I have neglected my blog for far too long and have decided that I will do a much better job managing my blog in 2012. There is a lot of information related to product, home and child safety to share so stay tuned.
……..or are the adults who don’t properly supervise their children in or around water the problem? Good Morning America aired a segment about how portable pools increase drowning risks and I couldn’t disagree more. The pools themselves are not the root of the problem; unsupervised children using them is. I thought it interesting that Dr. Gary Smith tried to make some comparison between cars having seat belts and the much-needed safety features of portable pools. Lets compare:
Cars are motorized vehicles traveling alongside other motorized vehicles, with unpredictable, sometimes drunk, distracted, poor or inexperienced drivers. A seat belt sounds like a great idea. A car is the most dangerous environment for your child and you load them in one daily. There are so many risks and unpredictable variables while driving a car that I would certainly hope that they have these safety features.
Then you have a container that holds water and water is dangerous; there is no question. However, manufacturers provide directions, warnings and instructions for the safe use of these pool’s, including stressing how critical adult supervision is to your childs safety. The environment should theoretically be a non-factor if the instructions are followed, but the water and the child are the two components that make for such a dangerous situation. Now how is the pool itself the cause of accidental drowning? Children in water with parents watching, touching and providing security and protection should prevent a drowning from ever occurring. Bathtubs are equally responsible for drowning deaths in the home; should they come equipped with added safety features? I say no; common sense tells me that I can’t be too cautious and should never leave my daughter alone in or around water. It is my responsibility and my love for her that drives me to protect her from any harm; my parental instincts.
Nothing replaces parental or adult supervision…no pool or toy replaces your supervisory duties; they’re not your babysitter. Every accidental drowning can be avoided if direct supervision is the priority. Dr. Smith, start encouraging parents and caregivers to pay closer attention to their children when in, around or near bodies of water, educate them on the risks and precautionary measures and stop blaming products for these tragic accidents.
Working in product safety and quality for so long, I am not easily impressed and more often than not, can be critical of designs, materials, patterns, construction, etc., and those who know me well can verify. Additionally, because I am the proudest dad in the world, I am always looking for the cutest products, clothes and toys for my little pumpkin.
I stumbled upon a product called Baby Elephant Ears, which is a head rest that provides added support for your baby’s head and neck when in their car seat, stroller, swing or bouncer. Since it was very reasonably priced and adorable (especially when considering the name), I decided to get one. I received my Baby Elephant Ears yesterday and I couldn’t wait to get this posting up to share this product with everyone! Kerri absolutely adores the pattern, the plush softness of the fabric and stuffing material, as well as its functional purpose, not to mention how adorable it is!
My evaluation of Baby Elephant Ears was easy! They are crafted in the US and the quality of the product, down to the details of the sewn in label, hang tag and even the Baby Elephant Ears sticker on the USPS package, add simple touches that truly describe the pride in the workmanship and passion that goes into making the Baby Elephant Ears. I always try to find something negative about the products I purchase, because I want to provide others with an unbiased opinion, but I have nothing at all bad to say about Baby Elephant Ears! Just adorable and it will have people talking when you are out and about! I have a great friend in Minneapolis who is expecting a grand baby in the near future and I can’t wait to get some Baby Elephant Ears for her! Honestly, this is simply an adorable gift for expectant mother’s, father’s and grandparent’s.
This is one of those items that not only has me excited because of its functionality, purpose and adorability, but also after reading Alicia Overby’s purpose for starting Baby Elephant Ears you have a better understanding why they are made with such pride. This is a great product with an incredible story behind it and my Lulu girl simply looks even more adorable (couldn’t imagine that) with her new ears!
The trees are in bloom, the pollen has fallen and the days are getting warmer; which means that summer is right around the corner. It’s the season I look forward to the most for obvious reasons; sitting on the beach and playing golf until my hands bleed. But with a baby at home now, I also understand that while at the beach or by the pool, it isn’t just about my passion for Marco Polo anymore. I thought I would remind everyone about the dangers of water, and links to some very useful information to prevent injuries this summer.
The first topic; sun protection. Your little ones should always be protected from the suns harmful UV rays with clothes, hats and sun screen. Start with covering your child with UPF rated clothes and hats. Look for a UPF rating on the hang tag of the article before buying it. For example, a UPF 50 means that only 1/50th of UVA and UVB rays are able to penetrate the material under normal use. Anything less than 45 is probably not suitable for kids with fair skin or who burn easily. Always have a hat on your child’s head, preferably with a brim, to protect their scalp and face from sunburn.
For all other areas not covered by clothes or a hat, protect your child with sunscreen. The Higher the SPF, the better protection it will provide. If you normally burn in 10 minutes, an SPF 15 would allow you to be in the sun 15 times longer before you are burned (or 150 minutes), according to the American Association of Dermatology.
Umbrellas are also a good investment, but be skeptical of an umbrella that costs $10 at the seaside and claims to have a UPF of 70….we dont typically rate textiles at anything higher than a 50, in common consumer products, in which case it will merely say 50+. It is best to invest in an umbrella from a reputable manufacturer for optimal results and to truly protect your kids from burns.
Drowning is the 2nd highest cause of death of children 2-14 years of age; resulting in 1,000 deaths per year and 1/3 of those in swimming pools. There are safe guards to protecting your children from drowning in pools and the CPSC each season makes an effort to educate parents on pool safety, including suggestions of barriers, gates, enclosures, drain safety, supervision, etc. Check out all of their public information here.
Next, be sure that whenever your children are in or around your pool, that you or another adult are constantly supervising; it takes just minutes for your child to drown. For little children, always be within arms reach while they are in the pool, in a baby float or other device. For children 4+ and who have already had swimming lessons, always be at a distance where you can quickly come to their aid in the event something occurs. Panic can lead to more damage than the original event, so your constant watchful eye is necessary to prevent drowning. Always be certain that your children have the proper swim aids while they are in the pool and that they fit properly, so they’re effective. Swimways has an impressive line of children’s swim aids that are appropriate at each stage of development; www.swimways.com
Last, the US Military Academy complied a great list of safeguards to keep your children safe and prevent drowning or injuries, in or around pools, lakes, ponds, the ocean or rivers. Sumer is fun; but the safety of your kids comes first, so take it easy on the margaritas at poolside.
As we all know, lead is a dangerous substance and has been regulated in paints used on consumer products for over 30 years now. But it seems that there is a misrepresentation about how lead is used and how toxic it truly is to users of products that contain it. Lead is a soft heavy metal, found in ore, so it’s not an accident if it ends up in certain products; it is intentionally put there by someone. But, it is important to understand that lead has served a positive purpose in many applications; however, it also has severe negative health effects. It has been used in paints, plastics and metals for quite some time, across many product categories and industries. Its use hasn’t always been safe, that’s for sure….but it isn’t always unsafe either when used in certain consumer product applications. What many people don’t know is how lead gets into your body? How does it cause harm? Why does it cause harm?
The regulating of lead in paints has been clearly justified, because over time paint will change physically, as a result of the evaporation and degradation of binders and solvents in the paint vehicle. Eventually, the paint will begin to chip and likely become dust; directly exposing people to the embedded lead. Through hand to mouth contact or contamination of food and water or even inhalation, the lead is introduced into the body. Remember in the Chris Farley movie, when David Spade asked if he ate paint chips when he was a kid and he asked “why?”…funny in the movie, but a real hazard. Children who are exposed to lead have been known to have learning disabilities, abdominal, kidney & liver ailments, neuropathy, increased blood pressure and in rare cases, death.
The lead in paints after ingestion or inhalation could then become bio-available. The definition of bio-available according to Webster’s dictionary is:
“n. The degree to which or rate at which a drug or other substance is absorbed or becomes available at the site of physiological activity after administration.”
Further to that, the Encyclopedia of Public Health states:
“Bioavailability refers to the difference between the amount of a substance, such as a drug, herb, or chemical, to which a person is exposed and the actual dose of the substance the body receives. Bioavailability accounts for the difference between exposure and dose. A drug’s therapeutic action or a chemical’s toxicity is determined by the dose received at the target site in the body.”
Therefore, we know that if there is any amount of lead in paint, over time when exposed to the right conditions, all paints will degrade, permit bioavailability and depending on the amount of absorbed lead, could result in chronic or acute toxicity. This completely makes sense in paints, which is why the laws have regulated lead in paints for so long. The regular exposure of lead in small dosages over a period of time can result in a bioaccumulation of the lead in living tissue, can lead to prolonged health problems; this is why theoretically, no amount of lead in paint is safe, because your body retains a large portion of the lead that is bioavailable. All of this is true and everyone wants to avoid putting humans, especially children and pregnant women at risk of avoidable health issues. No one will argue that lead in paint or gasoline is safe for human life.
However, where it gets cloudy is the governments decision to limit lead in all other materials, which may not result in the same degree of lead exposure and negative health effects as leaded paint may provide. Let’s use a lead containing plastic lunch box as an example. Certainly, food will come in direct contact with the plastic, but lead doesn’t simply rub off of plastic or other substrates, because it is in most cases, chemically bonded with the plastic. According to the new laws in the US, the lead is at a toxic level in this lunch box if it exceeds 0.03%of the weight of the lunch box; called the “total lead content”. However, the lead is never bio-available to the user of the lunch box, because the lead remains in place and doesn’t leach to the food or hands of the user.
An example of excessive & accessible lead is in jewelry, because its bioavailability was proven, with the death of 4 year old Jarnell Brown in 2004, after swallowing a component of a Reebok charm bracelet, provided with a pair of shoes. The extremely high percentage of lead in the charm, resulted in acute lead toxicity and Jarnell’s death within a couple of days of his swallowing it. Items able to be swallowed and that contain excessive amounts of lead are undeniably a hazard. Items continually mouthed and not necessarily able to be swallowed could even result in elevated lead/blood levels. This charm was made almost entirely of lead, so by swallowing it, a large percentage of the lead was bio-available. Fortunately, the CPSC and Congress acted swiftly to this event and justifiably enacted a lead in children’s jewelry regulation.
Congress did not consider the size, shape or bioavailability of lead in solid materials when they passed the new laws for children’s products and toys in 2008 (CPSIA). They simply applied a blanket requirement to all products intended for children under 12 years of age and limited the allowable lead in all accessible materials of those goods. The CPSC realized that congress may have overstepped when it was discovered that brass valves on children’s bicycle tires contained excessive amounts of lead and there was nothing the bicycle industry could do, but stop selling bikes for children. Later, the CPSC determined that valves were exempt from meeting the lead requirements, but why? Why brass valves on bikes and not other products, impossible to be consumed or not increasing the bioavailability of the lead? The bicycle industry could not change the valves overnight, because the lead was considered a technological necessity and by replacing the lead with a less hazardous alternative, leaking inner tubes would present a different risk of injury to the rider. So, which injury took precedence? Not lead exposure. The CPSC rightfully exempted brass valves because of the lack of a child’s accessibility to the embedded lead and the normal use patterns and interaction of the child with the valve.
Many feel that lead, no matter its purpose should still be regulated in children’s products, but I don’t agree. Lead limits shouldn’t be a blanket requirement that applies to all things, no matter their intended use, bioavailability or risk of exposure. I don’t expect a legislative body to include provisions in the law that detail every item, material, construction and finished good the limits should apply to either. I do expect them to allow the CPSC, whose purpose is to protect consumers from unnecessary and avoidable injury, to use sound and expert judgment in determining the appropriate application of these lead limits in substrates, like they did with bicycle valves. However, the appropriate house committee appears to be trying to take that authority of judgement away from the CPSC. Is that to suggest, that Rep. Henry Waxman knows more about the results of lead exposures than a toxicologist working for the CPSC? Or that Rep. Bobby Rush knows more about this subject than the CPSC’s Executive Director of Hazard Identification & Reduction? Doubt it.
To those who think simply removing lead is an easy answer, it’s not. It can be and has proven to be difficult and often impossible to completely eliminate. Companies have ceased selling products and entire lines of products because of CPSIA. Some have gone out of business. Jobs have been lost. Local economies impacted. All, because limiting lead sounded like the right thing to do and with no consideration of how it will affect industries, specific products, the people in those industries or whether the lead was actually a hazard risk in the first place. In most cases, toys on the market are no safer than they were before this law. It hasn’t really changed anything, except for challenging the sustainability of the toy industry.
We have little hope that anything will change in regard to these laws and we will continue to meet the requirements, but the average consumer should know that just because lead is present, doesn’t mean it is harmful. Don’t let misinformation of certain groups dissuade you from purchasing goods; simply because they say “lead was detected”….it likely is a safe toy. I wouldn’t put my child in harm’s way, but I also won’t take the advice of those whose agenda is not only to protect children, but enact change, no matter what those changes are or their consequences.
My wife, listening to my ramblings has learned a lot about toy safety and juvenile products over the years and I completely trust her buying decisions now that we have an infant at home. Lulu can push buttons, grab pull strings, is now rolling like a kick ball and puts almost everything in her mouth. Perhaps I am being a biased dad, but I think she is the smartest and most beautiful 5 month old I have ever met.
Kerri made a quick stop by the local dollar discount store the other day (I won’t mention any specific names) to pick up a couple of things and passed through the toy aisle. She made a few purchases; including some bunny ears for the baby….you can see what I mean by beautiful baby below.
Kerri always shares her purchases with me, so of course she showed me a pair of rattles that she found at this dollar discount store. The rattles, it turns out weren’t rattles, but “maracas” according to the product packaging. The age grade also stated ’3+’ in very small type on the top right hand corner of the package card. I don’t think Kerri made a bad purchase; in fact, had I not known about the hazardous shapes of rattles (who knows this stuff outside of my profession?), I would have given these to the baby too. I am sure a lot of parents would have given them to their baby. Why wouldn’t they? They make a rattling noise, have a handle small enough for the baby to grasp and characters that are considered more for 3 to 5 year olds, yet are very inviting for even 9-36 month olds; at least I think so, but I don’t work in marketing. Do all parents know that ’3+’ means 3+ years even?
I won’t disclose the license, characters or even the distributor of this toy, because they have technically done nothing wrong. However, my wife, who knows more about toy safety than the average mom, thought this product would be safe for Lulu and I would expect the same of any mom. The problem with the rattle pictured below is the shape and design of the handle.
There is a safety regulation called 16 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 1510 that forbids the introduction of hazardously shaped rattles into the US stream of commerce. If any part of the rattle can completely pass through a test gauge which has an opening larger than a paper towel tube and is less than 2″ thick, then it can lodge in the throat of a baby and suffocate them. Also, the industry standard for toys in the US, which has also recently become federal law, forbids toys with a spherical, hemispherical or circular flared ends and weighing less than 1.1 lbs. from passing through a similar gauge to that described above. This is because children can place the object in their mouth, fall and the handle cause damage to their windpipe, lodge in their throat and suffocate them. Would you think that this harmless looking “maracas” could harm your baby in such a way?
According to the manufacturer the maracas are not intended for the age group covered in the safety requirements; 18 months and under. However, the product to me looks like a rattle. The old adage; if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it is a duck. Here is an example of a similar case; Pottery Barn recalled 4th of July fashioned clackers about 8 years ago for two reasons; 1) they had a small peg that released from the product, posing a choking hazard and 2) had a handle that failed to meet the requirements in 16 CFR 1510, because the handle was able to pass through the test gauge. There seems to be a similarity between the PB clacker and our maraca.
The moral of this posting; don’t always assume that the products you purchase are safe for your kids. Do your best to follow labeled age grades and consider how the item may be used by your child; not just at the time of purchase, but a year down the road, when they may not be under you constant supervision. Items like this are unsafe for children under 18 months and in my personal opinion, under 3 years old. Buy items like this for older kids, but don’t give them to your little ones, because they will place them in their mouth and rigid handles shaped like the one above could be disastrous. The rule of thumb for rattles; buy plush rattles from reputable toy or baby retailers and from manufacturers you recognize.
Last week, Carolina Biology Supply, in cooperation with the CPSC announced the recall of about 2,300 Carolina Function Generator Kits, because of excessive levels of lead. The recall is unique, because it is one of the first non jewelry items in the US to be recalled because of excessive lead in the substrate and not the paint. It is also unique, because the item was not manufactured in China, but Canada.
Many have pointed the finger at China for being the source of all recalls associated with lead, but this recall is proof that they are not the only country producing children’s products that could exceed the statutory limits. China produces approximately 60% of the toys sold in the US, so of course statistically, their exports are more apt to be identified in a lead related recall.
Lead has nothing to do with geographic origin of a product, but has more to do with the process controls of the producer and supplier of the product and/or its components. Any manufacturer, in any country can be the subject of a recall if the proper controls are not in place to prevent lead contamination. No company wants to be associated or included in a product recall for any reason and many companies feel that lead would never be an issue within their organization, until they find themselves making an announcement like Carolina Biology Supply. Lead isn’t only found in the soil in China; it’s everywhere.