Spending more for safety simply makes sense - Metro US

Spending more for safety simply makes sense

Recall has cost Mattel more than just wads of cash

Consumer Product Safety Commission photo

The Mattel Inc. Barbie and Tanner play set were part of the toymaking giant’s recall last week.

It’s time to take matters into our own hands for our safety, and that of our children.

There’s been a spate of toy recalls recently, by such respected and established companies as Mattel, Fisher Price and RC2 Corp., the company behind Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway Toys.

And not long ago, exploding batteries, tainted toothpaste, other tainted medications, and tainted pet food made headline news.

China is apparently involved in all of these mishaps.

Toy companies, pharmaceutical companies and countless others lower their costs — and increase their profits, of course — by farming out production to countries such as China, where labour and production can be done on the cheap.

But at what cost to the consumer? How many children need to fall sick or even die, before we realize that cheap isn’t the healthiest goal?

From a business standpoint, these mistakes of lax standards endangering products have cost the companies involved a fortune in recalls and exchanges.

But that’s not what’s most important here, for them or for us.

Just a few of the known facts so far: One Chinese child is dead, and another severely brain-damaged as a result of tainted antibiotics; another child is seriously ill from ingestion of lead-based paint on a toy he was chewing, and three North American children hospitalized from swallowing magnets that fell off toys. If more than one is swallowed, they can attract each other, causing intestinal perforations, infections or blockage, which can be fatal.

What about these families who’ve suffered grievous losses as a result of these “mistakes?” Nothing can bring back their children, or assuage their pain.

Mattel’s toy recall was two-fold: Unpermitted use of lead paint, plus the risks associated with small, high-powered magnets. Bob Eckert, Mattel’s chairman and CEO, issued a personal apology, and stressed that changes are being implemented to ensure better safety in the future.

He promised a three-point check system to test for lead in the paint in production; testing again before the products are released, and implementing more safety checks.

Great plans, but it’s a little too late for consumers to trust companies — especially when it comes to the health and safety of their families.

Earlier this month, the Edmonton Journal reported that according to Health Canada data, Chinese-made consumer goods have been subject to more safety recalls than products from anywhere else: 431 products, including toys, household goods and baby products have been recalled in the past three years.

What can we do on an individual level? We can make a conscious effort not to buy anything made in China. That may mean spending a little more on items normally found in dollar stores, like batteries; and it may also mean not purchasing any Chinese-manufactured toys in the near future.

If that means going back to reliable, old-fashioned (still fun and creative) wooden blocks, then so be it.

Better to push your children’s imagination than compromise their safety.


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