Even my greenest, most organic mom friends are totally unnerved by toys lately. Im shaken, too. Who can blame us?
First, there was round after round of lead paint-tainted toy recalls a few months back, right around the same time that all the newspapers in America simultaneously reported on the hormone disrupter bisphenol-A in plastic baby bottles, rubber duckies, and the like.
Then, last week, China halted the export of Aqua Dots because they contain a toxic chemical that converts into a date rape drug. That sentence reads like something straight out of the theater of the absurd, or the plot of a bad horror movie. Some children who swallowed the craft beads (also sold under the name Bindeez Beads in Australia) vomited and lost consciousness. While U.S. safety officials voluntarily recalled about 4.2 million of these beads, recalls are really only about saving face. Something has to be done before these things hit the market, not after.
I have been following Greenpeaces attempt to persuade Apple to be greener for some time now and felt they had been making strides. Obviously more works needs to be done. Not that iPhones are a toy, but a lot of children do have them, and even more have iPods, and chew on their ear buds.
Which is why it was such a welcome relief to read two bits of great news recently. First, California passed a much-needed toxic toy ban bill (it takes effect January 1, 2009) which some are positing will lead the way for other states and possibly the nation to implement similar legislation.
Then, Target announced its going to voluntarily phase out the use of PVC (dubbed "the poison plastic" by those in the know) in its private label products and packaging. Their utensils and lunchboxes are already PVC-free, and bibs will be by this January. According to a post-victory email sent around by Mary Brune, the co-founder/director of Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS), the big box store chain will also eliminate phthalates from baby changing tables by January 2008 and phase them out of most toys by fall 2008. Brune worked with other groups to persuade Target to take this excellent step in the right direction. All of this made me smile. Big time. (If you havent yet checked out MOMS, by the way, do! www.Safemilk.org.)
Call me optimistic, but it stands to reason that parents who have had a crash course in toxic toys of late arent going to stand around letting their children play with this junk any longer. Were an enormous consumer pool. If we collectively demand safer, more environmentally sound products, companies are going to have to supply them. Its simple economics. (If youre not in the mood to be a hands-on activist, just vote with your dollars i.e. only buy the good stuff.) Target seems to have gotten that. I look forward to seeing other smile-inducing examples of corporate responsibility in the headlines soon.
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