Testing Agency Head Under Fire; Senate Commission Asks: Is it Safe?

Lawmakers, including the wonderful Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), grill Nancy Nord (of the Consumer Product Safety Commission), demanding to know why lead-laden children's toys and jewelry are still arriving in the United States.

Sen. Dick. Durbin (D-Ill.) charged that the CPSC was not aggressive enough in stopping unsafe toys and children's jewelry manufactured in China from entering the U.S.

He said the agency never obtained information on shipments of the Chinese products so that it could inspect to see whether many of the products had lead paint in them.
Nord admits, disturbingly, that despite harsh criticisms of Chinese toy manufacturers and calls for crackdowns in 2004, a "significant amount" of children's jewelry the agency tested still contains lead, amending that, shortly thereafter, to "almost all of it". She also describes the testing facility as a 1950's-era missile testing site in Gaithersburg, Maryland, some of the buildings of which do not even meet code. Nord goes on to report how their lone product tester, a man named Bob, is overwhelmed (imagine that!) and can't reasonably be expected to test the countless thousands of toys and other products coming into the country every day.

This is a still shot of the toy testing facility, the place where Bob ("Our small parts guy") decides if toys--the ones he gets to that day, anyway--are safe enough for Americas consumers and children. Yes, this is really the toy lab, as presented to the Senate yesterday:

The United States of America's Consumer Product Safety Commission,
Toy Testing Division
(as shown behind the senators' chairs)

Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Certainly, this is nothing new, this underfunding and undermining of a United States government agency tasked with protecting the public. As I wrote about extensively this year, the FDA has been similarly hamstrung by the Bush administration, and despite the shocking revelation that less than 1% of food imports arriving Stateside are even being inspected at all, the agency is quietly closing labs around the country and cutting staff. Furthermore, in a classic Bushian hand-off of henhouse
keys to Big Pharma fox, the FDA has shifted much of its drug-testing function (in exchange for drug-testing funding) to the drug companies themselves.

Perhaps Grover Norquist wouldn't have been so quick to fill his bathtub if he'd known it had been coated with lead.

(H/T the priceless petulant)

Also at litbrit.

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