Friday, January 30, 2009

Rare Honor!

I had the privileged of being a guest editor for Rare Birds Finds this week! I've been an avid reader of theirs for some time now so being able to contribute was lots of fun.

Thanks Mei-Lynn and Sharla! Love to do it again sometime!

As always,

CPSIA Affects Canadians

On February 10th yet another phase of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will go into effect in the United States. Born out of the well intended principal that all children's products be free on lead, this new regulation is likely to harm the children's industry in
North America more than help - at least in it's current form.

Already brands like Europe's renowned Selecta have pulled out of the north American market rather than suffer the cost of testing every component of every product - soon most if not all of the hand made toy creators in the States will fall prey to the cost of having their material components tested or be criminally responsible.

Sure the idea is good - test everything - make it safe - hold someone - anyone? -responsible. But it is flawed. Large companies - the ones who's toys have been recalled for example - can afford the testing - while a maker of cotton knit soft toys may neither be able to afford it nor logically need the testing (there is very little likelihood of cotton fibers, dyed or not, retaining any appreciable lead). Store owners will be responsible for the products they sell. Sounds good in principal, but liable if something contains lead? - with out without their knowing about it? Does a small shopkeeper need to have their own lab at their disposal? In one breath a clarification on this particular subject states that a shopkeeper will 'not be responsible for testing their inventory... however, cannot sell products that exceed the lead limit...Those resellers that do sell products in violation...could face civil and/or criminal penalties.' Seems like a very fine line to tread as a retailer.

The regulation covers everything intended for use by children 12 and under. Toys, clothes, beds, furniture, towels, cloth diapers, boardgames, books....

Not to mention, I have yet to understand how singular testing on a product sample can confirm continued safety - one of the toys in our house had been recalled for lead - just not our toys lot number - different batch of yellow paint apparently (yeah, we don't play with that anymore and yeah, it's a mass produced plastic thing). Testing the end product is not the same as testing the material component.

So, small business making safe toys will go down because they can't afford the cost, about $70 to $350 US per material component plus on if it is a lead test or bpa, and we here in Canada loose out too - no longer able to get the products like Selecta, all the wonderful Etsy crafters who make hand made goodies, the small American craftsmen - who can't risk the lawsuits even though they make natural wood toys with no finishes, and even our own Canadian manufacturers who are at risk of loosing the US market - inherently safe products or not. All because another countries material manufactures with questionable business practices made things on the cheap and cut corners for crazy cheap prices.

Who'd'a thought that cheap could mean quality concerns?

What can we do
As Canadians we have to decide if we want to continue to lavish our children with mountains of plastic toys, reasonably cheap to buy and super cheap to make, or be more selective about what we introduce into our playtime and buy feewer quality small run products whose price might be a bit higher but who's profit ratio is smaller, supporting small and medium sized business and ethical manufacturing.

Buy Canadian, American & European made

Buy Fairly Traded and Responsibly Made - just look at the packinging most will tell you if they are.

We can have our voice heard as their neighbours, go to The Handmade Toy Alliance to find out more.

Buying less of the over-blinged stuff that got in trouble in the 1st place is a way to speak with our wallet and speaks as to our concerns and choices as parents.

To find out more about the new regulations in the States go here.

**and just a note: the cash register shown is from Selecta, my daughter has it and loves it. So do I, it makes the most pleasant 'bing!' and does not require batteries. She had a plastic one that lasted about 2 years before it broke, when she saw this one she thought it was the 'coolest ever!' and has been playing, adding and writing ever since. Shame that thanks to a poorly thought out law I won't be able to get more of these, and so much more like it, in the shop!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The FDA is OK with Melamine in Baby Formula, are you?

In the United States this month the FDA has released additional information regarding melamine in infants formula. Astonishingly, the problem is not limited to Chinese practices but extends as far as North American formula manufacturing as well. Three products available right now on your American grocers shelf have tested positive for melamine or cyanuric acid (think bleach, disinfectants and herbicides) - and no, they do not plan to do anything about it.

According to the FDA Enfamil with Iron & Enfamil Lipil with Iron tested positive for cyanuric acid and Nestle Good Start Supreme with Iron tested positive for melamine; however the FDA believes that the products need not be pulled from the shelves given that a) that the melamine and cyanuric acid were never both found present at the same time in any of the tested formulas and B) the individual levels found were 'believed' to not pose any health hazards. In case your wondering it has been determined that it is the combination of the two together that makes one sick.

Now granted, the levels found in the American made formulas were significantly less than the 1 part per million considered safe for baby formula by the FDA and yes it is about 10,000 times lower that the levels found in China's tainted formula scandal and yes, the two compounds were not found present together in one package but I'm not sure that is good enough for me.

In fact I know it isn't good enough for me.

Here is my reasoning:
  • Melamine and Cyanuric Acid have no business in infant formula. While it is reasonable to assume that they found their way there through the ingredients in the formula or leached from the liners of the containers rather than having been added as an ingredient to the formula, I believe that the quality of the ingredients used in infant formula and it's packaging should be of the highest quality and free from anything considered in any way, shape or form to be in any way toxic.
  • Melamine is a protein and protein levels in formula are important and relevant to a babies development. the sheer existence of the melamine in the formula changes, for me at least, the value and quality of the protein given to an infant.
  • While the melamine and the cyanuric acid were never found present in the same formula, thereby making them 'safe', who is to say that a baby may not find themselves drinking from different formulas in the same day?
  • The determination of a safe level for infants is flawed if you ask me, given that it is theoretical analysis and not based on observed fact. The FDA 'believes' it to be safe, but much like giving a baby a CAT Scan they really do not have any imperical data to suggest it really is safe, it's kind of like back in the day when they said tobacco smoke is ok - have you heard of the effects of 3rd hand smoke on little ones lately?
  • And quite finally and simply - I have no interest in feeding my children cheap counter top laminate and it's waste product - especially without my express knowledge.
Both my children were breastfed, one was supplemented with formula, and I am well aware that my milk was not as pure as an Arctic glacier (one wonders how pure that is b.t.w.) but was natural breast milk containing all the good bits breast milk does. For those children who's mother's need offer formula for whatever reason we should be able to rest assured that it contains only good healthy things that will help them thrive, not fill them in any way with empty protein or leave parents with any doubt as to the goodness and nature of the formulas contents.

to see the list of tested products go here

to read the FDA report go here

As always

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's Been a Long Time Coming

Time files quickly - I hardly know where it has gone! to all who may read this - first and foremost Happy New Year, may you and yours feel peace and love.

Now the news:
I have opened a new online toys store called Little Footprints ( I offer Planet Friendly toys for kids of all ages. I'm quite proud of my new little baby and I hope you will stop by and have a look.

The store is all about having fun and being kind to the planet, just like this little blog. I have enjoyed so many hours playing with my children and I have spent perhaps as many hours thinking about what they play with. I enjoyed seeing my kids pleasure playing with their toys but quickly noticed how so many could not hold their interests long term. It also began to bother me that so many toys that they seemed to get were so plastic, cold and really noisy. I began to put painters tape on the speakers to lessen the noise and look for more interesting and inspiring toys that felt better to the touch.

As my firstborn grew we began to teach her to be considerate to the planet. To recycle and not waste, flush only when really necessary, to turn off the lights behind herself,the importance of fresh food. My little boy, only just 2, knows what can be recycled and puts it in the correct bin. And I will admit it makes me proud.

Then one day I began to see images of the great garbage patches in our oceans. The Great Garbage Patches of our oceans. Plastic crap everywhere. Then looked at my den. More plastic crap. My kids were party to mounds of consumer garbage waste that would take centuries to go away to the naked eye but would never fully disappear, their chemicals left in the earth forever filling landfills or, dear gawd no, chewing up the insides of animals. Even buying second hand to take the small footstep of difference in excessive manufacturing can't help this.

But the beautiful wooden toys, cardboard puzzles and cotton loveys we had begun to search out wouldn't leave such a legacy. I was a woman with a mission. They were hard to find, out there and poorly promoted, toys that wee not just natural and fun for kids but better for the planet. Sustainable, Fair Trade, FSC Certified, made from all natural or recycled materials and locally made as well - all kinds of toys, games, kids gear and fun. Wonderful stuff. As I searched for my own interests I realized I was certainly not alone. Parents looking for alternative choices to 'toxic toys' but having a hard time finding them. As long as you were looking for baby clothes and products the choices were phenomenal but finding toys for everyone to have fun with was hard. In the States there were a few online stores and small retailers, in Europe natural toys abounded, but in Canada they were few and far between and catered to baby and toddler and even if there were products for older people they were natural but not planet friendly, and there is a difference. (see my earlier post regarding properly sourced woods)

So, I decided to do it. I have taken everything I know from running my Interior Design consulting firm, going green and being a mum and channeled it into a new business and a new path for myself and my family. It's been a few weeks since I got our virtual doors open and I think it is going well, every day sees more and more visitors and customers. I hope that with each gift given from my shop, someone somewhere will stop and think about the toys kids play with and realize that we need not sacrifice fun and learning to be sustainable, perhaps choosing to take another little step towards changing how we think about what we leave behind when the fun is over.

Goes without saying folks - if your looking for some sustainable eco-friendly fun in Canada, no batteries required, that will be gone before your great grandkids are born (unless you keep it safe of course!) then please pop by and have a peek in my shop, maybe there is something there for you too!

As always, thanks for stopping by & always