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Toxic Toys on Today's 'Think Out Loud' on OPB

3108321913_679d30bf20 We've talked about Nena Baker's book The Body Toxic before, but it's worth mentioning again since she's going to be on OPB's Think Out Loud talk show this morning @ 9 AM (and reboradcast at 9 PM, if you miss it and aren't the streaming type).  OPB describes the show:

Parents have a lot to consider as they brave winter weather to purchase holiday gifts for their kids. In addition to tough economic times squeezing their budgets, many parents still worry about traces of toxic materials in toys. 

The massive recall of lead-tainted toys in 2007 also lead to new laws. Earlier this year, Washington passed a law instituting the most rigorous toy safety standards in the nation. A new federal law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect in February. The federal regulation provides stricter bans on lead and phthalates (a chemical found in plastic) in toys and also requires manufacturers to test their products in order to prove they are free of these toxins.

There is some opposition to the new law. Small, independent toy makers and the stores that carry their products say the testing requirements will drive them out of business because they won't be able to afford to test their products. They are calling on lawmakers to modify the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act before it takes effect. Two nonprofit groups also take issue with the law and have filed suit against the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying the new law will not prevent retailers from selling banned toys that they already have in stock.


Are you shopping for toys this holiday season? Do you make or sell toys? How do you ensure the toys you create or purchase are safe?

Tune in & listen - Nena's super knowledgeable and Emily Harris has a habit of getting at the heart of an issue.  How ARE you dealing with this issue - obsessing over every purchase, tossing your hands in the air because it's too big to worry about, or truly unconcerned?  Do tell. 

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Well, we don't buy plastic toys, which eliminates a whole lot of worries. Most of what we buy is handmade of natural materials by someone local or on Etsy. The kids wish list (for faraway grandparents and aunties) includes toys from Magic Cabin, Three Sisters Toys, and the Wooden Wagon.

One good thing to come out of all toy recalls is that my mom gets my anti-Made-in-China-plastic-junk stance. She's just purchasing toys made from natural materials from companies I trust this year--though from the looks of all the packages that have arrived, she's still getting way too much...

I understand the worry of lead in our kids toys, but I avoid the headache by avoiding plastic toys. It can be a struggle when friends and family members buy my son stuff but we just ask for books. If he gets a plastic toy I investigate its saftey and or exchange it at the store. So far this has worked, and most people that buy my son stuff are respectful of my wishes.

its a scary issue bit its not too difficult to address and handle!

As much as I'd love to buy all natural, wood, toys, there can be major sticker shock on most of that stuff ($15 for a rattle, really?!)

And frankly my son loves the plastic crap that lights up and makes noises (I would not survive without his Jumperoo). So I try to do a good mix of both and research any plastic toys I do buy. I also think parents need to relax a little bit, we live in a very fearful society and I don't really want my son to grow up like that...

I think that this is another case of moderation being the best policy. I love all natural wood and handmade toys. We own quite a bit, actually. I hate things with batteries the light up and make lots of noise. We avoid stuff like that. But I do let my kids play with some plastic things. For example - Legos...we have a huge bin of lego's that keep them busy long enough for me to make dinner.

I think there are a lot of things to get overly worried about these days. The media picks something and gets everyone all riled up. Think about how we grew up - our parents weren't worried about plastic toys and such and we turned out OK. I am mindful of lead and safety recalls and don't let my kids play with obvious hazards, but I do walk a middle ground on this issue.

what worries me about the new ruling the most -- once there are no more handmade toys (untested toys are all illegal under the new rules), most of the euro companies have left (Selecta is gone and I hear a lot more will be following), and most of the small companies are shut down -- it's going to be really hard to avoid mass-market toys. And I don't care how much testing they do, I don't trust Mattel et al to make safe and healthy toys!! I'm very upset at how limited our choices will be once this kicks in. (And you think sticker shock is bad now -- wait til everyone rolls in the testing costs, toy prices will be so much higher than they are now!!)

One thing that has been mentioned in some of the other posts but is worth repeating is that this will not only affects toys but a whole a variety of products.

We heard from one of our major diapering suppliers about how they need to undertake the testing and associated costs for their covers and such. This is a Canadian company that controls its full manufacturing process and has been in business for many, many years.

That cost to them will be passed on and the type of volume they do - versus Gerber or Pampers or whoever - means that the cost will be spread across a much smaller field.

When Mattel issued a recall due to lead paint in 2007, nearly one million toys were recalled (and an additional 300,000 were already in the hands of consumers).

The compliance cost for a company like this is nothing. In fact, the civil penalty negotiated and shared among the states was $12 million. It seems like a lot but consider that Mattel has a market cap of $5.4 billion even in this down economy.

So, we are heading toward having reduded choices in the marketplace and even bigger cost difference products made by major corporations and small to mid-sized competitors as a result of the CPSIA.

It is not too late to have your voice heard on this, here are some link that provides some guidance on taking action:

http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/

AND you can vote on the issue at President-elect Obama's website as well:

http://www.change.org/ideas/view/save_handmade_toys_from_the_cpsia

If you check recalls often, at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html, you will see that many wood toys have been found to have lead in them (in the paint, presumably).

So are people now going through all their toys to check for lead? How do you do that? I am thinking of using Christmas Eve as a time to remove the old (and toxic) to make room for new gifts. I fear I have a playroom full of potentially toxic toys and I would say about half of what we have is wood. Is there a comprehensive website to check?

I have a possibly stupid question... if the homemade/cottage-industry toys are made with already-certified-safe paints, etc, then do they count as safe?

I really like Plan Toys. If you go on their website you can actually download documents that show the results of a toy's safety/lead testing. I have looked at the testing results for my daughter's toys--while I can't claim to understand the whole document, I can see the parts per million of substances in the toy. They use rubberwood trees that don't produce rubber anymore, don't treat the wood with chemicals, use non-formaldehyde glue and water-based paints. They seem like a fairly green company. I think the toys are made in Thailand. The toys are not exactly inexpensive, but they are beautiful and fun to play with. Pollywog on Belmont sells a large selection of Plan Toys. In general I am pretty suspicious of the toys out there today...but I do like Plan.

HealthyToys.org is a great resource, as is ZRecommends, SafeMama, Smartmama, and all the great green parent blogs out there. As for lead, it's hard to say b/c no-one's really testing comprehensively. As someone above noted, the CPSC recall list a good to follow, but in general red paint is more likely to have lead in it (think the lead in lipstick issue). Once your kids aren't eating the toys, IMHO it's less of an issue.

Nif....the answer to your question is that (according to the CPSIA) no they will not be considered safe and cannot be sold unless they are retested again once the product is made. It does not matter if they are completely made with safe (already tested) products. This is why many handmade cottage industries will stop selling as of 2/10/09. They cannot afford to have their safe products tested at a cost of $400 or more in order to deem them safe per the current law which goes into effect 2/10/09.

DH & I decided to actually read the new regulations last night. Dry & confusing, but what Mary says is true. It doesn't matter if the person making the handmade toy and/or clothing has all the material safety data sheets and the most meticulous recordkeeping to show that the materials are safe. The product must be tested by a third party lab. BTW, there are only 3 approved labs in the United States for "small parts" which is the first requirement to go into effect in February. Interestingly there are many more labs outside the country near places where mass produced toys are made. Makes me wonder if all there's even enough access to testing for US makers. Sounds like the people who made this legislation forgot that anyone in the United States still produced anything.

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