Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Toxic Holidays

Fisher Price flip track crane: not safe for play

David Goldstein brings us this dispatch from the holiday shopping trenches, where GNB's favorite Congressional hopeful from Seattle, Darcy Burner, has been making a point that should give every parent pause:

Darcy Burner held a series of local events over the weekend where families could bring toys and other children’s products for free lead testing. Well, the results are in, and of the 479 items tested, 56 tested positive for lead, 47 above the 40 parts per million maximum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nine additional items tested positive for cadmium, another toxic element.

Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be. Ten percent of items tested positive for excessive lead levels, pretty much exactly what Burner and Essco Safety Check expected heading into the tests. And chances are, about ten percent of the toys and household items your children handle every day would test positive as well. Lax standards, loosened regulation, nearly nonexistent testing and a mad rush toward globalization have put all our children at unnecessary risk.

In a press release announcing the disturbing results (and apparently ignored by our local media,) Burner lays the blame squarely where it belongs:

“This administration needs to get its priorities straight. Recent news reports have revealed that the Consumer Products Safety Commission currently has only one staffer in the entire country tasked with testing toys, while the current director and her predecessor have traveled on nearly 30 junkets paid for by toy companies and other consumer products manufacturers,” Burner said. “This is truly a scandal. Children are being put at risk while our leading regulators are hobnobbing in resort locales with industry lobbyists and so far nothing is being done about it.”

So, how dangerous are these toys? Many of the items tested contained lead far above safe levels:

A red plastic roof piece from a Lincoln Logs set tested at 1488 parts per million for lead (or 37 times the AAP standard). A small plastic Fisher Price Sesame Street Bert figure tested at 5346 ppm (or 133 times the standard). A Tinkerbell pink rolling backpack tested at 533 ppm for lead, while a Cinderella princess backpack tested at 474 ppm. A Winnie the Pooh placemat contained 985 ppm.

The highest lead level was found was in a Fisher Price Flip Track crane from a plastic train set that was owned by Burner’s own 5 year-old son, which tested at 10,600 ppm, or 265 times the AAP standard.

Cooler-style lunchboxes and soft coolers tended to have high levels of lead or cadmium, as did all of the children’s character placemats tested, including Dora, Spiderman and Winnie the Pooh. Chinese manufacturers tend to add lead and cadmium to vinyl (PVC) to increase durability, and while the CPSC argues such products are safe because the vinyl tends not to deteriorate during normal use, any parent who sees the wear and tear their own child puts on their lunchbox knows otherwise.

So what can you do about it? I suppose you could write to the CPSC and ask them to adopt tougher standards. Or you could help enact real change, and elect better Democrats like Darcy Burner to Congress.

You can send Darcy holiday greetings and money love here. We need people in Washington who won't look the other way when there turns out to be poison in the globaloney.

And, in the meantime, we've got six shopping days left to find something other than plastic toys to give the kids we love for Christmas. My niece is getting books (I've topped off her Berke Breathed and Dr. Seuss collections), stuffed animals, and a pair of hand-knit slippers. If you've got other suggestions for creating a joyful plastic-free non-toxic Christmas for the under-10 set, share 'em with the rest of us in the comments.