Guerilla toy testing
About this time last year, toy manufacturers were reeling and parents were scrambling over the news that many of their children's favorite toys contained dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. No sooner was one toy pulled off of the shelf then alerts would go out about another toy recall. The entire incident sparked such nationwide outrage that this year Congress passed a sweeping overhaul of the consumer-product-safety regulations intended to catch these toxic toys before they hit the store shelves.
The new regulations will set strict limits on the amount of lead and phthalates that can be found in children's products. Still, many parents are wary about the penny-pinching of toy manufacturers and unsure if they can trust federal regulators to make sure that the toys on store shelves are actually safe. Enter the guerrilla toy testers....non-government organizations that are hitting the streets to test and report toys they deem questionable.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, one such group, the Center for Environmental Health recently took Wal-Mart to task for selling frog-charm jewelry that contained levels of lead higher than allowed by California state law. Investigators from the group used a handheld testing device, called an XRF (stands for x-ray flourescence) to screen toys for roughly two dozen elements such as lead, cadmium, and titanium. At a cost of $25,000-$40,000 a piece, XRF testers are not for the average joe, but they are helping guerrilla groups find the problem toys and get them off the shelves before they become a problem. And they're also sending out a warning to toy manufacturers that parents are watching.
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