Is Thomas Really ‘Toxic’ the Tank Engine?
Leeann Anderson says she never thought her five-year-old son Evan’s favorite, hardly-ever-out-of-reach Thomas the Tank Engine might some day poison him. That was before more than 1.5 million of the toys were recalled this summer because they were coated with lead paint.
It made me sick to my stomach to think that from the time he was a year-and-a-half, he had his Thomas the Tank Engine in his mouth and could have lead in his system.
Anderson, a member of the United Steelworkers (USW) Women of Steel, packed away Thomas the Tank Engine but decided she needed to do more than shove the problem aside. That’s why she and hundreds of other USW activists are taking part in the Protect Our Kids: Stop Toxic Imports.
That safe toy initiative not only provides parents with the tools and information to test their kid’s toys for lead but also mobilizes concerned moms and dads to join the fight against the failed trade policies and inadequate regulatory protections that allow dangerous products to threaten families and jobs.
With the holiday season upon us and recent headlines about the tens of millions of imported toxic toys, toy safety is a major worry for parents. Says USW President Leo Gerard:
Until our failed trade policies are remedied, our families are going to remain endangered. How many more toxic toys are going to end up on our store shelves and in the hands of kids before our government stops protecting big business and does something about this crisis.
That’s why parents like Anderson are taking matters into their own hands. She hosted one of the campaign’s first “Safe Home Sessions” last month. There have been several since and about 20 more are set for around the country later this month.
Ten Women of Steel members and other neighbors brought along dozens of suspect of toys. Armed with lead-testing kits supplied by the Stop Toxic Imports campaign, they began the testing, including Evan’s Thomas the Tank Engine. Anderson and her husband had hoped the toy was lead-free and had been made before the recalled products were manufactured. It wasn’t.
I had to look twice. I felt a feeling of disbelief and guilt as a parent. These things shouldn’t be in your home.
But the guilt shouldn’t fall on parents who have no way of knowing if the toys and clothes they buy from reputable retailers and made by companies with familiar names—have been manufactured in toxic conditions in foreign countries, then allowed to be sold in the United States. Anderson says if the nation’s trade policies were working and regulatory agencies were doing their jobs:
There’s no reason on God’s green earth this stuff should be in anybody’s home.
After the Safe Home Sessions, participants are encouraged to go into the community and have toys at day care centers, kindergartens and other places tested and properly disposed of if contaminated.
In an odd twist of fate, the Anderson’s adopted daughter, Maia, was born in China, where lead contamination is high, and as part of the adoption process had to undergo tests for lead levels in her system. Now Anderson and her husband, are awaiting results from tests this week that will show if Evan has elevated lead in his system.
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