Contaminated Drywall Incident Precedes Import Safety Summit

U.S. and Chinese product safety regulators will meet in China in late October to discuss import safety. The U.S. delegation will be led by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum. From BNA news service (subscription):

The two countries will review measures to ensure a mutual understanding of the need for manufacturers to meet both voluntary standards and U.S. requirements (particularly with respect to lead paint on toys) and understand recall matters. 

The summit also intends to train Chinese government officials and manufacturers in CPSC requirements. 

Hopefully, drywall will also be on the agenda. As Cindy Skrzycki recently reported for the Global Post, builders who constructed thousands of homes in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes used Chinese drywall that is now falling apart and causing health problems:

Owners say their houses smell like rotten eggs and are causing breathing problems and skin irritations. They worry their homes have become worthless, as air conditioners and other mechanical parts corrode and become nonfunctioning. The problem is thought to be high levels of sulfur-compound gases being released from the drywall. 

Fearing risks to fetal health, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) says that pregnant women living in the homes should move out, according to the article.

The U.S.-China product safety summit will be the third in three years; and although three years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, it seems like it’s time to get tough on import safety, and on China.

Maybe the Chinese government has increased its regulatory presence over its manufacturing industry, but the progress isn’t good enough. Americans are still regularly in jeopardy. Big controversies like contaminated drywall occasionally make headlines, but every American encounters Chinese-made products on a daily basis. While toy recalls have subsided since 2007, the CPSC still announces a recall every few weeks after a Chinese-made children’s product is discovered to be contaminated with lead or covered in lead paint.

CPSC is investigating the drywall problem, as this agency document details (h/t to CPR blog). But it’s time to start getting out in front of these problems and preventing dangerous imports from entering American homes in the first place. That’s a message Tenenbaum should carry with her to China.

(Matthew Madia 09/04/09)


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