11/10/2007, 00.00
CHINA – UNITED STATES
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Children in coma, Beijing suspends toxic toy exports

Numerous children are gravely ill after having swallowed toxic substances from “made in China” toys, some are in coma. The toys have been withdrawn from markets in many countries and in Hong Kong. Meanwhile criticism of Disney increases for its exploitation of workers in China’s toy industry.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China has halted the exportation of Bindeez and Aqua Dots which are said to contain toxic substances, after the United States withdrew over 4.2 million confections from the market and Australia over 1 million.  Meanwhile Walt Disney is being accused of exploiting workers in China.

State agency Xinhua has announced an official inquest into the case, but so far there has been no comment from controlling authorities.  Il Aqua Dots, a toy that features small beads that bond with water, contain the chemical 1,4-butanediol, an industrial solvent that the body converts to gamma-hydroxy butyrate, commonly known as the date-rape drug, which causes drowsiness dizziness and can lead to coma.  At least 9 small children in the United States, 4 is Australia and 2 in New Zealand fell ill after playing with the toy: some are now hospitalised in coma.  Even Hong Kong’s government withdrew the game yesterday after having found the presence of the solvent.

China produces over 80% of all toys sold in the United States.

Meanwhile Alannah Goss, Walt Disney Co. Hong Kong-based Asia spokeswoman, says “auditors are currently in the factory investigating claims brought to our attention” regarding labour abuse in China. The company was named in a report by New York-based advocacy group China Labour Watch as companies whose demands for lower prices from suppliers contribute to poor product quality and labour abuse. CLW investigations found that workers in Guangdong factories that did business with Disney were working as long as 15 hours a day while being paid below the minimum wages allowed.

Jeffrey Cronthall, editor of the well-known China Labour Bulletin, adds that the problem is also “living workers the possibility to protect their rights” because in China truly democratic unions are a rarity. (PB)

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