The end of the calendar year always marks a review of the first 11 months, and with the holidays upon us, product reviews of toys top the list. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has good news to report; only 44 toy recalls were reported this year compared to 50 in 2009, and toy-related fatalities were similarly down. The safety of children’s toys is, of course, the Commission’s priority: “By limiting metals and chemicals in toys and making the voluntary standard mandatory, CPSC has put safeguards in place for toys to better protect children,” said Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “The increase in injuries is a concern, and we want parents to make safe purchases and for children to be safe at play.”
Toy companies and manufacturers also should be highly concerned with safety, as product recalls can be extremely damaging to a company’s reputation. Take for example toy maker Mattel, a company that amassed numerous large recalls in the past few years. Most recently, they recalled 10 million products in the fall of 2010, including infant toys, high chairs, and tricycles. The key issue is trust – do parents trust the company to make safe toys for their kids? Repeated recalls do little to instill confidence in consumers.
Top toys this year based on reviews include Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, Fisher-Price iXL (a digital game for toddlers), Squinkies (squishy figurines), Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS, Lego’s Harry Potter and Hogwarts, and Sing-a-Ma-Jigs. You can bet the toy makers of these products are pleased their products are popular, but more importantly, safe.Ukraine Government to Open Chernobyl to Tourists in 2011
If you are a fan of extreme vacations, visting Chernobyl might be for you. But pack and lather on a high, high SPF sunscreen. The Ukrainian government announced Monday that the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster will open to tourists in 2011, though the tours will be carefully regulated. Where they go, for how long, and what they eat will be controlled. The effects of the radiation are tough to estimate, as thousands of people were exposed and studies are inconclusive, and the amount of radiation varies per area. The 19-mile exclusion zone surrounding the power plant has remained largely barren since the area was evacuated after the 1986 accident, though hundreds migrated back and illegal tours do occur. Stefan Gates, a food writer for BBC’s “Cooking in the Danger Zone” chronicled his 2007 trip to the area here.
The opening of Chernobyl is part of an effort to stimulate economic growth in the region, particularly for soccer enthusiasts as the European Cup will be held in Poland and the Ukraine in 2012. Are the risks worth the benefits? In my opinion, not for the government or for travelers. Certainly, tourists take extreme vacations all the time – people who climb Mount Everest or hang glide know the risks, yet forge ahead anyways. However, exposing oneself to radioactivity when researchers aren’t even sure the levels or effects seems like a risk I won’t be taking anytime soon.Boston Is the Hub of, Among other Things, Academia
On a brighter, less-radioactive note, The Boston Globe reported this morning that Wentworth Institute of Technology plans to expand its campus with new dorms, academic buildings and student activity centers, in hopes of shedding its commuter school image. “It comes down to making a better Wentworth and providing the amenities our students want to have on campus,’’ said David Wahlstrom, head of planning and construction at Wentworth. Great news for an institution that is arguably overshadowed in the area, with Longwood Medical area and Northeastern dominating the Huntington Avenue section of Boston, aka the Colleges of Fenway.
The plans at Wentworth coincide with additional expansion projects from local schools, including Berklee College of Music, Suffolk University, UMass Boston, Harvard (into Allston), and Boston University‘s new medical campus dorms in the South End. Boston enoys a great reputation as the home of numerous higher education institutions, and the proposed expansion of several schools should further add to its impressive resume. The new projects also mean more jobs for the Commonwealth, which benefits many.