The List: The Next Product Recalls
Not sure what to get the kids for Christmas? Here are some items that may be an unsafe bet.
Whats the problem? Lead content
Brands under fire: Too many to count. Brands sold in discount stores have a higher risk of lead contamination, but even jewelry labeled lead-free has been found to contain harmful amounts.
Why it could be next: Although laws regulating the lead content in paint are quite stringent in the United States, many states do not have laws regarding the levels of lead in metal products such as childrens jewelry. (Though this may be changing soon.) Under current federal rules, each individual charm on a childrens charm bracelet could legally contain up to 175 micrograms of accessible lead. A Reebok charm bracelet containing 99 percent lead by weight was found in a childs stomach during an autopsy in 2006, triggering a national recall. Consumers Union, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group all consider this type of jewelry to be among the most dangerous childrens products on shelves this holiday season. Exposure to lead can cause lasting behavioral and neurological damage in children. Ten micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood is generally considered dangerous, though some studies suggest the level could be even lower.
How to stay safe: Avoid discount brands, and watch the news for recalls. In late November, for instance, Big Lots and Family Dollar stores both issued jewelry recalls.
iStockphoto.com Vinyl Lunchboxes
Whats the problem? Lead content
Brands under fire: Igloo, Fast Forward, Frozn
Why it could be next: Back in 2005, the CPSC tested the lead content of 60 childrens vinyl lunchboxes, found that one in five contained unsafe levels, and then refused to release the data, feeling that the danger was not significant enough because kids could only be directly exposed by putting their lunch boxes in their mouth, which isnt a common way for children to interact with their lunch box. It wasnt until the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request that the danger became public knowledge. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which disagreed with the CPSCs interpretation of the data, issued a warning, Wal-Mart stopped selling the lunchboxes. A few states, such as New York and Connecticut, have enacted measures to force specific manufacturers to pull lunchboxes, but with mounting pressure from child safety advocates, stronger measures could be coming soon.
How to stay safe: Avoid brands named in the New York and Connecticut recalls, or just avoid lunchboxes with vinyl linings.
Whats the problem? Risk of injury, changing attitudes
Brands under fire: Nike, Easton Sports
Why it could be next: Moveable soccer goals that can kill or injure children by falling on them are on the CPSCs most wanted list. The agency reports at least 28 deaths since 1979 resulting from soccer goals falling over. These accidents are usually the result of children climbing or hanging from goals that have not been properly secured or weighted down. Also, just recently, Nike recalled a plastic football helmet chin strap manufactured in China that can snap when strained. Several cases of concussions and facial lacerations resulted. Part of whats going on may be a change in attitude from parents and players about what are acceptable risks in sports. A line drive that put a New Jersey teenager into a coma last year provoked a national debate about banning metal bats in youth baseball games. New York City has already done so for high school games.
How to stay safe: Make sure goals are safely secured, and switch to wooden or composite bats.
PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images Plastic Baby Bottles
Whats the problem? High levels of phthalates
Brands under fire: Avent America, Dr. Browns, Evenflo, Gerber, Playtex, Nalgene
Why it could be next: Phthalates are nicknamed everywhere chemicals because of their ubiquity. Detectable levels of these compounds used in the production of plastics are almost certainly in your body right now. Unfortunately, scientific studies suggest that phthalates in high levels can hamper boys reproductive development. USA Today recently reported on the increasing popularity of phthalate-free baby bottles for infants. The American Chemistry Council has fought back by lodging a complaint that forced one bottle manufacturer to stop claiming that its phthalate-free products are safer. But the European Union and the state of California have already banned phthalates in products made for children, and the FDA recommends that hospitals not expose pregnant women to equipment containing phthalates. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has begun an investigation into the effects of the chemicals that could take years to finish.
How to stay safe: Consider the phthalate-free BornFree baby bottle.
JENS KOCH/Getty Images Cellphones
Brands under fire: Apple
Whats the problem? Brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and phthalates
Why it could be next: A recent Greenpeace study found that Apples hugely popular iPhone, which was brought to market in June, contains bromides and PVCs despite Steve Jobss stated commitment to phase the toxic chemicals out of all Apple products by 2008. Apple and the bromide industry fired back, attacking Greenpeaces methodology and charging that only small, safe levels of the chemicals are present in the iPhone. The dispute between the two has played out over various technology blogs for the past several weeks. Greenpeace also found high levels of phthalates in the wires and ear buds that come with the iPhone and the iPod. The California-based Center for Environmental Health has initiated legal action against Apple, claiming that the company is in violation of the states new phthalates law. The real test will be whether Apple meets its stated goals of phasing out all this nasty stuff next year.
How to stay safe: According to Greenpeace, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola are all taking active measures to remove the worst chemicals from their devices. In the meantime, try not to eat your cellphone.
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