By Ros Krasny
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Power Rangers "samurai mega blade" and a Godzilla figure with dagger-like attachments are some of the most dangerous toys lurking in stores this holiday season, according to a consumer watchdog group.
Boston-based World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) on Wednesday issued its annual list of the 10 worst children's toys, just in time for the shopping frenzy that typically starts in late November.
On the list were items the group said pose risks for choking, electrocution, puncture wounds and more.
Joan Siff, president of WATCH, said there have been at least 28 toy recalls representing 3.8 million units in the United States over the past year.
"Any recall is too late in the process," she said, urging better vetting and testing of toys before they go on sale. "Testing cannot take place in the marketplace."
The group has produced its list each year since 1973, and has been successful in getting a number of toys pulled from the shelves. It found this year's selections at leading big-box retailers, online, and in small specialty stores.
James Swartz, a director of WATCH, demonstrated the "Z-Curve Bow," a foam bow and arrow set recommended for kids eight and over.
A warning label suggested the bow should not be pulled back "at more than half strength" and that "anyone at close distance to the target should be alerted" before firing.
"That is a weapon," Swartz said, shooting an arrow into a wall with a loud thud.
Also featured was a "Fold & Go Trampoline" which came with the warning it should only be used for controlled bouncing.
"What young child has the ability, the desire, the knowledge to use it in that manner?" said Swartz. "That's not possible in the real world."
German wooden toys seem sturdy and rather quaint. But a wooden duck, sold for babies as young as a year, has a pull cord about 33 inches long -- a potential strangulation hazard.
The industry's standard limits strings on cribs and playpen toys to 12 inches.
Toys often have thematic tie-ins to popular movies, television shows or books, arguably making them likely choices for shoppers looking for a familiar brand.
On the "Sword Fighting Jack Sparrow" figurine, fashioned after Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp, the pirate's right hand is armed with a 4-inch long, rigid, plastic sword.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that in 2009 about 250,000 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, a number that has been rising.
Reports of toy hazards, however, "needlessly frighten parents" this time of year, said the Toy Industry Association. It said less than half of one percent of the estimated 3 billion toys sold each year in the United States are recalled.
"Toys are safer now than they've ever been," said Stacy Leistner, a spokesman for the Toy Industry Association, the trade group for the North American toy industry.
The design, testing, production and inspection of toys are constantly being strengthened, the group said.
"Certainly from the industry, safety is our number one priority year round, not just at the holidays," Leistner said.
For a full list of the group's 2011 10 worst toys: http://bit.ly/3aD7L0