last month because it contained lead paint, but the rest are for sale.
WATCH officials said the list showed that the undermanned U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates the toy industry, does not do enough to ensure that toy makers sell safe toys and that the industry has failed to police itself.
"Why are toys being made with known toxins?" said attorney Joan Siff of WATCH. "The best interests of children need to be put before the best interests of toy companies."
Julie Vallese, spokeswoman for the U.S. safety commission, called WATCH's claims insulting, citing a 50 percent rise in the number of recalled toys this year - from 40 in 2006, to 61 in 2007 - that resulted from a commitment to tougher inspections
"Toys that are for sale right now have gone through more investigation and more scrutiny than any year past," Vallese said.
Joan Lawrence of the Toy Industry Association questioned the usefulness of WATCH's list, saying such lists often lack context about who the toy is aimed at and how it should be used.
For instance, "Jack Sparrow's Spinning Dagger," a toy from the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie trilogy, clearly is not right for small children, but is fine for older kids, Lawrence said.
"In general, the products are safe as intended to be used," she said.
WATCH, whose directors and founder are civil attorneys, does not conduct tests on the toys, but rather shops with an eye toward features such as small, detachable parts or hard, pointed edges it says are not safe.
Vallese said federal inspectors cannot inspect every toy, and clearly some present possible hazards. She said as inspectors look for problems, parents should be vigilant.
"There is a shared responsibility in making sure the toys that are being used are being used by the right aged child and have the proper supervision," she said.
The toys on the 2007 WATCH list and the companies that make them are: