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Keeping kids safe by choosing safe toys


Each year, U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, releases a report on the safety of toys called Trouble in Toyland.

In the 26th annual survey, US PIRG reports the following:

Despite national bans, lead continues to be found in toys. Lead is an extremely harmful metal--especially to children's neurological development. Once exposed, it's difficult for our bodies to get rid of lead, and it builds up in our system. Generally, very heavy metal toys and jewelry are most likely to contain lead or cadmium (another toxic metal). Choose lighter metals, or unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead.

Some plastic toys have high levels of phthalates. US PIRG found two toys with extremely high levels of phthalates. These chemicals are used to make plastic flexible, and have been associated with reproductive and developmental problems.

Some toys continue to be choking hazards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has specific size standard for toys intended for children under three. The CPSC found several toys that were in violation of those standards.

Some toys are too noisy. Some music players and toys were found to emit sounds that could harm the hearing of children. If a toy seems too noisy, it probably is harmful to children.

The US Pirg has released a tip sheet about toy safety (pdf) that has tips about avoiding the above concerns, and others such as buying magnets for children (if they are small and many are swallowed, they could join together in the stomach and cause major injury). On your mobile phone, you can point your browser to which will show you unsafe toys, recalled toys, and give tips while you're out shopping.

Tips for the active family to stay safe while on the go

Families should establish a home alone routine for children who are home after school alone.

With children back in school, family schedules are bound to be busier than ever. It's important that active families set some rules to keep everyone safe, and to protect a home.

This month, the Las Vegas Review Journal is giving us some simple tips including not leaving notes on the front door with information about schedules, establishing a "home alone" routine for your children, and creating an emergency plan.

It is also advised that social media rules are set for families, with boundaries about what is to be said on online sites about schedules and location "check-ins."

Read more at the Las Vegas Review Journal site.

Water safety is critical on Oregon's rivers and lakes

Observing safety while on Oregon's rivers is critical.On August 21, 2011, a young Cottage Grove woman died while floating down the Willamette River.

Lane County Search and Rescue Coordinator John Miller told the Eugene-Register Guard that the group made a number of mistakes: they were using flimsy watercraft that could easily puncture or bend, they were tied together interfering with maneuverability, and they were not wearing life vests.

Mr. Miller noted that while life vests were were in the boat: “Accidents happen so quick. You reaction time is zero.” Other errors made by summer boaters including starting too late in the day, not giving enough time to reach their end point before dark, and drinking too much alcohol.

Many of Oregon's waterways are born of snow melt, which means that they are extremely cold and that drowning can occur more quickly--as your body gets cold, the body weakens which means that even the strongest swimmer could have trouble in a rapidly-moving river.

Mario Vittone, an expert in drowning and water safety wrote a widely-circulated article titled "Drowning doesn't look like drowning," in which he described the act of drowning. In it, he writes:

There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

With state and local budget cuts, water safety classes are not offered by public agencies. However, outdoor programs run fee-based classes which have water safety components. In Eugene, available park and recreation classes can be seen at Shandy Shaffer, youth and family services manager for Eugene's recreation programs describes the classes:

“One of the first things we do is a safety talk: how to put on your life jacket, how to operate the boat in unison with your captain, how to take commands, what to do in the event you fall out of the boat ... It really is the best way to have a good time, to have all those safety checks in place.”

Water safety information is also available through the Oregon State Marine Board’s website at

Window Safety in the Home is Crucial to Prevent Injury to Children

Falls are the leading cause of injury for children 5 years and younger.

Falls are the leading cause of injury for children 5 years and younger.

Just last month, a Eugene toddler fell from his family’s third story apartment unit to the ground below. The first floor neighbor heard the boy crying and called 911. Apparently, when his parents had checked on him earlier in the morning, he was asleep but he woke up and walked to a room with an open window. He pushed on the window screen and in the process fell out of the building.

The Eugene toddler survived with minor injuries but many other kids aren’t so lucky. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that 3,300 kids are seen in U.S. emergency rooms each year after falling out of windows. The numbers of injuries increase significantly during the warm spring and summer months. Unfortunately, the CPSC knows of at least 120 window related falls since 1990. Of those deaths, most are to children under the age of 5.

These injuries and deaths occur when young children push against window screens or climb on furniture to get closer to open windows. Child safety experts warn parents not to rely on screens to protect children from the dangers of open windows. Instead, they suggest installing window guards or stops which prevent windows from being opened more than 4” and moving furniture away from windows.

Additional Resources

New Sunscreen Guide Helps Consumers Head into a Safe Summer

Sunscreen Guide

According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), consumers can only trust 20% of sunscreens to be as protective as advertised, and to be free from toxic ingredients.

For the fifth year in a row, the EWG has released a list of best and worst sunscreens. You can use the EWG's website or iPhone app to search the database for the best and the worst of sunscreen products.

The EWG evaluated 1,700 sunscreen products (creams, lip balms, moisturizers and makeups). They rated the products based on:

Presence of harmful ingredients. Some ingredients don't belong in sunscreen. Oxybenzone is a common ingredient which is a hormone disruptor and can be absorbed into our bodies when coming in contact with our skin. Retinyl palmitate, also listed as Vitamin A, is harmful when exposed to sunlight.

UVA & UVB protection. The EWG evaluated whether UVA & UVB protection was in balance. According to the EWG report, "Sunscreens ideally block a similar amount of UVA and UVB rays. Otherwise, they allow skin damage even while preventing sunburn." Also, products were downgraded if their UVB protection claim was over SPF 50. This is because they may give consumers a false sense of protection, thus causing them to become burned because they aren't reapplying sunscreen.

Delivery method. The EWG does not recommend powder or spray sunscreens due to concerns about inhalation, causing undue exposure to problem chemicals that would be ok on the skin but not inhaled into the lungs.

Presence of helpful ingredients. Some ingredients are better than others. The EWG recommends choosing sunscreens with the presence of minerals like zinc and titanium. They say, "Consumers who use sunscreens without zinc and titanium are likely exposed to 20% more UVA radiation and greater numbers of hazardous ingredients than consumers relying on these mineral products for sun protection."

While the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced intent to regulate sunscreens in 1978, there is still no federal oversight of sunscreens, which allows manufacturers to overstate claims and leaves consumers in the dark about their choices.

US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has introduced the Sunscreen Labeling Protection Act into the Senate, which would require the FDA to mandate that sunscreen manufacturers correctly disclose UVA protection. Senator Reed said,

"You shouldn't need to be a doctor to determine if your sunscreen is safe and effective. For too long the FDA has allowed manufacturers to get away with inaccurate claims about sun protection, and consumers are getting burned. It is time to impose sunscreen safety and labeling standards."

EWG’s website offers general tips for sunscreen shopping and safe sun enjoyment, including:

  • Look for mineral protection from zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Avoid oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (sometimes listed as vitamin A).
  • Pick creams and lotions over sprays and powders.
  • Try to physically block the sun with protective clothing, sunglasses and hats.
  • Minimize sun exposure from 10:00 to 4:00 when rays are strongest.
  • Reapply sunscreens at least every two hours, or after getting wet or sweaty.

Toy Safety means Keeping our Kids Safe at the Holidays

Consumers should keep in mind a few tips while buying toys for the holidays.

Every year, nearly 200,000 children are seen in emergency rooms with toy-related injuries. Many of these injuries are preventable.

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group began putting together an annual report just before the winter holidays highlighting the year’s most dangerous toys.

As a result of this organization's work, at least 130 toys have been recalled from the market. The organization has a downloadable guide on their site, as well as a mobile app that can be used while shopping.

Some basic purchasing tips:

  • When buying children toys for the holdings, try to avoid choking hazards. Choking is the most common cause of toy related death. Children under the age of 3 should not have toys with small parts. Even small balls and balloons can present a choking hazard. Magnets, magnetic toys, and magnetic jewelry can be especially dangerous if more than one magnet is swallowed as they can attract each other in the body and cause complications.


Protect your children by learning about flame retardants

Kid_reading_newspaper Parents hear endless warning against BPA, lead, and cadmium but they aren’t told about other chemicals in their children’s clothes, toys and furniture. Flame-retardants are not just in kids’ pajamas from the 70s—they are in mattresses, computers, cribs, strollers and baby carriers. They are often ingested and absorbed and have been linked to attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, hearing problems, slow mental development and possibly cancer. (Read more at  

In the past 10 years, there's been an explosion of evidence that the most widely used kind, called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), do more harm than good -- especially when used in baby products, which have little chance of bursting into flames. The problem is that the chemicals can flake off the products and land in your baby stroller, your couch, your computer desk and your carpet, ending up being inhaled or swallowed by people and pets.

The EPA is so concerned about this risk that last month it proposed putting PBDEs on an official list of Chemicals of Concern, a new, short roster of products that pose an unreasonable hazard to consumers. If the list is approved by the Office of Management and Budget, it won't quite have the weight of law but will send a message to consumers and manufacturers. But banning these chemicals has proven an intensely difficult task, as the $4.1 billion chemical industry manages a massive lobbying campaign against states that try to ban them, and individual scientists whose work raises questions about their safety.

Last December, the EPA was able to negotiate a voluntary phase-out of one ubiquitous flame retardant, known as "Deca" Two other types were taken off the market in 2004. But there are more than 200 kinds of PBDEs, and the industry is developing different mixtures to replace the banned chemicals.
There needs to be more regulations to test and limit the chemicals that children are exposed to. The EPA does not have enough leverage if they can only negotiate to have companies voluntarily remove chemicals from the market.
U.S. citizens, along with seals, seabirds and other creatures, ended up with the highest blood levels of halogenated flame retardants of any place on earth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 97 percent of Americans have flame retardants in their blood -- a disturbing number since the EPA admits there's no evidence that these chemicals actually reduce fires.

Chemical industry lobbyists seldom welcome studies that may lead the EPA to ban their products, but the flame retardant lobby is especially quick to strike back at researchers and lawmakers who take them on.  (Read more at
Because few products actually list fire retardants on their labels, it is up to consumers to do their research—learn about the hazardous chemicals and avoid buying these harmful consumer goods.

Keeping Your Children Safe in the Crib

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is proposing a ban on all drop-side cribs after five major crib recalls this year. At least 32 children have died in crib related malfunctions in the last decade and Gillbrand is determined to stop future deaths. Her proposed legislation would ban the creation and distribution of all drop-side cribs in the United States.


Choking Is a Risk for all Children--Not Just Those Under 3yrs

Kids-playing250Consumer Reports recently commented on a study evaluating the risk of choking in children. The study produced some surprising results. First off, apparently, age three is not the magical year when choking stops being a risk to children. Even though toys with small parts carry a warning that they are "not for children under 3," the study showed that the average age of children who die from choking incidents is 4.6 years. In fact, 25 percent of the products involved in choking deaths passed the toy-labeling criteria set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Warning: Lead in Children's Toys

Lead is very dangerous to children and can be found in many new and used children's products such as toys, backpacks and jewelry. Watch the video to find out more.

Safe CFL use in the home

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