Texting for Toy Safety: ‘Moms Rising’ Taps Into ‘HealthyToys’

healthytoys_mobile4.gif Mobile moms will love this handy new alliance between consumer action orgs HealthyToys & MomsRising which lets you find out whether the toy you’re about to plop in that cart is toxic for your tot…Excellent use of new media technology to create a value-add for toy consumers, as this 2-min. CNN video on the issue reveals.

Here’s how it works: Text healthytoys [toy name] to 41411 and they’ll reply instantly with whether the toy tested “high” “med” or “low” for potentially dangerous toxins using their XRF methodology. (e.g. Text “Healthytoys Elmo flashlight” to 41411, receive a reply right to your phone with the test results for the Elmo flashlight by Sesame Street)

2007 has been dubbed “year of the tainted toys recall,” or in kids’ terms, the ‘year of socks and mittens’ as gift givers dodge nasty chemicals of concern like lead, cadmium, chlorine/PVC, mercury and arsenic. (yeah, I know, that last one caught my attention too)

HealthyToys’ pdf fact sheet offers a great summary as to why we need their org in addition to CPSC, since most of us automatically think, “Wait a sec, isn’t the Consumer Products Safety Commission handling the toy recall list?”

Meanwhile, Moms Rising adds a worthy note of mobile activism by asking users to petition Congress to strengthen agencies responsible for protecting kids, and demand safe, lead-free toys for children. Since hidden holiday toy hazards and toy related deaths are not on anyone’s wishlist, the comprehensive database/texting partnership gives parents a much needed exhale and some holiday perspective and cheer…BUT…

If there are drawbacks on the SMS texting program, it may be the false sense of security…

Seems a mobile database of 1250 tested toys only skims the surface of the millions of popular items like the AquaDots/date rape drug recall wackiness I wrote about here.

cpsc-logo.jpgAs you can see by the sea of blue links in this Consumer Products Safety Commission list of recalls, one toy tester just ‘ain’t gonna cut it’ folks…

Where’s the prioritization of public health of our children?!

After all, as Forbes reported, Mattel ‘apologized to China’ for recalling over 21 million toys from their firm alone…And Businessweek wrote about the five-year plus political pingpong ball of any ‘made in China’ label…so there’s clearly plenty of scapegoating and finger-pointing as well as capitalizing on misfortunes, union-flaunting and flag-waving.

safetoy2-toys-md.jpgSome parents are going for The Daily Green’s list of 250 ‘lead free toys’ made in the USA, but we’re all wildly aware that’s an interim solution, not a fix-it-all elixir. After all, junk food is made in the good ol’ USA killing people far faster and more consistently than lead poisoning

To me, the primary (and inherent) danger of any media/marketing hype boils itself down to one core issue…“putting profit ahead of public health.” Period.

Doesn’t matter which country it comes from, which public and private agencies are involved, (there’s plenty of blame game antics to go around) it distills to profit and greed at the expense of safety and health.

Call it a shattered moral compass or a skewed sense of societal values, but from food marketing to fair trade falderal with lack of clear labeling of contents, and $232 billion import/export inconsistencies, it funnels into the same basic question…

HOW can we ethically continue to jeopardize the physical and emotional health of our nations’ children and the health care system as a whole with media and marketing tactics and trends that work against their well-being?

Hint to my industry colleagues…“Because it sells” is not the answer I’m looking for…

Emotions run high on this issue…for when poisons are laced into mouthable paints, plastics and fabrics that teething toddlers might like to chew and nibble upon, it’s hard for parents not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” so to speak…there’s not a lot of wiggle room for ‘seeing the other side.’ That said…

toy-industry-assoc-logo.gifBeing a centrist who firmly believes in the need for moderation and perspective in ALL media hype & sky-is-falling-chicken-little-isms, I ALSO recommend ToyInfo.org as a counterpoint to deconstruct the ‘real dangers’ vs. ‘perceived dangers.’ I found ToyInfo’s safety facts, videos and FAQs are worthy of educational perusal. Huge caveat?

If you somehow miss the direct hits in the FAQ copy, “Can I rely on the reports of sites like HealthyToys.org?” then I’ll gently guide you to the lower left hand corner, where the logo shows who’s sponsoring the site…the Toy Industry Association.

hf3thumbnail.jpgBranding “ToyInfo.org” sounds deliberately “nonprofit,” and carries the tagline, “A parent’s resource for facts and information about toy safety” but this is the exact same industry tactic I wrote about in my Happy Feet post.

Remember? The one with the tap-dancing penguins selling drugs?

They misled parents to believe that ‘FluFacts.org’ was some official/unbiased resource site when it was actually fully funded by big pharm to promote TheraFlu by Roche.

As always, media literacy is the caveat for all context…Lift the veil, spot the spin, and filter information from your own point of view.

When will our industry learn that parents (and new parents, particularly!) scrutinize EVERYthing, so blanket condemnations and avoidance altogether make it easier for the über cautious who don’t feel like doing the sift-n-sort of what products are still out there on the shelves, which ones are the worst, and which ones are the most ‘green.’

Profiteering moguls would save us all a lot of trouble by adhering to trust and creating brand worth that’s meaningful and consistent, instead of flubbing up by slicing a few pennies off of price points and tanking multinational brands that have taken decades to build.

Mea culpas aside, it will cost businesses and government agencies far more to earn trust back with parents, if it’s even possible. It’s just not smart.

But back to FAQs and ‘what-to-dos’ with toy concerns…

Parents, you can delve deeper into specifics on the HealthyToys site, a project of the Ecology Center, which conveniently highlights toys alphabetically by brand, by toy type, and even best/worst lead picks (see press section) in a manageable format.

Also, PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) has done a nice job of filtering CPSC recalls by category a tad, since CPSC’s data dumps can overwhelm busy parents in ‘tmi’ mode.

momsrising1.pngMom’s Rising info-packed site also has a blog resource to hear what other parents have to say, with symptoms from scientist moms and nurses that weigh in, and giving universally helpful, personal tips that detail warning signs and heighten awareness. (Toys are only one of MANY hot buttons being tackled on this insightful family advocacy hub, so plan on spending some time there! Be sure to check out their Motherhood Manifesto film airing on pbs, too, here’s a two-minute YouTube clip)

Finally, I’ll close by saying that this toy safety mess has left charity toy bins particularly meager this year, as few parents are eager to offload their prior purchases into the ‘toys for tots’ bin to potentially harm ‘someone else.’

News reports show charities are definitely feeling the Grinch pinch, so lend a hand if you can…AND…

If you have any ‘toy stories’ (the non-Pixar kind!) to send our way, ping me in the comment section!

Have you altered any purchases for preschoolers particularly? Is it a ‘socks and mittens’ year at your house? Do tell…

Related Resources

We Make it Safer.com (Alerts sent on recalled products you own)

SafeMama.com: New blog w/RSS feeds on kids’ safety; handy one-stop hub

Mattel’s QuickFinder Resource Database

Mattel’s Recall List

The ABC’s of Toy Safety by Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC)

CPSC.gov (all products) 

CPSC Link List of Recalled Toys 

U.S. PIRG Toy Safety Issues & Advocacy

What’s in the Toy Box: HealthyToys.org (Washington Toxics Coalition/EcoCenter)

Mom’s Rising Mobile Toy Tracking: Tell A Friend

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Comments

  1. Hey Amy,

    Great site! I just stumbled upon it in a search. I have a blog covering environmental health issues for families. Non-Toxic Kids is filled with usable information for busy parents. It shares news updates, product information, creative ideas for natural parenting, and ways to take action. I would love a link on your site and I can certainly add your site to my blogroll, if you are interested.

    Here’s the site: http://nontoxickids.blogspot.com.

    Thanks and happy new year!

    Katy

  2. Thanks for your resource, Katy…looks like we’re kindred spirits indeed, as there’s overlap in our blog post topic coverage even (e.g. McDonalds/report cards, texting/toys, etc. So yes, absolutely, I’ll add you as a resource, but would love it even more if we could do some ‘content swaps’ for ‘guest editorial’ since we’re interested in similar areas…Let’s talk further on this! It could build new readership for both blogs I’m sure…I’ll leave a ping on your blog too, but my e-mail is amy at shapingyouth dot org!

  3. Thanks for sharing the Links. Your Blog alrdeady Bookmarked 🙂

  4. I would love to hear more about this topic.

  5. Love your site. Looking forward to more of your posts 🙂

  6. Thank you for this excellent post. My partner and i valued the critical thinking you put into it. I truly think I will read a lot more you’ve writen about the subject. Thanks again!

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