THE OFFICIAL FREELANCE DAD LEAD-PAINTED THOMAS TOY TALLY: 3

ThomasWe've finally taken the time to sort through Fellow's toy chest full of Thomas trains and tracks, and have discovered that we are the owners of three lead-painted, Chinese-manufactured recalled Thomas the Tank Engine toys—the Yellow & Green Box Car, the Red Stop Sign, and the Yellow Yield Sign. It could have been much worse: A few years ago, Fellow had a bizarre fascination with a Thomas Fire Brigade Truck. The "hose" piece of the toy, which was detachable, had a small plastic "nozzle" at the end of a string, and Fellow got in the habit of sticking that nozzle in his ear over and over (and this was WITHOUT lead poisoning). Mercifully, the Fire Brigade Truck in the recall is a different model than Fellow's. Fellow has largely outgrown his interest in Thomas, so the toys haven't gotten much use lately. Still, three products isn't zero. According to the Times, the value of RC2's stock hasn't declined, but it's hard to fathom how this company ISN'T going to take a huge hit in the marketplace. Their licensing partners, like HIT, Nickelodeon, GM, and Ford have got to be facing pressures to drop the manufacturer. . .

Also according to the Times, this would likely be a much bigger scandal if the Consumer Product Safety Commission had the kind of enforcement staff it used to have:

Scott J. Wolfson, a second Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman, would not say how long ago RC2 discovered the problem or when it first reported it to federal authorities.

In the last two years, the staff of the consumer product commission has been cut by more than 10 percent, leaving fewer regulators to monitor the safety of the growing flood of imports. . . . The Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety standards, but it has only about 100 field investigators and compliance personnel nationwide to conduct inspections . . . of $22 billion worth of toys and tens of billions of dollars’ worth of other consumer products sold in the country each year. “They don’t have the staff that they need to try to get ahead of this problem,” said Janell Mayo Duncan, senior counsel at the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. “They need more money and resources to do more checks.”

The scariest part of this story, as the Times accurately reports, is that the Thomas products have to be just the tip of the iceberg, and RC2, for all its boneheadedness (the company still hasn't made any public disclosures about how it discovered the problem, or to what standards it holds its dedicated Chinese factories) is at least a pubic company that (eventually) runs safety tests of its products. On the other hand:

Among the toy recalls, the problem is most acute with low-price, no-brand-name toys that are often sold at dollar stores and other deep discounters, which are manufactured and sent to the United States often without the involvement of major American toy importers. Last year, China also was the source of 81 percent of the counterfeit goods seized by Customs officials at ports of entry in the United States — products that typically are not made according to the standards on the labels they are copying.

So, moms and dads, what's in your goody bag?

PROSPECTIVE DADS, IF YOUR SPERM COUNT TUNRS OUT TO BE LOW, YOU CAN BLAME IT ON THE LEAD PAINT IN YOUR NEPHEW'S THOMAS TOYS

Fertell, the first at-home device that can measure a fella's concentration of motile sperm is coming on the market. Fertility experts welcome the new device, part of a "two-in-one" test that acknowledges the medical fact that a couple's fertility problem can be traced to the man 40% of the time, to the woman 40% of the time, and to both partners 20% of the time. "It takes two to have a baby, as silly as that sounds," Dr. Harry Fisch of New York-Presbyterian told the Times, in a quote that was almost certainly blown up and taped to the fridge in his lab the next morning.

As for the at-home test itself, which requires the man to provide a sperm sample, Harvard fertility expert Keith Isaacson said:

“My guess is the female partner is the one who’s going to buy this and encourage the guy to use it.”

The insightful Dr. Isaacson went on to speculate that the female partner was also more likely to initiate participation in a book club, day trips to Ikea, and overseas travel with in-laws.

JUST GUESSING HERE: GRANDPA'S NOT GOING TO BE INVITED TO ZEKE'S FIFTH-GRADE GRADUATION

Newsweek rabbi Marc Gellman (just wondering: Does U.S. News also have its own rabbi?) weighs in this week on the silliness of kindergarten "graduations":

I just returned from Los Angeles where I saw my only grandson, Ezekiel, graduate with a group of cute and charming 5-year-olds from his nursery school. . . . I believe that the proliferation of kiddy graduations is something of a problem. . . . [It's] not just that they're silly. My main gripe is that they distort the nature of learning. Graduations send the message that learning has a beginning, a middle and an end—and this is just not true. The only graduation from learning is death.

[Note: OK, Gellman does go on to say that kindergarten graduations are maybe OK because they do celebrate learning and the kids are cute. But how much more fun would it have been if he'd ended his column with this evocative image of death, the ultimate commencement?]

ENJOY YOUR SUMMER SHARES, EVERYONE!

And remember, as you watch the tide go out, and wash all that gull poop off the beach, that when it returns, it'll splash all kinds of illness-causing bacteria on your kids. Last one in is a rotten egg!

June 22, 2007 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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