Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Santa Wouldn't Put THAT In My Toys"


"What are you putting in my toys Santa?!"

"Santa wouldn't put lead in my toys mommy, so don't worry" That was my 5 year old interrupting a conversation with my husband, where we were talking about a company which tested a toy tiger bought at a NYC museum that contained over 4 times the legal limit of lead.

My son had a great point.   Of course Santa Clause would never put lead or any other potentially harmful chemical in a toy he was making in the North Pole. In fact, why would anyone do that? Why would anyone put potentially toxic chemicals like lead in any toy meant for young children?  It would be screwed up.

But, we live in a screwed up kind of world, my friends.   Many toys we buy at reliable retailers do, in fact, contain harmful chemicals.   And let's be honest, many of these toys end up in our children's mouths- thus directly exposing our munchkins to these toxins.

THE MOST COMMON CHEMICALS IN TOYS ARE....
What else would Santa never put in a toy, but somehow make there?

  • Lead:  According to the EPA (even low levels of) “Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes...”  Academic achievement and the ability to pay attention are all affected -   and the effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed or corrected.
  • Phthalates:  endocrine disrupting chemicals scientific studies have linked to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls.
  • PVCa known human carcinogen which can also exposure you to lead. 
  • Cadmium: a carcinogen., exposure can also damage the lungs and kidneys and weaken bones
  • Arsenic: Another carcinogenic chemical.

As I meditated on what a mission it can be to find toys that are non-toxic for little and not so little kids everywhere, I was actually thankful I new what to look out for, what to avoid  (more on that a bit later) and where to go.


I INTRODUCE YOU TO SAFE DUCKY STORES 

Imagine if you could go to a store and not have to worry about potentially buying an item that could expose your little munchkin to toxic chemicals.  No research necessary on your part.  You could literally pick up any toy from the entire store and take it home, confidant you had chosen a super cute toy that was safe.   Then, days later, when that toy ends up inside your child's mouth?   No worries.  You know that toy has been tested and will not leach any nasty chemicals.

It is possible. At least if you live in Southern California.  It is called the Safe Ducky Program.  I actually got to tag along as the head honcho of Safe Ducky,  Josh Kasteler, certified a much loved Santa Monica store, Caro Bambino... it was so interesting - this company tests all the toys the store sells
Safe Ducky testing in action
with their advanced technology (for tech nerds they use:  X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, which check for the presence of heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead, and FT-IR spectrometers to check for toxins in plastics) and let the store owners know if any item exceeds safety standards.  Any unsafe products are removed from stores shelves and the store becomes a Safe Ducky Certified Member.  What do parents do?  Nothing.  Just shop with confidence.  Brilliant.

WHAT IF I DON'T LIVE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?
Not everyone can live in sunny Southern California, and since Safe Ducky recently launched they have not yet conquered the entire US - so what is a concerned parent to do if you do not have a Safe Ducky Store near you?

Josh shared his tips for non-toxic toy shopping :
  1. Consider these risk factors:
  •      Country of origin – "If a product comes from Asia its likely been made by contract manufacturing with limited oversight." According to Josh, it is not unusual for a US company to not know what is going on in their overseas factories, which is why and how toxic chemicals can get into these items without the parent company even being aware.
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip:  Look for toys made in the US or Europe.
  • Metal and flexible plastic materials – "Metal is more likely to contain heavy metals and plastics can also have phthalates."
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: When possible choose wood toys
  • Brand "Brands that specialize in children products typically have suppliers who understand child safety, while those brands that also make teen or adult items might not."
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Reputation is everything.   We like companies like Hape, Plan Toys, Sevi, Green Toys, and Books! 
  • Cost – "Lower cost items have more chance of having toxic chemicals because they often reduce the costs of materials & processing."
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Avoid toys bought at Dollar Stores and other inexpensive outlets
  • Clothing – "Compared with toys, we’re finding more toxic chemicals in clothing."
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Interesting info - remember zippers and buttons often times have lead.  Organic clothing is usually a trusted outlet for this.
  • Age – Older products are more likely to contain toxic chemicals, so hand-me-downs and 2nd hand shops have a higher risk.
Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Throw out toys that are showing signs of usage (cloudy plastic, chipped paint) and don't buy toys at garage sales and other second hand retailers. 
  • Last tip? "Check the websites of the companies that make the products you buy. Look for a “Safety” or “Compliance” section where they list how they test their products and what standards they use. If there is no section on the website, it’s more likely they don’t have a robust product safety program."
For a list of Safe Ducky Stores visit the Safe Ducky website.

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