Santa — Moving???

A new home for Santa Claus?

December 16, 2011

A new home for Santa Claus?U of T researchers say Guelph, Ontario tops the list of North American cities that suit Santa’s lifestyle. Credit: Martin Prosperity Institute graphic

( — After the many years of commuting on Christmas Eve, jolly old St. Nicholas is reconsidering his home at the North Pole. Given his job description, extreme isolation has lost its appeal. In true Christmas spirit, the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Insititute is offering Santa a top 10 list of places that would best suit him and his needs.

U of T researchers looked at five variables important to his lifestyle: (1) the number of cookie factories per capita; (2) the number of milk producers per capita; (3) the number of doll, toy and game manufacturing establishments per capita; (4) the number of postal service workers/couriers per capita (to receive and reply to wish lists); and (5) department stores per capita.

Hard work creates quite an appetite, and common knowledge supposes that Santa’s snack of choice is cookies. We looked at the number of cookie (and cracker) manufacturing establishments per 100,000 people in an area. Terre Haute, IN was a landslide winner in this respect, with 2.4 per 100,000 people. Next on the list were Fond du Lac, WI (2), Lewiston, ID (1.7) and Guelph, ON (1.6). There were over 200 metropolitan  with no cookie manufacturing establishments at all. If Santa were looking at the sheer number of cookie manufacturers, he should consider the New York area with 40 in total.

To wash down all of those cookies, Santa is going to need some milk. Researchers next looked next at the number of milk manufacturing establishments per 100,000 people. Saskatoon, SK is the leader in this category with 6.1 milk establishments per 100,000 people and 14 establishments in total. Up there with Saskatoon was Regina, SK with 4.7 per 100,000, St. Catharines/Niagara, ON with 2.9 and Abbotsford, BC with 2.6. Once again, there are some metro areas for Santa to avoid in terms of milk production as more than 150 of them have no reported milk manufacturers, including Charlotte, NC and San Jose, CA. In contrast, Toronto, ON has the most milk manufacturers with 25, followed by Vancouver, BC (19), Edmonton, AB (19) and Los Angeles, CA (17).

With the move also comes the need for a new toy factory and with 3.5 factories per 100,000 people, no other metro area beats Peterborough, ON. Victoria, BC sits in second place with 3.1 toy manufacturing establishments per 100,000 people. Next in the top 5 are Saint John, NB, Corvallis, OR and Ithaca, NY. In terms of the overall number of toy manufacturing establishments in the area, Toronto again ranks first with 77 toy manufacturers. Montreal, QC is next with 60, followed by Los Angeles with 54 and New York with 47.


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A new home for Santa Claus?
While checking his list to see who has been naughty and who has been nice, Santa also needs a reliable postal/courier service to receive and reply to children’s wish lists. The metro area with the most postal service workers/couriers per 100,000 is Des Moines, IA with 495. The area with the second most postal workers is the Greater Sudbury area in Ontario with 460.4 per 100,000 followed by Trenton, NJ with 434.3, Saint John, NB with 430.2 and Lynchburg, VA with 424.7.

Large metros such as New York and Los Angeles had the most postal service workers/couriers in terms of overall number of personnel, but they had lower numbers per capita due to their large populations. Interestingly, despite a declining population, Detroit, MI had more overall postal workers/couriers than the larger areas of Houston, TX and Atlanta, GA. The metro with the least amount of  workers/couriers per 100,000 people was Farmington, NM with only 49. The next three lowest were Hanford, CA; Prescott, AZ; and Fairbanks, AK.

Department stores are a crucial meeting place to see children before. Therefore, it was important to examine the number of department stores per capita in a given area so that Santa could maximize his appearances. Children of Elmira, NY have the greatest chance of sitting on Santa’s knee, with an abundant 9.1 department stores per 100,000 people — the highest number relative to the population. The top 5 also includes Lima, OH with 8.6 per 100,000 people, Missoula, MT with 8.5, Lewiston, ID with 8.4 and Sandusky, OH with 7.8.

Of course, if Santa were looking for the area with the highest total number of department stores he could visit the fashion and shopping capitals of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. In terms of congestion though, the largest cities tend to have a low number of department stores per 100,000 people, which could lead to crowding. There are a number of cities with a low number of department stores that Santa might want to steer clear of, especially Hinesville, GA, which has no reported department stores in the area at all.

By combining the five variables to give each area an overall score, U of T researchers were able to create a top 10 list of ideal places for Santa to live. According to this analysis, Guelph, ON is the best suited destination for Santa. Overall, Guelph is a metro which offers Santa a good balance of the elements that define his lifestyle. Guelph received the highest overall score, largely thanks to its high  of cookie manufacturing establishments per 100,000 people, coupled with a good postal and courier service.

Williamsport, PA came in second with only a slightly lower overall score than Guelph. Like Guelph, Williamsport received balanced scores in all 5 categories. Williamsport is followed by Sherbrooke, QC; London, ON; St. Johns, NL; Peoria, IL; Hamilton, ON; Winnipeg, MB; Kitchener, ON; and Trois-Rivieres, QC — all great choices for Santa.

Santa might want to avoid Hinesville, GA, with no reported cookie manufacturers, milk manufacturers, toy manufacturers or department stores — an overall score of zero. Pascagoula, MS and Houma, LA also neared the bottom of the list and neither would suit Santa’s unique lifestyle very well.

Don’t worry, Santa won’t consider a move until after he makes his rounds this year. Regardless of where he chooses, have a safe and happy holiday season and all the best for 2012.


2011’s Most Dangerous Toys

The Most Dangerous Toys of 2011

Life’s Little Mysteries Staff
Date: 14 December 2011 Time: 10:08 AM ET
Toy manufactured by "Joking Around." Credit: U.S. PIRG 'Trouble in Toyland' report
Toy manufactured by “Joking Around.”
CREDIT: U.S. PIRG ‘Trouble in Toyland’ report

Safety experts from U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the federation of state public interest research groups, browses toy stores across the country looking for potentially dangerous toys. Despite the stringent regulations imposed on toy manufacturers in the United States, these experts never fail to find a handful of items on store shelves that appear innocuous, but actually pose toxic, choking, strangulation or excessive noise hazards to children. The team, led by public health advocate Nasima Hossain, detailed their findings for 2011 in a year-end report and in correspondence with Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

So, as you’re going cart-to-cart with other parents during the next two weeks, crossing items off your child’s Christmas list, here’s a list of toys not to fight over in the store aisles.

Not-so-funny glasses

Goofy disguises aren’t so funny when they contain toxic chemicals. U.S. PIRG discovered that a glasses-and-fake-nose set manufactured by “Joking Around” contained 42 times the legal limit of phthalates — chemicals used to increase the flexibility of plastics. Worse still, a pink sleep mask sold at Claire’s contained 77 times the legal phthalate limit.

The use of phthalates in toys was severely restricted in 2008 after studies by the Environmental Protection Agency showed they can cause developmental problems in fetuses and children.

“If you think about it, when you go to Target or Kmart, most toys in the baby and kids section are made out of plastic, and so up until the 2008 law got enacted, the market was cluttered with products that had phthalates in them,” Hossain told Life’s Little Mysteries. Manufacturers have since been required to find substitutes for phthalates, she said, but clearly some products containing them still end up on store shelves.

‘Little Hands’ lead book

A cardboard book intended for toddlers called “Little Hands Love Book” (Piggy Toes Press, 2009) was found to contain 720 parts per million (ppm) of lead. This was more than twice the legal limit (300 ppm) at the time of the book’s printing, and more than seven times the prospective legal limit, which was recently set at 100 ppm. Furthermore, a toy called the Whirly Wheel, manufactured by LL, was found to contain an astonishing 3,700 ppm of lead — 37 times more than the newest legal limit.  Several other toys (including a Disney Tinkerbell watch, a Honda model motorcycle, and a Hello Kitty keychain) contained quantities of lead that were below the legal limit, but over the limit recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (40 ppm).

“Toxicity is the biggest danger posed by toys. [Manufacturers] use lead in plastics, and when this is exposed to air, it rubs off on the skin and children can breathe it in,” Hossain said.

Toys too small for tots

Since 1990, 57 children have died from choking on small toys or toy parts. For this reason, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) imposes strict regulations on the minimum size of toys intended for use by children — especially children under age 3. Nonetheless, U.S. PIRG safety experts found several toys on the market that did not meet these size requirements, and thus posed choking hazards for children. Among them was a wooden block set made by ToySmith and an Oscar the Grouch doll made by Sesame Workshop. [The Cool Physics of 8 Classic Toys]

Many other toys found by the group lacked the necessary warning labels about choking hazards (which must be placed on the packaging of toys for children ages 3 to 6); this serves as a reminder to parents that they must always consider the safety of toys themselves before buying them, rather than taking labels — or the lack thereof — at their word.

Small ball hazard

Small bouncy balls and marbles have caused 69 choking deaths since 1990. Consequently, small balls meant for children under age 3 must not be able to fit through a 1.75-inch-diameter test hole — which approximates the size of a child’s wind pipe — and balls meant for older children must come with choking hazard warning labels. Nonetheless, when perusing toy bins across the country, the U.S. PIRG experts came across several balls that did not meet these requirements, again suggesting that parents must be extra vigilant when buying small balls or marbles for their kids. [Is There a Santa Claus?]

Burst balloons

Balloons are all fun and games until they burst. Pieces of burst balloons pose a choking risk for children under 8 years of age, and have caused 86 deaths since 1990. For this reason, U.S. PIRG recommends keeping balloons away from young children completely, and was discouraged to find balloons in stores that were being marketed for infants’ and toddlers’ birthday parties.

Quiet down, toys

The CPSC places strict regulations on the maximum sound level that may emanate from toys, because excessive noise can damage a child’s hearing. “Even minor hearing loss in children can affect their ability to speak and understand language at a critical time in their development,” the U.S. PIRG report explained. According to the law, “close-to-the-ear” toys must have volumes less than 65 decibels (dB), and toys played with at a distance must be quieter than 85 dB (or 115 dB for short bursts of sound). However, several toys were found to violate these laws. The too-loud toys were an “Elmo’s World” talking cellphone manufactured and sold by Fisher Price, Victorious stereo headphones from Nickelodeon and the Super Stunt RAT BOMB from Hot Wheels.


Well Traveled LEGO’s

LEGO Figures Flying On NASA Jupiter Probe

by Robert Z. Pearlman, Editor
Date: 04 August 2011 Time: 04:26 PM ET
LEGO Figurines to Fly on Juno Spacecraft
Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter (right), his wife Juno (middle) and Galileo Galilei (left) as shown here will fly to Jupiter on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
CREDIT: NASA/LEGO/The specially-constructed LEGO Minifigures are of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and “father of science” Galileo Galilei. The LEGO crew’s mission is part of the Bricks in Space project, the joint outreach and educational program developed as part of the collaboration between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“NASA has a long-standing partnership with the LEGO company,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator for the Juno mission and space science and engineering director at the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a press conference on Wednesday (Aug. 3). “Any of you that have children know that LEGOs are very popular with kids, as well as really helps teach them about building and engineering.”

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