Unrelated photo of Chinese-made children's furniture. Image credit: MadeInChina.com
Like the lead bearing toy issue, the problem of made-in-China clothing and furniture containing unacceptable levels of formaldehyde has been in and out of the news for several years. As indicated in the WSJ China Journal blog, the Chinese government looks to be taking product safety more seriously, having tested to measure the scope of the problem and in making the findings public. Recent government tests found that "Of 60 pieces of clothing tested, only 31 were safe for children to wear," and "Among the 62 pieces of furniture tested, 42 pieces, or 68%, were considered safe for children. Problems with the furniture items included the excessive levels of formaldehyde and heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium and chromium) and mechanical flaws." Now then. What will be done about it?The cost of goods will rise if higher quality materials and processes were required, as they are by manufacturers in developed nations. Profits would be reduced. China, Inc would be less price competitive.
What do you think? Will the Chinese government rapidly institute product safety standards and enforce them? Will Chinese manufacturers participate in Western-style voluntary product safety consensus standards?
I'm betting not. Fearful of driving jobs and profits of low-cost manufacturers out of China and into countries that are even less aware of chemical risk, less regulated on product safety, less caring about childrens' health, inaction will force the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and name brand US distributors to collaborate on a certification of product safety for imported products. It is only a matter of time.