Dangerous’ yo-yo balls close to being outlawed, thanks to Skokie mother

Beth Murtagh

‘Dangerous’ yo-yo balls close to being outlawed, thanks to Skokie mother

After a nearly two-year battle, Skokie mother Lisa Lipin is one signature away from victory — against a toy.

The Illinois Legislature passed a bill May 5 that would ban the sale of water yo-yo balls in the state. The bill has been sent to Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has 60 days after receiving it to sign it.

Under the proposed law, the sale of water yo-yo balls — rubbery, liquid-filled balls with an elastic cord attached — would be punishable by a $1,001 fine.

In July 2003 Lipin’s son Andrew, then 5, was almost strangled by a yo-yo ball’s cord. With no time to look for scissors, Lipin ripped the cord off Andrew’s neck. She said she is certain her son would have died if she hadn’t found him.

She reported the accident to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which said the injury was not rare, Lipin said.

About 400 children have been injured when yo-yo balls’ cords have gotten wrapped around their necks and chocked them, said Lipin, who created a Web site dedicated to informing parents about the toy’s danger.

Near-strangulation has caused unconsciousness and required hospitalization in some cases, Lipin said. No deaths have been reported.

“What are we waiting for?” Lipin said. “Are we really waiting for a kid to die? I am not going to wait.”

England, Canada and Australia already have banned the sale of yo-yo balls, which are mostly manufactured in China.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued an advisory on the yo-yo balls, but Lipin said the standards regulating toys from overseas are too lax.

Illinois’ legislation would be the first of its kind in the United States, though New Jersey is reviewing a similar bill. Massachusetts and New York have issued warnings about the product.

Many toy stores already choose not to sell the toy after hearing about its potential to hurt children.

“We voluntarily sent them back when we heard the reports,” said Valerie Lehnhard, manger of Toys Et Cetera, 711 Main St.

But Maxi Dollar, 1928 Dempster St., stocks yo-yo balls even though manager Steve Cheung acknowledged the toys can be dangerous.

Lipin’s efforts to ban the yo-yo balls will not end if Blagojevich signs the bill, she said. She has formed a “strong parent network” across the nation.

“I’m going to help them lead the way to get their state officials to get them to do the same thing,” Lipin said.