It's enough to make you want to rip off all your clothes and just run around nekked. And to tell your kids they can play only with ... air -- or, safer yet, only make-believe friends. We're talking about poison clothes and toys. There's the latest toy recall, this time by Mattel, of millions of toys made in China whose paint jobs contained unhealthful levels of lead. There were the easily-dislodged magnets that tykes could choke on. And now there's a story circulating the globe that certain cotton and wool clothes from China -- adults' and children's -- have been infused with abominably high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that helps keep duds crease- and mold-free.
But -- deep breath -- there's no need yet to vault back to the wilderness. True, we don't know yet what to say about the clothing concern. But, in general, a good way to inform yourself is to check out the latest recalls at www.recalls.gov. And, for the lead problem, you can wash your kids" toys and keep your house dusted and clean and let the water run in those lead pipes if you have them -- all things recommended by our safety monitors. You can also buy those little sticks at your local hardware store and rub them all over suspect stuff to see if anything's got lead in it. Last Thursday, that's what Dawn Craghead was doing at Moon's Play & Learn in Eureka. Craghead, Moon's manager, wasn't particularly concerned about the Mattel recall because her store doesn't carry Mattel products.
"The companies we normally buy from have higher standards than the big, mass-market companies like Mattel," she said, as she squished a little, white "Lead Check" stick and then rubbed it on a red triangle piece of a shapes game. "But I just decided, to ease our customers" minds, I would test some of the things in our store."
She tested wooden toys in particular. "I tested a variety of products, from newer to older, and baby things, because that's what goes in the mouth. And for wooden toys, reds and yellows are usually more likely" to have lead, if it's present at all.
Everything passed "with flying colors," she said. Craghead also has been showing her customers copies of a Time Magazine article, posted online, called "The Recall: A Parents" Guide." And she's telling them that they "can't just assume that everything in a store is safe."
"The true danger is in people not giving age-appropriate toys," Craghead said. "That's where more accidents happen. And with the lead -- you can't get lead poisoning just by touching it. You have to do a serious amount of chewing. People should educate themselves about how lead poisoning works."
Most local hardware stores, including Shafer's Ace Hardware, Pierson's, Sunny Brae Ace and Scotia True Value, carry the little lead-check sticks. At Shafer's in Henderson Center, the checkout guy said to a customer purchasing a packet of two sticks, "We'll probably have a run on these now with that toy recall." The sticks go for about $7-$9 -- a bit of a ripoff, you might think, because you only get a couple of swipes out of each stick. But hey, it's better than watching your kid babble to the air in a toy-free joyless space.