ACT News

Christmas 2015: A dangerous gift guide

Hoverboards

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Australia 'has a revenue problem'. Photo: Chris Pearce

The hoverboard - it doesn't hover, and is barely even a board - but with a price between $500 and $2400 it's within the reach of enough people that Australia's consumer watchdog was nudged into action earlier this month.

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Mermaid tails warning released

The NSW Fair Trading Commissioner and CHOICE have put out a press release warning the public of the dangers of Mermaid tails.

After reports that some "hoverboards" had caught fire while being charged, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission stepped in to suggest we only purchase boards that were of the Australian compliance standard, i.e., no dodgy fakes from overseas.

Apparently, overcharging non-compliant devices may cause the battery to overheat.

The ACCC said that controlling hoverboards relies entirely on balance, and so falls are very likely, and injuries could include fractures, sprains, cuts, bruising, spinal injuries, head injuries and concussion.

Legality across Australia is either questionable or downright illegal. In the ACT, it's the latter.

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"Personal electric transportation devices such as motorised hoverboards and other motorised recreational devices don't meet minimum Australian vehicle design standards for safety, and so can't be registered," Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury said.

"This means they can't legally be used on roads or road related areas such as footpaths and car parks."

They are also definitely illegal on roads and footpaths in NSW, where fines of up to $637 can result from using them in public, so no ducking across the border either.

Mermaid tails

When mermaid tails became popular this American summer it prompted a flurry of warnings from US authorities on the danger they posed while being worn in the water - you know, where they were apparently made to be used.

There are different brands, but essentially the design means the wearer needs to be a strong swimmer to stay afloat. A particularly scary video emerged online of one young girl who dived underwater and was unable to resurface - apparently because the tail was buoyant.

Fortunately her mother was close by and acted quickly to pull the young girl back up.

Mermaid tails aren't banned in Australia, but NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe and consumer advocacy group CHOICE issued a warning about the toys on Saturday, urging parents to think twice before buying them.

Internet-connected toys

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Australia 'has a revenue problem'. Photo: Chris Pearce

Hello Barbie - an internet-enabled doll that listens and used artificial intelligence to talk back - comes with warnings from cybersecurity researchers who have uncovered its major security flaws.

Apparently vulnerabilities in the doll's mobile app and cloud storage used could have allowed hackers to eavesdrop on even the most intimate of play sessions, according to a report released earlier this year by Bluebox Security and independent security researcher Andrew Hay.

It's also not the only one. Any so-called "connected toy" – including smartphone-controlled drones and tanks, or bluetooth-enabled Lego – is potentially vulnerable to security breaches.

Drones

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Australia 'has a revenue problem'. Photo: Chris Pearce

The price keeps dropping and the awesome images they capture have made the drone a popular purchase this year.

But Google "drone", "injury" and "Australia" and you'll find plenty of news reports about the dangers of the battery-powered machines. Like this one, when a drone fell on an Australian athlete and caused a "river of blood" to flow from her head.

And while it's still technically not illegal to fly them yourself within the bounds of certain rules, using the drone, or the images it captured, for any commercial purpose requires an unmanned operator's certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Battery-powered gifts

The Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery has also warned people this year about the "button" batteries that come with many gifts.

"Small, shiny, and appealing to children", if swallowed, the batteries can get caught half way down the throat and create "chemical caustic" that erodes through the chest or large blood vessels, Dr John Curotta said.

"In Australia, we know of at least two deaths and a number of serious internal injuries resulting from swallowed button batteries – all incurred by children under five years of age," Dr Curotta said

Dr Curotta urged vigilance to ensure batteries are safely stored and not to assume that every battery product in the home is safe for unsupervised use by children.

The low-tech classics

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Australia 'has a revenue problem'. Photo: Chris Pearce

Trampolines, quad bikes, toy guns, plastic swords and lightsabres; These things have never been without a level of risk but still make for common purchases across Australia.

Twenty Australians died in 2015 from quad bike accidents, a 30 per cent increase on last year. January also happens to be the most common month for quad bike deaths in Australia, the ACCC has warned.

And trauma specialists down in Melbourne have started researching just how dangerous trampolines are, as rising numbers of kids are admitted to hospital with broken bones, head injuries and abdominal trauma.

Toy guns and plastic swords both made it onto America's annual worst toys list by the World Against Toys Causing Harm group for the risk of blunt force trauma or the violent games they encouraged.