Consumer Commission Orders Ball Recall

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday that balls of all sizes from all manufacturers will be removed from retail stores immediately because of safety concerns.  Fisher-Price, in the middle of another huge recall of tricycles and high chairs, has already recalled over 200 million of the round, flexible plastic toy.

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said that there should be more focus on engineering safety in products made for children, especially something as potentially hazardous as a ball.

“We’ve tested them over and over, and they always come up short,” Tenenbaum said.  “In the past year, over a million school-aged kids have been injured playing with balls.”  The CPSC says that children have been seen bouncing, throwing, and even kicking the objects on playgrounds, often with dangerous results.  “One mother was beside herself that her son got a black eye from a tether ball,” Tenenbaum explained.  “What will it take to get toymakers to listen?  A ball-related decapitation?”

“We get reports of near misses with these things every day,” said one elementary school principal.  “You put sugary snacks, kid energy, and a ball together and it’s a recipe for tragedy.  I hope parents will use good sense before purchasing these potential projectiles.  Children are getting hurt, especially boys.”

Lee Carpentier, a spokesman for the beleaguered Toy Industry Association, says that every effort is being made to re-think the design and materials in a ball to diminish their hazardous potential.  The recall, he explained, is “just the first part of a strategic response.

“We have released a set of public service announcements showing the possible deadly effect of throwing and catching a ball.”  The series, “Give Up Your Balls,” shows children innocently playing dodge ball, basketball, long ball, and foursquare with tragic results.  The tag line, shown on a black screen, drives home the message: Rubber, leather, foam, inflated/Ball safety can’t be overrated.

But Carpentier refers to many of the ball incidents as “kids being kids,” and calls the spike in ball accidents “part large motor development, part Darwin.”   The TIA insists that the ultimate safety of a ball is in the hands of its holder, but the CPSC claims the position is “a backboard” to shift responsibility “from safe design to blaming the victim.”

The recall, which comes just weeks before the critical holiday shopping season, could be devastating to an industry already reeling from the weak economy and another widespread recall.

“We hope that in the future, parents can have complete peace of mind that the ball their child is playing with is injury-proof,” says Janine Risman, chairwoman of Helicopter Moms International.  “Keep in mind, childhood is innocent fun, but the playground is a minefield.  We’ve just created a Sidewalk Chalk Task Force, and that will be the focus next year once we can safely take our minds off of balls.”


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