Elizabeth Dalziel/AP
A Chinese employee sets up a Mattel Barbie doll on a pedestal for display at a toy store in
Beijing, Nov. 18, 2008.

Many American-Made Toys Still Contain Dangerous Chemicals

December 18, 2008 11:55 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Recent information suggests that parents should be cautious this holiday season; one study points to the continued presence of lead and other dangers despite safeguards.

Toy Season Raises More Safety Questions

With the holidays just a few days away and millions of Americans still shopping for gifts, the safety of toys remains a concern following a number of recent incidents and alarming studies.

The Ecology Center, a consumer safety organization based in Ann Arbor, Mich., released the findings from a study earlier this month indicating that, out of 1,500 children’s toys tested, 1 in every 3 toys contained potentially dangerous levels of lead or other chemicals, such as arsenic and mercury, according to Forbes.

The study found that only about 21 percent of the tested toys did not contain any chemicals that could be harmful.

The Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act, which will go into effect in February 2009, requires all children’s products to have a lead content of no more than 600 parts per million. However, about 3.5 percent of the toys tested by the Ecology Center had higher lead concentrations than the allowed 600 ppm. The new law would also set limits for chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic and mercury.

“When you see these toys sitting on the shelf, there is no way to determine which products are made with toxic chemicals and which aren’t,” said Mike Shriberg, the Ecology Center’s policy director. “They cost the same amount and look the same. It really shows that manufacturers have no excuse for making toys with dangerous chemicals.”

Toymaker Mattel Inc. knows all too well about the costs of such toys. On Dec. 15, 2008, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that Mattel reached a $12 million settlement with 39 states regarding the lead paint scare that affected children’s toys in 2007, according to Reuters.

In 2007, the company recalled more than 18 million toys made in China because they contained small magnets, which can harm a child’s digestive tract if swallowed, and lead paint, which may cause brain damage or death if ingested.

Coakley reported that no children are believed to have been harmed by a Mattel product.

According to the settlement with Mattel and its Fisher Price unit, the company will apply stricter standards to “accessible lead in toys manufactured after Nov. 30,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Multiple Chinese-made products have been found to contain harmful additives in the past several months, including contaminated baby formula and tainted pet food.

Background: Dangerous imports

Parents were overwhelmed and confused when many Chinese toys were found to contain substances hazardous to children’s health. With 80 percent of toys coming from China, people were faced with the prospect of either continuing on as normal and endangering their children, or making an extra effort to buy American.

In 2007, the International Herald Tribune reported that two companies in China added harmful chemicals to wheat gluten and rice protein that were exported to the United States and put in pet food, killing or harming many American pets.

Reaction: Buying American-made goods

In the wake of poisonous pet food and dangerous children’s toys, more Americans are determined to buy domestic protects. A poor economy coupled with an increase in patriotism has inspired consumers and added fuel to the fire. Now, groups that have always fought for patriotic purchasing are getting more attention.

Roger Simmermaker, who wrote a book titled “How Americans Can Buy American” says that even in a global economy, buying American is easier than people think. “People can complain, well, 97 percent of the clothes we buy in the United States are imported,” he told MSNBC. “Well, I know where to find the 3 percent.”

Barbara Toncheff,  a consumer who has always made an effort to buy American, sees the poor quality products as further evidence to support her values. She sees patriotism as closely related to consumerism, explaining to MSNBC, “July Fourth should truly mean independence. We shouldn’t become dependent on the rest of the world.”

Last year, China knowingly imported contaminated pet food ingredients, causing the death of many American pets. In fall and winter of 2007, Chinese toys proved dangerous for children.

Those who wish to purchase safe, domestic products can seek them through online stores, such as the Dulcinea Media Store.

Reference: Find American-made products


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