OUR lead is better than YOUR lead, nyah nyah!

There has been so much on the internet and elsewhere about just how DREADFUL the situation is in China. We must not, apparently, buy toys made in China because they contain (shudder!) LEAD! Oh deary me. Worse, they are all certainly made by child slaves! COMMUNIST child slaves! Boycott China Now!

People, can we please get a grip? Surely you are not suggesting that all American and European toys and products are superior to all products from China?

Isn't China one of the least likely places to use child labour?

Are we consumers willing to pay the enormous sums of money that we will have to for products made by people who are paid a decent minimum wage?

Are we willing to go without the latest "Dora the Explorer" plastic thing? Won't our little angels be devastated if they have to make up their own game?

Isn't our water and air full of toxins, including lead, anyway?

Isn't the Developed West close behind China in the race for "Most Toxins Pumped Into Atmosphere"?

Maybe this hue and cry is a good thing, in that all manufacturers will have to ensure that their products are made lead-free (good for the factory workers, for sure!) and child-labour free. Hopefully they can prove to us that this is so. A boycott is a good way to bring this about. But we cannot blame it all on the Evil Communists. Before communism, people were starving to death by the thousands in China. With communism has come hope for China where there was none.

"If today China is Communist, it is the Western Powers which forced her into it; and if the peoples of Asia are beginning to believe that nothing can be achieved except by the power of the gun, it is because that was proved by decades of violence. Everyone is conditioned by experience; our future made before we are born. Today the same lesson is being taught to future generations, the lesson that the gun is the sole arbiter in the end, and it is still the West which teaches this lesson."

Han Suyin, "The Crippled Tree", published in 1965.

And guys, contrary to what one hysterical person has written, they are not trying to poison us all. Lead is a useful ingredient in the manufacture of glazes, paints and products. It makes colours brighter and less likely to fade. Lead has been used for thousands of years, but is dangerous to ingest. Manufacturers would rather not use it, but when you are only getting 3 cents per product, ya gotta cut costs somehow. Let us not be so aggrieved.

Maybe the time has come to buy less stuff, and pay more for it. Maybe the time has come (again) for the local craftsman (or woman) to open up his shop, and make toys for kids which mean something. Toys that won't be broken bits of plastic by Boxing Day. But do not assume that these toys will be "safe and approved". You may actually have to look at your kid when he is playing with that cute wooden farm set. Or worse, play with him.