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Cheap Fidget Spinners Can Harm Your Kids

Update Date: Jun 21, 2017 11:38 AM EDT

Boston-based World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) has released its annual list of the most dangerous summer toys. And right at the top is the fidget spinner, whose parts can choke children who play with them.

Fidget spinners are astoundingly popular and will rank beside hula hoops and Beanie Babies as the most sought-after fad toys of their time. Held with index finger and thumb, then spun, the toy is a deceptively simple diversion. You spin it, twist it, just look at it, and turn it for amusement. It has also been suggested (without evidence) that the spinners can help children with autism or ADHD achieve greater focus and peace of mind in the mainstream classroom.

Nothing could be simpler than this spinning toy -- or potentially more dangerous.

Many schools have banned it because teachers looked out over their classes and saw half their students gazing down or twisting their spinners in rapture. "Too distracting," many principals are saying, the opposite of the increased focus promised by manufacturers. 

There are thousands of designs, some containing small batteries that add light and sound. They can have two arms, or three, or six -- the variations are legion. Some designed as Ninja stars with sharp points have caught the attention of the TSA who wonders if they will be used as weapons.

But WATCH and others concerned with toy safety are more worried about what happens when a spinner breaks or falls apart.

A girl in Texas recently choked on a small part from a broken spinner. A boy in Australia had a spinner suddenly break into pieces as it spun around, sending a small piece into his throat.

The problem is not the toy itself, as it is too large enough for little mouths. But the internal design is deceptively complex. The core of a spinner often has six metal ball bearings held in a 15-piece housing. The external weights are small as well, and batteries are held in place by other parts. All of the pieces are small enough to be hazardous. Some imported spinners are coated with lead-based paint -- just one example of shoddy manufacturing driven by the enormous popularity of the toy.

A well-manufactured fidget spinner will not easily break, but a poorly manufactured one -- and there are many -- will come apart, releasing small metal parts that children may not even see.

Germany has recently confiscated and will destroy thousands of spinners from China. Officials in Wales have seized many recently.

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