Seems like every day there’s another toy made in China being yanked off of store shelves due to lead contamination, it’d be comical if it weren’t such a serious problem, and it’s probably no surprise to learn that China is partly responsible for lobbying efforts to keep tighter regulations from making it into U.S. law. I suppose it also shouldn’t be a surprise to find out that the Bush Administration deserves part of the blame too:
Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six hundred parts per million.
The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.
“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”
I’m sure that’ll be a great comfort to any parents who’ve had kids harmed by these toys. Screw safety, let the market take care of it. One small problem: China has a near-monopoly on producing American toys:
Today, more than 80 percent of all U.S. toys are now made in China and few of them get inspected.
“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened,” said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.
You’re part of the Sierra Club. That pretty much means the Bush Administration isn’t even paying attention to what you’re saying just on principle. Experts? Phhhhhft! Who needs experts when the market will take care of it?
Not that China is helping things any:
China remains very much under the microscope. It’s fighting a CPSC proposal to bring the lead restrictions in children’s jewelry to the same levels as those imposed on toys and furniture — six hundred parts per million, which effectively amounts to a ban.
“We have done recall after recall since 2003. We would like to move towards a ban and make the marketplace safe,” said Scott Wolfson, a commission spokesman.
But in a March 12 filing, China was the only one of 48 interested parties to tell the panel that it opposed new restrictions on lead paint in children’s jewelry. Guo LiSheng, the deputy director of a Chinese global trade agency, warned against “unnecessary obstacles to trade” and advocated international rules that allow some lead content. He added that good product labeling was sufficient.
“We agree with the viewpoint of USA of protecting the children’s healthy and safety. And we consider that the method of stick warning mark on the children’s metal jewelry … may be more efficient than setting the limit of lead content,” LiSheng wrote from Beijing.
Because kids and their parents always read and pay attention to little warning stickers on jewelry. Does it say anything like: CAUTION! WEARING THIS JEWELRY COULD EXPOSE YOU TO TOXIC LEVELS OF LEAD THAT COULD LEAD TO BRAIN DAMAGE AND, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT EATING IT!
You might think that bit about eating it is unnecessary, but you’d be wrong:
In March 2006, a 4-year-old Minnesota boy died of lead poisoning after swallowing a metal charm that came with Reebok shoes. The charm was found to contain more than 90 percent lead.
Given what we know about the effects of lead when consumed there’s absolutely no reason why there should be any lead content in any children’s toys, ever. I have no problems with China making most of the toys we give our kids so long as they’re not putting in potentially toxic materials in doing so. Is it too much to ask, however, that our own government have the balls necessary to tell China to either make their shit safe or don’t bother bringing it to America?