Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deadly toys

Seems there’s been yet another toy recall. This time the toy called Aqua Dots in the US. It seems that part of the toy which kids might swallow (and in a couple of cases have swallowed) contain GHB or more commonly know as the date rape drug. And where are these toys manufactured? I bet you can’t possible guess. Why China. I know I was shocked to the core when I found that out.

Here's the story from the Post and another from USA today.

The important point from the story:

The toys were supposed to use 1,5-pentanediol, a nontoxic compound found in glue, but instead contained the harmful 1,4-butanediol, which is widely used in cleaners and plastics.

It’s not clear why 1,4-butanediol was substituted. However, there is a significant difference in price between the two chemicals. The Chinese online trading platform ChemNet China lists the price of 1,4 butanediol at between about $1,350-$2,800 per metric ton, while the price for 1,5-pentanediol is about $9,700 per metric ton.

It seems rather obvious from the above why there was a switch in chemicals: the price. Good old fashion capitalism. This once again reinforces to me that the United States needs to take a good long hard look at the products that are imported from China.

I’m not saying that we boycott Chinese products (although that might not be a bad idea) but greater care has to to be taken in the huge number of products that we import from China.

It makes you wonder what’s gotten past Consumer Product Safety Commission. Not through any fault of theirs but just because the to sheer number of products coming from China. At some point in time, we won’t be so lucky and some product will end up killing people. Then there may indeed be a call to boycott China.


Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

It's probably not possible to boycott China, even if people wanted to, because so much is made there.

But one thing that concerns me is the tendency in the media to act as if this is entirely China's fault when, more often than not, the company whose product's tainted is equally to blame. In the case of Aqua Dots, for example, ABC News reported that the company knew about the chemical switch but did nothing about it.

In the case of other products (like with lead paint, for example) or products made with slave labour, the cost of monitoring would amount to cents. One estimate was that to monitor production of one particular product would cost the company ten cents (I won't name the product because they're not the issue). The American company marketed the product at many, many times the landed cost--which means there was more than enough profit for them to pay for better monitoring without increasing cost to consumers.

When China moved to reform labour laws, it was American companies that lobbied against the changes. They're in China because it's a totalitarian regime with little protection for workers (well, none, actually), little regard for the environment and no real concern about the harmful effects of their products (unless they get caught, and then they find someone to blame and execute).

So if American consumers are worried, frightened or angry about dangerous products coming from China, the first place to ask questions is with the non-Chinese company that contracted to have the product made: What did they know and when did they know it? Chances are, if you follow the money you'll find that more often than not the non-Chinese companies are not always innocent victims of those evil Chinese after all.

There's little or no hope of finding the truth while the Bushies are in power because regulation, even for public safety, is an enemy to them. But the truth will eventually come out. I just wonder if there are enough prison cells for them all.

Jason in DC said...

I agree completely but I'll add one thing.

The Chinese minister of trade said around the first round of these problems that it was being over played in the US press. He sort of blamed the media (gee doesn't that sound familiar) for the problem. That gives me a little pause as to how aggressive the Chinese government will be going after these guys.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand China anymore. It's a totaltarian regime dedicated to securing maximum freedom for unbridled capitalism, right? So the "total" in totaltarian is a special kind of total, apparently. But then, how do the founding communist princples of the nation square with this new hard-ass capitalist orientation? — Ed