It's easy to take for granted that if something is available for purchase in the U.S., it's safe. Sadly, that's not always the case. When tragedies happen, it usually falls to government regulators to clean up the mess with recalls and new rules to help prevent future accidents. From dangerous cars and toys to food to baby gear, here are 15 times potentially deadly products had to be yanked off the market before anyone else got hurt.
Deaths:As many as 500
The Ford Pinto may be a punchline today, but the car was actually a top-seller in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, its poorly designed fuel system could cause the car to explode into flames during a rear-end collision, a scenario that played out all too often, leading to a number of deaths that's still under dispute, but could be as high as 500, according to Automotive News. Ford was forced to recall 1.5 million of the cars in 1978, and even faced criminal homicide charges the following year.
Fear gripped consumers after seven people living in the Chicago area suddenly died after taking Tylenol, which was later revealed to be laced with cyanide. Though a suspect was never charged, investigators believe someone took capsules directly from store shelves to tamper with them. Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson cooperated with investigators' warnings for consumers to stop taking Tylenol, and the case ultimately spurred federal guidelines to make similar products tamper-proof.
A 1985 outbreak of listeriosis rocked the Los Angeles area, killing 28 and likely causing 20 miscarriages in pregnant women. Investigators eventually traced the outbreak to listeria-tainted fresh cheeses made by Jalisco Mexican Products. A number of factors were likely at play, including shoddy pasteurization methods, an unsanitary plant, and the potential use of raw milk in products. The silver lining? Plenty of food-safety laws were strengthened after the outbreak.
This lawn-game relic turned lazy days in the yard into tragedies for several families during the 1980s. At least three kids died after being struck by the heavy metal darts, which also caused more than 600 injuries a year, according to the CPSC. Technically, there was no recall — the CPSC actually went straight to a ban after one grieving father pushed for a more thorough investigation of the game's dangers, Mental Floss reports.
At least a dozen children from ages 5 to 17 died after becoming entrapped in mini hammocks, a lightweight version of a regular hammock without spreader bars, in an 11-year span from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. Several manufacturers were involved in the CPSC-led recall, which ultimately covered at least 3 million of the mini hammocks.
In a joint move with Ford, Firestone recalled more than 14 million tires installed on Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, Ford Ranger pickups, and several other vehicles because of tire-tread separation that led drivers to lose control of their cars. The tires were ultimately blamed in 271 deaths and hundreds of injuries, and Firestone was forced to cough up $240 million in a settlement with Ford related to the recall.
Several manufacturers have been involved in major drop-side crib recalls over a span of several years, including big-name brands like Simmons, Delta, Evenflo, Simplicity, and Stork Craft. Ultimately, at least 9 million cribs were recalled because the drop-side rails could partially detach from the cribs, creating a gap that could trap a baby, potentially suffocating or strangling them. In 2010, after at least 32 confirmed deaths, the CPSC voted to ban the cribs altogether. Drop-side cribs aren't the only dangerous baby item out there, though — be sure to see whether any others are in your home.
Check your car in this ongoing recall: More than 37 vehicles have been recalled because they contain 50 million defective airbags manufactured by Japanese company Takata. And it's not over: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects more recalls will ultimately bring the total to as many as 70 million airbags. The main problem: The airbags can inflate too explosively, causing injury or death, and even hit the vehicle occupant with metal shards.
Toyota suffered a PR nightmare beginning in 2009 when it had to recall close to 4 million vehicles because floor mats could trap the accelerator pedal in the down position. But the following year, millions more Toyotas were recalled — this time, with faulty pedals, not floor mats, cited as the reason. It was later revealed that Toyota mislead customers and regulators during an investigation, and it had to cough up a hefty $1.2 billion Justice Department fine in 2014. The defects may have caused at least 89 deaths in 10 years, according to NHTSA.
Slings are a popular way for parents to cradle their small babies while keeping their hands free, but they're not without risks. At least three infants suffocated in Infantino SlingRider baby slings, leading to a recall of 1 million of the products in 2010. More deaths have been linked to other baby slings. Though parents can still buy slings, the CPSC recently approved new rules to make them safer, including more stringent warning labels and durability requirements.
In 2011, close to three dozen people lost their lives after eating cantaloupe tainted with Listeria, a foodborne bacteria, and more than 140 were hospitalized. An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the outbreak to a Colorado producer, Jensen Farms, triggering a massive recall. The incident remains one of the deadliest outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S.
In one of the most recent high-profile product recalls, Ikea recalled more than 17 million of its dressers, including the iconic Malm, because of tip-over risks. At least eight children have died when the Malm or other Ikea dressers fell on top of them; well over 100 injuries have also been reported. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has urged parents to anchor all dressers and other heavy items to the wall to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Got a Kidde fire extinguisher? Check it now. After one death and at least 16 injuries, the CPSC issued a recall in 2017 for a whopping 38 million Kidde fire extinguishers produced from 1973 through 2017. The problems are twofold: First, they can clog, which could leave you with a useless fire extinguisher in an emergency situation; second, the nozzles can rocket off of the extinguisher, becoming a potentially harmful projectile.
No one likes listening to a baby scream through the teething process, but a potential remedy was recently yanked from the market after officials linked it to the deaths of 10 children. The FDA warned that Hyland's homeopathic teething tablets contained inconsistent amounts of belladonna, an alkaloid that officials say can be potentially toxic to children. The product is no longer sold in the U.S.
If you need any proof that "organic" or "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "safe," consider kratom, an herbal supplement. The FDA has warned that kratom contains opioids, and those who use it risk "abuse, overdose, and in some cases, death." At least 44 deaths since 2011 are tied to kratom, according to the agency. And officials issued a mandatory recall for several kratom products manufactured by a Nevada company earlier this year after the company refused to cooperate with a voluntary recall. Samples had tested positive for salmonella.