Snap Bracelets Banned As Dangerous

Posted: October 12, 1990

America's hottest new toy, the snap bracelet, is facing bans and investigations nationwide following parents' complaints that cheap, imported versions are slicing into children's fingers and arms.

In Connecticut yesterday, the state Department of Consumer Protection recalled all "knockoff" snap bracelets - thin strips of fabric-covered metal that encircle a wrist, arm or finger when flicked against the skin - after a father reported that his 4-year-old daughter had been cut by one.

Connecticut investigators said an American-made snap bracelet, made under license and sold under the name Slap Wraps, is safe.

But cheaper, unlicensed Taiwanese snap bracelets, which have flooded toy and gift-store shelves throughout the country during the last few weeks, are made so poorly that the metal inside them can easily cut through skin, said the state's director of product safety, Lois Bryant.

In New York state, school officials in Westchester County this week banned all versions of the bracelets from four elementary schools. And in Lahaska, Bucks County, the principal of Buckingham Friends School declared that children would no longer be allowed to bring the toys into the school after a fourth-grade boy suffered a severe cut on Friday.

"He had it in his right hand to snap on his wrist, and it ripped into the palm of his right hand," said Nancy Kuhnel of Buckingham, mother of the fourth grader, Matthew Kuhnel. "Thank goodness - it could have been his wrist. It could have hit a nerve or a vein."

Kuhnel said her son's snap bracelet had no label on the back and was purchased for "about 75 cents or a dollar."

The licensed Slap Wraps bracelets, which cost about $2.50, are clearly labeled on the back with the words Slap Wraps and the name of their maker, Main Street Toy Co., of Simsbury, Conn.

Main Street Toy president Gene Murtha said yesterday that his company's Slap Wraps are made of pliable stainless steel covered with a double-knit polyester fabric designed to hold strong even after repeated flicks against an arm.

The unlicensed imitations, Murtha said, are "made with low-grade carbon steel that will easily rust; you can snap it in your fingers, break it in half, and it will break through the cloth - imagine a piece of rusted metal on the wrist of a child."

Murtha said his company's attorneys had notified one Taiwanese producer that it faced legal action. The snap bracelet knockoffs are facing federal heat as well.

A spokeswoman for the Eastern Regional Office of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission said yesterday that the bracelets were being investigated as an "alleged hazard."

Elaine Brown said the toy might violate federal standards requiring that all items sold to children under the age of 8 have no sharp glass or metal edges.

In Pennsylvania, Renardo Hicks, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the state Attorney General's Office, said he did not know of any complaints about the toys. But, he said, "this is something I am going to pursue."

In the few months since Slap Wraps were introduced, they have become so popular that Main Street Toy is having trouble meeting demand, Murtha said.

Local stores report that all versions of snap bracelets are selling fast, frequently to children as young as 5, who buy them in many colors to match different outfits.

"We have been selling them like crazy," said manager Mary Lou Miller of the Dollar Discount store in Thorndale. Miller said the store's bracelets cost $1. "I think they're Taiwanese," she said. "I don't think they could

cut anybody. We haven't had any problem."

"They're the hottest number going," said manager Mae McGrenrey of Mapes Department Store in Narberth, which has been selling $1.49 snap bracelets from companies named Pakula and East Main Street Industries.

Murtha said both of those manufacturers were selling unlicensed snap bracelets and faced action from Main Street Toy's attorneys.

Bucks County resident Kuhnel said that following her son's accident, he ''wants nothing to do with (snap bracelets) at all."

Children "are slapping them around each other's necks, around each other's wrists," she said. "I'm glad the principal banned them."

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