Thursday, June 28, 2007

Methinks that Booty Smelleth Not So Fresh...

And the recalls keep coming, folks. Just a day after being warned to throw away ANY toothpaste made in China, hospitals and mental wards are finding hordes of tubes of the possibly toxic goo.

Then comes the news that the FDA is banning certain kinds of fish from being imported from China unless they can prove that they are NOT contaminated with: Carcinogens, Illegal antibiotics, Unidentifiable "filth" and/or Salmonella. Yum. And, via the NYTimes, I found out that the US apparently gets almost 80% of its seafood from China. Yikes. Back away from that fish stick!

And, if all that isn't wacko enough, they're now saying that Veggie Booty (snack of choice for the Toddler set) is causing a rolling outbreak of Salmonella in kids across the country. Is nothing sacred?! Where else are our kids going to get their fill of rice flour puffs dusted with broccoli and kale?

While I have always sort of giggled under my breath at moms who think that Veggie Booty actually counts as a vegetable (I actually overheard someone saying, "If my kid didn't eat Veggie Booty, I don't know HOW we'd get him to eat his veggies!") I still think it can have its place as a (relatively) innocuous treat on occasion. No longer. I am livid that last week at playgroup I could have been feeding my friends' kids (and my own) Salmonella Puffs.


Today my son was insistent that he wanted to go to the "train store", a local toy store where they have four different train and vehicle tables in a small space. I have to say that I still feel uneasy about the Thomas the Tank Engine thing. Even though the company theoretically has the whole lead issue under control with their recall, I'm still uncomfortable having my son play with the Thomas toys.


I think I saw a bumper sticker once that read something to the effect of "It's not paranoia if they really are following you." However, if your paranoid behavior does land you in the loony bin, don't brush your teeth or eat the shrimp. That'll teach them a lesson.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

PB kids, and I'm not talkin' Pottery Barn here

I read an alarming article today in the NYTimes about the case of the Consumer Product Safety Board (CPSB)-- the government group that's supposed to make sure that consumer products are, well, as the name suggests, SAFE for consumer use.

Now, anyone who has kids can tell you the pandemonium that has broken out amongst parents about the latest recall action of twenty-some-odd Thomas the Tank Engine pieces. They can probably tell you which pieces are affected and why: Lead (chemical symbol Pb) found in the red and yellow paint.

What most of these parents don't know, however, is that despite the fact that recalls of consumer items (and, scarily enough, many many toys) has seen a huge increase in the past years, the CPSB is actually less and less able to do its job because of cuts in funding. Witness this:

In the last two years, the staff of the consumer product commission has been cut by more than 10 percent, leaving fewer regulators to monitor the safety of the growing flood of imports.

Some consumer advocates say that such staff cuts under the Bush administration have made the commission a lax regulator. The commission, for example, acknowledged in a recent budget document that “because of resource limitations,” it was planning next year to curtail its efforts aimed at preventing children from drowning in swimming pools and bathtubs.

Yikes. I hate to sound like one of those anti-foreign harpies, but given recent events with all sorts of whacked-out shit showing up in products proudly Made In China (Now! With Extra Little Oversight!), I am seriously in a quandary.

Even many of my favorite toymakers, including European firms, are outsourcing their work to China. China seems to be either unable or unwilling to police itself. (Heck, if we can't manage to do it, either, how can we expect them to?)

And, given the fact that so much manufacturing and production has moved to China, it seems foolhearty to think that A)We can avoid all products made in China and that B)Despite recent events, that all Chinese-produced things are inherently tainted. There is just a huge unknown.

However, it's appalling that we have to wait for kids or parents to start noticing lead poisining or choking hazards in order to have something actually done about it because of a lack of resources and oversight.

One thought: Perhaps it's past time to start holding stores accountable for selling these products. If retailers hear that their consumers are p.o.'d because they stock items that could potentially kill or critically injure their children or themselves, perhaps retailers will be more responsible consumers, themselves.

How's that for a moral to the story, Thomas? Peep peep!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Foiled Again

This will have to be quick, as a plaintive "Paaaaa-paaaaaa" escaped from underneath my son's door, and the babble is beginning to trickle.

I have officially joined the ranks of the Security Moms, having successfully allowed the Security People to bore holes through my doors and install cat-insensitive motion detectors and very sensitive glass breaks throughout the house. I am now officially ready to accidentally set off my own home security system at any time that is inconvenient to me or my sleeping toddler. Let the fun begin!

And speaking of defenses, I read this awesome article about captchas (see visual above), those wacky little letter/number puzzles that web sites use to authenticate that you are, indeed, a human. Apparently they are getting easier and easier for computers to solve, and harder and harder for humans to solve. Which means that the security mavens have to invent even more interesting ways to tell humans from their malice-seeking technological counterparts.

And, in closing, a remark on the frailty of human perception, brought to you by the letter X:

Yesterday I heard various stories of people cracking up. It seems the coo-coo bird has been hovering ravenous over distant relatives, family friends and old neighbors. And it seems, somehow, whether you describe people as "functioning" paranoids or alcoholics or mourners, "functioning" is really only cushioning that you give yourself to not feel as though people are one step away from falling into the abyss. Because if they are only one step away, are we only two steps, maybe three at most? Enough to give anyone vertigo.

Still, I must think of my alarm here, poised and ready to serve (or perhaps, rather, to swerve?) Safety sounds permanent, but is really an incomplete thought better left unfinished. Too much else interesting going on in the world to be worried about your boundaries, lest you inscribe them too tightly and then there you sit. The abyss-- in a dot.