Organic baby gifts might seem a little odd, but that’s because you are probably not familiar with the full range of the term organic. It has been used most frequently in connotation with food, to indicate a wholesomeness, which ironically is not substantiated by any sort of regulation. But that same sense of a need to return to a purer, simpler time that gave rise to organic food has brought about organic baby gifts. Of course, this isn’t a particularly macho sentiment, in fact the typical testosterone driven father would claim it is downright namby-pamby; but realistically, when some of the toys brought to this country from overseas are laced with lead, safety is a very real consideration.
The organic baby gifts movement is a very real counterculture reaction to recent discoveries about Chinese safety practices. In 2006 it was revealed that Chinese factories had been mixing lead in with the paints they used on children’s toys. Lead is a toxin in humans; it can damage the nervous system. To children, lead is especially hazardous, as it can cause brain disorders as well as blood problems. Regardless of age, lead can cause anemia and weakness in joints such as the wrists ankles, and fingers. In adults, prolonged exposure to lead results in lower mental proficiency, as well as generalized nervous system function. But in children, it can inhibit normal brain development, leading to a prematurely stunted mental aptitude.
That is what makes putting lead into the paint on children’s toys especially insidious. The lead may be a cheap paint additive, but the health risks it poses brought about a ban on lead paint in the US more than 40 years ago. To find out that we’re still importing a toxin and giving it to our children, well it is little surprise that there was a backlash. For one, it brought scrutiny on the port authority of the US, because it was undermanned to the point where it could not adequately screen products coming into this country. Legislation was debated outlawing lead in toys… which was a bit redundant since lead was already outlawed in products like that. And finally, and perhaps most enduringly, the lead poisonings that occurred triggered a counter culture movement in the form of organic baby gifts.
And they are really a very healthy reaction to the situation. Like its use in the food world, organic is not a well regulated term for toys and clothing, but the intent is very simple. Provide a product that is free of artificial dyes, fibers, additives, or harmful compounds. That’s it, nothing magical, certainly nothing showy. In fact, I think organic baby gifts are quite possibly the antithesis of showy.
And for those these gifts are marketed to (the buyers, not the babies) that’s alright. To their mind, it is far better to be wholesome than showy, to be healthy than glamorous. They have a point, after all it doesn’t do you much good to be glamorous and showy if it ends up hurting you in the long run, that long term mindset is the basis for the organic movement, in food and in gifts.
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