Buyer Be Aware!

With holiday shopping swinging into full stride, everyone seems to be a bit edgy about purchasing items made in China. Why? Well, hardly a week goes by recently that there is not some frightening news about a China-made product containing either lead or some other toxic material(s) that could pose health hazards, especially in children’s toys. About this time last year scary things began happening to pets and, again, the problem was traced back to ingredients from China that had been used in the manufacture of pet foods.

But is lead the only hazard that consumers ought to be on the lookout for? Probably not, and most consumers are not aware of the hidden dangers lurking in supposedly innocuous items.

From a historical aspect of consumer goods, it ought to be noted that when a certain popular soft drink appeared on the scene many, many years ago, it contained lithium above all things! Even false teeth were found to contain some radioactive materials years ago! Do you believe that? Many products were compromised either deliberately or inadvertently and that led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States of America. However, the long arm of the FDA doesn’t reach as far as consumers may think it could or should.


Plastics, in particular, have many chemical compounds that could prove hazardous to our health. One, in particular, is diisononyl phthalates. It’s used as a softening agent in plastics. Research found that phthalates were a constituent in plastic transfusion pouches that human blood was stored in. That, thankfully, has been corrected, but we have to wonder are phthalates still used in the manufacture of some plastic food containers? That would be a good research project for an investigative reporter, don’t you think?

One area to be concerned about phthalates is in infant and baby toys, rattles and, in particular, teething rings. Anything soft for baby’s mouth ought to be considered suspect, in this writer’s opinion. As a matter of fact, the use of phthalates in children’s toys has been restricted in the European Union since December 1999.

Carcinogens in clothing

Another concern is formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen on the FDA’s list, and yet it seems to be ubiquitous. It’s impregnated into just about everything from new clothing sizing to anything that has a scent. Ever wonder about those scented candles? If it’s not formaldehyde that keeps the scent intact, then it’s some other chemical. Burning the candle may only compound the problems associated with breathing such chemical fumes. Formaldehyde most likely is in the glue for furniture making and, particularly, new kitchen cabinetry, especially those made with composite materials-most of which use formaldehyde in their construction. Formaldehyde gases out for a long period of time and can be the cause of allergies, sinus problems, nosebleeds, sore throats, itchy eyes, bronchitis and itchy skin rashes from contact with unwashed clothing.

Food coloring

Now this may upset you or your children, especially those who love food coloring. Most FDA approved food colors can be classified as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or carcinogens! So why does the FDA allow them to be “legal”? Because of a technicality: these chemicals cause cancer only when injected NOT digested! Isn’t that a bizarre thought process or rationale? As a result, brightly colored edibles-especially sweets which children love-can remain on the market legally. So take another look at those holiday candy canes with their bright red stripes.

If, unfortunately, you or your kiddies experience asthma-or even autism-take note, and please do your homework. And something else: the Japanese food culture loves brightly colored food items and, as a result, many food colors used in Japan are not permitted by the FDA to be put into foods destined for the United States of America.

So, happy holiday shopping!

By Caritas Puella