It was 20 years ago that lawyer Edward Swartz began publishing his annual "10 Worst Toys" list, earning him an array of titles, ranging from "The Nader of the Nursery" from safe-toy advocates to the "Christmas Grinch" from the toy industry.
Yesterday, Swartz released his latest Worst Toy list, giving supporters more cause for admiration and detractors a reason to grimace.
The 1991 list offers up a variety of what Swartz would consider dangerous toys, from those that present obvious perils -- a slingshot, for example -- to more seemingly innocuous toys, such as a Sony Walkman for kids with no control on how loud it can be played.
"There's always 10 toys on the list but there's far more that are dangerous," said Swartz. "The toys on the list are meant to be examples of other toys with similar hazards and to point out the broad categories of these hazards."
This year's list is topped with a wolverine dress-up play set with "flexi-claw glove" manufactured by Toy Biz Inc. The rigid plastic clenched fist has four-inch retractable claws -- perfect, it would seem, for poking out an eye.
Second on the list is a 10-inch Breathless Mahoney doll modeled after the comic strip character in Dick Tracy. Its removable, vinyl arms could be very tempting to a young child who puts everything in her mouth.
Another nominee is He-Man's Electronic Skeletor Skull Staff, which carries this cautionary statement on the box: "This toy is to be used for lighting and sound effects only! Do not throw, strike at, or swing it at other people, animals or objects." Yeah, sure, tell that to Jimmy when his little brother is driving him nuts.
Last on the list is the seemingly harmless My First Sony Walkman, which is packaged and aimed at children. Swartz believes the unit should come accompanied by volume governors, which would lessen or eliminate entirely the possibility of hearing impairment or loss.
Swartz said such potentially hazardous toys continue to be manufactured because existing toy safety regulations in the United States lag far behind those of other countries.
"The real answer to protecting our children is to institute government-mandated pre-market testing by manufacturers," said Swartz. "Dangerous toys should be caught long before they reach toy store shelves. Once they are in the channels of commerce, it is virtually impossible to effectively recall them from America's toy boxes."
But he said over the years his efforts and those of other consumer advocates have helped to bring about design changes and the recall of some hazardous toys.
'10 Worst Toys'
1. X-Men: The Uncanny Wolverine Dress-Up Play Set, manufactured by Toy Biz Inc.: Rigid fist with claws could cause facial, eye or other injuries.
2. Dick Tracy: Breathless Mahoney Doll, manufactured by Applause Inc.: This 10-inch doll's removable vinyl arms could present choking hazard for a young child.
3. Robotman's Stellar, manufactured by Kenner: Choking and burn risk from small battery.
4. He-Man's Electronic Skeletor Skull Staff, manufactured by Mattel Inc.: The weight of the staff, pointed outcroppings and bottom section could cause severe physical injury, including broken bones.
5. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Sword & Dagger, manufactured by Kenner, a division of Tonka Corp.: The heavy, rigid, molded plastic sword could cause impact injuries.
6. Carousel's Rabbit Animal Friend Gumball Machine, manufactured by Carousel Industries Inc.: Gumballs could cause choking in a young child.
7. GI Joe Arctic Assault Carrier "Ice Sabre," manufactured by Hasbro Inc.: Potential hearing injury from caps and projectile VTC injury from missiles.
8. Silver Bullet Slingshot, manufactured by Larami Corp.: Could cause blindness or penetrating injury (slingshots are banned by statute in many states).
9. F.A.O. Schwarz Slugger Bear, designed by North American Bear Co. Inc.: Removable bat could cause choking in a young child.
10. My First Sony Walkman, manufactured by Sony Corp.: Possibility of hearing impairment or loss.