Let me start by saying that this is not another “look what a dumb pitch I got” rant. I’ll save that one for the woman who asked me to review a book by an evangelical preacher about how to talk to your kids about Jesus.
Oh by the way, Happy Hanukkah, fellow Moms of the Tribe. Remind me also to tell you about my blasphemous Atheist of a sigOth letting Thalia put Ketchup on her potato pancakes.
Anyhow, what did I want to talk about? Oh right, lead in toys.
Ugh, I know – how much more can we talk about it? Well, I suppose as long as we hear that lead-tainted Fisher-Price toys only get recalled in Illinois which has higher standards than the rest of the US. (Thanks, Fidget.)
Score 1 for the Prairie State, -600 Million for Fisher-Price.
Because of Cool Mom Picks, I get a whole lot of solicitations and information about safe and not-so-safe toys this year. Toy companies are leading their pitches with their manufacturing standards. It’s really exciting to me because what it means is that moms, as consumers, are actually making a difference. In fact, so many of the amazing shops and artists we featured in our Safer Toy Guide can’t keep anything in stock. So whoo for us, using our pocketbooks to vote against mass-produced, corner-cutting, potentially unsafe plastic crap for our kids this year. I’m proud of us. Love us. Us is awesome.
And then I got an email from a very nice PR flack named Rachelle, with the very unfortunate job of having to do damage control for the Toy Industry Association which–don’t let that dot-org url or the cute stock photos of kids on their site fool you–is essentially the lobbying group for the asshats outsourcing all their toymaking out to the lowest bidders. They’re also on the record as being just awesome with pthalates in toys.
I got feisty when I read through the press release and saw the old PR trick, “Hey, here’s a Q and A with our grand poobah of toy safety and by the way she’s a mom too!”
I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, sometimes I do in fact get feisty.
Essentially the Qs were not Qs at all, but softballs gently lobbed by Fleishman-Hillard in the way that Sean Hannity asks George Bush things like, “So on a scale of 99-100, how much more do you love our country than John Kerry?”
And so I went off on a rather pissy rant describing how the VP of Toy Safety (hell of a title to have these days) took no responsibility for any of the issues, described no penalties for violators of our “very tough policies” and was incredibly vague about actions going forward.
The part that really stuck in the noggin was the following. Parentheses mine.
Everyone knows about the recalls of toys with lead paint. How big is the problem and should parents be worried about toys made in China?
The toy industry is very concerned that lead has been found in the paint in some toys. This is absolutely unacceptable. [But apparently it’s acceptable to find lead in toys if it’s not in the paint but in the PVC – see above Fisher-Price link.] We have a new initiative to ensure consistent testing and inspection of products so that this does not happen again. [Entirely unrealistic, but sure does sound good!] For now, two facts can help parents assess the relative risks of toys. First, parents should know that toys are statistically among the safest products in a household. [More than Windex? More than electric drill bits? Goodness, that IS comforting.] Toy recalls account for less than one percent of the 3 billion toys sold in the U.S. annually. [So if it’s not recalled it’s automatically safe? That’s not what I’ve heard.] Also, all toys sold in the U.S. must conform to U.S. safety standards, regardless of where they are made. [And U.S. safety standards are…good? Better than Germany? Better than Nigeria? What’s the continuum here?] Secondly, medical experts and toxicologists say that a child’s exposure to lead from a recalled toy would likely be minute under normal use. [Under normal use presumably doesn’t include a 2 year-old sucking on the head of her Diego doll.] They encourage parents to focus instead on the primary sources of lead in a child’s environment – from paint in old homes, lead in old plumbing, and other environmental sources.
For someone in charge of safety assurance, I felt neither safe nor assured.
But the more I thought about it, big deal if I didn’t like the press release. I’m just one person. Where does that get me?
And so, brilliant readers, Rachelle from F-H has quite bravely agreed to let a mob of angry, frustrated, anxious, but incredibly thoughtful, smart, and impressively critically-thinking moms ask the questions of the TIA’s VP of Toy Safety this time.
Leave me the question you’d like to ask in comments. I’ll cull down a few good ones and send it off by the end of the week or so and then post the answers – so you and you alone can decide whether the TIA is looking out for your best interests. That’s all we really want, right?
Please feel free to pass this along, or ask your menfolk or grandmas or friends if they have question too. It’s kind of like the YouTube Presidential debate where everyone gets a voice, only you don’t have to make a video.
Although if you did, and you had a confederate flag in the background and a smartass question about it, I would totally accidentally put your full name and home address on there before releasing it to BET.
Update: Find the questions–and answers–here.