By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LIBERTY — Lunch boxes and baby bibs, toy trains and remote-control airplanes. As the holiday shopping season heats up, the list of lead-tainted toys keeps getting longer.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has yanked hundreds of products from the shelves since January, in what Consumer Reports magazine is calling “the year of the recall.”
Safety officials estimate 37 million individual items were effected by recalls. An untold number remain on shelves nationwide.
What’s a parent to do?
Janet Rice, owner of ABC Day Care and Learning Center in Liberty, has taken matters into her own hands. Rice organized a Safe Toy Open House at her Liberty Road day care center this week, inviting local toy distributors as well as the families of the 40-some children under her care.
“Some of the parents are really kind of confused about what to buy,” Rice said. “We’re just trying to help them out.”
The event was inspired when Rice learned that her friend had purchased a since-recalled Aqua Dots set for her grandchild. The toy made headlines in November after it left two Australian children poisoned and comatose. Scientists say that upon ingestion, chemical processes in the body convert Aqua Dots into gamma-hydroxy butyrate, popularly known as the “date rape” drug.
“That’s what sparked us,” Rice said. “We said, ‘We have to let people know that there’s local companies that have a lot of good toys.’”
Standing firmly behind her products at the open house was Sharon Blumental, owner of The Supplyroom toy store on Belmont Avenue. The educational toy store’s merchandise comes only from small, specialized producers, she said.
“We’ve been here for 26 years, so we really have a responsibility to the community,” said Blumental. “You have to know that the companies you’re dealing with have children’s safety in mind.”
Father of three, Will Whipple said he was cautious when selecting toys for his daughters, even before hazardous substances entered the equation. Now, he’s more frustrated than ever.
“It’s so hard to tell nowadays,” he said. “Unfortunately, the hot toys are from China.”
Whipple’s three daughters weren’t disappointed by the guaranteed-safe selection at ABC Day Care. His youngest gravitated toward a plastic barn and stuffed caterpillar.
“You gotta be careful,” he said, “because unfortunately to them it looks like it tastes good.”