Have a fretful holiday: Toy recalls actually increasing

If you're a parent, you may want to put your kids somewhere safe and sit down with a stiff drink in your hand before reading this list by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of toy hazard recalls dating back to 1974. It's quite a shocking list, topped by many lead paint standard violations that I thought would have been taken care of two years ago during the Thomas the Tank Engine recalls.

Companies you don't normally associate with toys, such as Victoria's Secret and LL Bean, had recalls in the latest report from the 2008 fiscal year. LL Bean's recall was for sand and snow castle kits that could break and cut a kid. More on the Victoria's Secret recall down below, giving you reason to read on.

Two-thirds of the 43 million products recalled in the year ended Sept. 30 were children's toys, nursery items and clothing, according to Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Overall recalls rose by 19% to 563 during the 2008 fiscal year.

At least Mattel, Inc. and Spin Master recalled fewer toys since the summer and fall of 2007, when they recalled more than 20 million toys. They recalled fewer than 500,000 products since 2007. The improvements were made after Congress and the toy industry strengthened product safety after the massive recalls in 2007.

The largest recall in the report was 4.2 million Aqua Dots made by Spin Master and recalled in November 2007. You remember those choking hazards, don't you? They were the toys made in China that contained the toxic "date rape" drug GHB. Children swallowed them and became sick and comatose.

The recall list, which includes many toy pictures, reads like an emergency room nightmare. Besides the hazards of licking lead paint, the reasons for the recalls include: impalement, choking, chemical burn, strangulation, fire, aspiration, intestinal, and sharp edges.

There was even a recall for adult toys, so to speak. On Dec. 19, 2007, less than a week before Christmas, about 80 "Holiday Cosmetics Stuffer Bears" sold exclusively at the Victoria's Secret Internet site were recalled because the neck medallion zipper can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. The $8 bears weren't meant for children but for women to hold their cosmetics or gift cards in. The plush bear, which came in pink or leopard, had a zipper down the body. Here's what the bears look like -- and how to send one back to Victoria's Secret for a refund, postage and a $10 gift certificate -- in case you have one hidden in your nightstand.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job hunt at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com

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