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U.S., Europe Warn China on Toy Safety

Nov 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Reuters Canada is reporting that consumer chiefs from both the European Union and the United States are urging China to step up its safety efforts on unsafe products, specifically children’s toys, before we enter into this year’s holiday season.

Last year, in excess of 20 million Chinese-made toys were globally recalled due to a variety of hazards, not the least of which involved excessive lead paint levels, said Reuters.  Despite that federal lead standards are in place and that many consider lead poisoning to be one of the most important chronic environmental illnesses affecting children today, toys continue to be made with components that exceed federal standards and that could pose health concerns.  Exposure to lead in children and unborn children can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems.  Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead can damage the nervous system.  Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune.

"Over 50 percent of dangerous products notified during January to September originated from China (56 percent). This represents an increase compared to the first nine months of 2007, when 472 reported cases (47 percent) had China as the country of origin," the European Commission said in a statement printed in the Reuters piece.  According to Reuters, the EU’s executive Commission “oversees product safety” for a 27-member group and stated that the increase in recalls is attributed to "more effective market surveillance."

Despite that, EU and U.S. lawmakers have been long frustrated and concerned over the many dangerous goods and products making their way into the U.S., including milk, seafood, toys, and furniture, said Reuters.  EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and Nancy Nord, acting chairperson for the U.S. Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Kuneva’s counterpart here, are also worried about the trend of dangerous products tainting the U.S. and European markets, said Reuters, which quoted Kuneva as saying, "Since last year, there is quite a good improvement ... but I cannot say for certain that Chinese toys are 100 percent safe this Christmas.  I will be telling member states to step up their surveillance ahead of Christmas with a view to cracking down on unsafe products."  Kuneva and Nord are urging parents to be vigilant this holiday season and in the face of a growing “economic downturn,” said Reuters, which added that Kuneva noted, "You can never count the cost of safety. I urge parents to check carefully, whether the toy costs one euro or 100 euros" and Nord said, "Safety cannot be compromised, particularly where children are concerned. It is essential."

Reuters reported that both Kuneva and Nord met their Chinese counterpart, Wei Chuanzhong.  The meeting took place yesterday in Brussels, said Reuters, which noted that the meeting was conducted for the three to “sign a trilateral agreement aimed at enforcing product safety standards and exchanging information on food safety.”

"This agreement will allow us to make further progress in our bid to eradicate unsafe goods from China and will help us to exchange intelligence to find the source of these goods and prevent them from being sold," Wei said to Reuters.

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