U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized 17 boxes of toys that were headed from China to Detroit. The defective toys showed unsafe levels of lead when chemically analyzed by federal agents. This is the second shipment of Chinese toys that has been seized in recent weeks, lending credence to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warning issued earlier this year about the toy industry and its practices. While the total number of toy recalls fell in 2011, shipments of dangerous or defective goods intended for children are still identified on a regular basis.
Chinese imports have posed significant safety problems for consumers. Lead, cadmium and other chemical toxins are a common issue in the goods that get rejected. While defective toys are only a small part of the problem, the recalls are common in this area because of the dominant position China holds in the U.S. market. Some estimates place the total percentage of toys sold in the U.S. that come from China at greater than 80%. While most American manufacturers have long ago eliminated any lead or cadmium from the products they make, those ingredients are still readily available in China.
Due to the sheer number of imports, the vast majority of shipments are never inspected by federal officials. Unscrupulous exporters may ship vast quantities of goods they know are unsafe in the hopes that those that get through will offset the costs of those that are rejected. There have even been cases where goods that were rejected once were shipped again at a later date in the hopes that inspectors would not notice.
The Detroit-bound toys will either be destroyed by customs or they will be shipped back to China. Had they reached the shelves, children who played with the toys could have suffered lead-poisoning, a condition that is harmful for adults and potentially fatal for children. The affects of lead on a child’s brain may be catastrophic and irreversible. Thankfully, this particular shipment was discovered in time.
Source: Detroit Free Press, “Another shipment of toxic toys turns up in Detroit,” 9 March 2012