Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CPSIA - Taking Advice from Idiots

In a recent article entitled "Advice on avoiding a toxic Christmas", USA Today attempted to take Christmas paranoia to new heights. Naturally, the premise of the article is that companies are criminally irresponsible or venal and certainly can't be trusted, and consumer advocates and any pediatrician that will talk to a reporter are better people, better informed and by definition trustworthy. In this article, USA Today's Liz Szabo consults "experts" to reach the following conclusions:

a. "No one knows how much lead people absorb from holiday decorations, says pediatrician Bruce Lanphear, of Canada's Simon Fraser University." And if he said it, it must be true. [Of course, pediatrician Philip Landrigan, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, notes "In the whole scheme of things, is it a huge risk? No."]

What's the problem with Xmas lights, you say? Lead in the PVC. According to Alicia Voorhiess, a mom with a blog, manufacturers "use it" in the PVC. Right - you got us! Don't worry, though, after much digging, she found two companies that offer Xmas lights which comply with Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), a European standard which limits the presence of lead in lights.

Ummm, Alicia, RoHS is a standard to designed to prevent leaching of heavy metals to protect the environment and only applies to electronics. This MEANS that the lead is restricted in the bulbs and fittings, not the PVC. Whatever, it sounds safer, doesn't it?

The author of the article quotes Dr. Alan Greene (my college classmate) saying that you should handle your Xmas lights with gloves. Why stop there? Moon suits, anyone?

b. Artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC, too, and we know what manufacturers are wont to do with PVC. The solution - use a real tree grown without pesticides.

I find this a most uncreative solution, myself. Here's a few more:
  • Post a picture of a beautiful tree near the spot you might have placed your tree. Keep it away from the fire, however.
  • Consider just displaying your Xmas lights in their packaging. No touching!
  • Use an artificial tree, but place under a glass enclosure or something air tight like Saran Wrap. Stand at least five feet away at all times.

All of these remedies will protect you from lead. That said, please remember there is NO safe level for lead. And a holy, jolly Christmas to you, too!

Shame that USA Today didn't focus in on the fact that there is lead in the air, in our water and in our food. OOPSIE! In fact, lead in water is conveniently piped into Washington, D.C. homes for kids to drink in their own bathrooms and kitchens. Nice! Somehow USA Today missed this. Shocking . . . .

c. Candles with metal wicks might also have lead in them, or then again, maybe they won't. In a blow to poorly-researched newspaper articles, the CPSC apparently banned these wicks in 2003. Who knew the CPSC actually tried to its job before the CPSIA? Somebody should have told Congress.

According to this all-knowing newspaper, candles also contain paraffin, a wax made from petroleum. Not sure why I should care about that, but it sounds ominous. And some fragrances in candles have phthalates in them "which can affect the hormonal system". Isn't knowing nothing about science FUN???

The solution - The author of this article actually recommends that you use pure beeswax candles. Happy hunting! They also suggest you "poke cloves into oranges". Ah, the old clove poking trick! That sounds like fun but IS IT SAFE? This article says oranges have lead in them. NO! And, for an extra kicker, it also says they have cadmium, too: "If the soils contain toxic metals like lead, mercury and cadmium then the consumers may be poisoned as happened in the "Ouchi-ouchi" disease in Japan . . . and similar episodes." Wow, Ouchi-Ouchi! Scott Wolfson, do you hear a bell ringing? [Eating oranges didn't cause "Ouchi-Ouchi" but then again, researching these things is sooooo time-consuming.]

So there you go. Skip Christmas this year, too dangerous. I wonder if a Festivus pole is lead-free . . . .


Anonymous said...

Apparently, Christmas tree lights now are "children's products."


Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Oh yes . . . because we ALL hand out Christmas lights to our kids and let them munch on them by the hour . . . oh yes . . . (never mind that in our house they only get put on the tree by the 14 and up crowd anyway!)

And Rick, did you know that touching your MONEY is now dangerous too?? HIGH LEVELS OF BPA . . . OH THE HORROR . . .