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Originally published September 12, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 12, 2007 at 2:06 AM


U.S., China set new rules on toy safety

Amid heightened concern about the safety of foreign products, the U.S. and Chinese governments agreed in writing Tuesday on measures to...

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Amid heightened concern about the safety of foreign products, the U.S. and Chinese governments agreed in writing Tuesday on measures to prevent future export of Chinese-made toys containing lead paint to the United States.

The pact, announced at the second U.S.-China consumer-product safety summit, calls for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to develop a plan to ensure that Chinese exports comply with a 1978 U.S. law that bans lead paint in toys.

In the past month, millions of toys made in China and sold by Mattel were recalled because of dangerously high levels of lead paint.

In addition, the United States and China agreed to develop new procedures to address recurring quality and safety problems with Chinese-made lighters, fireworks, electrical products and other toys.

Acting consumer-commission Chairman Nancy Nord said there would be more inspections of U.S.-bound products, efforts to educate Chinese manufacturers and exporters on U.S. product-safety standards, more training on product-testing methods and regular information exchanges.

In addition, China agreed to help trace products with safety problems to the companies that manufacture, distribute and export them.

Nord said private industry in both countries also must take greater responsibility by conducting more safety tests and purchasing materials from reputable suppliers.

Chuanzhong Wei, vice minister of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, signed the new agreement and acknowledged there are "indeed some quality problems with individual products." But he added: "We are actively taking effective [action] to resolve those problems."

He said China's recent recalls and safety problems stem from differences in Chinese and U.S. standards for quality and safety, and poor product designs by foreign manufacturers. But he also cited "distorted reports" about Chinese products, which he said have hurt the country's reputation as a trade partner.

While the new agreement takes effect immediately, some experts said the pact won't be fully in place for the holiday shopping season: Most toymakers have begun or will soon begin shipping holiday orders.

"The big question is what percent of toys on shelves for the holidays will be covered by the new initiative," said Janell Mayo Duncan, senior counsel for Consumers Union, a watchdog agency.

Some toymakers use lead-based paint because it's cheaper than lead-free paint and it makes colors brighter. Lead-paint exposure in children can cause various health problems, including headaches, hearing and behavioral problems and brain damage.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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