Poison pyjamas add to China export scares

The safety problems affecting Chinese goods spread from toys to textiles as New Zealand said it would investigate allegations that imported children's clothes contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

Poison pyjamas add to China export scares
The government ordered the probe after scientists hired by a consumer watchdog programme discovered formaldehyde in Chinese clothes at levels of up to 900 times regarded as safe. Manufacturers sometimes apply formaldehyde to clothes to prevent mildew. It can cause skin rashes, irritation to the eyes and throat and allergic reactions.

The Warehouse, a New Zealand retailer, issued a recall at the weekend for children's pyjamas made in China after two children were burned when their flannelette nightclothes caught fire.

The New Zealand investigation is the first time that the safety of Chinese clothes has been called into question; concerns have been raised over a series of Chinese products in recent months, including toys, food and toothpaste. Last week, Mattel said it was recalling 18.2m toys globally because of hazards such as the use of lead paint.

The latest concerns came as Li Changjiang, head of China's safety watchdog, claimed the product safety scares were "a new trend of trade protectionism", and accused some governments of "demonising China's products".

Hiscomments reflected Beijing's anxiety over growing fears of Chinese exports in the US and Europe, but they were dismissed by Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner.

"The allegation that European companies' action against toxic Chinese goods is politically motivated and shows bias against China is totally false," said Mr Mandelson on Monday. "As trade commissioner, I will not accept claims of toxicity being used as a pretext for protectionism.''

Economists say the safety scandals have so far had limited impact on exports, in part as toys accounted for less than 1 per cent of overall exports last year, while foodstuffs made up 1.4 per cent.

Textiles and clothing made up more than 13 per cent of exports in the first half of the year.

"The textile sector is a much more important part of China's exports so this will be more of a cause for concern for the authorities," said Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics in London. "However, these cases are still a drop in the ocean in terms of China's overall trade."

FT
Last Mod: 21 Ağustos 2007, 12:10
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