Nov 10, 2007
Home parties held to test for toxic toys
As the holiday shopping season gets set to kick off, coupled with recent news of the discovery of dangerous toys with lead paint, toxic chemicals and even the date-rape drug GHB, many consumers are having misgivings that the toys they may buy are safe.
The United Steelworkers International Union’s Women of Steel Program is trying to ease that fear, protect children from toxic products and educate the public and bring awareness to unfair and unsafe trade practice by holding Tupperware-like home parties called “Get the Lead Out” parties in people’s homes, churches, schools or community centers where they bring products and test them for lead and other toxins.
“We are trying to educate the public who are concerned about this growing problem,” said Sue Browne, an organizer with the BlueGreen Alliance - a partnership between United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club - who is holding a Get the Lead Out party in her Hastings home on Sunday. “They can go home and educate their friends and family about the problem and how to test for it.
“It’s a Tupperware party with a purpose,” she said.
Over the last few months millions of toys made in China have been pulled off store shelves because the toys are made with lead, and in recent months such popular toys, such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, Hot Wheels and Barbie accessories, have been discovered containing the heavy metal and recalled. According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead accumulates and can cause brain damage, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, kidney damage and even death. Just a few days ago the popular Chinese-made toy Aqua Dots was pulled off store shelves because of a link to the date-rape drug GHB.
It’s not just toys that are being recalled because of toxins, and the recalls include toothpaste, dog food and other products.
“A lot of our manufacturing jobs are going to China, and in return we are getting back dangerous products in our homes,” Browne said. “We have laws in our country to deal with hazards like this, but other countries don’t have to live up to the same standards.”
The parties are informal affairs complete with refreshments. Linda Lucas, an organizer with the Woman of Steel – a program to get women more involved in the union – has been to some of the parties to demonstrate the lead-testing process. They use a simple test kit that involves mixing a pair of chemicals together and rubbing the product with a cotton swab dipped into the solution. If the swab turns red the product conations lead.
They ask the partygoers to bring their own toys, jewelry or baby products to test, and the simple test kits can test up to eight products if none contains lead. The kits can also be obtained from the group’s web site.
“We had a mother test her two-week old baby’s bib, and it contained lead,” Lucas said. “We also give out information where they can go on line to find out what products are being recalled; the list is just too big for us to hand it out to them.”
Browne is hosting a party that’s open to the public at 4 p.m. Sunday at her home at 2137 Lower Lake Rd. in Hastings, 49058. An RSVP is requested but not necessary at (269) 945-4443.
“I am hoping to have at least 20-30 people, but I will be happy with however many show up as long as they go back and educate their friends and family,” she said.
Another demonstration will be held at the Woman of Steel Council Meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, November 12 at the Kent Ionia Labor Council, 918 Benjamin Ave. NE in Grand Rapids.