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When you purchase a toy for your child or receive one as a gift, you assume it has passed rigorous safety testing. It's a product designed for children so it has to be safe, right? Unfortunately for our children, that's often not the case. Especially when a product is manufactured overseas, it's difficult and near impossible for companies to ensure that toxins don't make their way into the final product.
Safe Ducky is an organization that uses portable technology to screen stores for toxins. If toxins are found and the retailer removes the toxic product, that store is deemed a Safe Ducky Member. The Safe Ducky site has a searchable map where, if you're in the Los Angeles area, you can find your local Safe Ducky member.
Even if you're not in L.A., there is much we can learn from Safe Ducky and its founder, Josh Kasteler.
"I first starting thinking about the risks of toxic chemicals in consumer products while working in Asia in the early 2000's," Kasteler told mom.me. "I specialized in chemical engineering and supplier management, and learned first-hand how difficult it is to manage product safety across a complex, sprawling worldwide supply chain. As part of my role, I also led investigations to discover how toxic chemicals made it into our products (before we could stop them from being sold) and took part in government recalls."
I eventually realized that toxic contamination is practically inevitable when you hire other companies to make your products... it's not if but when it will happen.
Upon returning to the U.S., Kasteler helped design programs to manage toxins across the globe. "I eventually realized that toxic contamination is practically inevitable when you hire other companies to make your products (using offshore contract manufacturing)—it's not 'if' but 'when' it will happen. Most people in the industry will openly admit this, but despite that most companies do not check their products once they land in the U.S.—it's simply too expensive to fix a problem once a product is here, so they don't want to know. Instead, they do limited upstream testing and rely on their offshore suppliers to do it for them."
Kasteler recognized that such limited testing is not sufficient to keep our children safe. So he set out to rout out the toxic toys, one retailer at a time. Even better, Safe Ducky can come to your (Los Angeles-area) home and scan the items you already own. Imagine knowing that every toy your child plays with at home is free of toxins—that's some serious peace of mind.
With all the recent advances in health and science, it's really alarming to discover all the ways toxins find their way into our homes, our bodies and our lives. I don't see that changing any time soon, but it's nice to hear that some retailers are willing to accept responsibility for their products and transition to safer alternatives.