Lead problems in toys imported from China

Most of the toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States this year, including the very well-liked Thomas & Friends wooden train sets. This is raising questions among consumer advocates, parents and regulators. The most recent recall, was for  1.5 million Thomas & Friends trains and rail components which were about 4 percent of all those sold in the United States over the last two years. The toys were painted in a factory in China with lead paint, which can potentially damage brain cells, especially in children. Just recently a ghoulish fake eyeball toy made in China was recalled after it was found to be filled with kerosene. Sets of toy drums and a toy bear were also recalled because of lead paint, and an infant wrist rattle was recalled because of a choking hazard.

Most of the increase in China’s coming on the recall list has to do with its resultant rush forward as the world’s premier toy chest: toys made in China make up 70 to 80 percent of the toys sold in America, according figures received from the Toy Industry Association. Combined with the recent scares in the United States of Chinese-made pet food, and globally of Chinese-made pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, the string of toy recalls is asking for increased enforcement of safety by United States regulators and importers, as well as by the government and industry in China. There should be laws where companies in the United States that are importing these items must be held responsible.

The toy industry in the America is mostly self -regulated. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has safety standards, but it has an acute shortage of field investigators to enforce nationwide inspections at ports, warehouses, and stores of $22 billion worth of toys and tens of billions of dollars’ worth of other consumer products sold in the country each year.  They need more money and resources to perform more effectively. “These are toys  that children play with:  said Prescott Carlson, co-founder of a Web site called the Imperfect Parent, which includes a section that keeps track of  recalls of toys and other baby products. 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.

The reason for importing these toys is because of the very cheap prices. These are no brand toys that are often sold at dollar stores at very steep discounts which are manufactured and sent to the United States and other countries often without the involvement of major American toy importers. Last year, China also was the source of 81 percent of the counterfeit goods seized by Customs officials at ports of entry in the United States products that typically are not made according to the standards on the labels they are copying.

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