Small plastic guns that fire plastic bullets and make "a huge noise," robot toys with pieces so small they could choke a child and balloons that can be inhaled were cited yesterday by a local consumer group as potentially hazardous items that should be in trash cans instead of Christmas stockings.
Ann Brown, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee of Greater Washington, which is sponsored by the Americans for Democratic Action and Public Voice, offered those three items as evidence that "there are still potentially dangerous toys on the market" -- despite statements by government officials saying that most of last year's 118,000 toy-related accidents resulted from misuse of toys and improper supervision."
"Basically, if you go out there and look hard enough, you will find some toys that shouldn't be in the marketplace," said Doug Thomson, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America, a New York-based trade group. "But I think there are a minimal number of problems, because we represent 90 percent of the industry and all of them subscribe to safety standards."
In its 13th annual toy survey, the committee singled out some toys for special awards. This year's "most overpriced" item, they said, is Coleco's "Designer Diapers" for Cabbage Patch dolls, which sell for 65 cents each.
"This is a Cabbage Patch Kids item taken to its absurd limits," the committee said. It said that the same colorful plastic diapers were available from another manufacturer, Riegel Textile Corp., for 17 cents each at G.C. Murphy's.
The best buy in toys this year, the committee said, is Hoyle's "Pocket Trivia." Priced at less than $2, this trivia game is about the size of a deck of cards and has 848 questions and answers in each deck.
Altogether, a dozen toys were selected as fit for toy boxes, while another group was cited as so bad that they belong in trash cans. The three best toys, according to survey chairperson Debbie Wager, were:
* Roller skates by Fisher-Price, about $15. Brightly colored and sturdy with an optional wheel control mechanism to prevent backward slides. The skates also have "big, fat heel and toe 'stops' to help prevent falls."
* Camera by Fisher-Price, about $28. Kodak produces the basic camera; Fisher-Price wraps the ends with shock-absorbing rubberized material to protect it from breaking when dropped. The committee said it takes good pictures.
*"Super Gobots" by Tonka, about $10. Sturdy, shiny metal vehicles about five inches long that can change from vehicles into robots.
Other good toys recommended by the group included "Decepticon Communicator," a transformer by Hasbro for about $15, and "Crazy Combo," a musical toy by Fisher-Price for about $10.
The three worst toys of the year, Wager said, were:
* "Stinkies" by Multi Toys Corp., under $2. Package of characters that smell like their names -- "Sewer," "Bad Breath," "Barnyard," "Outhouse" and "Dead Fish." "This is how far we have come from the days of 'Strawberry Shortcake,' " Wager said.
* "My Little Pony Waterfall" by Hasbro-Bradley, $17. Molded plastic "cloud" with a rainbow, a sun and a smaller cloud that is supposed to give a bubble bath and shower to the little pony. Toy leaked due to "flimsily connected plastic tubing."
* "Robotroids" by Takara, $17. Made of poor-quality plastic pieces that pose a potential choking hazard for small children. And the directions are in Japanese.
Other bad toys, the group said, included the "Detective Special," $2, a small plastic gun made by Edge Import that comes with plastic bullets, and two kinds of balloons by Unique, priced at $1 or less.
"Water Bomb Balloons" are "incredibly tiny and could be ingested whole," while "Squawker Balloons" could jam up into the roof of a child's mouth, the committee said.