Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lead: it's what's for lunch

Why would there be lead in any lunch box? And why would the government downplay it?
In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunch boxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that it found "no instances of hazardous levels." And it refused to release its actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

Those data were not made public until The Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.
Parents have a reasonable expectation that the government will regulate things like lead in children's lunch boxes. Laissez-faire economics is all well and good as an abstraction, until you wind up with something like this.

This story highlights any number of concerns, namely the tendency of this administration to protect corporations instead of citizens, and to ignore repeated safety problems involving goods made in China, as according to the article most problem lunch boxes were made there.

And credit where credit is due: Wal-Mart stopped selling lunch boxes with vinyl liners, the kind in question, and offered refunds. Even Wal-Mart is more progressive than the Bush administration (because it does not make business sense to sell products for children that contain toxic materials).

There does appear to be a debate about the science used to test lunch boxes, but show me a parent who wants to go ahead and give their kid a lunch box knowing it contains lead. Something like that you don't fool around, you err on the side of children's safety.

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