Thursday, October 18, 2007

California bans phthatlates in toys

This week, California became the first state to ban phthatlates in toys. Phthatlates are used in plastic toys to make them softer and more pliable. They have also been implicated as false estrogens, capable of causing long term hormonal changes in humans.

We applaud California for taking the lead on keeping phthatlates out of toys. As with their efforts on global warming, California is leading the way while the Federal Government in missing in action.

Tellingly, the Toy Industry Association (TIA), a trade group to which we do not belong that represents toy manufacturers, criticized California's action. Playthings Magazine reports that, despite being banned by the European Union and at least 14 other countries, TIA's official position on phthatlates is that “there is simply no solid, scientific evidence that any person has ever been harmed by the presence of phthalates in toys." Yes, even the toy industry has its trade group lobbying against making their products better.

We hope that the Federal Government will someday follow suit and get phthatlates out of toys.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Another perspective on toy safety and China

From Dan: Our fellow toy store owner, Mary Sisson of Kazoodles in Vancouver, WA, wrote this piece about lead poisoning and Chinese toys. To date, it's the most thoughtful writing we've read on the subject:

"The key to a toy’s safety isn’t where it was made, but how it was made, the standards for its production, and the testing done throughout manufacture to ensure that those standards are met.

The United States and Europe have the highest toy safety standards in the world. In today’s global economy, the majority of manufacturers find they have to go to factories overseas to stay competitive. Those factories are expected to conform to the American or European standards, but it has been the responsibility of the manufacturer to be sure they do. Reputable manufacturers will clearly spell out regulations up front for the factory to avoid problems later.

The Chinese government, responding to the spate of recalls, on Aug. 20 began requiring all Chinese factories that export toys overseas to pass strict inspections and sample testing before a permit is given to export. This process is expected to cause backlogs in manufacturing and possible toy shortages for the holiday season.

Meanwhile, the toy industry in the U.S. is working to strengthen safety standards even more and encouraging Congress to bolster the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has half the staff it started with when it was founded in 1973.

Lead paint on toys was the cause of most of the recent toy recalls. High levels of lead in children’s bodies can cause physical illness and harm children’s intellectual development.

Visiting China this summer, I saw another kind of poisoning — the pollution spewing out of Chinese factories that makes Los Angeles look pristine in contrast. The developed world’s thirst for cheap goods has sent manufacturers to developing countries, where pollution standards are nowhere near those we expect in the U.S. Chinese children have no choice but to breathe this thick, brown air.

'I have written against the pollution relocation within China and also from the developed to the underdeveloped world,' said Chinese journalist Chen Weihua, whom I met in Shanghai. 'Sadly, for poor countries desperate for development, environment protection is always put in the second place and sacrificed.'

So how can you ensure your children’s safety this year? Don’t shun toys based on where they were made, but find out how the manufacturer makes certain that strict American safety standards are met. A reputable toy store will have that information or try to get it for you."

Indeed, product safety is only one side of the mirror. It's time we all look across the wide oceans that more and more of our consumer products sail and make global commerce safer for everyone.

Mary's comments belong to her and are used by permission.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More Errors by the CPSC

From Dan: Another article in the NY Times today about the Consumer Product Safety Commission's failures to protect people from unsafe products, this time in the case of an unsafe aerosol tile sealant product that severely hurt people's lungs.

As with the CPSC's oversight of toys, this article illustrated what happens when no safety testing is done before a product reaches store shelves. And, even after people started getting hurt, the CPSC lacked the ability and resources to adequately evaluate the product and lacked the follow though to enforce a proper recall. The result was people getting hurt for more than a year after the original recall.

This is the same pattern of partial recalls followed by continuing injuries followed by expanded recalls a year later that we saw with Magnetix toys. The CPSC is suffering from gross neglect and mismanagement, purposefully arranged by the current administration whose interests seem to be in sustaining corporate profits.

It seems to us that the current iteration of the CPSC is about safety in name only. Reading this latest article, you might think of it as the Corporate Profits Security Commission.

We continue to assert that a global free market requires strong oversight. The market itself offers few ways to protect ordinary people from unsafe toys or tile sealants. We need to be able to trust the products we buy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Xeko Indonesia is here!

If your kids have caught the Xeko bug, we're happy to report that the newest edition of Xeko, Mission Indonesia, has arrived. For the uninitiated, Xeko is a trading card game based on endangered species and biodiversity. It's a green alternative to fantasy games with all their merchandising tie-ins. We are also stocking the Costa Rica and (for a limited time) Madagascar editions.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Introducing the Pikkolo Baby Carrier from Cat Bird Baby

We were very happy to find this new carrier at the ABC Kids Expo (see below). It's made in Chicago by Cat Bird Baby, a small mother-owned company from Chicago.

Their new Pikkolo carrier is a nice innovation. It's basically a soft structured pack, using adjustable straps to secure a central panel holding a baby. Unlike a front carrier, it has a waist belt that helps redistribute weight to your hips and more support for baby's head and back. And, unlike the other structured carrier we sell, it has a narrower panel that an be cinched smaller so that you can carry and infant without a special insert. Its waist strap isn't padded though, so we don't think it'll be quite as comfortable for hauling toddlers.

All in all, the Pikkolo is a nice middle ground, especially for folks who are looking for one versatile carrier that'll work for all three years of a child's babywearing age.