As shoppers rush home with their treasures for Christmas Day, many are carrying toys. It’s been an issue on the campaign trail, with Democratic presidential candidates demanding action after disclosure that some toys imported from China had dangerous levels of lead in the paint.
Barack Obama talked about the issue during a news conference in Waterloo earlier this month. "Today, going Christmas shopping isn’t just a matter of what toys would bring our children the most joy," Obama said. "It’s also a question of what toys are safe to give them."
Obama blames the Consumer Product Safety Commission for failing America’s kids by failing to step in and start require testing of toys made in China. "There are currently 400,000 children suffering from lead poisoning in this country and many more if you count all of those injured by toys that are harmful or deficient in some other way and we know that many of these toys have something in common. They’re made in China," Obama said. "Over 80 percent of the toys in this country come from China."
Most childhood cases of lead poisoning are linked to lead paint in the child’s home, although lead-tainted toys do pose a risk that Obama labels unacceptable. "I introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell a toy that has more than trace amounts of lead and that’s a bill that I intend to sign into law when I’m president," Obama said.
Obama also called for inspection of all toys imported from China and a change in federal law to allow higher fines for businesses that knowingly import and sell dangerous toys. "When I am your president, this will not be an issue that we allow to fade from the headlines once the holidays pass," Obama said.
Back in August, Chris Dodd was the first to call for a ban on the importation of all toys from China. During a debate on National Public Radio this month, Dodd jokingly made this declaration about Christmas gifts he’ll buy for his two young kids. "My toys are coming from Iowa," Dodd said, as his rivals chimed in with laughter. "I’m buying Iowa toys. They’re going to eat Iowa food."
John Edwards hasn’t followed Dodd in the only-Iowa-toys-for-the-kids pledge. "I haven’t gone that far," Edwards said during an interview. Edwards has said the U.S. government can no longer rely on corporations to police themselves and make voluntary recalls of dangerous or tainted toys.
During a campaign event in Council Bluffs this month, a young girl asked Hillary Clinton for her thoughts on lead-paint in Chinese-made toys. "I don’t think any parent should have to worry about the toys you buy for your children for Christmas. You know, children — we know — are very inquisitive. They put everything in their mouths. They sleep with things. They lick things," Clinton said. "You know, we know all of that, so we should be able to count on the safety of our toys."
Clinton proposes a halt to all toys being imported from China until a system is in place to test those toys before they make it to U.S. store shelves. "That is not only something that we should expect the Chinese to do, but the American companies that are manufacturing these toys should be held to this standard," Clinton said. "They are the ones who have to be part of solving this problem."
Like others, Clinton calls for beefing up the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "All of this should be on the Internet. You should be able to get every test, every complaint about any product so you can make your own mind up," Clinton said. "…We’ve got to give consumers more information."
Critics of attempts to ban the import of all Chinese-made toys say such a move is both unwise and unworkable and suggest it would have an impact on American retailers who would be hard-pressed to quickly find alternative sources for the toys they stock on their shelves.