From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry (A Four-Part Series)
The following article is the third installment in our monthlong Promo Marketing Headlines series titled, “From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry.” Throughout the next four weeks, we will discuss product testing, quality assurance and how both suppliers and distributors can work in tandem to ensure the items they sell are safe for children and adults alike.
Part 3: Testing Issues and Areas of Concern
At the heart of the recent California lunch-box recall—and others like it—was something perhaps more alarming than simple carelessness. Reduce the event down to a common denominator, and it becomes clear that a lack of awareness, rather than intentional negligence, was the defining factor. Both supplier David Chen, CEO of T-A Creations, and distributor Marla Kaye, You Name It Promotions’ president, reported testing the lining of the toxic lunch box, but that was the extent of the effort. “I just don’t know what happens in China enough to know how to really do this [testing]. This is why we go to our vendors … they’re supposed to be the ones that know,” said Kaye. Despite several red lights that should have been heeded by the company—including a lawsuit and FDA letter—Chen, too, admits to a certain level of confusion with regard to the proper standards by which he should be complying.
Sadly, he’s probably not alone. The sheer volume of information out there on product safety, especially for children’s items, is staggering, not to mention bewildering.
The Lead Conundrum
When it comes to issues of lead, some argue the waters are the murkiest. According to Charles Margulis, communications director at the Oakland, California–based Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Disease Control says there is no safe level of lead exposure for kids. Yet, he added, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) continues to default to inadequate testing practices to determine what’s safe. “Unfortunately what we have today, under our federal regulatory system, is a case-by-case basis. The government said, ‘a little bit of lead in a lunch box is okay, a little bit of lead in a baby bib is okay, a little bit of lead in kids’ jewelry is okay,’ because they look at each case in isolation,” Margulis said. However, since lead is a cumulative toxin—meaning, it builds up in a child’s system with each exposure—this line of thinking is especially dangerous. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission has no standard for lead in kids’ products, they only have a standard for lead paint. And this isn’t an issue of paint, it’s an issue of the material itself,” he affirmed. “The problem is, kids don’t live in a case-by-case world. Kids live in a real world … all those exposures add up.”