business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times that asks a question that a lot of people probably never considered:

“What has happened to the millions of toys, lunchboxes and other products recalled recently because they contain hazardous levels of lead or lead paint?”

The answer is unsettling. “No one is exactly sure,” writes the Times. “And that worries some consumer activists, environmentalists and others who caution about weak oversight of the disposal process. Lead-laced products, they warn, could contaminate landfills or groundwater. Even worse, they say, is that some recalled toys and other goods get resold -- both in the U.S. and abroad.”

And it isn’t just that there are concerns about people not disposing of these lead-laced products the right way. The real problem is that there apparently is no right way – or at least not one universally accepted method of disposing of possibly toxic products.

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency that oversees the recall of lead-tainted and other dangerous items, asks consumers to return the products to the company recalling them,” the Times reports. “Those companies are then bound by state laws regarding disposal of hazardous materials, an agency spokeswoman said.”

But in California, for example, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which oversees issues like these, has no idea what the manufacturers may be doing with the returned items. And companies like Mattel say they are “still evaluating” their options.

If this isn’t bad enough, consider this paragraph:

“According to experts, only a fraction of consumers actually return recalled products to manufacturers -- mostly big-ticket items that would be expensive to replace. Mattel, which has issued dozens of recalls of toys in recent years, said that, historically, about 6% of recalled products are returned.”
KC's View:
Perfect. Just perfect.

This seemed like a good companion piece to run in concert with Sansolo Speaks, above, which is about unintended consequences. In matters like these, you have to be right, you have to be fast, and you have to consider the gamut of implications.