Keeping an eye on danger: Certain toys trouble optometrist
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org December 21, 2012 9:52AM
Dr. Phillip Kaufman, an eye doctor, looks down the barrel of the NXT Generation CrossBow, which is loaded with homemade ammunition, at his office in Crete, IL, on Thursday, December 13, 2012. It is one of the items on his annual list of dangerous Christmas gifts. The slogan on the box says, "Bring 'Em Up Right." | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Kaufman’s 2012 dangerous toys
1. NERF N-Strike Elite Retaliator: Shoots 3-inch foam darts with a plastic tip up to 75 feet.
2. NERF Vortex Praxis Blaster: A 26-inch toy rifle that fires a 1.5-inch spinning disc with “extra long range disc technology.”
3. SpyGear Dart Blaster X10: Shoots a 2.5-inch hard plastic dart with a pointed foam tip up to 50 feet; includes a “tracker beam” light so kids can play in the dark.
4. XPLODERZ Night Fighterz GEN-1000 Blaster: A rifle that shoots glow-in-the-dark quarter-inch-diameter gel pellets up to 95 feet, that explode on impact with a hard surface.
5. Air Hogs RC Helix 360 Copter: A remote-controlled helicopter with spinning blades
6. Air Hogs Micro Drone Pocket Copter: A 4-inch-long helicopter with high-speed blades
7. Crossbow by NXT Generation: An open-barrel that fires 4-inch foam darts up to 80 feet
8. Air Zone Scorpion Bow: A 26-inch toy crossbow that fires an 8-inch foam arrow
9. V Shot Dart and Disc Blaster: A pistol that fires a suction cup-tipped dart
10. Air Hogs Heli Blaster: An 8-inch plastic rocket that is launched 40 feet into the air by stepping on a manual air pump
11. Daisy Lever Action Carbine BB gun: Fires steel pellets up to 195 yards at a velocity of 350 feet per second.
12. Barbie “Dollicious” Makeup Case: Includes eye shadows and powder and warns users makeup should not be applied “near the eye area.”
Updated: December 21, 2012 10:53PM
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
That line, made famous in the movie “A Christmas Story,” actually is quite true, according to Crete optometrist Dr. Phillip Kaufman.
For each of the past 35 years, Kaufman has compiled a Dangerous Christmas Toy List. And in all those years, the most dangerous of all to eye safety, he said, is the Daisy Lever Action Carbine BB gun — which he said is very similar to the Red Ryder air rifle that Ralphie received as a Christmas gift in that popular holiday flick.
The Daisy BB gun fires a steel pellet at a velocity of 350 feet per second, up to 195 yards, according to Kaufman, who on Thursday demonstrated several toys that filled a table in his Main Street office.
“Yes, you will shoot your eye out,” he said. “You can do it in several ways.”
If the Daisy BB gun doesn’t do it, the NXT Generation Crossbow might, Kaufman said.
This toy — with a slogan “Bring ’em up right” — comes with 4-inch foam darts that can be fired up to 80 feet. With its open 12-inch barrel, a child easily could replace or modify the ammunition with more dangerous items, such as a sharp pencil or a needle attached to an eraser, the doctor said, as he demonstrated.
He cited U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics that reported 262,000 toy-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2011. Of those, 45 percent were injuries to the head and face, he said. And doctors only see 1 in 10 kids who are injured by a toy, Kaufman said, because parents don’t report all injuries.
Kaufman launched his annual safety campaign because he had a young patient blinded by a dart and another who had his eye sliced playing with a toy sword. He shops for such toys every year, spending hundreds of dollars.
“They are not hard to find,” he said, adding that most are shooting toys, meant to be played with outdoors, but many kids use them indoors.
When fired at close range, such toys can cause black eyes, corneal abrasions, severe eye infections or total blindness, Kaufman said.
“We look for the potential for misuse. Manufacturers can say, ‘Don’t fire at each other,’ but kids will,” he said. Warnings and brand names don’t guarantee safety, he said.
Joe Murfin, vice president of marketing for Daisy Outdoor Products, said the company’s BB gun does not belong on the list of dangerous toys because “it is not a toy. It is a gun. It’s not sold as a toy.” It can be found in the sporting goods department at stores, he said.
“Our accident rate is much lower than many other organized sports,” Murfin said. Users should follow the safety rules, and the No. 1 rule is “always keep it pointed in a safe direction,” he said.
U.S. safety standards are not as strict as those in other countries, but they are being rewritten, according to Kaufman. Currently, a shooting toy is considered safe if, when fired into a concrete block 10 inches away, it does not damage the concrete nor the projectile, Kaufman said.
Kaufman’s list this year includes mostly “boy toys” — shooters and blasters with foam darts and gel pellets, and helicopters with spinning blades. But danger also lurks inside a seemingly innocent little girl item — the Barbie “Dollicious” Makeup Case, according to Kaufman.
This is a purse-shaped plastic case filled with eye shadow, powder and applicator brushes with a warning on the back: “Do not apply makeup near eye area.”
Kaufman maintains that a 5-year-old likely won’t see or be able to read that warning, and may not have the physical coordination to keep the makeup out of her eye.
The potential for an eye infection is “strong,” he said, especially if the brushes are used by more than one child or placed on various surfaces where they can pick up germs.
Some toys enable kids to shoot in the dark, when their vision is compromised, such as XPLODERZ Night Fighterz GEN-1000 Blaster with glow-in-the dark gel pellets. The pellet is supposed to explode upon impact with a hard surface, but if it hits a kid in the face, it could still explode, Kaufman said.
The Spy Gear Dart Blaster X10 comes with a “tracker beam” light so you can “spot your opponent far away and get the perfect shot every time,” the package stated.
Even the seemingly less dangerous foam darts can be a hazard because they often come with hard plastic tips, Kaufman said.
He has invited parents of injured children to participate in his holiday safety campaign, but they decline.
“They feel responsible because they bought the toy,” Kaufman said.
His office technician admitted that her then-7-year-old son cut the corner of his eye on a toy helicopter with rotating blades and still bears the scar 10 years later.
“I threw the toy on the ground and stepped on it,” she said.
A remote-controlled helicopter with spinning blades — the Air Hogs Battle Tracker, which also fires discs — was recognized as the Toy Industry Association’s “boy toy of the year,” according to Rachel Griffin, a spokeswoman for Spin Master Ltd., which manufactures Air Hogs helicopters.
She said all Air Hogs products “meet or exceed global safety standards” and are “age-appropriate.”
“We take the utmost care in all of our products,” she said.
Kaufman safely stores in his attic the toys he deems dangerous, refusing to even give them away. He said he keeps them because he has issued a challenge to manufacturers: “If you think your toy is not dangerous, send a representative here and let me shoot them in the eye. If they walk out without injury, I will print a retraction.”
Kaufman said parents have to consider the size of the tip — which often is smaller than a contact lens — the speed of the projectile and the power behind it.
If parents insist on buying these toys, Kaufman said, “Take them outside, put safety glasses on them and supervise them.”