Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A closer look at the recalls of Chinese products (placing the blame edition)

NYT - As More Toys Are Recalled, the Trail Ends in China
China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.

[. . .]

China today is responsible for about 60 percent of all product recalls, compared with 36 percent in 2000.

Much of the rise in China’s ranking on the recall list has to do with its corresponding surge as the world’s toy chest: toys made in China make up 70 to 80 percent of the toys sold in the country, according to the Toy Industry Association.
Okay, it makes sense that if China is producing a vast majority of the toys, then the vast majority of toy recalls would come from Chinese products. That sounds like a no-brainer. But still, how can one justify ever producing some of the products that have been recalled, for example:
Just in the last month, a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene.
Seriously, kerosene filled children's toys?!? Whose bright idea was that.

There is another twist to the Thomas the Tank Engine toys as well.
The toy trains and railroad pieces are made directly for RC2 at plants it oversees in China, presumably giving it some control over the quality and safety of the toys made there. Staci Rubinstein, a spokeswoman for RC2 [RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Ill.], declined on Monday to comment on safety control measures at company plants in China.
So, one has to wonder, at least in this example, how much to blame the Chinese and how much blame is retained by the American Corp. that oversees the plant. And it also brings to mind the question of how much RC2 is taking advantage of the more lax regulations that often accompany doing business in a third world country.

And then there is the blame that falls on the US government (speaking of lax regulators):
In the last two years, the staff of the consumer product commission has been cut by more than 10 percent, leaving fewer regulators to monitor the safety of the growing flood of imports.

Some consumer advocates say that such staff cuts under the Bush administration have made the commission a lax regulator. The commission, for example, acknowledged in a recent budget document that “because of resource limitations,” it was planning next year to curtail its efforts aimed at preventing children from drowning in swimming pools and bathtubs.
I wonder how one prioritizes such a thing.

So anyway, a word to the wise: don't assume that the toys are safe!
China’s own government auditing agency reported last month that 20 percent of the toys made and sold in China had safety hazards such as small parts that could be swallowed or sharp edges that could cut a child, according to a report in China Daily.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, etc., anyone who purchases toys for children, we have some responsibility to check these toys out. We can no longer just assume that they are safe simply because they are marketed and sold to children. We have now been warned. We may not be able to identify lead paint with our naked eyes, but we can certainly check for sharp edges and small swallowable parts.

Should these products be allowed to be sold here? Certainly the answer is no. Are they being sold here? Obviously the answer is yes. If our government isn't going to look out for us and our children, then we have to learn to take that responsibility back onto ourselves. And of course, we should elect a new administration that will take these issues a bit more seriously than this most recent administration has.

No comments: