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US Agency Calls for Controls on Tainted Imports


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says the number of recalls of Chinese-made toys containing dangerous lead paint is on the decline as a result of an agreement with China last year. But the acting chairman of the agency is asking Congress to boost efforts to certify the safety of products made overseas before they are shipped to the United States. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The acting chairman of the commission, Nancy Nord, told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that an agreement reached with China last September to eliminate the use of lead paint on Chinese-made toys exported to the United States has been effective.

She says there does not appear to be any problems with imported toys made since the agreement. "The number of toy recalls and lead paint violations is going way down. Also, it is important and also very good news that we have not yet seen any products manufactured after the point of our agreements that have been recalled for lead paint violations," she said.

Nord says there has been a number of recalls of Chinese made toys this year, but they were for items manufactured before the agreement.

The use of lead paint on toys sold in the United States has been banned since 1978. Lead can be fatal if ingested.

Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, remains skeptical about Chinese compliance with the agreement. He says 70 percent of all defective imports come from China. "I still believe that we cannot merely trust China to do what is right. On product safety, they have given us every reason not to trust them," he said.

Brownback suggested conducting surprise U.S. inspections of Chinese plants - a proposal Nord dismissed, saying her agency lacked the legal authority.

But she is asking Congress to establish certification authority to approve the safety of products made overseas before they are shipped to the United States.

In an exchange with the subcommittee chairman, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Nord said the work would be done by private, independent laboratories.

Durbin: "Where would the certification take place?"

Nord: "The importer and the product seller would have to get it certified."

Durbin: "Where?"

Nord: "If it was manufactured in China, it would have to be tested there."

Durbin: "So there would be laboratories doing this work….

Nord: "Absolutely."

Durbin: "…that we would certify?"

Nord: "Absolutely."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is asking Congress for $80 million - the same amount it received last year - to hire more inspectors and purchase new screening technology.

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