Chinese Products

Reporter: Bryan Seymour

More products made in China look set to be recalled, after toy manufacturer Mattel recalled 18 million toys containing lead paint. Chinese imports are cheap, but is there a hidden cost? It is estimated that faulty goods kill 32 people every year and injure more than 500. Recent recalls by Mattel include the Polly Pocket Doll Playset, as tiny powerful magnets may come loose. And the popular 'Sarge' car from the movie Cars contains lead-based paint which, if ingested, can cause IQ deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing and a host of other problems.

Reports in the US now claim some baby bibs, also made in China, contain unsafe levels of lead. You might have missed a recall notice in The Australian for toothpaste containing glycol, a poison used in antifreeze, not fit for human consumption. And a blanket laced with formaldehyde. Both, again, came from China. Choice magazine's Christopher Zinn is appalled at the influx of unsafe items. "I mean, we had a terrible example last year of a girl in Queensland who had a dog's lead that broke and snapped and took out her left eye," Christopher said. "She was blinded, now, her parents went to the ACCC. Six months later they came to us, we tested it, it was only then that the product was banned."

Imports from China have skyrocketed, up 263 per cent since 2000 and worth $450 million per year. Among the nasties to slip through the net were prawns containing unsafe levels of antibiotics. "It's really a hotchpotch of national and state bodies that are charged with monitoring to make sure there is some product safety," Christopher said. He said China was the main culprit when it comes to unsafe exports, then India and Malaysia. One haul of counterfeit perfume imported from China contained a cocktail of nasties, including goat urine.

"We're very keen to stress that this shouldn't be a China-bashing exercise and there's some terrific products that come from China," Christopher said. "But the downside of the society we live in, where you can buy a DVD player for $39, means that you're going to get things produced in other countries that aren't done in the way that they might be produced here."

Food, chemicals, furniture: the list is endless, the risks unknown. So what's the solution?

"We'd like to see a national, Commonwealth body, perhaps under the ACCC," Christopher said. "The [Australian] Competition and Consumer Commission, who really could put a much better mantle of protection over Australians to make sure that dangerous products aren't coming in."

You can find details on the recalled Mattel/Fisher-Price toys at: http://www.service.mattel.com/