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1970s Fads: Lawn Darts

Jarts, or Lawn Darts, were a fad outdoor game which could be played like horseshoes or like regular darts. The darts were about a foot in length with a metal tip with plastic fins - like a giant, unsharpened dart. When tossed a sufficient distant with sufficient height and with a soft enough backyard, they would stick in the ground.

My sister and I loved our set and managed to survive to adulthood despite the eventual nationwide ban on them. Apparently we were lucky enough to not be hit with what one researcher suggested was equivalent to potentially (given a high enough arc on the throw) 23,000 pounds per square inch - enough to fracture the skull and put an estimated 670 in emergency rooms each year and to leave 3 children dead.


Lawn darts have joined RU-486 (the abortion bill), the 2 Live Crew, and the song Copkilla as "Banned in the USA." Copkillin' brass bullets, however, remain available.

One of the three children was 7 year old Michelle Snow, whose father David was a production supervisor at Hughes Aircraft in Southern California. He vowed to go on a crusade to get the dangerous toy off the market. It took him several years lobbying, but it finally paid off in 1988, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission put a ban in place that remains to this day.

The controversy surrounding the toys began almost as soon as the fad started in 1970. The toys quickly became a target of those who were crusading against toys that had proven to be dangerous. Robert Barnett, president of R.B. Jarts told the Chicago Tribune, "It's a game for adults, a family game if they want their older children to use under supervision."

"If they can put a ban on a game like this, they should ban everything there is - football, baseball, every sport there is," said Barnett. He may be right - about banning other sports. Check the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (I nearly injured myself typing all that!) for tables that show fatalities in sports among high school and college participants. With all due respect to those whose children have been injured as the result of being hit by a lawn dart, outdoor sports or just about any activity (or lack of activity) can be dangerous to kids. Given that kids often receive pellet guns (or even real ones) as gifts, it's rather remarkable that by 1988, the US government had banned the sale of lawn darts - to anyone of any age. Perhaps the Lawn Dart industry has been negligent in not dishing out a few tens of millions a year in bribes to members of congress.

If you've got an old set, you are asked by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to discard or destroy them (see below). If you live in the U.S., don't even think about selling them on eBay - your listing will be pulled down as if you were listing (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction.

Below is the official notice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Consumer Product Safety Commission

CPSC Bans Lawn Darts

CPSC Document #5053
Effective December 19, 1988, all lawn darts are banned from sale in the United States. Lawn darts, used in an outdoor game, have been responsible for the deaths of 3 children.

A set of lawn darts usually includes four large darts and two targets. The darts typically are about 12 inches long with a heavy metal or weighted plastic tip on one end and three plastic fins on a rod at the other end. The darts are intended to be grasped by the rod and thrown underhand toward a target. While the tip may not be sharp enough to be obviously dangerous, these darts can cause skull punctures and other serious injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission urges parents to discard or destroy all lawn darts immediately. They should not be given away since they may be of harm to others.

Consumers who find lawn darts still being sold, should contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission on the toll free hotline: 1-800-638-CPSC (2772). A teletypewriter for the hearing impaired is available at 1-800-638-8270. Consumers also may write to: Compliance, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.


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You can buy cop-killer bullets, cigarettes, and AK-47's in the US, but not lawn darts.

Picture courtesy of CaptainLawntastik

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