Children Being Poisoned by Chinese-Manufactured Products Containing Lead
Lead is a malleable, highly available and naturally occurring heavy metal. Because of it’s ease of use and accessibility, lead has been used in manufacturing since 6400 BC. Historically, it has been a major ingredient in gasoline, paint, batteries, radiation shields, and bullets. Lead was found to be poisonous in the early 1900’s, especially to children, which led to strict regulations and oversight in American manufacturing, but other countries, such as China, have not yet taken steps to prevent it’s use. Lead is inexpensive which is major factor in keeping manufacturing costs and product prices down.
Lead poisoning is an accumulative process as the lead is stored in bones and soft tissue, much like mercury, another heavy metal. In children, the toxicity levels are higher than if an adult was exposed to the same amounts since gastrointestinal absorption of lead is enhanced in childhood. An adult would only absorb about 10% of ingested lead compared to 50% in a child. Since young children put more inedible items in their mouth than adults do, either out of curiosity or due to teething, children are at a higher risk for exposure if the items were decorated with lead paint.
Lead poisoning is toxic to all humans and animals, but is especially detrimental to the developing mind of a child. Minor toxicity levels will affect cognitive skills, weaken immune systems, disrupt reproductive organs, induce central nervous system disorders, and change behaviors and attitudes of the affected person. These effects are permanent and cannot be reversed through treatment or medicine. Acute poisoning leads to more severe consequences of brain damage, and can include coma, convulsions, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, and other behavioral disruptions, if not death.
Since the uptake levels are higher in children, and retention is permanent, if lead poisoning is widespread in a nation, the next generation of the population’s citizens will have a collective lower IQ as there will be a higher instance of diminished intelligence and mental retardation. This results in a society obsolete of citizens with superior intelligence, which reduces a nation’s science and technology progression, and causes a lack of future leaders. To prevent this from happening in America, lead paint was outlawed in 1962, and strict laws were put into place in regards to lead content in furniture, toys, and other products for children, updated again in 2009.
Even with laws governing the use of lead in manufacturing, lead poisoning in children is still a major problem in the America, with lead poisoning being 0.6% of all disease. As of 2010, approximately 43 billion dollars are spent annually dealing with this ongoing crisis in the US. Diminished intelligence in children due to lead poisoning results in the need for specialized and remedial education programs in American schools.
So, if there are strict regulations in American manufacturing, how are American children still being poisoned by lead? The answer is imported products whose countries of origin don’t have strict regulations, or don’t uphold their regulations. China has proven to the US that they continue to use lead in their manufacturing, even for American companies that outsourced production to China. In 2007, there was a major product recall of items that were produced in China due to safety measures not instituted. Among the list of toxic, defective, or dangerous products were toys, children’s jewelry, baby bibs, and toothpaste. (Along with recalls for tires, dog food, tools, and computer batteries.)
In August 2007, Fisher-Price recalled 83 types of Chinese-made toys because their paint contained excessive amounts of lead, much more than the national allowance of 0.06% (300 parts per million) of total lead content by weight in any part of the product. (Tighter regulations are adhered to for surface lead exposure, such as in paint.) These plastic toys recalled included the very popular characters of Diego and Dora the Explorer, and Elmo and Big Bird from Sesame Street. That recall consisted of 967,000 unsafe toys.
A few weeks later, Mattel recalled 436,000 toy cars of the character “Sarge” from the popular movie “Cars”. The die-cast metal cars were covered in lead paint and about half of the 436,000 recalled toys had already been distributed in the US.
In different findings, laboratory results showed a high level of lead in vinyl baby bibs that were produced in China and being sold at Toys’R’Us stores across the USA.
In a 2010 study of new Chinese paint samples, half of the 58 samples tested contained a high level of lead, equal to or more than 600 parts per million. In America, the new regulations put into effect in 2009 allow no more than 90 parts per million of lead by weight to be in surface paint (a maximum of 0.009%), so these Chinese paint samples are more than six times higher than what the American regulations will allow.
Lead poisoning is a major problem in China with at least 10% of their children’s population being affected. The children of China are not only poisoned by lead in paint, but also by lead in food, water, medicine, and the environment in areas of lead mining.
In 2013, Australian regulation agencies discovered high levels of lead in Chinese-canned peaches. The levels were twice the amount legally permissible under New Zealand and Australian food standard.
In September of 2014, a toddler in New York City was poisoned by high levels of lead in an imported Chinese herbal cold remedy.
With all the empirical evidence found about the effects of lead poisoning, especially detrimental in children, one would think that foreign manufacturers would move away from the use of lead. This is not happening in China, the second highest manufacturer in the world. They are still relying on this cheap material that produces vivid colors in paint and resists corrosion, and slowly kills and retards the world’s citizens. America, on the other hand, the top producer in the world of manufactured goods, does adhere to the strict standards set forth by regulation, and will continue to do so. The clear choice would be to go with American made products, avoiding the Chinese-produced products, even when they are distributed by an American company.