American consumers worried about the danger of products imported from China should welcome Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s, D-Minn., call for an investigation into a recall of Chinese-made toys that might be coated with lead-based paint. The freshman senator asked the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to schedule a hearing.
The latest concern with Chinese imports centers on toys made with possibly poisonous lead paint. Nearly all applications of lead-based paints have been banned in the United States for decades. Yet, it appears toys made in China made their way into U.S. retail stores. Among the offending toys in the recall are popular toy trains, toy drums and a toy bear. A Chinese-made infant wrist rattle also was recalled because of a potential choking hazard.
More telling about the failure of Chinese toys to meet minimal U.S. standards is that one in 24 of all toy recalls in the United States was made in China. Additionally, the number of Chinese-made products recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission has doubled in five years. So, while some dangerous projects are being detected, the flood of Chinese imports is testing severely an inspection system that is porous.
The toy problem is the latest in a litany of serious problems with Chinese imports, including tires, toothpaste and pet food. A pattern of inspection and enforcement failure has emerged. The system has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products coming from China and by the apparent reluctance of U.S. companies that buy Chinese products to question quality. After all, while the stuff is made in China, most of it carries recognizable American branding on U.S. store shelves.
That’s the other factor in the Chinese imports equation. American companies must assume responsibility for the quality and safety of the products they sell, whether made in St. Louis or Shanghai. The biggest importers of goods from China – Wal-Mart among them – bear a measure of the burden to ensure that the toys or clothing or whatever they peddle to American families are not tainted with chemical residues, lead paint or other toxins.
Sen. Klobuchar’s call for focused congressional analysis is a step in the right direction. As a member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, she understands her responsibility to help develop new strategies to protect American consumers from tainted and dangerous Chinese imports.
The news in the last few months indicates the old safeguards are not working, in large part because of the huge increase in imports from China. The system of import controls and inspections needs shoring up at all levels. The senator’s initiative should be embraced by her colleagues.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.