Most Dangerous Toys of All Time
Oktay Ortakcioglu/istockphoto
Most Dangerous Toys of All Time
Oktay Ortakcioglu/istockphoto


Though it's easy to assume kids' toys are vetted thoroughly before hitting the shelves, scores of toy-related injuries and deaths over the years have shown this isn't always the case. Some of these dangerous toys have been relegated to history, some have achieved fad status, some have been redesigned or banned, and still others are still available on the shelves today.

Kick Scooters
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Kick scooters may be one of the most ubiquitous toys on the market, but they're also one of the riskiest. They were behind a 40 percent rise in toy-related injury rates between 1990 and 2011, researchers have found. The most common injuries include arm or hand fractures and cuts as well as bruises, strains, and sprains, researchers with Johns Hopkins say. Scooters aren't disappearing anytime soon, so experts stress the need for kids to wear helmets, as well as knee and elbow pads while riding.

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Trendy hoverboards caught fire in 2015 -- literally. Reports of the self-balancing scooters exploding during use prompted bans from city officials and had retailers pulling them off shelves. Ultimately, 10 companies recalled more than 500,000 hoverboards after almost 100 reports of fire-related incidents. Regulations have since been strengthened to make hoverboards much safer, CNET reports.

Fisher Price Hot Wheels Trike
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Hoverboards aren't the only "explosive" toy in history: This popular Fisher-Price ride-on was also branded a fire hazard in the late 1990s, when nine children were burned. The company had to recall a whopping 10 million kiddie cars and trucks after 150 reports of fires and hundreds more of smoking or melting parts. Some of the toys caught fire even when they were sitting unused in garages and playrooms.

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These backyard favorites are a great way for kids to burn off some energy, but they caused nearly 289,000 hospital visits for broken bones from 2002 to 2011 -- and more than 1 million ER visits overall, researchers have found. What's more, home insurance companies may not cover trampoline-related injuries, only cover them after proper safety measures, or even drop a policy altogether if the holder owns one.

Lawn Darts
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Lawn darts, or "jarts," proved so dangerous that they were ultimately banned. Popular in the 1980s, these weighted darts had metal spikes that ensured they would stick in the ground where they landed, hopefully in a target hoop placed on the ground. But they could be thrown with enough force to pierce someone's skull, and ultimately were responsible for the deaths of three children. The federal government banned lawn darts at the end of 1988 and recommended that existing sets be destroyed.

Aqua Dots
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Beads that can stick together with water to create fanciful designs continue to be a popular craft toy. But one version, Spin Master's Aqua Dots, became infamous in 2007 after two children slipped into a coma shortly after swallowing the beads. Incredibly, the beads were coated with a chemical that converted into GHB, a date-rape drug. Spin Master later recalled 4.2 million Aqua Dots sets.

Easy Bake Oven
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This iconic Hasbro toy is still on the market, but about 1 million were recalled in 2007 after almost 250 reports of kids getting their fingers or hands stuck inside, with dozens of the incidents resulting in burns -- including one that required a partial finger amputation. The Easy Bake Oven now on the shelves has been redesigned significantly.

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Clackers, popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were a simple toy: Two heavy balls, typically made of hard acrylic, suspended from a string. Kids swung and "clacked" the balls together to make noise, sometimes with surprising style. But the clacker balls could become a projectile and the plastic could shatter and send jagged bits flying. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, charged with regulating toys at the time, stepped in in 1971 to require strict safety standards for subsequent versions of clackers.

Slap Bracelets
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Any child of the late 1980s or early 1990s remembers the slap-bracelet fad, and the bans enforced by schools after the sharp metal inside the bracelets starting cutting kids' tender skin. But slap bracelets never quite went away, and they never completely cleaned up their safety act. In 2012, Toysmith recalled a large batch because the metal was wearing through the fabric cover, exposing sharp edges that cut at least eight kids. Studio Fun recalled thousands more Troll-themed slap bracelets in 2017 for the same reason.

Mini Hammocks
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Mini hammocks are a curious product with an especially tragic story. These kid-size contraptions lacked the spreader bar that holds regular hammocks open, allowing them to twist around the necks of children who were climbing in or out. Between the mid-1980s and 1990s, at least a dozen children died after getting entangled. Ultimately, at least 10 manufacturers joined together to recall 3 million mini hammocks in 1996.

Toy Guns
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File this one under "dangerous, but still available." Airsoft guns and pellet guns are particularly risky, and researchers found a 500 percent rise in eye trauma caused by the toys between 2010 and 2012. Toy guns with foam darts and balls -- think Nerf blasters and the like -- are perennially popular, but experts stress that even those still pose a safety risk, and doctors have documented eye injuries in people who have been shot at close range.

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Kids love anything ooey and gooey, and homemade slime and store-bought compounds such as Silly Putty remain as popular as ever. But in the early 1960s, Hasbro released a product called Flubber, and the company was subsequently hit with thousands of reports of rashes and sore throats in kids who played with it. The company recalled Flubber and, in what has become a part of modern-day toy mythology, supposedly buried the excess product behind a warehouse because they couldn't burn it or sink it at sea.

Sky Dancers Flying Dolls
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It seemed like a clever idea: Sky Dancers, sold mostly in the latter half of the 1990s, were hard plastic dolls with wing-covered arms that sat in a molded base. When kids pulled a cord, their dolls launched and flew. Unfortunately, the dolls often launched themselves right into the kids themselves, and toy manufacturer Galoob received reports of eye injuries, broken teeth, serious cuts, and even a broken rib and a concussion. Nearly 9 million were finally recalled in 2000.

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Building sets with powerful magnets are always a welcome way to amp up a child's creativity. But in the case of certain Rose Art Magnetix sets, the magnets could become detached from the plastic building pieces. The magnets killed a 20-month-old after he ingested them and they clumped together in his small intestine, blocking it. Several other kids suffered serious injuries. There were thousands of reports of the magnets loosening from the plastic pieces, and the sets were recalled in 2006. (More recently, magnetic Buckyballs were recalled for similar reasons.)

CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit
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Would-be gumshoes were disappointed in late 2007 when Planet Toys requested that its CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit be yanked from the shelves. The reason? Lab tests by a nonprofit watchdog had showed that the fingerprint dust in the kit contained asbestos. The case ultimately touched off a nationwide class action alleging not only that the toy had asbestos, but tremolite, one of the most lethal kinds. The case was ultimately settled, finally triggering a recall in 2009.

Burger King Pokémon Balls
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At the end of 1999, kids who ate at Burger King got a seemingly innocuous toy with their kids' meals: a Pokémon ball that split like a clamshell to reveal a small Pokémon toy. A toddler and a baby suffocated when part of the plastic balls became suctioned to their faces, blocking their noses and mouths; a third child was saved by her father pulling the toy off her face. Burger King recalled 25 million of the balls and was later sued in at least one of the deaths.

Yo-Yo Water Balls
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The much-maligned yo-yo water ball, a squishy water-filled ball attached to a stretchy cord that bounces in a yo-yo motion, remains on the market. Some parents and officials crusaded for a ban in the early 2000s over concerns that the cord could pose a strangulation hazard, the liquid inside could be toxic, and the whole toy could be ultra-flammable. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission declined to recall or ban the toy, but some states and retailers did stop selling them. New toy standards also limit the cord to a shorter length, lessening strangulation risks.

Water Beads
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Tiny, colorful water beads are undeniably mesmerizing. Made of super-absorbent polymers, they grow and grow -- sometimes up to 200 times their original size -- when placed in water. Unfortunately, that means bad news for kids who ingest them. An 8-month-old even had surgery to remove a water ball that had expanded to block the intestines. Though some brands of water beads were recalled in late 2012, they're still on the shelves, mostly at craft stores and garden centers.

Aqua-Leisure Inflatable Baby Boats
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It's a nightmare scenario: Put a child in a pool float to keep them safe, only to see them vanish into the water anyway. Manufacturer Aqua-Leisure received a dozen reports of children slipping into the water after the leg strap or seat on its inflatable baby boats tore, touching off a recall in 2001. The company continued to churn out defective pool floats until 2009, when 4 million of the toys were recalled -- later paying a civil penalty for failure to disclose a product defect.

Fidget Spinner
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The astronomical popularity of fidget spinners undoubtedly earned the toy increased scrutiny, including a spot on a toy watchdog group's safety report. The main issue? Kids can pop the metal bearings out of the spinners and swallow them -- something that's happened at least twice. As if that's not enough, Target pulled some fidget spinners off the shelves in November because they contained "extremely high" levels of lead.

Slip 'N Slides
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Sliding down this summertime favorite is a tempting way to cool off when temperatures soar. The problem? Backyard water slides have also proven tempting for teens and adults, who are at greater risk for injury on backyard slides because of their weight and height. In 1993, the CPSC issued a formal warning against teens and adults using them, citing several cases of neck injuries or even paralysis.

Bounce Houses
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Inflatable bounce houses remain a backyard party staple, but they're also a magnet for injuries: more than 17,000 in 2013 alone, according to the CPSC. There have even been cases of improperly staked bounce houses flying away in the wind with children inside. Moreover, many states don't regulate them, and those that do often enforce regulations only haphazardly.

Kite Tubes
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Kite tubing -- essentially, a mashup of parasailing and water tubing -- was a short-lived sensation on the nation's lakes in the mid-2000s. Pulled fast enough by a boat, the kite tubes would go airborne. But kite tubes proved hard to use safely; at least three users died and dozens were seriously injured. Sportsstuff, one of the most prominent manufacturers, recalled about 19,000 Wego Kite Tubes in 2006.

Fisher-Price Toddler Trikes
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Fisher-Price earns its second spot on this list with another ride-on toy. More than 7 million of its ubiquitous plastic trikes were recalled in 2010 because of an unfortunately placed ignition key. The keys, which jutted out from the center of the trikes just above the seats, injured at least 10 kids seriously when they fell against them while riding. There were even some reports of genital bleeding. Subsequent trikes were designed with a flattened key that posed less of a risk.

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
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It's hard to say whether the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab hurt anyone, but it deserves a spot on this, if nothing else, to illustrate how far toys (and their regulation) have come. This early 1950s science kit implored children to perform "over 150 exciting experiments" with its Geiger counter, cloud chamber, spinthariscope ... and samples of real uranium ore. While it's safe to assume this kit probably wouldn't make it onto the shelves today, it probably wasn't all that dangerous after all, experts say.