China, children and lead

The US-based international ngo Human Rights Watch has published a report which claims that significant numbers of children in four provinces of China are being poisoned by industrial emissions of lead. To some extent it is not really a surprise that environmental and public health standards, as well as enforcement, in what is still, to a considerable extent, a developing country do not meet the standards of OECD countries. What is more troubling is the Human Rights Watch claim that Chinese authorities are denying people access to testing and treatment for lead poisoning and will not address the ongoing harmful emissions.

The HRW report suggests activities that are inconsistent with the stated objectives of the government of China. Gallondaily suspects that these inconsistencies arise not because the government of China does not want to address these problems but because local officials have neither the expertise or the economic resources to follow through. Factories processing and using lead are important to the local economy in many communities and dealing with pollution problems while maintaining jobs is often a challenge even in more developed countries.

Noticeably absent from the HRW report is an analysis of the end uses of the production from the pollution factories. North American and European brandowners can expect that the HRW report will find its way into documentaries and articles that further sour consumer attitudes toward products from China, particularly those that contain lead or other heavy metals. Gallondaily recommends that brandowners take steps as soon as possible to ensure that their supply chain is free from materials produced in plants that are harming the health of Chinese kids.

The Human Rights Watch report is available at http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2011/06/15/my-children-have-been-poisoned-0

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