Cheer or Fear?


Did Santa delight with the fun, safe playthings you expected, or are you suspicious that they’re actually a disguised death trap from the crotchety Christmas antagonist Belsnickel? The vintage death traps of Christmas past seem obviously dangerous to us now, but 2016 revealed that the hidden batteries and power sources of our swanky tech gifts are the unseen danger of Christmas present. You might find that the nostalgia of simple toys has you reconsidering this year’s hot tech in favor of vintage playthings of your past. But there’s a reason you can’t find original metal-tipped Lawn Darts anymore. Over 6,000 children were injured by Lawn Darts hurled through the air, so you’ll have to make do with the modern, plastic iteration. The hot gift of 1996 was the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid, a cabbage-headed doll with a mechanical mouth that would chomp when offered snacks. Content that it was already a cabbage anyway, the doll preferred childs’ fingers and toddler hair over cannibalization of the included plastic vegetables. In 2007, the CSI Fingerprint Kit made headlines as a safety fail when the powder used to test fingerprints was found to contain 5 percent asbestos. Naturally, lawsuits followed.

Burning ourselves on Easy Bake Ovens, shooting each other with BB guns, and blacking eyes with slingshots was practically a rite of passage and ripe with expected and obvious dangers tied to misuse that we or our parents chose to accept. However, the potential for danger and hazardous results in modern toys and gadgets is getting more difficult to evaluate as the technology is farther removed from our purview. BB guns may shoot your eye out, but today’s batteries and power sources explode, burn, melt, and corrode.

If you struck out with an exploding mobile phone or similarly blazing hoverboard in 2016, you probably saw more fear than cheer. And now it looks like you should probably put the e-cigs down, too, before an unintended pyrotechnics show blows a hole in your pocket. Batteries and power sources are an often ignored component of toys that can render serious damage when swallowed, pushed into bodily crevices, become damaged or when they overheat. Queue up this episode of “The Monster Inside Me” and you might be on the lookout for battery-free gifts next year.

Now that the gifts are unwrapped, keep an eye out for recalls and announcements made by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. As always, follow minimum age guidelines recommended on product labels and properly supervise children. Most importantly, enjoy this holiday season and relish the joy in giving to others.

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