Lead Tainted Products a Serious Concern
Congressman Joe Pitts
This week, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, on which I serve, held a hearing on the subject of lead-tainted imports. The hearing was aptly named "Protecting Children from Lead-Tainted Imports," because the protection of our children should be one of the highest priorities in our public policy.
Our children are our future. Therefore, we must ensure their protection in all ways possible. The documentation describing the deaths of children from lead painted toys as well as from swallowing magnets from toys is disturbing and unacceptable.
One of the most disturbing aspects of lead tainted products is the helplessness of parents on the issue. Lead is invisible. Parents cannot tell by looking at a toy if it contains lead the same way they can tell if a sharp object is dangerous, or a toy with small parts is dangerous because it may lead to choking.
In fact, the charm that led to the death of Jarnell Brown last summer was found to contain 99 percent lead when tested. However, an identical-looking charm from the same manufacturer was found to have 67 percent lead, a level still too dangerous for children. And other charms from the same product promotion tested at .07 percent, .044 percent and .004 percent lead.
Parents have a reasonable right to expect that toys on the shelves in the United States do not contain materials that may prove fatal to their children.
As U.S. companies send more of their production overseas in an effort to lower prices, it is vital that we not allow our most basic standards of health and safety to be sacrificed in the search for profit.
During meetings between Energy and Commerce Committee staff members and Chinese business associations held in China last month, industry officials claimed that the Chinese central government was capable of issuing product safety dictates, but the central government could not ensure that local officials would enforce the regulations. In fact, the industry and business delegates at the meeting claimed that local officials are most often interested in promoting the economic development of their respective provinces or cities and will do so even in blatant violation of regulations passed down by Beijing.
Although China has become our second largest trading partner and presents unique and specific challenges in this regard, it is not the only nation from which tainted products have been imported. Safety problems have emerged in goods imported from other developing countries, such as India.
It is vital that toy manufacturers, as well as the U.S. Government, be assertive in enforcing standards and safety inspections at all points of the manufacturing process. Manufacturers must hold contractors and subcontractors accountable for upholding production standards. And, the U.S. Government must hold Chinese and U.S. companies accountable for the safety of their products.
Recent steps by toy manufacturers are welcome, but there must be a system in place to monitor local contractors in China and other nations in which enforcement of regulations may be lax or entirely non-existent.