Mr. Santa Claus
December 20, 2010
I’m glad you stopped giving the bad kids lumps of coal in their stockings. It really shows that you can keep up with the times and adjust to cultural shifts. Way to go, Santa! I applaud that. But there’s a rumor going around that kids might be getting toxic toys under the Christmas tree this year.
What gives? I mean, most parents don’t have the time—or the energy—to sort through what’s safe and what’s not when we scramble to get the Christmas shopping done. But you, you are the toy guru. Toys are your life, right?! So, you must know that some of the most popular toys on the shelf this year in mainstream toy stores are made with products linked to learning disabilities, behavior problems, and much worse. I’m sure you agree that even the naughtiest kids don’t deserve poisonous presents.
Well, in case you didn’t get the memo, this fall, researchers randomly selected toys from a mainstream toy store and ran tests on them for harmful toxics. It turns out lots of toys are made of a toxic plastic called PVC (around 70 percent of the toys tested). Toys for infants and toddlers (the ones most likely to put this stuff in their mouths) were even more likely to contain PVC (80 percent of the sample). Many toys also contain substances called organotins (probably around 20 percent). These chemicals are all toxic to children when ingested—ingredients that could hurt kids’ growing brains and bodies.
You’re a jolly, old elf who wants to do the right thing, but this is a busy time of year for you, too. Like me, you probably don’t stop to read the fine print when you’re looking for presents. But even if you do read labels, you can’t be sure. The study showed that most times, there’s no indication on the toy’s label that it contains these substances, let alone their dangers. In the recent testing, only one of the 60 products that we tested was labeled as containing PVC.
Sorry, Santa. Your job sure isn’t easy. But as a big holiday shopper—maybe even the biggest—you could really do a lot to pressure toy manufacturers and retailers to make and sell toys that are safer for kids—or at least, label the ones that are suspect. Unlike most busy parents and grandparents, you’ve got that team of elves to help you out! Send them online to check out which toys are naughty (Toxic Toys R Us Report) and which are nice: Washington Toxics Coalition’s guide to safer toys and HealthyStuff.org.
I promise you there will be milk and cookies waiting for you by the chimney. In return, can you throw your weight around get the big toy stores to stop selling toys that poison my kid?
P.S. Are there any polar bears left up there where you are? Just wondering…