05/30/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Cheap but dangerous and unhealthy toys

Children pay a high price for the myth of China’s economic success. Factories in Hebei province make toys using germ-carrying and disease-causing waste material which are in high demand because they are cheap. In Beijing advisory body highlights the difficult situation the children of migrant workers face when they are left to fend for themselves by their city-bound parents.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The myth of China’s economic success has come at a high cost for children. The price includes germ-breeding and disease-causing toys. At the same time in Beijing an advisory body warns that a growing number of children are left to fend for themselves by their migrant parents with an inadequate social safety net to take care of them.

In Rongcheng County and Baigou (Hebei), papers shreds, sand and plastic bags—including containers for instant noodles—were found in unsterilised stuffed animals manufactured in unqualified toy workshops. Here cotton waste is sold at a bargain price of 2.6 yuan per kilo and toys made with it are cheap and in high demand.

According to state-owned television CCTV, these toys have been sold in big cities like Beijing and Shenzhen but also in Henan, Shanxi and Gansu.

Children who come in close contact with them are more likely to develop a rash, diarrhea and pneumonia. Because the manufacturers are unlicensed their products have not been checked by quality and safety inspectors.

Besides the toxic fillings, the body parts such as noses and eyes were fixed only with glue and come off easily. In China alone, more than 400 cases of children choking on stuffed animal parts are reported every year.

According to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, only 23 per cent of non-export toys meet national safety standards.

The Xinhua news agency reported that the sale of toys without proper safety certification will be banned June 1. China is the world’s largest toy exporter.

Meanwhile the mainland's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, has warned of a growing number of rural children being left without proper care by their city-bound parents.

Conference member Xu Yongguang said such children were often forced to live with grandparents or relatives after their parents went to cities in search of jobs.

A comprehensive study of children left behind in rural areas has yet to be carried out but educators estimate about 20 million rural children have been separated from their parents, and that this number will climb dramatically as another 300 million farmers go to the cities in the next 20 years.

In the absence of proper parental care which grandparents and relatives often cannot provide, many these children have run away.

Mr Xu likened the problems facing these rural children to those facing young people from immigrant families in countries such as France, where social unrest has broken out in immigrant communities.

China’s Deputy Education Minister Chen Xiaoya urged local governments to make more resources available to provide better care for these children.

However, some experts believe that it would be sufficient and perhaps less expensive to allow migrants to bring their own children with them and make it easier for them to find decent housing and essential services like schooling and health care, which are still unavailable today to most migrants.

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