Lucky Kids Mag – Missing the Point – Organic Onesies and Vinyl?

Okay, so I received a copy of the new Lucky Kids Magazine. And it does not purport to be a parenting magazine, but, just like its parent, Lucky Kids is a shopping magazine for kids.

So, I wasn’t expecting all that much really in terms of green or natural. I mean, a shopping magazine is really at odds with the whole going green concept. Consumerism is at odds with the going green concept.

But, well, I admit surprise. There is a cute section with etsy finds – and I love supporting the primarily small crafters. I love etsy.

The toy story section has some of my all time favorite toys – all soy crayons, Crayon Rocks, from Stubby Pencil Studio and Hanno the Gorilla – as well as some cool toys I hadn’t found before, such as handmade wings (how cool! although wondering if the plated charm passes the CPSIA . . . )

But, I was struck by the MiniSpy page, which picked out the best organic onesies and then also recommended wall decals as “the ideal way to give personality to a kid’s room.” Hmmm.

Y’all know those wall decals are almost always vinyl, right? That’s right. Vinyl, as in polyvinyl chloride plastic. Somtimes referred to as the most toxic plastic.

And, if those lovely vinyl wall decals aren’t children’s products – that is, intended for children under the age of 12, they may have lead in them. Now, before you tell me your kids won’t lick the wall decals, keep in mind that lead in a vinyl doesn’t like being in the matrix and will migrate to the surface, particularly with exposure to light, heat and/or friction. And then can come off as lead contaminated dust.

Is it enough to be a risk? I can’t say, but lead exposure is additive, so coupled with lead contaminated dust from older homes, lead in our water, lead in soils from lead’s long use as a gasoline additive, our kids get more than enough lead already. They don’t need it from wall decals.

If lead isn’t used to stabilize the vinyl, then you could have maganese, or cadmium, or some other metallic salt. Vinyl must be stabilized.

Also, since the wall decals are toys or child care articles, they aren’t subject to the CPSIA’s phthalate ban. That means that hormone disrupting phthalates can be present since phthalates are used soften vinyl.

So why recommend such a product on the same page as organic onesies? Yuck.

And my next post will talk about the sunscreen recommendations . . . .

Since I don’t suck on it, I don’t care

biker chick sucking on a leather gloveWhen it comes to lead, I get that a lot. Really. I get comments all the time along the lines of, “Well, I’m not going to suck on it, so who cares?” Or, when it comes to lead in paint, “My kids don’t lick the walls, so it isn’t relevant.”

After my segments on Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends After Show Show, I got quite a few comments that it doesn’t matter if there is lead in the purse if the purse isn’t sucked on. There was also an extensive discussion on an eBay board about it.

I understand that there are a lot of risks in the world. The media bombards us daily with the latest health scare. It is hard to sort out what to worry about and what to ignore. And I get that there are more pressing concerns than lead in vinyl or lead in paint.

And we’ve also come a long way when it comes to lead. We’ve phased it out of paints used in the home. We’ve eliminated it as a fuel additive. At the same time, however, we are finding that levels once believed to be safe aren’t. About 290,000 children in the US have ADHD because of exposure to trace amounts of lead. And, as Dr. Greene explains, a number of recent studies have linked childhood exposure to lead to the surge in Alzheimer’s disease that we are seeing today (my rebuttal to those that say that they got exposed to lead when they were young and are just fine, thank you).

Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and kids are more at risk. Part of the reason kids are more at risk is because of the type of behavior they engage in. Part of it is that they absorb 50% of the lead that they ingest, whereas adults only absorb about 11% of the lead that they ingest.

So, tell me you don’t care about lead in vinyl because you’ve got a lot of other stuff to worry about or you don’t think the risk is that big. That’s fine. But don’t tell me you don’t care because you don’t suck on it. That just tells me you don’t understand the issue.

When it comes to lead in vinyl, lead migrates to the surface. Lead doesn’t like being in the plastic matrix so it moves out of it and comes to the surface. That process occurs more rapidly with exposure to friction and light/heat. Also as the product ages. Once the lead moves to the surface, it is transferred to hands upon handling, and from there can be ingested. Take, for example, lead in vinyl purses. If you handle your purse and your purse has lead, then the lead will be on your hands. If you touch your mouth, then you may well ingest some. Say you get in your car and grab some fries. You probably handled your purse before you got in the car, and as you were getting your money out. Don’t tell me you are going to wash your hands before you eat those fries. And the lead dust that transfers.

Or you handle your purse and then hold your child’s hand. And your child sticks her hands in her mouth. Or eats an apple without washing her hands. Or you handle your vinyl diaper bag and then offer your baby a bottle. All of those situations can result in lead transfer.

Don’t believe that lead comes out of vinyl? Well, the Center for Environmental Health did wipe tests of the purses it found lead in, and found enough coming off with the wipe tests to be of concern. And, the Consumer Product Safety Commission acted years ago to take vinyl blinds off the market because of the high levels of lead dust generated and collecting around the blinds.

When it comes to lead in paint, you do not have to lick the walls. Microscopic lead dust is generated around the home, particularly at friction surfaces, or where painted surfaces rub together. Your door jambs, your windows, your built in cabinets. Plus, we get lead dust blown into our homes from weathering of other buildings and we track in lead contaminated dust.

And the thing is, lead exposure is additive. We already get some in our diets. We also get some in our water from the pipes and fittings. We may get some at home – more if our home was built before 1978. Add in the exposure to lead in vinyl products, and your child’s exposure may be enough to shave off IQ points. Is it really worth that vinyl purse?

Here PVC, PVC, PVC – Where are you hiding? Poison Plastic Present in more than Shower Curtains

I posted recently about the report finding phthalates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals, including, lead in vinyl or PVC shower curtains, and VOCs offgassing from the shower curtain after installation.  The toxic content and emissions reported from vinyl shower curtains have been widely circulated on the blogosphere.  If you haven’t read about it yet, check out report.

However, a recently released report from Environmental & Human Health, Inc., entitled Plastics that may be Harmful to Children and Reproductive Health reminded just how many products in our home can be made of vinyl.  The report focuses on bisphenol A (BPA), found in polycarbonate plastic, and phthalates, found in vinyl products.  But I’m going to focus on vinyl products right now, and other products in your home that may be made of vinyl.

A very brief summary of the issues with vinyl:  Vinyl is considered the most toxic of the plastics, from manufacture to disposal.  But, for purposes of this blog, I’m just focusing on the potential exposures to toxic chemicals from using vinyl products.  Using vinyl products can expose you to phthalates, heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, and VOCs.  Heavy metals are present as stabilizers in vinyl.  They are not bound up in the polymer and can migrate to the surface where they can be picked up.  Phthalates are added to vinyl to make it soft and flexible.  Phthalates are also not bound up in the polymer, and can off gas or be picked up.  Low dose exposures to phthalates have been linked to adverse health effects in laboratory animals, and researchers have reported associations between phthalate exposures and various reproductive type defects or problems in humans.  Phthalate exposures have also been linked to increased risk of asthma.

And we are exposed to phthalates.  Phthalates and their metabolites have been found in urine, saliva, and breast milk.  And, our children appear to have the highest exposure.  It has been reported that the highest intake of DEHP, one widely used phthalate, is children six months to four years old.  The rate of uptake of DEHP by nursery school age children is two times that of adults.

A Smart Mama tries to eliminate vinyl as much as possible.  Okay, so what are the come sources of vinyl in the home?

  • Soft plastic toys.  The European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers has stated that almost all soft plastic toys are made with PVC, including dolls, bath ducks, inflatable toys, balls, and baby care items.  Also, a lot of small figures are vinyl.  For example, my son’s dinosaur figures were vinyl.  I know it is hard to tell by looking.  But, most soft, flexible plastic toys are PVC.  Almost universally, soft bath toys are PVC.  So what can a Smart Mama do?  Try these substitutes: cloth dolls, vinyl free dolls (available on line), wood spoons for the bath, safer plastic cups and bowls for the bath (my kids LOVE a silicone turkey baster I bought at Target), etc.  For teethers, try silicone, rubber, wood, cloth (put a little water on a corner and freeze for a soothing teether).

  • Rain guards for strollers.  As far as I can tell, almost all on the market are vinyl.

  • Food packaging/storage.  Always check to make sure it isn’t vinyl.

  • Waterproof coatings on mattress pads, changing pads, etc., are often vinyl.  Other options are available, including polyethylene (a safer plastic, but still a plastic).

  • Lunch box liners and other portable soft food storage containers are often lined with vinyl.  Check the fabric content on the label before you buy.  If you have one, and need to continue to use it, make sure any food placed in it is wrapped up.  If you are buying new, vinyl free options are available – just look.

  • Rain gear.  Always skip any rain gear made of vinyl.  The classic yellow rain jacket?  Often vinyl.

  • Pleather or faux leather.  Particularly in children’s garments, faux leather is often vinyl.  Check the fabric label for “vinyl” or “PVC.”

  • Children’s dress up/costumes.  The vinyl costumes will be showing up in stores shortly for Halloween.  Firefighters, police, etc. are often vinyl.  Look at the fabric content – skip any made of vinyl.  Granted – one Halloween wearing is probably not going to result in a significant exposure – but why support the vinyl industry?  And many kids play dress up long after Halloween has passed.

  • Waterproof books.  Usually coated with vinyl.  Find something else, especially since these are often used as teethers.

  • Vinyl flooring.  The flooring used in most of our homes is vinyl – and offgasses phthalates.  If you are picking new flooring, choose a less toxic, more environmentally friendly flooring. 

Keep in mind that phthalates are also found in personal care products.  That’s right, your baby’s lotion, baby shampoo, and baby wash may all contain phthalates (among other toxic chemicals).  For more information, read here.  Phthalates usually are identified on the label – they are usually in the fragrance and need not be separately identified.  If the product is not scented with essential oils, but has “fragrance” or “perfume”, it probably contains phthalates and you may want to skip it.  Some phthalate free baby products are listed here.  For what I think is an enlightening exploration of a favorite baby product’s label, read here.

Also keep in mind that phthalates find their way into a host of other products, including almost any product with fragrance.  Think air fresheners, room sprays, scented dolls, scented clothes, laundry dryer sheets, etc. 

Okay, a shameless plug – My consulting services include testing toys for lead, cadmium, etc. using an XRF analyzer.  As part of that, I can test for chlorine, which will indicate that the toy is vinyl, and from that we can infer that phthalates are most likely present.  I test toys at your home, school, day care or wherever, or I can test by mail!

The Children’s Place Recalls Pajamas for Excessive Lead

The Children’s Place (TCP), in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has announced a recall of boys pajama sets for excessive lead.  The pajama sets came in short sleeve and long sleeve, and both have a printed logo on the chest reading “Athletics 90.”  The printed logo has excessive lead.

TCP PajamasThe pajamas have a blue top and camouflage pants.  They were sold between December 2006 and January 2008 for between $15 and $17 retail.  They were sold in sizes XXS (2/3) through XL (14).

If you have the pajama sets, please return them to TCP immediately.  The recall announcement is available here.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin.  Children are more sensitive to the health effects of lead than adults.  Lead poisoning poses the greatest threat to children under the age of six because their brains are still forming and they are more vulnerable than adults to lead.

Lead exposure may result in developmental disabilities and cognitive impairment, as measured by IQ tests (lowered IQ).  Other health effects include slowed growth, damage to the central nervous system, hypertension, impaired hearing acuity, impaired hemoglobin synthesis, and male reproductive impairment.  Lead exposure has been linked with aggression and attention problems, hyperactivity and impulsivity, which are the common behavioural problems of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

LEAD: Could your child be going back to school with lead in her lunchbox?

Your child’s lunch box could contain lead, a highly toxic metal.  Lead is used to stabilize some polyvinyl chloride plastic (“PVC”).  PVC is used as a liner in some lunchboxes and soft lunchboxes may be made out of PVC.  As a result, your child could be exposed to lead. 

Lead is known to be harmful to children even in relatively small amounts and it can impair brain development and cause other behavioral and developmental problems.

Power Rangers Lunch BoxThe Center for Environmental Health (“CEH”), a nonprofit environmental organization, reported it found lead in the PVC plastic of several lunchboxes it tested in 2005.  Following the release of CEH’s findings, and the lawsuits it filed, several states issued recalls for soft insulated lunch boxes.  In its August 2006 magazine, Consumer Reports (“CR”) reported that a CR staffer visited two New York-area stores and found lunch boxes from the companies mentioned in a recall.  CR’s tests found that the boxes contained lead.  In lunch boxes tested by CR, the PVC plastic linings contained fairly high levels of lead, and CR’s tests confirmed that some of this lead can transfer in small amounts to hands and to unwrapped food stored inside.

CEH found the highest lead levels CEH found were in the lining of lunch boxes, where lead could come into direct contact with food.  This is consistent with the test results reported by CR.   As a result, children may be exposed to lead when they eat food that has been stored in the lunch boxes.  They may also be exposed as a result of handling the lunchboxes just before eating.

However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a public statement asserting that PVC lunch boxes are safe.  The CPSC’s website reports that it found no accessible levels after testing 60 lunch boxes. 

But the CPSC’s results have been criticized.  According to documents the Associated Press obtained, two types of tests were performed.  The first involved cutting a chunk of vinyl from the lunchbox, dissolving it and then analyzing how much lead is in the solution.  The second involved swiping the surface and then determining how much lead has rubbed off.

The results of the first type of test, looking for the actual lead content of the vinyl, showed that 20 percent of the bags had more than 600 parts per million of lead, the federal safe level for paint and other coatings. The highest level was 9,600 ppm, more than 16 times the federal standard.

But the CPSC did not use those results.  Instead, the CPSC focused exclusively on how much lead came off a lunch box’s surface when swiped.  For the swipe tests, the results were lower, especially after the researchers changed their testing protocol. After a handful of tests, they increased the number of times they swiped each bag, again and again on the same spot, resulting in lower average results.

As reported by the Associated Press, an in-house e-mail from the director of the CPSC’s chemistry division explained that CPSC re-tested with the new protocol “which gave a lower average result than the prior report … ,” he wrote. “This shows … that the overall risk is lower than our original testing would have showed, as the amount of lead dislodgeable is mostly taken out with the first wipe and goes down with subsequent wipes.”

CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese explained it this way: “The more you wipe, the less lead you actually find. With fewer wipes, we got a higher detection of lead presence. We thought more wipes was closer to reflecting how you would interact with your lunch box. It was more realistic.”

Using the lunch boxes should not result in a high enough exposure to cause severe lead poisoning.  However, the cumulative exposure, especially when coupled with the likely exposure to lead from many other sources, could result in the accumulation of lead in children’s bodies sufficient enough to cause problems. 

Smart Mama’s Simple Steps:

Replace any vinyl lunch boxes.  Consider replacing your child’s lunch box with a reusable nylon bag or some other material. 

Wash hands!  Don’t forget to remind your children to routinely wash their hands to reduce the transfer of germs but also to reduce their exposure to lead.