Toys for good girls and boys

Karol Collymore

The other day, our esteemed leader – and new dad – wrote of the trials of ensuring your children have lead-free toys and the role the government should play in controlling the situation. And while I could have done without the diaper talk, he made interesting points. The other angle, of course is “American” companies who manufacture kids’ toys in countries other than America.

Business is business and I’m not so ethnocentric to think only Made in America is the way to go. I also know – for my sustainable friends – that buying a cool, thoughtful kid-gift locally is preferable, but not always the most affordable way to go for many families. In fact, my niece and nephew are getting used books from Amazon because Tia Karol has no money. I also worry about the what the toys we played with did to all of us. Carcinogen awareness wasn't around in the early 80's when I was a toddler and I know my parents didn't think about it. And as family members enter middle age pretty healthy and still end up with cancer - like my aunt - it makes me wonder of all the things they were eating and drinking.

So what is a regular person supposed to do? I recently found out about It’s a consumer action guide to chemical toxins in toys. It’s a great place to start for folks who want more to play with the organically grown beans in a bean bag. And, more amazing, there are lots of toys made in other countries that are still safe for your kids. Some of my old favorites are there: The Rock-a-Stack, Snap Lock Beads, and the First Keys.

Of course you can do what my parents did: force me outside to play with neighborhood kids in the mud and dirt and run myself ragged. Then, when I came inside, tired and worn out, they handed me a book.

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    Thanks, Karol. This whole consumer products safety thing is amazingly wide-ranging and hits so many families where it really matters.

    I'm hoping that this holiday shopping season that we might get some media coverage that digs into the reasons why there is an issue now - when things seemed to be OK for so many years.

    As long as they're promoting the shopping season ("Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Deals! Deals! Deals! Tickle Me, Elmo!") hopefully they can do some useful consumer protection that's both news-you-can-use and informative on the policy background.

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    I have to say, "Black Friday" is racist! I kid, I kid.

    It's wishful thinking to assume that the media would place pressure at Hasbro or any of those companies that have their toys made elsewhere. There are so many ways to go with this, I almost didn't know where to start. Do we shame big business - who are unshameable unless they are caught in a sex scandal - or do we shame parents who buy their There is also no political angle to this either so it's not like we can vote someone out office.

    Wouldn't it be great to have a toy revolution where folks brought their contaminated toys to Portland's "living room" to show the world how many children (and parents) are in danger of carcinogens. It's nothing immediate so no one worries, but when it gets you in some way in your 40's and 50's, its rough because it could have been prevented.

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    Wouldn't it be great to have a toy revolution where folks brought their contaminated toys to Portland's "living room" to show the world how many children (and parents) are in danger of carcinogens.

    Excellent idea Karol. Somehow I can see that idea taking off.

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    Thanks for the link. Not sure there's no politics here -- in addition to the specifics of the CPSC official Kari wrote about, there is the general decline of safety regulation enforcement through attrition of personal. Affects food safety too. But it might be about political culture, more than elections, as you say. And that might be political culture among Democrats & how we interact with NAVs and Rs who care about their kids -- about being persuasive that it's actually a good thing to use government as a tool for mutual protection & keeping kids safe. That would mean overturning Clinton's buying in too much to the Reaganite anti-government rhetoric. We have to be not afraid to say bigger government for bigger safety is better. We have to advocate that some responsibilities are collective or lie with manufacturers & retailers, it's not all individual responsibility. Parents should be able to be counted responsible if they rely on safety protections, so the protections must be reliable. Parents should be enabled to devote more their individual responsibility energies to the areas where their involvement is unique, indispensable and irreplaceable. If we have to put huge amounts of energy an worry into trying to handle problems that really should be dealt with at earlier stages in the process, where individuals have little influence, we'll have that much less for the kids directly.

    The plastics problem isn't new. My eight-year old has a Barbie that was her mother's forty years ago. Apart from some ancient sibling inflicted hair damage, it is not substantially distinguishable from those that are younger than my daughter. Some things probably are better today -- the regulation of lead paint wasn't fully implemented until the late '70s I think.

    Some things may have gotten worse, though. Plastic beverage containers are ubiquitous on a scale a couple of orders of magnitude wider and deeper than in the 1960s (my childhood), I think. Milk jugs worry me particularly because I think their kind of soft plastic may leach more than the harder plastics. But the huge expansion of soft drink consumption & bottled water in the past 15 or 20 years is nothing to sneeze at. And then there are the plastic wrapped or containg individual servings of so much stuff.

    If we look at the cultural politics from another angle, the toys are just a section of a wider commercial and consumer culture that is toxic for our kids in a number of ways. This week's New England Journal of Medicine has related items about childhood obesity's long-term health consequences. Those just linked are more medical, having to do with later in life risk of coronary heart disease for obese children.

    But of particular relevance to your contribution is an article by Dr. David Ludwig of Children's Hospital in Boston that lays out the scope of the problem including human as well as well as narrow health and economic costs, and the incentive patterns and marketing structures that render the cultural and commercial environment harmful to kids' health.

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