A resurgence of interest in vintage toys from the 1940’s , 50’up to the 1980’s has seen a surge of interest from parents and grandparents who want to share their favorite childhood toys with their children. Often these same charished toys may contain hidden dangers that bring more than nostalgia. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, Hazardous Metals in Vintage Plastic Toys Measured by a Handheld X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer, examined how prevalent lead and other heavy metals are in vintage toys. The results should have parents and consumers taking notice. The developing brains and bodies of infants and young children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposure. Even very low blood levels of lead in a child’s body are linked to reduced intelligence. One concern with old toys is the degradation of the materials over time, releasing embedded metals or metal compounds and exposing children to these toxic materials. These days, if a stuffed animal’s plastic eye so much as wiggles, that toy is recalled faster than you can say “class action lawsuit.” Back in the day, though, child safety consisted of just getting out of the way and letting natural selection do its thing. If a kid was too dumb to play with a toy the right way, well, he’d just have to learn to get along with one less eye.
These days, if a stuffed animal’s plastic eye so much as wiggles, that toy is recalled faster than you can say “class action lawsuit.” That was no back in the early days, though, child safety consisted of just getting out of the way and letting natural selection do its thing. If a kid was too dumb to play with a toy the right way, well, he’d just have to learn to get along with one less eye or a burn mark as his playtime souvenir. We have found several toys we list below that went on sale in the marketplace that were not just a bad idea but posted a real danger to a childs life when played with and after all these vary items were sold as toys for children. Several of these toys fall into the catagore of criminal and if offered today would land the toy company offering these child play things into serious class action lawsuits and jail time. Listed below are not toys santioned by Santa and not recomended for this years stocking stuffer.
Our first selection used molten glass, molten metal, and hazardous chemicals … on purpose.
(#8) Gilbert Glass Blowing Set
Glass blowing, if you didn’t know, is the art of working with molten fucking glass to make your very own glass containers. Oh, and you do it by blowing into a wad of molten glass with your mouth. Bizarre as it sounds, glass blowing was considered a useful skill for a young man to have half a century ago. Universities actually required chemistry students to make their own test tubes, once they were done carving their desks out of lumber.
Keep in mind that in order to be able to change the shape of the glass, first it has to reach its softening point, which is around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Gilbert Glass Blowing Set encouraged children to try this with their bare hands in order to carry out a series of wildly irresponsible experiments detailed in the manual:
Another one involved blowing up a bubble of hot glass until it burst in your face, as if that’s not how every single project would end anyway.
(#7) Gilbert Molten Lead Casting Kit
Gilbert’s Kaster Kits (yes, Gilbert, the same people who gave you the glass blowing kit) allowed you to create your own army of tiny metallic minions … which sounds kinda awesome until you realize it involved casting them from molten lead by yourself.
As in, put metal slugs into a little melting pot, and once they were molten, scoop up the molten metal and pour it into a mold. That really sounds like a risk someone should be paying you to take, not the other way around.
These sets came out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but holy shit, we’re pretty sure they’d invented common sense by then.
They included supplies for making soldiers, battleships, airplanes, cannons and horses, among other things. Ten bucks says more than one kid injured his hands trying to hastily reshape a hot chunk of lead into a nudie girl.
Later models did include a machine that did the pouring, but it still had an open top, which doesn’t sound like that much of a safety improvement … despite the ads’ best efforts to convince us otherwise:
(#6) Stevens’ Model Dockyard Locomotive
In 1843, realizing that boys might want a toy train that did more than just sit there, the Stevens Company created the Model Dockyard Locomotive, one of the first ones that actually moved. Of course, the main reason why toy trains didn’t move up to that point was simply that the technology didn’t exist. The Model Dockyard Locomotive got around that limitation by using a real steam-propelled engine that required kids to pour either kerosene or alcohol into the train and then light it.
It even came with a little boiler attachment to heat the water. Apparently, 19th century adults had a lot more faith in kids not accidentally setting themselves on fire than we do.
But wait, that’s not the dangerous part yet. The toy steam engines of this era were nicknamed “dribblers” or “piddlers” because they tended to piss a continuous stream of alcohol or kerosene-laden water as they rolled along the floor. This safety hazard didn’t stop the Model Dockyard Locomotive from becoming a popular children’s toy in England back then, mainly on account of the strength of its “Fuck safety! This thing fucking moves!” slogan.
Also, at this point toy trains didn’t even have tracks, so kids could just set them on a path of destruction across the house and then light the kerosene coming out of the back, leaving a blazing trail of death. (Or at least that’s totally what we would’ve done.)
(#5) Powermite Working Power Tools
Powermite Tools allowed kids to play with fun-sized replicas of the tools Dad used every day at work, including the one that tragically cut both his hands off. Yes, unlike that pansy-ass plastic shit they sell now, these were actual working tools made of die-cast metal, only recognizable as a children’s product due to the fact that they were smaller.
The blades in that circular saw up there probably aren’t sharp enough to pierce through a human skull, but still, we dare you to find a used set on eBay that doesn’t come decorated with suspicious red stains.
Another winning Powermite product was the battery-operated table saw, which looks like a hamster-sized version of a James Bond death trap (and was probably used as such). If mutilating himself or others wasn’t enough, a boy could also “play” with the Powermite router, hand drill, orbital sander, buffer, drill press and sabre saw. Somehow.
The sets came with instructions to build lame little projects out of balsa wood and Styrofoam — as if that was enough to distract boys from realizing that they could also wreak havoc with these things. Meanwhile, girls were stuck with their lame but perfectly safe little dolls and stuff like that … right?
(#4) Working Toy Ovens, Irons and More
Yeah, the burn marks on that toy pretty much say it all. That’s an electric toy stove from the 1930s or ’40s that could actually be plugged in and heated up, which isn’t just dangerous, it’s also completely pointless. What are you supposed to heat in there, a canape? Some peanuts? Your brother’s mutilated hamster?
Electrical kitchen toys were actually pretty popular back then, because when you’re training your daughter to be a housewife it’s also important to make her aware of the inherent dangers that come with the job. Not doing so would be irresponsible. Stores sold tiny irons, coffee pots, bread toasters and so on, all with names like Sunny Suzy or Little Deb, as if a cutesy name was somehow enough to make them remotely entertaining. However, even the ones that prided themselves on being safer than the competition were negligent:
Note that the “double insulation” that supposedly protects you from heat and electricity is only available if you’re willing to dish out the extra 50 cents for the more expensive iron. Also, it only heats up to 250 degrees? As the website we cribbed this ad from points out, that’s 40 degrees hotter than boiling water. But hey, kids gotta learn somehow.
(#3) Gilbert Chemistry Set
There’s that Gilbert guy again. This may look like a pretty safe (boring) science kit, but among the 56 chemicals included in the Gilbert chemistry set was some potentially deadly stuff. Like potassium permanganate, which, besides being poisonous, has been known to make things catch fire. Or ammonium nitrate, the same chemical that the U.S. wants to regulate now because it’s used in homemade bombs. All that came in the same box — at no point in history has being a young nerd on his birthday been so dangerous.
But come on, this was a more innocent time. Mr. Gilbert probably never even thought that kids would use his sets for that sort of —
OK, no, scratch that. The manual itself taught kids how to create explosions with gunpowder — on the first page — and the sole safety feature consisted of a single line telling them not to attempt the same experiment on a larger scale … which only served the purpose of informing kids that this was a possibility.
After remaining popular for the first half of the 20th century, Gilbert chemistry sets fell from grace in the ’60s and ’70s (following a series of entirely predictable lawsuits). However, at one point these hazardous kits were endorsed by both Good Housekeeping and Superman himself.
But it turns out that chemistry sets weren’t the only children’s toy stuffed with dangerous chemicals back then …
(#2) Austin Magic Pistol
Made in the 1950s, the Austin Magic Pistol allowed you to shoot plastic balls at your friend’s penis. We suppose you could shoot them at other things, too, but honestly why would you?
So how did it work, was there a loaded spring in there or something? Nope, the balls were fired by mixing “magic crystals” and water in the back of the gun — and by “magic crystals” they really meant “dangerous chemicals,” of course.
Calcium carbide is on all kinds of hazardous materials lists because when it comes into contact with liquid, it forms a flammable gas. This isn’t some unforeseen side effect the makers of this toy could have never predicted — it’s exactly how those freaking balls were fired. There was a literal explosion happening in the back of the toy gun every time your gentle child fingers pressed the trigger, which would launch the ball up to 70 feet away.
Just a little bit of spit was enough to cause the reaction, as demonstrated in this video of a couple of dudes firing one in a trailer park (also they appear to have tried some of the magic crystals themselves):
And if you used up all the powder, maybe you could borrow some ammonium nitrate from your Gilbert chemistry set for a bigger chemical reaction.
(#1) Atomic Energy Lab
As a kid, did you ever swallow or at least put in your mouth a small piece of a toy or play set? Did you grow an extra arm because of it? No? Then you probably didn’t have the Atomic Energy Lab.
You see, there was a different approach to nuclear power in the ’50s and early ’60s — atomic energy was our friend and the way of the future, and it would never do anything to hurt us. However, it’s still hard to believe that anyone would entrust kids with radioactive material (even in small doses).
Yet, the Atomic Energy Lab kit produced by the American Basic Science Club came with real samples of uranium (which is radioactive) and radium (which is a million times more radioactive than uranium). Since the mere presence of radioactive material in a children’s product clearly wasn’t insane enough, some of the experiments detailed in the manual also required kids to handle blocks of dry ice. Dry ice, by the way, has a temperature of minus 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s recommended that it only be handled while wearing gloves (none were included).
Gilbert, of course, couldn’t be left behind and introduced their own Atomic Energy Lab, which also came with radioactive samples and even a little Geiger counter that kids could use to measure the amount of radiation left in their bodies after each play session.
These kind of shamful toy selections could not happen today with all the current sagty guildlines. A recient study used a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to detect heavy metals in a variety of vinyl and non-vinyl toys manufactured in the 1970’s and 80’s, including Barbie dolls, Fisher Price Little People figurines, and My Little Pony dolls and accessories.
These results were compared to vinyl toys manufactured between 2010 and 2013, after the passing of CPSIA, including newer Barbie dolls, animal figurines, and rubber ducks.
Of non-vinyl vintage toys tested, 66% contained detectable levels of heavy metals, such as cadmium, mercury, barium, and lead and 69% of vinyl toys tested contained heavy metals. Of the toys manufactured after the implementation of CPSIA, about one third showed traces of barium, with no other heavy metals detected.
In addition to parents giving vintage toys to their children, many older toys that may be contaminated are frequently found in daycares, church nurseries, and waiting rooms. The key is education. We can admire the toys from the past but they must remain in the past or kept or displayed in a place of safty and out of the reach of children.