Parents in the US these days often seem only one step from the brink of panic in the best of times. So this past August when toxic toys from China, including the enormously popular Thomas the Tank Engine, began to be recalled, people freaked.
It got worse when it came out that the government division charged with protecting the toys that children play with, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lacks the resources to do its job because conservative presidents and legislators have scandalously cut the Consumer Product Safety Commission to the bone. How bad is it? Successive administrations and Congresses have gutted this agency, cutting its workforce from almost 1,000 in 1980 to just 420 today. Only one of those employees works testing toys!
This is at a time when eighty percent of America’s toys are imported from China–a country whose safety standards are so lax that 18 different children’s products were recalled for excess amounts of poisonous lead in the first half of October alone.
Moreover, the problem is even deeper than has been reported. As Mark Schapiro wrote recently in The Nation in an adaptation from his new book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, the uproar over banned substances and rogue Chinese toy manufacturers has overshadowed an even more troubling issue: the toxins in toys that are perfectly legal like polyvinyl chloride additives called phthalates (pronounced tha-lates), which help make toys both soft and pliable yet also tough. A mounting body of scientific evidence suggests that phthalates impede the production of testosterone and disrupt the sexual development of infant boys.
Leading the agency charged with addressing these lethal threats to infants coast to coast is a corporate lobbyist named Nancy Nord who has remarkably insisted to Congress that her agency requires no additional resources in the face of the growing complexity of global production. Nord opposed a bill that would have doubled the Consumer Product Safety commission’s budget over time, and allow her to hire much-needed inspectors. She’s also admitted to accepting free trips worth thousands of dollars from the lobbyists of industries that are regulated by her agency. Our friends at the Campaign for America’s Future have created a short video underscoring the threat Nord represents. Watch it.
Then sign CAF’s petition insisting that Nord either resign or be shown the door.