Is America Turning Into the Island of Misfit Toys?
Posted by admin on 02/26/2009
During the debate on the stimulus bill now signed into law, a national “Buy American” conversation took place. In January and February, as this discussion focused on American products and materials that could be used in infrastructure projects, the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) was recalling a list of defective products made in China that could prove hazardous to children and adults. Most of these hazards were found in children’s products and include, but were not limited to, choking, entrapment, fire, hanging, electric shock, lead exposure, falling, strangulation, sparks and laceration. Scary stuff; ManufactureThis wonders if it doesn’t sound more like a list of suggestions from the Hemlock Society than a catalog of product safety problems. Over the past several years, American consumers have become far more aware of safety problems in Chinese products. The toxic pet food, toothpaste, baby formula and Thomas the Tank toys made a big media splash in 2007 and 2008, but even if there is no front story today on defective products from China, we hope that consumers will continue to flip the widget over to see where it was made. In January and February (which isn’t even over yet) the CPSC announced recalls of 32 separate hazardous products made in China. It is important to note that these are just the ones found – there is no way to determine how many slipped through the woefully underfunded U.S. inspection net. Most recently, Americans have had to deal with toxic Chinese drywall. Over 4.2 million hazardous individual product units have entered the U.S. from China so far in February alone. No matter how you cut it, that’s a lot of stuff. These products were sold by many different retailers in varying product sectors including Old Navy, the Dollar Store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, The Disney Store, True Value Hardware and Spencer Gifts. They include small and large toys with parts that easily fall off and create the risk of choking; halogen lamps and camp stoves that present a burning hazard; and baby gates with defective hinges that can send junior tumbling down the stairs. Perhaps most offensive are the tainted “Jesus Fish Beads” intended for use in faith-based schools and Bible classes that contain high levels of lead. Really! Is nothing sacred? Then there are the 38,000 “flashing pacifiers” recalled due to danger of choking and strangulation – a two-fer. They come in a package marked “only for use by older children and adults.” Huh? ManufactureThis does not think it wants to go there. In all of these recalls, the CPSC provides consumers with such helpful advice as “take away from children” or “do not use.” Thank you, but we think that ManufactureThis readers can figure that out on their own. Earlier this month, Congress and the CPSC passed an initiative that tightens lead paint standards and calls for greater scrutiny of imports. They should not stop there. American companies who import defective products need to be sent more than a nastygram from Uncle Sam. They must be held accountable – or even penalized – when they allow dangerous products onto our shores. As we are busy stimulating every sector we can think of, let’s ask the Administration and Congress to allocate more resources to agencies like the CPSC, Customs and the FDA (which has its own separate list of toxic Chinese products) so they can beef up their inspection and reporting capacities. As it appears that China continues to ignore its own national and provincial quality control laws and the safety regulations contained in the many trade agreements it has signed, its up to American consumers to remain diligent shoppers. So read the labels, jiggle the baby widget to make sure nothing comes flying off, and never assume that a product is safe just because it made it onto the shelves.
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