Consumer commission warns of toy safetyYour Feb. 22...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

March 23, 1996

Consumer commission warns of toy safety

Your Feb. 22 editorial, ''Hot dog as child hazard,'' emphasized the choking hazard posed by hot dogs and other small objects swallowed by young children.

As you correctly note, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) required that new warning labels be placed on toys that could choke small children. The warning labels appear on toys made for children from age 3 to under 6 years old if those toys pose a choking hazard to younger children. CPSC Chairman Ann Brown said, ''These labels tell parents two critical things: They let them know that a toy isn't safe for children under 3, and why it's not safe."

However, the commission has no jurisdiction over foods. The Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency responsible for food safety. CPSC works hard to make sure the products within our jurisdiction are as safe as possible and that consumers are warned of the potential hazards. We want to keep families and children safe in their homes. Our new warning labels on toys are a step in that direction.

athleen Begala

Washington

The writer is information director, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Hydrocarbons don't do what you said

As an astronomy buff, I was delighted with the March 8 article by Frank D. Roylance, "Pluto's best portrait yet comes from Hubble images." As a chemist, however, I was dismayed when he wrote that the ''dark regions are hydrocarbons produced by the breakdown of methane in Pluto's thin atmosphere under bombardment by the sun's radiation." Methane is the simplest of all hydrocarbons. It can be broken down only to carbon, hydrogen and/or free radicals. In the hydrocarbon series, there is nowhere to go but up.

Robert C. Tompkins

Towson

Mountain bikers don't leave trash

It was unfair and misleading to use the photograph that accompanied the March 8 story, "Bikers protest watershed ban," about a proposal to prohibit mountain bikers from using the trails surrounding Baltimore's reservoirs.

The photograph clearly shows a pile of beer and soda cans by the waters' edge. We are involved in a sport that all but requires us to be fit and carry as little weight with us as possible. In my four years biking at the Loch Raven Reservoir, I have never seen a biker with a case of beer strapped to his back. It simply wasn't a biker who made that mess.

On top of that, I am proud to say an unwritten law of mountain biking is that if you find trash on the trail (especially the trash of an unenlightened new mountain biker), you pick it up. I have done it. My friends do it. And we will continue to do it wherever we ride.

We have said we are willing to help maintain the watershed. We have done trail maintenance within the Patapsco State Park system and it has been successful for everyone involved. No one respects the land more than we do and we don't want to lose it.

Robb Preiss

Ellicott

Taking responsibility for pupil achievement

Pointing fingers is easy to do especially when blaming others for one's own failures. That is precisely what the NAACP and others are doing when they attempt to blame the Baltimore County school system for the under-achievement of African-American students.

Whenever I visit a classroom a frequent requirement of my job I see black students sitting alongside white students, reading from the same textbooks, listening to the same lessons, taking the same tests. The homework noted on the blackboard is

assigned to all students without regard to race, color, creed or national origin.

So what makes the difference between success and failure? It's knowing that learning doesn't stop when the school bell rings, signaling the end of the school day.

It's knowing that learning continues well into the evening hours and weekends, often requiring burning a little midnight oil. It's knowing that homework means home work, and the harder the work, the greater the achievement.

It's knowing the support and encouragement of parents who view homework as an equal opportunity headache as they struggle to remember how to conjugate a verb or calculate the angle of an obtuse triangle.

Blaming the school system for the under-achievement of African-American students is unfair because it discredits the achievement of those students who are committed to learning. It diminishes the importance of parental support and encouragement that is so vital to student achievement.

The school system is responsible for providing a disciplined educational program; it is not responsible for the attitudes of students and parents outside the classroom. I'm reminded of the age-old adage, ''you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.''

It's time to stop blaming the school system for student under-achievement and for students and parents to start accepting responsibility for their own failures.

Susan Rowe

Glen Arm

More tasks ahead for county schools

As a Baltimore County citizen, I am most pleased with the appointment of Tony Marchione as the school superintendent.

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