The Big Flub Called Flubber

Flubber toxic toy disaster
Fred MacMurray in the 1963 movie Son of Flubber

Hasbro introduced a toy in 1962 called “Flubber” (tied to the movie Son of Flubber). It was made from synthetic rubber and mineral oil. It had all of the qualities one would want from a toy. It was fun, unusual, inexpensive, and versatile.

It also made kids sick. One of the first rules of product design is to try not to kill off the primary users. Unfortunately, Flubber was made out of toxic substances that caused sore throats, rashes, and other nasty reactions.

By the time Hasbro decided to pull the product off the shelves, more than 1,600 people reported ailments associated with Flubber. This led to a whole new problem: what to do with tons of toxic toys?

What do you do with tons of toxic toys? According to the 1998 book Toy Wars, attempts to bury the mess at sea wouldn’t work because of Flubber’s buoyancy. All efforts to incinerate the stuff only resulted in a foul cloud toxic black smoke.

The solution was to bury the unwanted inventory under a building on Delta Drive in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Residents maintain that on hot summer days, the smell is still evident, and Flubber can be seen oozing through the cracks in the pavement.


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