Saturday, January 24, 2009

CPSIA - The Comsumer Product Safety Improvement Act

This post may be slightly off topic for this blog, but it's an issue that affects all children, and therefore all parents in the US, and I don't feel it has gotten the media attention it deserves.

In response to all the toy recalls for lead paint in 2007, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (aka, the CPSIA). It requires all children’s products (defined as any product designed, marketed toward, or appealing to those 12 and under) be tested by a 3rd party lab for lead and phalates (that bad stuff that softens plastics.) It all sounds well and good. None of us want harmful substances in our kids toys. But there are problems with this law. Big problems that have gotten surprisingly little press so far.

There are some really good blogs about the problems from those in the children’s toys and apparel industry, but I’m going to share a couple links to a more impartial source, They do an excellent job of explaining how a good idea went so wrong:

While the CPSIA is a direct reaction to recalled imported toys (that were breaking already existing lead paint laws I might add), it does not only regulate imported toys. It regulates ALL children’s products. Clothes, books, science kits, toys, art supplies, bibs, quilts, hand-knitted booties, etc., etc. Many smaller manufactures cannot afford the testing costs of hundreds to thousands of dollars per item. Even if the items are made from supplies that have already been tested and certified lead-free, this law requires that the finished product be retested again at additional expense. You can bet that those manufactures that can afford to comply at all will be raising prices to cover these redundant testing expenses.

The scope of the CPSIA even covers libraries and thrift shops. Children’s books may be disappearing from the library. We may soon not be able to donate or buy used kid clothes and toys to Goodwill. If you think I’m overreacting, visit the American Library Association website. The country’s librarians are not happy:

I urge everyone to read the Forbes articles to better understand these issues. Then please write to your representatives and ask for common sense changes that will allow our children to be safe without destroying American companies that have always been consciencence about their products.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Explorit Science Center in Davis California

Davis may be pushing the boundaries of what can technically be called the "Bay Area", but the Explorit Science Center is such a neat little place, I just have to include it here. Also, biased on the tiny crowd the day we visited, it may also be a well-kept secret. More people need to know about this little treasure.

While much smaller than other science Museums like San Francisco's Exploritorium, or even the Laurence Hall of Science in Berkley, the Explorit Science Center is still well worth a visit. Everything there is very hands-on and kid friendly.

Some are quickie experiments, and others require more thoughtfulness and you may want to take your time to really get the most of them. For example, there was a fun station that included a large fan and a variety of items to put above the fan to see how each item behaved as it was blown up into the air. You can imagine how much fun kids have with that! Then another station that we spent quite a long time at was a bridge building experiment. All kids of building materials are provided: blocks, K'nex, and many more. Children (and grown-ups) use these to build small bridges that they can then test out with different weights provided. There are really too many exhibits to mention, and they also rotate through different themes. The "Move It" exhibit was going on when we visited, which was about exploring motion. You can visit the Explorit Science Center website to get the most current program information.

Another great thing about Explorit is that they offer free admission every 4th Sunday of the month. We went on one such free day, and even with free admission, there was plenty of space for us to take out time at each station. I'd expected bigger crowds. Now that we've been once, I know it would be well worth the small $4.00 admission charge to go back on another day. (Children 3 and under are always free.)

Explorit Science Center also offers group and school programs, and you can find information about these on their website. The main Explorit museum is located at 2801 2nd Street, Davis, California.