Why is There Lead in My Balsamic Vinegar?

030080-1.jpgDo you ever read the fine print on your vinegar? I certainly did not, until one day I noticed my organic balsamic vinegar had a Proposition 65 warning!  In fine print, the label reads:

 This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. 

There’s lead in my vinegar! Sure, I accept there is lead in my children’s toys, but in the vinegar we love on our salads…that’s alarming!  According to Napa Valley Naturals, makers of my favorite organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar,

All balsamic and red wine vinegars contain naturally occurring lead. Lead is naturally absorbed by all things that grow in the ground, including the grapes used to make vinegar. Most balsamic and red wine vinegars have lead levels equal to or less than 34 parts per million. An average person would need to consume 1 to 2 cups of balsamic or red wine vinegar per day to reach the Proposition 65 lead level minimum threshold, which includes a 1000-fold safety margin.

This may be true, that the lead level is low in balsamic vinegar, but in combination with all of the other ways my children may be exposed to lead, I am concerned.  Also, if lead is naturally absorbed from the soil by plants, wouldn’t all our food contain lead? Why doesn’t my red wine vinegar contain the Proposition 65 warning? [Read more...]

The Latest News on Toy Safety

dangeroustoys.jpgThe holidays are behind us, but toy safety continues to dominate parents’ concerns. There have been several recent developments parents should be aware of, as the issue of toy safety has not been resolved. Recalls continue almost daily, especially for lead paint standards violations.

Export Licences [sic] of 600 Toy Makers Revoked

China is cracking down on toy makers in an effort to save the industry. “We have thoroughly inspected all 3,000-plus toy makers for export during the rectification work that began last August,” said State Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) Deputy Director Pu Changcheng. Changcheng also blamed overseas importers for design flaws and changing standards that created the current recall situation.

Toy Makers Mount Drive to Salvage China’s Safety Reputation

The US Toy Industry Association is attempting to salvage the image of toys made in China, and the toy industry remains committed to making toys in China. They claim there is no realistic alternative to Chinese manufacturing. “Are you going to pay twice as much for a doll because it’s not made in China?” Mr. Shoptaugh, owner of Shoptaugh Games, added. “The thing is you cannot make these products in the United States and have them be competitive on the shelf.” [Read more...]

2007: The Year of Toy Safety

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2007 will go down in history as the year when toy safety was no longer assumed by parents in the United States. Gone are the days when parents blindly selected any toy from the shelf of a big box store and thought their child was protected from lead and other heavy metals. This year has been plagued by recall after recall, and unfortunately, children have been injured by these unsafe toys. The following is a summary of recent news on toy safety to end our year.

On December 19, 2007, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill lowering the allowable lead levels in toys, as well as mandated independent toy testing. Funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission would also be increased through this bill. The senate will not take action until 2008 on the issue. According to the Daily Grist,

The current draft of the Senate bill would do many of the same things the House-passed version does, but would also allow state attorneys general to sue to enforce federal product-safety laws, protect employees who report safety law violations, increase the civil penalty cap to $100 million, and give industry less time to comply with the lower lead standards…Meanwhile, presidential candidate Barack Obama went even further yesterday by calling for a ban on the import of all toys from China. [Read more...]

California Finds Lead In Children's Jewelry

flowergirl.jpgCalifornia stores are pulling children’s jewelry off the shelves after tests showed extremely high levels of lead in the products. The state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered 11 retailers to remove over a dozen brands of jewelry after finding bracelets, rings, and necklaces with up to 600 times the legal lead limit.

The investigation follows a new law banning lead levels of over 600 parts per million in children’s jewelry that took effect on September 1. A similar law for adult jewelry takes effect March 1 of 2008. Jewelry is of particular concern because children often put items in their mouth.

[Read more...]

Buyers Beware: Recalled Toys Still on Shelves and Ebay

470_toy_070802.jpgI like to browse Ebay for unique, homemade wooden toys and Waldorf dolls. Like Etsy, artisans use Ebay to sell their handy work and reach a broader audience. Recently, recalled toys have been showing up on this online auction marketplace.

The plethora of recalled toys makes it difficult for consumers to know about every unsafe toy identified by the CPSC. During a recent search, KLTV 7 of Jacksonville, Texas found several recalled toys on Ebay. “It’s disturbing that if someone did not know that these items had been recalled that they were being resold,” said Stephanie Carlton, a concerned mother. “It’s a total lack of concern for someone else’s child.” It does make you wonder…what happens to recalled toys once they have been pulled from the shelves? [Read more...]

Pucker Up Baby! There's Lead in Your Lipstick!

lipstick-girl_hm.jpgMore bad news about lead: It is in 61% of name brand lipsticks! The $50 billion cosmetic industry largely regulates itself, and the FDA has not set a limit on  lead levels in lipstick. Thank goodness we have the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group to keep us informed.According to Enviroblog: [Read more...]

California Sues Toy Companies Over Lead Content

matelnewvig1.jpgSometimes, I am proud to live in the Golden State. If the federal government won’t protect our children, as least California will try. Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law AB 1108 banning the use of phthalates in children’s products. This week, California Attorney General Jerry Brown sued 20 toy companies for selling toys with “unlawful quantities of lead” under Proposition 65.

[Read more...]

Do Home Lead Test Kits Work?

41et6g93pzl_aa230_.jpgWhen I first learned about lead in children’s lunch boxes, I rushed to the hardware store to buy my own Home Lead Test Kit. I was concerned about my daughter’s commercial character backpack (which thankfully we no longer have), and we conducted our own Eco Child’s Play lead testing experiment. The results were negative, but now, I have learned that home lead test kits may not be accurate, thus neither was our experiment’s results reliable.

According to Grist, home lead test kits are not reliable for children’s toys: “The Consumer Product Safety Commission put 104 kits to the test and found that 56 failed to detect lead in toys, while two overachievers warned of the heavy metal where it didn’t exist.” How are consumers supposed to feel safe? My daughter just received a bracelet from the prize box at school, and paranoid eco-mom wants to test it for lead. Is it worth the money to buy a home lead test kit? In light of the evidence that home lead tests are not reliable, the CPSC suggests worried parents send toys off to labs to be tested. Isn’t that the CPSC’s job? Consumer Reports followed the CPSC’s conclusions with their own tests. They report,

Our conclusion, that they can be limited but useful screening tools to identify lead in household products, is different from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recent announcement that consumers should not use these products to find lead in their homes. Our differences lie not as much in the testing itself as in the interpretation of the data. Here’s how we came to our conclusions and why we believe parents should consider these kits as a helpful tool for screening household products. [Read more...]

Wooden Toy Recalls: More Thomas the Tank Engine


There have been a flurry of recalls yesterday and today, and although I planned to post on a different subject, I can’t ignore the wooden toys included in the recall. I have always been such an advocate for wooden toys, that it breaks my heart to see lead in their paint.

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The Great Recall of China-Words of Wisdom from Jon Stewart

For another, more serious perspective, see today’s NY Times article “After Stumbling, Mattel Cracks Down in China” and the Green Guide’s “The Lowdown: The Latest on Lead Recalls“.

[Read more...]

Green Family Values: Recall, Recall, Recall

Dangerous toy recalls have predominated the news lately. From magnets that can cause severe intestinal damage or death if swallowed to lead-based paints, mass marketed children’s toys made in China are not fit for our youngest population or the workers who make them. The most recent massive recalls have come from major tPhoto courtesy of CPSCoy companies, such as Mattel (maker of Barbie, Batman, Dora, etc.) and RC2 (maker of Thomas the Tank Engine).

[Read more...]

More Thoughts on the Thomas the Tank Engine Lead Paint Recall: Children Around the World Should Be Protected


The recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys, as well as other recent recalls, reminds us that our children will never be safe until children are safe globally from harmful products in their toys. A recent opinion article in the New York Times by Christian Warren speaks to this issue. “The Little Engine That Could Poison” reminds us that the important lessons to be learned from these recalls is not only about the protection our own children, but “regulating environmental poisons in the global economy”.

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Britax Parkway Booster: A Less Toxic Car Seat

After discovering my children had the most toxic car seats evaluated by the Ecology Center, I purchased two Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats. These booster seats were lower on the list of toxicity and available locally, so it was an immediate solution to our toxic car seat problem. After one 20 minute car ride with the Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats, I developed a headache and my lungs felt weird. I am not a very chemically sensitive person, but the fumes off these seats were unbearable. I returned the Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe Booster Car Seats, much to my daughter’s disappointment, as she liked the little lights above the shoulders she could turn on to read books in the car. I also felt that my almost three-year old son was too small for the seat, as he did not appear to be securely held. I did not want to purchase another five point harness seat, as he would only be able to to use it for a few more months, and he had already outgrown his old, toxic one.

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Thomas the Tank Engine Recall: Lead Paint on Wooden Trains


Once again, we are left to wonder why manufacturers of children’s products include lead in the materials. 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine products are being recalled due to lead in the surface paint. These wooden railway train products were sold between 2005 and 2007 and manufactured in China. You can visit the CPSC website to learn more information. Consumers are advised to take the toys away from their children immediately and contact RC2 Corp (parent company of Learning Curve) for a replacement. Unlike the Small World Toys recall we participated in earlier this year, you must return the recalled toys to RC2 and fill out a form.

[Read more...]