Are All Products Made in China Inherently Toxic?

Are All Products Made in China Inherently Toxic?
Years of interacting with major manufacturers has lead us to a paradigm shift about products made in China. We’ve come to believe that the problem with product safety really has less to do with where the product is manufactured, and more to do with the company developing and producing the product.

Are All Products Made in China Inherently Toxic?Years of interacting with major manufacturers has lead us to a paradigm shift about products made in China.  We've come to believe that the problem with product safety really has less to do with where the product is manufactured, and more to do with the company developing and producing the product.

The U.S. has fallen asleep at the wheel in regard to our own chemical policies, leaving us to search for clear information on what chemicals are actually harmful and how to avoid them on our own. To make things more difficult, ingredient labeling isn't required for most products so we are forced to spend endless hours trying to extract this information from manufacturers. And to add insult to injury, we're constantly being barraged by recalls – mostly on products made in China.

Avoiding Products Made in China Doesn't Solve the Entire Problem of Safety

Did you know that global production of bisphenol A is estimated to exceed 5.4 million tons by 2015 with the United States ranking in the top five BPA producers in the world? And that global toxic PVC plastic demand is expected to grow by 3.2% annually through 2021, with U.S. PVC producers offsetting low demand at home by considerably increasing their export volume of this toxic plastic to other countries?

The point here is that by focusing on country of origin as the main issue, we miss the bigger problem and our approach to choosing safer products is skewed.

The Center for Environmental Health points to another fact that is often overlooked: toxic product recalls happen with products made in the U.S. too.

Eighty percent of all toys are made in China. Therefore, the majority of toys that we tested are also from China. However, consumers cannot automatically assume that products made in the U.S. do not contain chemicals of concern. Beyond the lead paint restriction, there are no mandatory rules to regulate what can or cannot be used in children's products in the U.S., and no disclosure requirements on toxic chemicals in toys.

Why Do We Recommend Products Made in China?

While it's not our first choice to recommend products made in China, many companies are forced to manufacture in plants outside the U.S. for  two main reasons:

  • The market demands value pricing which is often unattainable when manufacturing in the U.S.
  • Some products require specialized skills that are no longer available in the U.S., such as stainless steel fabrication (as of April 2015, there is still not a single stainless steel water bottle made in the U.S. currently)

The real question is whether the company has made a commitment to ensuring high quality or not.  I mean seriously, do you know how many baby products are made with toxic chemicals on purpose, right here in America?  Take the dangerous synthetic fragrance debacle of this well-known baby shampoo for example.

How We Interview Each Individual Company

We make our decision to recommend a product based on our knowledge of each individual company. Here is an example of the interview process we begin with for each potential manufacturer:

  1. What materials are used to manufacture your product inside and out?
  2. Do you have third-party safety done testing on a regular basis to ensure no chemicals of concern are present in your products?
  3. Where are your products manufactured? If in China, how do you maintain quality production and ensure fair working conditions/wages for employees of the factory?

We work with some amazing companies who are committed to the safety of their products over potential revenue loss.  We choose companies that have proven they're full of integrity by monitoring the production of their products carefully and fully backing the quality and safety of each one.

But of course, this is just our two cents.

We'll always choose USA made products when given the option – assuming they meet our standards for integrity and quality assurance, that is!

*This post was recently updated.

  1. I’m so glad you wrote this because it is all about looking at the safety of individual products. I always choose products made in the USA first when they are safe too. But like you said some products like stainless steel bottles are not made here. Then it becomes about finding companies with high safety standards. All products should be looked at for safety no matter where they are made. I wish the Made in the USA label guaranteed safety but unfortunately it does not. 🙁

  2. So true. Australia, like the US, has let the ball substantially drop on chemical safety. There are areas where I’ll look for Australian made, and especially Australian grown – it depends on the industry as well as the company.

    But Norwex, for instance, has their cloths made in China b/c China is where the skills are. This gave me pause at first, more out of concern for the workers than the cloth quality. But they have their own factory, which meets US standards of OH&S, worker rights & conditions, and is really just another way they are making a difference in the world, so now I see it as a plus, not a minus.

    Thanks for doing some of the research for us though, so we know what companies to rely on 🙂

  3. Here’s my issue with moving things to China, when people say “That’s where the skilled labor is!” WHAT!?!??! That is total B.S.! Are you saying Americans are too stupid to make toys and water bottles?!?!? No, let’s face the TRUTH! You can’t pay an American worker $1 an hour the way you can pay a worker in China or Bangladesh or Vietnam.

    Fifty years ago U.S. corporation “X” had to make $10 million a year and they were able to pay their employees $15 an hour. TODAY U.S. corporation “X” has to make $500 million a year to satisfy its shareholders and pay $100 million to the CEO so they can only afford to pay it’s workers $1 an hour.

    Now where in the world can I find workers who will do horrible work for $1 an hour?

    Oh, and by moving overseas they hardly pay any U.S. taxes………NICE!!!!

    Please don’t make excuses for the U.S. government abandoning its people!

  4. Its getting to the point where I’m starting to make things myself. If I can’t, then maybe I just don’t want it. Another story of asbestos found in children’s play makeup from China, found only because the parent sent it out for testing. customs missed that, as it only inspects 1% of the imports coming in.
    What you do find is scary, but its what we’re not seeing that is truly terrifying.

  5. Does anyone know if the the Swell water bottles made in China, from Starbucks, are made by a company with high integrity regarding their claim for food grade quality stainless steel?

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