Monday, 12 January 2009

Kid Stuff

There is a lot of buzz on the stay-at-home-and-be-frugal-crafty-mommy blogs that I seem to be strangely drawn to read. It's about the soon to be enacted law in the US that will require mandatory testing of products intended for children aged 12 and under for lead and, apparently, phthalates (any clue as to how this is pronounced??). The concerns are about the eradication of the second hand market for children's clothing and toys, also about small handmake toymakers being put out of business. They see this as having a substantial impact on their frugal lifestyle choices and I appreciate those concerns. Finally, there is concern about the amount of stuff that will go to landfill, which I also appreciate.

Back when I knew about environmental stuff, I was very aware of the problems lead exposure could cause for children. Acute lead poisoning can be fatal, though it is fairly rare in developed countries. The greater threat is low level exposure to young children, particularly those under 6, as there are no observable symptoms, but lead in a child's body interferes with brain development and causes a small lowering of intelligence. It is considered a major public health issue and the Centers for Disease Control and State Health Departments spend a great deal of money to prevent it. Removing lead from gasoline and from paint were major steps towards reducing the risk for many children. More recently acute lead poisoning cases reported to CDC have involved toys imported from developing countries.

I didn't encounter any phthalates issues in my work life (just typing that word makes me feel I have a lithp) but briefly looking it up it appears that some scientists feel it is a potential endocrine disrupter, that is something that has an adverse effect on reproductive, neurological, developmental or immune systems. Phthlates are apparently used in making plastics more flexible and given that I expect we encounter them far more than we realise. I suppose not having these substances in the things children put into their mouths is an improvement, but I'd hate to give up my Ziplock bags or my PVC window frames.

I'm all in favour of protecting children, but I'm horrified at the waste that is about to occur starting Feb 10. I don't need any children's clothing or toys, but I hate to think of all that fabric -- potential craft material! - going in the bin. I keep thinking there must be some sort of business opportunity here, importing second hand stuff from the US to sell here in the UK -- until of course the EU follows suit with their own consumer protection law. I wouldn't want endangering the health of UK children on my conscience either, and I'm certain I don't want to have to figure out all the rules the UK would have about such a thing: import duty, Value Added Tax, probably business licenses, health and safety, etc.

Besides, if you sell kids' stuff, that means you have to be around... kids! Oh well, the US is a big place, they can fit in a few more landfill sites.

Update: Apparently the law has been modified to allow re-sellers to sell items which do not exceed lead and phthalate levels, but they don't have to do the least that's what I think this says...

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