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A Hard Sale

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
I had a really hard time selecting a couple of small Easter presents for my boys this year. It's a current parent's conundrum as standing in the toy section of any given department store. What can I buy in good conscience? What is here that won't harm my children? What toy is both affordable, educational, and fun? Which toys are low in lead? Which toys did not contribute to global warming through production? Where did the raw materials come from? Who assembled it and how old were they? Where did the oil come from to produce the plastic? It boggles my mind. I ended up buying Jonas a freezable teething ring made 100% in the good old USA. That night I saw a story about phthalates. I had heard the warning against the use of plastics because of hydro flouro carbons and the warning against microwaving plastic because of the plastizers tainting food (Snopes claims this is an urban legend) but I had never heard of a phthalate. Everybody is carrying a certain amount of phthalate in their body. Did chemical manufacturers ask us if we mind if they store it there? Or in my kid's body? One recent study suggests that phthalates may cause reproductive problems in little boys. Wasn't it just last week that hygiene products with added fragrance like lotion causes the same problems? And so what is a parent to do? I guess for me it doesn't matter whether we are talking about phthalates or flouro carbons or lead because it is all the same thing. One could argue that these studies don't pinpoint any one substance to be cancer causing, it just suggest there MAY be a link. Okay. But let's throw all those possibilities into a hat together along with one healthy card. What's your chances of choosing the healthy card? In my mind, all these little bits count and I'm trying to eliminate as many unhealthy factors as possible through wise choices. One look at my boys' toy box and it's obvious it can't be done but I'm trying. I think there is a price to cheap goods and we shouldn't accept that price. Whereas we used to set an example to the rest of the world in the standards of health and safety we found acceptable for our children, we have now let those standards slide in the name of a capitalism and cheap prices (although that is arguable as well at this point.) Europe has outlawed the use of phthalates and many other chemicals in children's toys. It makes the toys more expensive but safe. We'd be wise to follow. I didn't give Jonas that plastic teething ring. Poor baby will have to teeth on an old- fashioned wash cloth. I'm not sure what to do with it. I can't give it to anyone and yet returning it to the store means some other baby will chew on it. It is just sitting there reminding me that I should be a very careful consumer.


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