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Gifts come with a toxic surprise: What’s a mom to do?

By Madeline Kastler, mom of two

77118_1655409507047_1291361148_31722843_1719754_nGifts and hand-me-downs. We rely on these as our primary sources of toys and kids’ clothes in our  house for my five-year old daughter and two-year old son.

A relative recently gave my daughter a doll as a gift, which she immediately fell in love with. The trouble is, it stunk of perfume and made my eyes water. I knew that absolutely COULD NOT be good. Balancing what I know of toxic chemicals in children’s products and our appreciation for the generosity of our friends and family is a tough one. What could I do?

Take the doll away? (Probability for tears and hurt feelings? Extremely high).
Provide a restrictive list of ‘mom-approved’ toys to each friend and family member? (Not unless I want to be like this lady!).

Buy all of my own unpainted wooden toys, organic cotton clothes, and chemical-free sheets? (Ha!).

I do my best to be frugal, keep my kids happy and protect them from harm. But it’s not that easy—especially when toxic chemicals are lurking in places I never expected: toys, backpacks and shampoo. And did I mention that everything (everything) goes into my two-year old son’s mouth?

I am a mother. I am also a wife, daughter, sister, employee, community member, neighbor and homeowner. I don’t have time to research and control all of the toys, clothes and art supplies that my children come in contact with. Nor should I have to! Time with my kids is precious and I want to focus on them during that time, not their stuff.

The problem of toxic chemicals in children’s products is one that needs to be solved. It’s so big (there are over 80,000 chemicals in commerce today) and the current law so inadequate (the EPA has only required safety testing on 200 of these chemicals, and has only banned five). It’s clear we need a comprehensive solution.

Minnesota has been a leader in changing policies to protect children’s health, by being the first state to ban Bisphenol A (BPA) and also take steps to assess chemicals in a different way (as in: for their safety) by passing the Toxic Free Kids Act.

Now it’s time for the federal government to follow suit and pass real reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This law was passed in 1976, a long 35 years ago.

That’s why I’m relieved that both of Minnesota’s senators (Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken) have signed on to the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), which will take some really important steps to help keep kids safe. The bill will:

•    Require action on the worst chemicals first
•    Require basic safety data for all chemicals
•    Protect all people, especially vulnerable groups like children, pregnant women and workers

Please join me in thanking Senators Klobuchar and Franken for being heroes and co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.


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Hurray for Senators Klobuchar and Franken!

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