Thursday, September 6, 2007

plastic morals

i'm utterly scandalized by the series of Mattel recalls.

now, they are doing it voluntarily. is it because they care about children's health? nope. it's because they are afraid of the liability--the lawsuits & backlash that will be generated from the scandal mongering publicity.

it's quite easy to point the finger at China for shoddy manufacturing standards. and yes, it is shady on China's part and it's also the case that the US loves to scapegoat China for economic ills since the 1700s. however let's look a little deeper. Mattel is recalling voluntary while the government remains curiously silent (let's contrast this govt response to the E. Coli breakout in processed spinach or other contagious diseases like mad cow, hoof & mouth, drug-resistant TB...). we could also ask how could our government allow this to happen?

after all 85% of the world's toys are made in China and not one of the European and other industrialized countries are issuing recalls. huh? why the disparity? weo, our government does not have strict regulations on importing toxins in manufactured products because of the powerful chemical industry lobby. The European Union, Korea, Taiwan, among others have evidence-based (from American scientists btw) strict bans on lead, endocrine-disrupters (phthlates), carcinogens and other toxins in children's toys. the US ignores the same evidence (or are bribed by the chemical industry to ignore) and allows toxins in all plastic products. the same Chinese manufacturer which is producing a toxin-free toy for export to Europe is also manufacturing the identical toxin-laden toy for US export.

now it's easy to compartmentalize this as an issue of children's health or of pet health as the case may be, but it's a human health issue, an ecological issue. these phthlates, carcinogens, toxic chemicals are present in most (if not all) plastics and many common consumer products, mattresses & furniture, cleaning products, cosmetics/nail polish, etc. it's almost completely unregulated--except of course what little consumer products the US manufactures for export, since most of that is regulated by other countries' standards to exclude toxic chemicals. in fact the European Union dumps all the toxic toys (and other consumer products) they don't allow in their countries to the US market. ironic right?

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