Fidget spinners spinning out of control?
Are fidget spinners spinning out of control? Some safety experts think so.
Since my story about the potential dangers of fidget spinners in May, more news has emerged about their hazards. Today the consumer watchdog group World Against Toys Causing Harm called them one of the 10 most harmful and potentially lethal “summer safety traps" due to choking hazards.
(News alert: Since this story was published, another potential problem has been reported: Fidget spinners with batteries burst into flames while charging in at least two states, according to news reports. While this is under investigation, play it safe and don't leave a charging fidget spinner unattended.)
Fidget spinners "are a huge craze right now," but the potential for harm is real, according to the Toy Association, the not-for-profit trade association representing U.S. businesses involved in toy manufacture and delivery.
The problem is that some parts of spinners can break off and be swallowed, says Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of the Toy Association’s standards and regulatory affairs, in a recent news release. She urge parents to supervise their children when they’re playing with them. “A good rule of thumb: if a fidget spinner doesn’t look sturdy or doesn’t have any age or safety labeling, don’t risk it with your child,” she says.
Jonathan Judge, a juvenile products liability partner at the Chicago-based law firm Schiff Hardin, agrees. He first stumbled across fidget spinners when he confiscated one at his son’s chess tournament.
“All the kids were staring at it,” said Judge, who returned the toy to its owner after the tournament. “It was distracting everyone at the table, even the kids who were in the chess match. It wasn’t until then that I realized these toys were all the rage.”
But as parent and a product liability lawyer, Judge was worried that the trendy toys might also pose a safety hazard. Spinners have a bearing in the middle covered by a circular pad, which a child holds while the toy spins. Most spinners have two or three prongs, though some have up to six, and some even feature lights powered by small batteries. Judge was especially concerned that some spinners lacked the safety warnings required by federal regulations.
“Predictably, fidget spinner manufacturers and distributors are feeling the heat of the spotlight, as reports emerge that children are hurting themselves with these toys," he wrote in an informal advisory.
Although at least one innovative U.S. company, Micro Spinners, is working on spinners with fused parts so nothing small can break off, the majority contain small, breakable parts.
“Some models, like those with only two prongs, may be small enough to be swallowed whole,” Judge says. “Others have small batteries. According to some parents, small parts have fallen out of certain models. And when small parts fall off a toy, children can swallow them and choke.”
Choking incidents under investigation
Since choking is the major cause of death for young children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission requires warning labels on toys for children three to six if there are small parts that can break off and be swallowed.
Two choking incidents involving fidget spinners are already under investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to Judge. The first, he says, involved aa 10-year-old girl who put a small part of one in her mouth while she was cleaning the toy and accidentally swallowed it. In the second, Judge says, “a five-year-old choked on a piece of his fidget spinner, despite his mother’s warning not to put it in his mouth. Both children needed surgery to remove the parts."