Self-Described Toy Tester Will Go Through Your Stuff If You Pay Her

Every time there’s a warning or recall over lead-tainted toys–and it hasn’t happened much this past year, but check out our archives from a couple of years ago–lots of people get up in arms about not being able to trust the government or big business. Well, one woman has bought herself an X-ray flourescence (XRF) analyzer and now hires her services out to worried families, reports the Washington Post. For a fee, she’ll come to your house, point her gun at your kids’ toys, your heirlooms, the fishtank, whatever you ask her to test, and then tell you whether you should throw it out.

An XRF gun is expensive–$17,000 to $35,000 according to the newspaper–and it won’t measure soluble amounts of toxins, which is how the feds determine safety. (The GoodGuide/Zhu Zhu drama a month ago hinged on surface versus soluble measures of antimony.) But if you live in California, you can actually make money with the device. It’s sort of like a modern-day metal detector!

In California, which often sets trends for national environmental laws, a state regulation provides a financial incentive for private citizens to catch retailers that violate state chemical laws. Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify consumers when products contain chemicals the state says are tied to cancer, birth defects or reproductive toxicity. If a private citizen or group finds a product on a store shelf containing one of those chemicals and it lacks a warning label, the retailer can be sued. Most retailers settle the suits, and the citizen earns 25 percent of the civil penalties.

“‘Citizen regulators’ take toy safety testing into their own hands” [Washington Post]