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Friday, March 21, 2008

Rubby ducky is not the one

By Pamela McLoughlin
Register Staff
— Just when you thought the simplest toys must be safe, a local environmentalist and member of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut has announced it’s time to scoop those rubber duckies out of the bathtub and make them go bye-bye, along with most other nonwood toys and plastic baby bottles.
While Rubber Ducky may be “the one,” as Ernie is known to croon on “Sesame Street,” the “little fella who’s cute and yellow and chubby” should be admired from afar for now because phthalates, chemical compounds used to make him and most other soft toys soft, can cause liver, kidney and other problems, say leaders of the coalition.
The group is lobbying for passage of a bill in the General Assembly to phase out sale of toys in Connecticut containing lead, phthalates and bisphenol-A.
“The children are the victims; they’re being poisoned slowly by those important objects called toys,” said Joyce Acebo-Raguskus of Milford. “We want Connecticut to be a leader.”
Acebo-Raguskus, a member of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut, which is lobbying for the bill that passed through committee and could be passed in a few weeks, is bringing the message to Milford by holding an informational session and rally of sorts from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday to the Green.
Accompanying her will be a 25-foot duck made of safe materials. The event is intended to raise awareness and give visitors ways to reach their legislators.
A similar, larger event in Hartford two weeks ago got attention for the bill that is being fought hard by out-of-state chemical companies and the toy industry, environmental leaders and legislators say.
The coalition is a group of 30 organizations pushing the legislature to pass this bill, which has strong support in Milford’s legislative delegation, including Speaker of the House James A. Amann, state Rep. Richard Roy, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, and Sen. Gayle Slossberg, both D-Milford, and Rep. Paul Davis, D-Orange.
Roy said there’s heavy pressure against the bill by the toy and chemical industries who argue there’s no scientific p“roof t”he chemicals pose a danger in the amounts found in toys.
But Roy said the warnings can’t be ignored because the toys are for the most vulnerable members of society: children.
Sarah Uhl, coordinator of the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut, said there are safer alternatives for the chemicals they are trying to ban, and Wal-Mart and Toys R Us in Connecticut have already voluntarily agreed to ban sale of toys containing phthalates.
Acebo-Raguskus said safe toys are being made, but mostly shipped to Europe where use of 1,400 chemicals in toys has been banned.
Acebo-Raguskus, who does not have young children anymore, advises parents to gather up their children’s toys, put them in paper bags and “hide them” until a site is established for disposal of toxic toys.
She maintains parents for now should have their children play with wooden toys.