Thursday, August 23

China Pushes US to Weaken its Lead Restrictions

One way for China to solve its lead problem in toys is to push the US to increase the permitted amount of lead that can be in toys.

This of course would be a huge step backwards for the US. After all, we already went through the painful process of eliminating lead from our society. From our gas, our products and from our paints. Lead paint is still out there and there is lead contamination in the ground from leaded gas, but all the time the threat is reduced as we are not adding more into the environment like we did before.

Now China wants to ruin our progress by dumping all sorts of leaded products into our country.

This problem is not limited to lead either. They have also complained about the US's reaction to antifreeze in toothpaste, claiming that the amounts in the toothpaste were too small to do harm. Then there are all the chemicals and antibiotics being found in Chinese fish.

In all fairness, the US is not asking any higher standards than it does for domestic products. That is fair, and China needs to get off its ass and work to meet those standards.

That however, is not their plan. For the moment, they are looking to create a loophole to legally open the US market to lead toys.

Take this undated Chinese document. (Data within the document mentions "Children's Jewellery Containing Lead ANPR, Comments CH-07-1-1 through CH-07-1-40, as of March 14, 2007")
Comments from China on USA Notification G/TBT/N/USA/232
Children's Jewellery Containing Lead ANPR

Dear Sir or Madam,
We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on this regulation proposed by
Consumer product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Enclosed please find comments in English and Chinese.

' Please acknowledge receipt of comments by e-mail to

Thank you very much in advance for Consumer product Safety Commission (CPSC)
taking our comments into consideration.

Best regards

Guo LiSheng
Deputy Director General
China WTOITBT National Notification & Enquiry Center
No. 9 Ma Dian Dong Lu, Hai Dian District, Beijing
Post Code: 100088
Tel: 86-10-8226061 110618
Fax:86- 10-82262448

Children's Jewellery Containing Lead ANPR

The Government of China appreciates the USA Government for allowing other Members to make comments on Notification G/TBT/N/USA1232. After reviewing the notified regulation, we would like to give our comments as follows:

1, The draft stipulated that the lead in the children's metal jewelry must be less than 0.06 percent, but we consider this request is insufficient from scientific standpoint.

For example: if the lead exist only in the substrate, but not in the coat, the content of lead may exceed the limit of 0.06%. Otherwise, actually the lead protecting by the coat will be emerged from the substrate difficultly, and do little harm for children. In addition, it is known that the content of soluble lead is not equal to the total content of lead in the exposed metal substrate. Usually, the content of soluble lead is much less than the content of total lead. So, the limit of 0.06% is not strict and unreasonable.

In summary, according to Article 2.2 of TBT Agreement, "Members shall ensure that technical regulations are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade. For this purpose, technical regulations shall not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective, taking account of the risks non-fulfillment would create. Such legitimate objectives are, inter alia: national security requirements; the prevention of deceptive practices; protection of human health or safety, animal or plant life or health, or the environment. In assessing such risks, relevant elements of consideration are, inter alia: available scientgc and technical information, related processing technology or intended end-uses ofproducts" , We suggest USA make a sufficient risk evaluation on all lunds of preconditions, to avoid the unnecessary obstacles to trade.

Otherwise, we suggest USA cancel the provision.

2, It is provided in the draft that the content of lead in the children's metal jewelry is measured by the percent of total lead. However, there is an existing determination method about lead content in the international standard IS08124. Furthermore, it is more reasonable to use the lead dissolve output target for expressing the degree of lead harm to the children. According to Article 2.4 of TBT Agreement "Where technical regulations are required and relevant international standards exist or their completion is imminent, Members shall use them, or the relevant parts of them, as a basis for their technical regulations ", we suggest USA adopt the lead dissolve output target described in toy security standard-IS08 124 to institute the limit.

3, We agree with the viewpoint of USA of protecting the children's healthy and safety. And we consider that the method of stick warning mark on the children's metal jewelry, which will enhance the parents' direction of Security guardianship, may be more efficient than setting the limit of lead content. Therefore, we suggest USA use the warning mark in terms of age group according to the toy service conditions.

4. The definition and range of the children's metal jewelry are not specific in this draft, ' this may lead to an expanding range of correlative products, and increase the cost of producing and inspection of the manufacturers of children's metal jewelry, and bring unnecessary obstacles to trade. According to Article 2.2 of TBT Agreement,"Members shall ensure that technical regulations are not prepared, adopted or applied with a view to or with the effect of creating unnecessary obstacles to international trade. ",we suggest USA further clarify the definition of children's metal jewelry, the reasonable range and sort of the covered product. - (Link to PDF Document Located at NY Times (Text in HTML))

What a load of bull. What you just read above is China's solution to their lead in jewelry problem. That we should change how we test for unsafe levels of lead and add warning sticker on jewelry containing lead.

The testing suggestion above is particularly dubious. Their suggestion that the content of lead not being important as opposed to the leaching of the lead from the product. Take this chromed Reebok bracelet.



The bracelet contains high levels of lead. Their thinking is that this should not matter as long as the outer coating prevents the lead from leaching out. In theory it sounds nice, but does not take into account the various ways that the products are handled. Over time, coatings do wear off, especially plated jewelry. Young boys destroy these items and children swallow them. It was a piece of a bracelet like this one that a young boy swallowed. He died of acute lead poisoning. (Click on the photo above for details)

Reebok has received a report of a death caused by lead poisoning of a 4-year-old child from Minneapolis, Minn. The child reportedly swallowed a piece from one of these bracelets. - CPSC.Gov

The only thing stickers will do is keep these products from children which is what the US is currently doing by recalling these products. After all, you don't let your child play with something that might be dangerous. Parents will just choose jewelry that does not need a lead-content warning sticker attached to it. Then the Chinese will complain that the labeling is being treated unfairly as a scarlet letter.

Not that the Chinese already have enough problems, but the issue of lead exposure is about to be revisited as it seems the current limit might be too high:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that blood lead amounts under 10 mcg/dl (micrograms per deciliter) are well below the "level of concern." But recent medical evidence has shown that even with lead levels less than 10 mcg/dl, a child can lose roughly seven IQ points. And once these points vanish, they don't come back. A population-wide average loss of seven points, Sanghavi observes, would place tens of thousands of kids below the general threshold for mental retardation. As a solution, Sanghavi proposes "zero-tolerance lead policies, which would mean nationwide de-leading of unsafe homes." - Foreign Policy Passport

The goal should be no exposure to lead. All lead is bad. (within reason) Who is going to tell the Chinese? The sad thing is, China has the most to gain from removing lead from its environment. That is a long-term benefit for the health of their population. Too bad that China seems so concerned about the short-term implications as they relate to employment.

China has argued that they should be given some leeway as they industrialize from a third-world country. It was this excuse that earned them a pass with the Kyoto Global Warming Convention. There is a difference in that China is able to learn from the mistake of those who came before them and take advantage of technology that has been created as a result of industrialization. Lead poisoning is a perfect example of a mistake that has been learned already. There are alternatives to lead available. They just need to take advantage of the information available to them.


1 comment:

Jenn Sierra said...

Good article. I've added it to a collection of resources we have communist China here: , and your blog to our FHK blogroll.