Toys: Have yourself a toxic little Christmas

’Tis the season to be worried, said Bonnie Miller Rubin in the Chicago Tribune. When U.S. companies began recalling the first of 21 million Chinese-made toys this summer, alarmed parents began examining their kids’ playthings more carefully. Now, with the Christmas shopping season in full swing, and 80 percent of our toys still coming from China, they’re hovering somewhere between “prudent and paranoid.” As moms and dads race through store aisles, they’re scrutinizing everything from dolls to building blocks for lead paint, small parts that can cause choking, and other potentially dangerous features. Some have given up the fight altogether, vowing to give only clothes and books, and requesting that relatives do the same. One online poll has found that 33 percent of respondents may not even buy toys at all.

Try explaining that to a 5-year-old kid, said Jennifer Davies in The San Diego Union-Tribune. They don’t understand product safety; all they want to know is why there won’t be anything fun under the tree. “If you have a kid under the age of 7,” said toy consultant Chris Byrne, “the only country of origin they care about is the North Pole.” Fortunately, said Paul Nyhan in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there are alternatives. “One trick is to buy toys made in China for Western European toy companies, whose countries have higher safety standards than the U.S.” Another is to purchase enviro-friendly playthings made from organic materials. “Greener” toy companies, in fact, are making a killing this season. Don Hurley, owner of a Montana toy company that makes trucks, trains, and other toys from wood finished with natural oils, says he’s getting so many orders that it’s “beyond our wildest dreams at this point.”

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