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Jewish World Review April 22, 2003 / 20 Nissan, 5763

Lenore Skenazy

Skenazy
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Consumer Reports


Toy alarmists can
often be real yo-yos


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It's headed for the playground and it's going to kill our children! Run! Hide! Call in the Marines! Sweet Lord, save us from - The 99-cent water yo-yo.

If you read the papers or watch TV, no doubt you are already on orange alert when it comes to the squishy, liquid-filled ball attached to a boingy rubber cord. New York State Consumer Protection Board Chairwoman Teresa Santiago has declared it nothing less than SARS on a string.

"We don't know what this water is," she declared last week. "At this point, no one should be buying this."

Right. And no one should be buying an old-fashioned yo-yo, either. Could hit you in the eye. And a marble could get stuck up your nose. And a Barbie could choke you, if you tried to swallow her leg.

Which some kid probably has tried to do.

The point is, all toys have a certain amount of danger associated with them - usually infinitesimal. But somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to distinguish between a Beanie Baby and a BB gun. All playthings became potential killers. How come?

"Your crib sheets could strangle your tot! Details at 11!"

Media hype like that is partly to blame. There's nothing the nightly news loves more than the chance to scare parents about a previously overlooked - often ludicrous - danger.

Then, too, in a society that sues at the drop of a coffee cup, we got used to thinking of all injuries as someone else's fault. Now we're on the lookout for culprits everywhere. And alarmist public servants are only too eager to ramp up our anxiety.

The water yo-yo is a case in point. "It's putting our kids in the hospital!" said Santiago.

Not true. Literally millions of these novelties have been sold in the past few months. "I mean, it was like one day they just took over our house," says my friend Melissa, a Westchester mom of two.

Ours, too. But at the Long Island poison control center, covering a population of 5 million, operators have received only 17 calls from parents whose kids ingested the liquid that sometimes leaks from the yo-yos.

Did any of those children get sick? No, reports Dr. Tom Curaccio, the center's director.

In the city, there were two yo-yo incidents. One 5-year-old's blood pressure shot up alarmingly high after he drank the liquid from a punctured yo-yo. But by the time he reached the emergency room, he threw up and was fine. The other time, a girl got the cord wrapped around her neck and her mom had to cut it off with a scissors.

As awful as both those incidents were, it just doesn't sound like the toys are causing a tsunami of illness and injury. I mean, it's not like they're something really dangerous, like bikes.

Santiago wants to see the yo-yos labeled with a warning not to drink the liquid or wrap the cord around one's neck. That sounds reasonable. But with any luck, parents already have suggested as much to their kids.

Santiago also wants the liquid in these toys tested. Since that seems to be taking a while, I punctured a ball yesterday and took a sip.

Conclusion? It's no Chateau Lafitte. It's not even Juicy Juice. Kids will spit it out.

Then they'll probably go on to eat a nice chunk of eraser, or a slice of plastic cheese from the toy kitchen. And then, like me, they'll be ready for dinner.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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