Annual dangerous-toys list includes some twists on old favorites

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:52

    Almost everyone remembers Nerftoys. They are the soft, foamy balls and bats that made it fun to play in the yard. For 2004, meet the ``Nerf ‘N Strike'' Mega Missile Launcher - a plastic device that shoots 12-inch-long Nerf ``missiles'' as far as 60 feet. ``Do not aim at eyes or face,'' the label on the corner of the package warns. In a demonstration in his conference room Wednesday, attorney Tom Vesper fired off a foam missile. In a split second, it hit a wall with a loud thud, shook a picture frame and fell to the floor. ``If you fire that at close range, you're going to take out somebody's eye,'' Vesper said. It is reminiscent of the BB Gun in the movie ``A Christmas Story,'' where the phrase ``you'll shoot your eye out'' became so popular. But Vesper said toys like this are dangerous and should not be purchased as holiday gifts for children. This year marks Vesper and law partner David Sinderbrand's 15th annual toy-safety workshop at the Hamilton Mall, where they will present their list of unsafe toys, which Vesper fondly calls the ``unlucky 13.'' Both are partners in the law firm Westmoreland, Vesper and Quattrone, a personal-injury firm based in the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township. ``The warnings get more and more ridiculous,'' Vesper said as he emptied this year's culprits from a toy-store bag onto a table. ``And there are stores that put a price tag over the warning labels.'' In addition to the Nerf missile launcher, other dangerous toys listed include the Fisher Price Formula 1 Go Kart, which Vesper said can tip backward on an incline and cause head injury. Winning a ``first prize'' in this year's presentation is the Marvel Spiderman ``Triple Action Web Blaster,'' which has several safety warnings due to the aerosol can that shoots the web-making material, and the toy even requires adult supervision. ``Any toy that requires adult supervision -- it's a red flag,'' Vesper said. Vesper took on the cause of toy-safety education after representing a girl who was severely burned in the mid-1970s reaching over a stove when the material on her shirt caught fire. Vesper, wanting to look into children's clothing safety, met Edward Swartz, a well-known consumer advocate and attorney who founded World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc., or WATCH. Swartz earned acclaim for suing Fisher Price after nine children either died or suffered brain damage from choking on Fisher Price ``Little People.'' Today, the Little People are made several inches taller and wider. ``I met him, he inspired me,'' Vesper said. WATCH is best known for its annual ``10 worst toys'' alert. Swartz and Vesper became friends, and for years, Swartz would release this list to Vesper before it was public, allowing Vesper to prepare a local presentation on toy safety. About 15 years ago, Vesper decided to come up with his own regional list. So, every year, come October, Vesper and Sinderbrand go shopping, looking out for dangling cords and tiny choking hazards. This year, for about $165, Vesper and Sinderbrand found everything they needed in about an hour. The list they put out is meant to serve as example toys, Vesper said, with parents keeping an eye out for any toy that has similar parts that could pose a hazard. The problem with toys that have special safety guidelines is that often those guidelines are not followed, Sinderbrand said. ``The boxes (toys come in) go goodbye,'' Sinderbrand said. ``And the kids have no idea.'' Sinderbrand said their yearly seminar has even caused consumers to return toys. ``We have people walk by our kiosk, and they immediately turn around,'' Sinderbrand said. ``They go, `I just bought this!'''