Thursday, August 09, 2007,9:00 AM
Poison Me Elmo
If you are at all aware of the news or have children and have received emails from 50 different friends about it, you have heard about the recent recall by Fisher-Price and Mattel of over 1 million toys due to excessive lead content. Then today the Chicago Tribune reported on some toys that are just now being recalled even though the company has known for over 5 years that the lead content in them was 40 times the safe limit. I looked at the Fisher-Price list, given that most of the toys on there are Sesame Street and Dora toys, we own a number of the ones on it. But since we got them all before May 1, 2007, they are apparently perfectly safe. Sure, whatever.

One of the most common responses to my recent justice bra story was that it was absurd for me to care about chemicals used to make my clothing. The comments ranged from stating gross misconceptions like if we don't use fertilizers and pesticides people will starve to the old adage that everything causes cancer so why bother caring. The everyday exposure to dangerous chemicals has become so accepted that people no longer care. We expect it to be plastered all over the news if really dangerous stuff (lead in our child's Elmo karaoke machine) gets out. Then there will be an outcry, a full recall, and we can all be safe. No need to worry, no need to care. But as the book Fast Food Nation pointed out, just because there are no reports of danger does not mean the danger doesn't exist just that they aren't bothering to test for it. Which is what gives me so much confidence that our copious Elmo and Dora toys are "perfectly safe."

But how does one proceed? I don't think that I'm going to throw away Emma's favorite toys. And I know that there are tons of other unhealthy items in my home - toys and otherwise. But I am also not a fan of the type attitude that states, "well everything causes cancer (or whatever), so why waste your time caring?" If "everything" is harmful why in the world would I just want to expose myself (or my child) to as much of it as possible? Wouldn't it be smarter to avoid what can be avoided and advocate to reduce the use of poisons in other areas? There are alternatives and contrary to popular belief those alternatives aren't that hard to find (or that much more expensive). So perhaps getting rid of everything one already owns isn't the best response, but changing one's habits from this point forward is. It just takes being willing to stop exposing oneself to poison. But as I am discovering, that isn't something that most people are willing to do. It's too much work or something like that.

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posted by Julie at 9:00 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


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