POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Letters to the East Pole

by David Trumbull

November 30, 2007

As reported recently on People’s Daily Online:

Almost 75 percent of the world's toys are made in China, figures from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts (CCCLA) showed.

Forget about the North Pole and Santa’s elves. This year good little boys and girls all across America will awaken Christmas morn to Chinese-made toys under the tree. At least the Red Ryder BB gun is still made in America!

Imported toy trains with lead paint. Imported toy beads containing a powerful knock-out drug. What’s a parent to do?

First, do not panic. There is already a federal agency charged with protecting Americans from harmful toys or other products. In 2007 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 61 toys involving more than 25 million product units, “underscoring CPSC’s daily commitment to keeping consumers safe 365 days a year,” said Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord. “Toys today are undergoing more inspection and more intense scrutiny than ever before.”

Second, do something. If you are worried about dangerous imported toys read the labels. Toys, by law, must be marked with the country of origin. Country-of-origin marking is not perfect. It typically refers to the place of final assembly, and the constituent parts might come from other places. But it is at least some information to help you in deciding on purchases.

We’ll all concerned about the health and safety of our children. But be careful not to believe every rumor, especially the ones passing around by e-mail. Remember early in the War on Terrorism when France refused to assist the U.S., and stories circulated about name brands and chain stores that should be boycotted because they were French-owned? Turns out most of those stories were false--probably started by competitors or frustrated ex-employees.

Currently there is going around the internet a purported “list of American toys” on sale at a major retail chain. Turns out that someone went to that store’s website and searched on “American toy” and got a list of toys that had the word “American” somewhere in the product description without any regard to the country of origin. Beware of lists of brand names that are “made in China” or “made in America.” Most companies source products in various places, some domestically and some from foreign sources. Again, you must read the label each particular item to know its origin.

And as for you naughty boys and girls: who knows where that lump of coal came from? The U.S. has the fourth largest supply of coal in the world, but due to environmental regulations we also are a major importer of coal. And coal does not have country-of-origin markings.