Lawn Darts killed a small handful and injured a few thousands. Lawn Darts were banned. Guns? Not so much.

The fight to ban lawn darts
Broadcast: April 4, 1989 | Producer: Paul Moore; Researcher: Richard Wright

In the 1980s, Lawn Darts was a popular game. In some cases, it was a deadly game. The U.S. government considered them dangerous and pulled them off the shelves. They were banned after one man tirelessly lobbied politicians following the death of his daughter.
David Snow’s seven-year-old daughter was playing alone in her front yard in 1987. Some other children on another property were playing with a set of lawn darts. Someone threw a dart too hard. It went over the fence and pierced the girl’s skull. She died from her injuries three days later.

For six weeks, Snow was overcome with grief. Then he got angry. He quit his job and started a one-man campaign to have the toys banned. He spoke to politicians, and appeared before the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States.

The commission told him that with only two dozen injuries from lawn darts, a ban wouldn’t be likely. Snow suggested they check their figures again.

Over a 10-year period, 6,700 people in the U.S. were treated in hospital for injuries from lawn darts. 75 per cent of those were children. Three of the children died. CPSC research showed that a lawn dart thrown a short distance lands with a force of 23,000 pounds per square inch.

David Snow’s campaign struck a chord with Congress. The U.S. government passed a law banning the sale of lawn darts. That same week, a lawn dart pierced the skull of an 11-year-old girl from Tennessee. After more than a week in a coma, she recovered.




A commissioner of the CPSC says if it wasn’t for David Snow, lawn darts would still be sold in the U.S. Snow says his is a bittersweet victory. He knows the ban won’t bring back his daughter.
As of April, 1989, you could still buy lawn darts in Canada. The federal government said it had no record of Canadians being injured by lawn darts. The Canadian Pediatric Society called for a ban on lawn darts saying if there were injuries in the U.S., there would be some in Canada, too.

One problem is that Canada did not have as sophisticated a data collection system as the U.S. Dr. Richard Stanwyck of the Society said if you divide the number of injuries in the U.S. by 10, that generally gives a good indication of Canadian statistics. He asked Canadian pediatricians to send him information on any lawn dart injuries they treated. He sent that information to the federal government.

Marketplace interviewed a man from Verdun, Quebec whose skull was pierced by a lawn dart eight years earlier. His doctor said he was very lucky to recover, and had the dart hit an area of the skull mere centimetres away, the consequences could have been fatal. Both men wanted lawn darts banned in Canada.

David Snow did take his fight across the border into Canada. He contacted Consumer and Corporate Affairs, requesting that lawn darts be taken off the market. He found their lack of co-operation disappointing.

No one from the department would appear on camera, but wrote a letter saying they would closely monitor the safety of the product. The department also said it intended to warn parents to keep lawn darts away from children, and suggested a voluntary warning on packages to the same effect.

That warning had been on packages in the U.S. since 1970, but there were still roughly 700 injuries per year.

Since our story…

Lawn darts with elongated metal tips were banned for sale in Canada in 1989.

Health Canada says there have been no deaths in Canada from lawn darts. The only injury data we have is from the Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP). It’s limited because it only covers children who are seen in emergency rooms of 10 pediatric hospitals and five general hospitals in Canada. CHIRPP started collecting data from the 10 pediatric hospitals in April of 1990, and from the five general hospitals between 1991 and 1995 — after lawn darts were banned.

The data suggests that as of July 2001, 10 children went to hospital after being injured by a lawn dart. But within two weeks of his request, Dr. Richard Stanwyck received information on 60 lawn dart injuries to children in Canada.

 Story is located here


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