Why it’s (thankfully) hard to buy lawn darts

Lawn darts turned out to be a shockingly dangerous party game.

There are a lot of toys and games that don’t seem safe — the NSA once investigated the Furby as a possible security risk.

A blue and red lawn dart sticking out of a yellow ring in the grass.

But in the case of lawn darts, a simple toy turned out to be fatal.

Jarts Lawn Darts…

… was a popular backyard party game where players tried to toss metal-tipped darts fitted with plastic fins into a plastic hoop on the ground.

But in 1987, a 7-year-old California girl was killed when her brother’s friend tossed a dart so high that it swept over a fence and hit her in the head.

The darts — inspired by an ancient Roman weapon — weren’t particularly sharp, but were weighted so that the tips would stick in the ground when thrown. This put an estimated 23k pounds of pressure per square inch on the girl’s skull.

After the tragedy

The girl’s father, David Snow, wanted them banned. He learned they had been in the ‘70s, due to injuries sustained by children, but Jart makers got around the ban by agreeing to label them for adult use only.

When Snow took the issue to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), he found the agency had an inaccurate picture of just how dangerous the game was.

  • Over eight years, the darts had sent 6.1k people to the ER, 81% of whom were children 15 or younger.
  • Meanwhile, many manufacturers failed to include the warning label and a third of surveyed retailers stocked the darts alongside children’s games.

The commission voted to ban the sale of lawn darts again in 1988 — the same week that a dart put a Tennessee girl in a coma. CPSC now recommends any remaining darts be destroyed. They’re also banned in Canada.


… lawn darts and other similar games are available without metal tips — which manufacturers really should have done after the game’s first ban.

The seemingly benign lawn game offers a tragic reminder about the importance of product safety — and how label requirements often aren’t enough to prevent serious harm.

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