U.S. Setting Up Consumer Agency In ChinaAug 4, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in an effort to create a permanent oversees presence, is planning on opening an office in Beijing. The office is being set up, in part, reported HeraldTribune.com to better work with both Chinese regulators and companies in China and ensure exports coming into the United States from China are safe, according to agency chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum.
The move follows an unprecedented number of recalls that have involved consumer products, children’s toys, pet food, fish, dairy products, and toothpaste, to name just some, noted HeraldTribune.com. Compounding the issue, in recent months toxic Chinese drywall has been causing illness and raising alarm with residents nationwide.
Sadly, problematic Chinese imports made headlines well before the nationwide toxic Chinese drywall debacle. For instance, as far back as March 2007, scores of pet deaths and illnesses across North America were linked to a toxic ingredient that was manufactured in China, bringing attention to an issue that soon involved toxins in a wide variety of products, foods, and medications, noted HeraldTribune.com.
“We will have staff working in the embassy in Beijing to work with manufacturers and (Chinese regulators), so that we can continue our dialogue, communications, and collaborative approach,” said Tenenbaum, quoted HeraldTribune.com, which noted that Tenenbaum is in China meeting with her counterparts. Although the office is prepared for an October opening, final approval from China is needed, said HeraldTribune.com, citing agency officials.
Prior to Tenenbaum’s appointment, the agency and its former acting commissioner, Nancy Nord, were taken to task for the Commission’s slow response to the growing Chinese drywall problem. For months, homeowners across the country have complained that the material emits sulfur fumes that fill homes with a “rotten eggs” odor. The fumes from the drywall have also been linked to corroding metals in many of the homes, and people living with the material have reported sinus and respiratory problems. Many residents have had to vacate their homes and some builders are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.
Earlier this year, tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that Chinese-manufactured drywall contained elevated levels of strontium sulfide, as well as several organic compounds associated with the production of acrylic paint, which were not present in samples of U.S.-made drywall.
It’s estimated that more than 500 million pounds of possibly deficient Chinese drywall entered America between 2004 and 2008. An earlier Associated Press (AP) report said that was enough material to build about 100,000 homes.
Tenenbaum said a priority for the planned office is to teach manufacturers in China about what is mandated under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which is effective August 14 in the U.S. and was passed last year, reported HeraldTribune.com. The act introduces stricter standards for lead and phthalates in products made for children under the age of 12. “America and China have mutual economic interests. We believe that Chinese manufacturers are working to comply with this law because the retailers, particularly the large retailers in the (sic) America, are requiring the manufacturers to meet this standard,” explained Tenenbaum, quoted HeraldTribune.com.