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Thursday, March 27, 2008

But What Will The Children Play With If We Take All Their Lead Toys Away?

posted by on March 27 at 17:17 PM


So apparently, Governor Christine Gregoire may veto a law restricting the amount of lead, cadmium, and softening chemicals called pthalates in children’s toys. The new law would make Washington State’s toy standards the strictest in the country.

According to the Seattle P-I’s (insanely pro-industry) story:

Gregoire said that she met with Mattel and Hasbro officials and took their concerns to heart. She said she had been unaware of some restrictions established with the legislation.

As to whether she’d sign the bill, she said Wednesday morning: “I don’t know yet.” […]

“A lot of things in the law are very ill-defined,” Wahl said. “It doesn’t really define very clearly what a toy is or what a child is, which seem to be important, and a lot of the things that we sell might fall under the category of the law.”

The Sigmund Freud action figure, for example, likely wouldn’t appeal to an 8-year-old. The store does sell kid-friendly jars of bubbles, sewn-finger puppets and winking plastic rings.

“We are extremely active in making sure everything we have meets the federal product safety standard, but we think it’s a well intentioned law that’s going to have unintended consequences,” Wahl said.

“Washington state accounts for less than 2 percent of all toys sold in the United States. What will happen is a lot of the small- and medium-sized companies will just decide it’s cheaper to not sell to Washington state,” he said. “A lot of the companies will choose not to sell to us and if we decide to do the testing ourselves, we have 10,000 items in our store, it would cost about $5 million a year do that. It’s about $500 per test.”

Huh? Seriously, it’s like the P-I’s reporter didn’t even bother reading the bill—I really don’t know how you could and still think the language is somehow vague. From the bill itself:

“Toy” means a product designed or intended by the manufacturer to be used by a child at play.

There are also several lengthy definitions of children’s products, but all of them include the following phrase:

made for, marketed for use by, or marketed to children under the age of twelve

Moreover, the legislation applies only to companies that produce toys. They’re the ones who have to test them, not the seller. Most of the toys sold by Archie McPhee—including the Sigmund Freud figure cited by the reporter (see below)—are made by other companies. Really, the only people that might be hurt by this legislation are toy manufacturers that market toxic products to children.

And you know what? Fuck them. The P-I story doesn’t manage, in more than 1200 words, to explain any of the specific problems caused by the chemicals the legislation would restrict, so allow me. Phthalates can disrupt kids’ metabolisms, damage their endocrine systems, and lead to sexual malformations such as decreased testicle size and “feminization” in boys. They can also damage children’s developing nervous systems. Cadmium, meanwhile, is a known carcinogen that’s associated with developmental problems, including delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and behavioral changes. And lead exposure causes learning and developmental problems and damages children’s nervous systems. Right now, the state regulates none of these toxins.

As for the argument that banning toxic chemicals in children’s toys will put manufacturers and sellers out of business: The European Union actually banned phthalates outright eight years ago, and toy manufacturers—most of them based in China—adapted. Now they produce phthalate-free toys for the European market, and phthalate-laced toys for us.

Come on, Gregoire. A Republican governor signed a total, statewide ban on phthalates last year. Surely the Democratic governor of Washington State should have the political backbone to do the same.

(Commenters have pointed out that the Freud action figure is made by Archie McPhee’s parent company. Fair enough. I still don’t think kids should be playing with it if it’s full of lead.)

RSS icon Comments


Accoutrements, the Mukilteo-based company that makes the Sigmund Freud action figure and all that other lovable crap, is the parent company of Archie McPhee. So, once again, you're wrong.

Posted by joykiller | March 27, 2008 5:21 PM

What's a little GHB-drugged out kidlings between friends?

"Mommy, Timmy brought over his date-rape drug-dosed Devil Ducky again!"

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 27, 2008 5:25 PM

Damn, No. 1: ECB comes out with a pro-child type post and still can't catch a break!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 27, 2008 5:28 PM

Read it. Seems to me that all "Toys" are "Children's products".

See (3)(a)(i).

Posted by umvue | March 27, 2008 5:32 PM

This bill is anti environment. Arguably the primary cause of global warming is over population. The dramatic decrease in child mortality rates in the last 100 years conversely mirrors the increase in global warming. To damn many of those little buggers are living past infancy as it is. The environmentally responsible thing to do would be to make toys more dangerous, not less dangerous. I am shocked that ECB would support a piece of legislation that is so environmentally irresponsible.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 27, 2008 5:45 PM

We should be legislating to put the “selection” back in “natural selection”. Not further remove it.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 27, 2008 5:47 PM

As #1 pointed out, Accoutrements (the AM-parent company that makes most of their stuff) is a WA company. If ECB had done a minimum of fact-checking should would have known this.

Posted by ecbstrikesagain | March 27, 2008 5:49 PM

Just think of it as “post birth abortion” and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s not only desirable, but a Constitutional Right.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 27, 2008 5:51 PM

"Washington state accounts for less than 2 percent of all toys sold in the United States."

I'm curious where that stat came from.

Posted by laterite | March 27, 2008 5:52 PM

@7: Yeah! That too!

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 27, 2008 5:52 PM

Wow, so out of 50 states, we're only the source of 2 percent of the toys ... I am so shocked ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 27, 2008 6:00 PM

No, Gregoire actually can be that spineless, as she has been time and time again, and - HOLY SHIT IS THAT A CORRECTION IN YOUR POST THERE?! WTF?

Posted by tsm | March 27, 2008 6:01 PM

@12. Did you know that 40% of all absences occur on Mondays and Fridays? Crazy, huh.

Posted by Julie | March 27, 2008 6:11 PM

Actually, a little more digging is probably required. Just because Accountrements is Archie McPhee's parent company, doesn't mean it has a manufacturing plant in Washington State (maybe it does--who knows?)

A Washington corporation can still contract out spec work to a semi-anonymous Chinese factory for manufacture, import it and market it under its own name.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 27, 2008 6:16 PM

I take a perverse delight when ECB whines and bitches about bias in the mainstream media.

Posted by Luigi Giovanni | March 27, 2008 6:20 PM

GWB played with lead toy soldiers as a child (probably still does) and it didn't leave him mentally retarded or chimp looking or anything liket that.
If you want to eliminate dangerous toys outlaw Freud figurines.

Posted by kinaidos | March 27, 2008 6:28 PM

As far as I know, ALL Accoutrements stuff is made in China - and it should be! Archie's started as an odds-and-ends dealer and grew into picking up odds and ends from Asia - leftover toy promos for Japanese SF shows from the 1960s and so forth.

The entire business is pretty much predicated on selling lead and irony. And what's irony without poison?

Posted by mike | March 27, 2008 7:00 PM

I'm torn. On one hand, I would be sad to see Accoutrements and Archie McPhee's go out of business. On the other hand, if they're mass producing their toys in China and possibly importing toys full of lead and other chemicals... Well, that shit needs to be regulated.

Posted by Samantha | March 27, 2008 8:05 PM

If the bill passes, would the 99-cent store at 15th and Republican go out of business? I think the entire inventory arrived in one container from China. The store's name could be Phthalatios. The gov has no right to veto this bill.

Posted by ROAG | March 27, 2008 8:25 PM

@16 I don't think she's bitching about bias per se. She's bitching about the pretension to objectivity. I believe that much like myself, she'd prefer that publications were up front about their biases.

Posted by Gitai | March 27, 2008 9:40 PM

ECB carping on Archie McPhee's s'like the Vice magazine carping on Diesel. Gotta dance with them what brung ya.

Posted by J Loomnor | March 28, 2008 2:18 AM

I can't believe the governor is attending to the interests of toy manufacturers over those of my 6-month-old. I cannot believe she is a mother and a Democrat.

The toy manufacturers have adapted to similar rules in other states and in the E.U. (so they have production mechanisms in place already to comply with these kinds of rules).

Archie McPhee's and other small toy manufacturers should not have a right to use toxic products, period. If they go out of business, it's because they were myopic and greedy--not because rational toy safety rules were passed.

Contact the Governor and tell her to sign the toy safety bill:

If she vetoes it, I can't imagine voting for her next time around. Seriously.

Posted by Simac | March 28, 2008 6:03 AM

Any proposed law that threatens the existence of Archie McPhee's is a bad law. In my opinion, this is not a kid's store. Adults who purchase a Sigmund Freud action figure or Boxing Nun with the intention of putting it their mouths have much larger issues to address. Leave this hallowed vendor of revered trash and trinkets alone. The other guys, go get 'em.

Posted by Spoogie | March 28, 2008 7:17 AM

ECB, most European nations are socialists and thus probably funded most of the changes. WA will expect vendors and suppliers to pay out of pocket to obey the law.

Between you and Will braying about 100 story towers in Vancouver BC, sometimes I wonder if the perspectives of urbanites are so disconnected because they don't actually realize that places like their beloved Europe are actually completely different nations with different economic systems and laws from us. You can't just cut and paste something so complex from something that came from a completely different context.

Posted by Gomez | March 28, 2008 8:33 AM

@25 - Socialists? No, they're not. You must be reading Fnarf's wikipedia again.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 28, 2008 8:48 AM

I'm still confused as to why a Sigmund Freud action figure is considered a child's toy. Kids shouldn't be playing with it regardless if it's full of lead, so why should McPhee have to test it?

But seriously, Erica, when Market Street is nothing more than boutiques and cell phone shops, I'll know who to thank.

Posted by joykiller | March 28, 2008 9:49 AM

26. No wonder you think the way you do... you clearly slept through college.

Also, it was a mild typo... they have socialist (no s on the end) economic systems. People pay their assload of taxes and the government subsidizes commerce. The US does not do this, because we are a capitalist 'free market' country.

Posted by Gomez | March 28, 2008 10:05 AM

Practically everything at Archie McPhee is made by Accoutrements. And Archie McPhee is one of the few places that sells Accoutrements stuff. So, their toys and their store are fairly tightly associated.

Posted by K | March 28, 2008 10:33 AM

Sometimes a Sigmund Freud action figure is just a cigar people.

Posted by subwlf | March 28, 2008 10:52 AM

@28 - no, from a global perspective, they don't. You regard nationalized health care as socialism, while 98 percent of first world nations don't, they regard it as Normal Sane Policy.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 28, 2008 11:57 AM

@28: What planet are you on? Can I say JP Morgan and Bear Stearns? How's that for a government subsidy? What other country (other than maybe the UK and France) would guarantee $30 billion dollars?

As a tax attorney I can say that our tax burden is often the same, or higher than many other countries, particularly if you're poor.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 28, 2008 12:09 PM

31. That's neat but it doesn't change the definition. Socialism is the government subsidizing commerce and services. Cross-applying policies enacted in countries that subsidize commerce to countries that don't isn't sound.

32. That was a special-case emergency bailout, and special cases are always bad examples when proving a point.

And no, if you're not paying 40-60% of your earnings to the Feds, your tax burden is not as great as companies in Europe. Maybe the process is more burdensome (thanks, IRS!) but your actual tax burden is much less.

Posted by Gomez | March 28, 2008 1:21 PM

Special Case Bailout?

Yeah, right ...

Sorry, it was Socialism in ACTION.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 28, 2008 1:59 PM

oh, and @33 - companies are not people. And they never will be, no matter what you neocons say.

The day they draft a company, or execute it for crimes it commits - then it's a person.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 28, 2008 2:01 PM

Are you on medication, Will? I don't even know what you think I'm saying, but that certainly isn't it. I'm referring this entire time to businesses, not individuals. Those last two comments, especially calling me a neocon for telling you how socialism works, approaches Poochie Kafelnikov levels of disconnected absurdity.

Posted by Gomez | March 28, 2008 2:51 PM

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