Lead Paint in Toys: RC2 Settles Class Action Lawsuit

On Tuesday, RC2, the company that produces such brands as Lamaze Toys, Learning Curve Toys, and The First Years, settled a class action lawsuit brought against them as a result of the Thomas the Tank Engine recalls this past summer and fall. As you may recall, RC2 was forced to recall many trains with red and yellow paint in June and then, upon further testing, recalled additional toys from the line in September.

I’ve been very interested to watch the fallout from the various toy recalls this past season for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that I firmly believe that consumers created this pickle in the first place by demanding such insane quantities of cheap toys. How else can that demand be met except by reducing standards and off-shoring production so that the toys can be built by cheap labor overseas? Despite our collective culpability in this issue, we can also be part of the solution by being more selective about where we purchase toys and the types of toys we purchase. If the number of “Safe Toy Lists” I received via email this past year is any indication, consumers are now motivated to do a little bit more research into their toy purchases.

The second reason I find this interesting is because this issue shed light on the ridiculously low standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Now I see companies like RC2 coming up with their own standards because they go burned so badly in 2007. RC2 has instituted a “Multi-Check Safety System” that includes the following (taken from their web site):

  • “Increased scope and frequency of testing of both incoming materials and finished products, including testing of finished products from every production run
  • Tougher certification program for contract manufacturers and paint suppliers, including evidence that toy safety standards and quality control procedures are in place and operating effectively
  • Mandatory paint control procedures for contract manufacturers, including certified independent lab test results of every batch of wet paint before the paint is released for production
  • Increased random inspections and audits of both manufacturers and their suppliers, including semi-annual audits and quarterly random inspections for key suppliers
  • Zero tolerance for compromise on RC2 specifications reinforced by mandatory vendor compliance seminars and signed agreements”

It’s just too bad that they didn’t implement these more rigorous standards before they sent all those lead-laden James trains out into the world. Unfortunately, not all companies have jumped on the safety bandwagon. Even after all the bad press, the demands for safety, and the various recalls in 2007, there are several new safety recalls from the past week including:

  • Wooden “My First Kenmore” Play Stoves purchased at K-Mart & Sears (I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking wooden toys are better/safer/more educational. This recall, while related to lead paint like the wooden Thomas recall was, reminds us that all wooden toys are not equal and that something is not necessarily safe or natural just because it’s made out of wood!)
  • Toy Race Cars sold for a dollar at various discount stores (proof that you get what you pay for?)
  • Cranium Game recalled due to lead in the dice (this one just breaks my heart because I love the Cranium games, it’s an American company, and, frankly, they just should have known better!)

The good news is that so far there have been no reports of injury from these particular recalls, so perhaps this was just the wake-up call we as consumers, and the industry that supplies us, needed to come up with safer alternatives for our children.

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Mallow Madness

When I first moved to Colorado, not only was I a true gardening novice, but I was also challenged with a whole host of new weed varieties. One little cutie looked just like my childhood favorite Morning Glory (the much-hated bindweed), while another looked truly like a miniature wild geranium both in leaf and bloom: mallow. Years later, I know that mallow is one of the first weeds to green up in the spring and that its massive tap-root makes it a real garden pest, especially in my well-irrigated fertile vegetable garden beds. On Wednesday I pulled a mallow with a taproot easily 18 inches long. Gabriel thought it was so cool that he ran straight to Matt’s den window to show him ;). Today, while the weather was still warm and the last of the melting snow kept the beds moist enough to make pulling weeds a snap, I pulled two five-gallon buckets full of mallow out of my vegetable beds and wildflower garden. Matt had to help with a couple of really big ones, but for the most part, the beds are now weed-free. At least until next weekend…

Spring is…Coming!

We usually get a nice warm spell in February, but due to all the snow, it held off until March. It’s been in the 60s & 70s all week, which means I have two stir-crazy little monkeys who are desperate to get outside. Lily enjoyed her first sandbox experience and only ate a little sand (although she did eat a clod of dirt from my vegetable garden and a was chewing on a rotten apple from last fall—ewww!). Here’s a preview, but there are more pictures on Picasa. Lily takes the Sandboat for a drive...
The tulips are pushing through the mulch and I have buds on my daffodils, so it’s easy to share their excitement. Yesterday afternoon I pulled some weeds and did some yard cleanup that didn’t happen this past fall and I find myself lamenting the fact that I shouldn’t have a garden this year since the house is on the market…Maybe a few pots of herbs and vegetables are in order.

National MS Society Walk!

Tonight I signed up to walk in the Longmont MS Society Walk taking place May 5th. After years of sponsoring a friend’s team in the MS150 bike event, I am excited to finally be doing something on my own. My father-in-law has MS, so this cause is close to my heart especially since there is more and more evidence of a hereditary element to this disease and Matt, Gabriel & Lily are all at increased risk of developing this disease sometime in their lives. Won’t you join me in working to find a cure? You can sponsor me individually or sponsor my team, Old Town Buddies, as we try to raise $10,000 toward finding a cure for MS! If you’d like to find out more about MS, take a look at the information on the MS Society’s web site: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about%20ms.asp.

An interesting day

Today was an interesting day. It started with Gabriel attempting to plummet head-first down the stairs. I was a few steps further down the stairs and had that horrifying moment of indecision about whether it would be better to drop Lily to catch Gabriel or to watch as he tumbled down the stairs. Luckily, I didn’t have to do either thanks to Matt’s quick reflexes…He caught Gabriel by the ankle in mid-air (which was pretty cool to watch, even if it was through teary/panicked Mama’s eyes…). Gabriel, Lily & I went to the zoo today because, unlike the typical weather this winter, it was 60 and gorgeous today. We had a ball, but I managed to miss my turn onto the freeway because I was day-dreaming. I also fielded one of those impossibly-unanswerable questions that 2-year-olds come up with: “Mommy, why aren’t there dinosaurs at the zoo?” [Pause] *GULP* “Um, sweetie, dinosaurs lived a long time ago and don’t live here anymore.” “But Mommy, where are they?” “They’re gone and only their bones are left.” “What are bones?” Oh jeez, at that point I knew I was sunk and just changed the subject (Oh look, buddy, there’s a big truck!!!) I missed a second turn this evening on my way to a friend’s house that I’d been to a thousand times. Again, I was daydreaming.? Just one of those days I guess…

OK, sick of the white stuff now…

It’s snowing again. We’re going on seven weeks of having snow on the ground and frankly, I’m sick of it. When we first moved to Colorado, I had this notion that there would be snow on the ground all winter long. Matt assured me that was only in the mountains and he’s been correct for nearly eight years. Until now. We seem to get warm temperatures (even up to the high 50s) during the week, which just serves to make a nice sheet of ice when the weather turns cold and the snow comes back every weekend. Today is only Wednesday and we’re expecting 4-6 inches, so who knows what this weekend (when we’re supposed to be moving furniture and boxes out of the house!) will bring.
You know it’s bad when our weekly Master Gardener email update has to tell us about things like pink snow mold, a mold that grows on your grass when it’s been covered in snow too long. Jeez. Oh, and apparently all the Colorado dog lovers are out there plowing their back yards so their pooches have a place to squat. Only thing is, they’re decapitating their sprinkler heads when they do this and will likely have geysers this spring. If spring ever comes, that is…

I guess I had more to say…

After nearly a month of posting very little, I seem to be suffering from an inability to shut up this week 😉 I wanted to comment a bit on the process of staging a house before listing it. Our wonderful realtors provide three hours of time with an interior designer to stage your house before it goes on the market and we had our first meeting Wednesday. We came away with a ton of homework–everything from cleaning and tidying in our laundry room to removing tons of furniture to rearranging pictures/furniture to creating some very Martha Stewart plant arrangements in the pots on our front porch (I’ll have to photograph those–even Matt liked how they turned out). The house goes on the market February 8th, so can you all think good thoughts about melting snow, nice green grass, and eager buyers please? It snowed again today and frankly, after six consecutive weekends of snow, I’m done. Spring, anyone? I just know I have some gorgeous bulbs that are just dying to come up under all that snow and honestly I’ve fallen twice and nearly fallen a handful of other times because there is sheet ice under the fluffy stuff due to all the warm weather we had last week. Give us a break, Mother Nature!

No, I’m not a football fan

Although I almost never watch football and do not consider myself a fan in any way, I couldn’t avoid posting about the miracle that is this year’s Super Bowl. I mean, come on…the Bears and the Colts? Even though I’m no fan, I am a child of the Mid-West, from Indiana no less, and I was in Kindergarten when the Colts moved to Indianapolis. I actually remember a Colt (no idea who) came to our class to promote the team. He was bigger than life and I was awestruck by meeting someone so “famous.” Fast forward a few years to see myself and my brother rocking out to the Super Bowl Shuffle (you know you remember it, the hilarious rap “Da Bears” did when they went to the Super Bowl ages ago, featuring Refrigerator Perry). You don’t have to know much about football to know that there hasn’t been much (OK, any) Super Bowl action for either of these teams in a long, long time. This year I may actually tune in to watch the game instead of just doing my usual: analyzing the commercials.

More snow!

Those of you who know my mother will be amused to hear that we have 8.5 more inches of snow, for a total of over three feet in the past 2.5 weeks. Mom prefers sunny Florida, but has been very brave and even took Gabriel out to play a couple of times and helped me shovel this afternoon since Matt is away in California. The pile of snow in our front yard is now more than five feet tall and I’m starting to wonder if it will be there all winter long. This snowfall is certainly thwarting the predictions of a warm, dry El Nino winter…Oh well. We have uploaded pictures of Christmas and early January, including some fun snowshoeing pictures, so take a look! There are even pictures of Lily’s newest trick–pulling herself up to standing!
Oh, and for those of you who enjoyed my list of fun Gabriel expressions, I have to relate a story from Tuesday. I tried to back my car out of the driveway to take Gabriel to preschool, was running late, and totally missed the narrow break in the snowbank. I hung up the passenger side of my car pretty good and had to go get Matt out of the shower to help me dig it out. Gabriel was already in the car and produced the following gems: “Mommy’s car hurt a little bit?” “Why did Daddy put cat food on the snow?” (Matt actually put Kitty Litter on the snow, but it had a picture of a cat on it, so we thought this was fairly ingenious) “Get stuck in snow bank tomorrow on way to preschool, Mommy?” He obviously thought it was fun, the little monkey.