The China Syndrome Revisited - From Drywall to Baby Carriers, the Recalls Continue
In 2007, you couldn't turn on the news without seeing a report about another product recall from China. From pet food to tooth paste, to nine million children's toys, around 80% of all product recalls in the US in that year were products manufactured in China. The Financial Times kept a list.
Then in 2008, there was the tainted milk scandal. Babies died, and so did coverage of the scandal. For a long while, it seemed that it was all quiet on the eastern front. Too quiet.
For a country as huge as China, it seemed improbable that all their faulty product issues could be resolved so quickly. But, did you hear much about problematic products from China in 2009?
It didn't get on my radar until I went hunting. This is what I found.
Defective Drywall. This story broke in March, 2009. Evidently, 250 million feet of defective Chinese drywall in 41 states was used in homes and condos starting in late 2000.
The Florida Health Department has received 100 complaints about drywall that is producing a rotten-egg smell. Some homeowners are complaining that the fumes are causing air conditioning coils and other metals to corrode.
December brought us recalls for two million Stork Craft baby cribs. The defective cribs, manufactured in China, Canada and Indonesia date back to 1993.
Also in December, around 450,000 parents found out that their Dorel Car Safety Seat was defective.
The company has received 77 reports of the handle fully or partially coming off the car seat/carrier resulting in at least three injuries to infants including bumps, bruises and a head injury. The joint announcement was made by Dorel, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Then there is the Zhu Zhu Hamster. In December, the consumer advocacy group GoodGuide raised concerns that the product was toxic- not because of lead, but from tin and antimony. According to Treehugger, the federal government gave its blessing to the product and the toy's manufacturer, Cepia, was aggressive in its defense of the product's safety.
So GoodGuide pulled the review stating: "We want to apologize again for comparing our test results with federal standards that are based on a different testing method." As a result, they're changing the protocol.
Also in December, custom agents seized a shipment of Chinese manufactured toys that are illegal in this country. They were evidently headed for small businesses and flea markets.
The toys contained hazardous materials, including lead paint, or had small parts that pose choking hazards for children.
One shipment contained nearly 22,000 toys that had one or both violations. Another contained 444 lighters in the shapes of farm animals, complete with realistic sounds, that children could have mistaken for toys.
On December 30, 2009 the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of nearly 100,000 LG humidifiers over fire fears. They were sold in Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Heat Controller, Inc.
In China, there is a renewed emphasis on manufacturing safe products. 2009 may have been the Year of The Ox, but it was also the year of quality and safety. In early 2009, the government, reeling from some very unhappy American consumers, launched a campaign "to guide manufacturers across the country in making better quality products." According to reports, over 600,000 businesses participated.
Evidently, the Shanghai Dairy was not one of them. China Daily is reporting that:
Shanghai Panda Dairy Co Ltd was closed last week and three of its executives arrested for selling dairy products a year ago that were tainted with the toxic chemical melamine, the city's food safety office announced last Thursday, the last day of 2009.
The tainted products include a batch of milk powder for elderly people, four batches of milk powder and four batches of condensed milk, officials said.
Still, it is reassuring to know that China is trying to solve these problems. It's even more reassuring to know that there are watch groups out there keeping an eye on products with our safety in mind.
Image credit: Dorel Car Seat: Consumer Reports
BlogHer Contributing Editor: Business & Career