Archive for the ‘lead paint’ Category

China Announces Food Safety Rules

November 20, 2008

The Chinese government, struggling to contain the fallout from a scandal over contaminated milk and eggs, announced a wide range of food safety measures on Thursday aimed at reining in abuses in the dairy industry.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued several new rules it says will govern all aspects of the industry, from cow breeding and animal feed to the packaging and sales of milk.

By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times

An official prepared to destroy confiscated milk powder in Shanghai last week. Photo: Reuters

Since September, when Chinese-made milk powder was found to be adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine, at least four infants who drank the formula have died and more than 50,000 children have fallen ill. On Thursday, China’s Health Ministry said that more than 1,000 infants were still hospitalized with kidney damage, Reuters reported. The scandal has led to recalls of milk products across the world, embarrassed the Chinese government and devastated domestic dairy farmers and milk producers.

“The crisis has put China’s diary industry in peril and exposed major problems existing in the quality control and supervision of the industry,” said an official with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, according to a posting on the agency’s Web site.

In announcing the new measures, the government said it would issue new laws and standards by next October, and that by 2011, “the goal is to have well-bred cows and a mass-producing dairy industry,” according to Xinhua, the official news agency. The government said it would also provide loans and grants to dairy farmers and milk producers struggling to survive the crisis.

This is not the first time regulators have pledged to clean up the nation’s fast-growing agriculture industry. A similar cry erupted early last year when it was discovered that melamine-tainted pet food ingredients from China had sickened thousands of cats and dogs in the United States. At that time, the government promptly banned melamine as an animal feed additive and declared the problem under control.

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China to overhaul battered dairy industry

November 20, 2008

China announced a complete overhaul of its dairy industry Thursday to improve safety at every step — from cow breeding to milk sales — saying its worst food quality scandal in years had revealed “major problems” in quality control.

Changes will be made within the next year in production, purchasing, processing and sales, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

By TINI TRAN, Associated Press Writer

Li Xiaoyan near her mother Li Aiqing at their home in Liti village, ... 
Li Xiaoyan near her mother Li Aiqing at their home in Liti village, near Runan, central China’s Henan province, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. Li Xiaoyan’s nine month old twin sister, Li Xiaokai who has been drinking a brand of milk formula linked to the melamine scandal died from kidney failure.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

“The crisis has put China’s dairy industry in peril and exposed major problems existing in the quality control and supervision of the industry,” it quoted an official at China’s top economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, as saying.

Milk and milk products tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical, have been blamed in the deaths of at least three infants and have sickened more than 50,000 others. The government has detained dozens of people in the scandal, but there have been no court cases so far.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, said the Health Ministry will issue new quality and safety standards for dairy products, while the Agriculture Ministry will draft inspection standards for melamine and other toxins in animal feed. The flow and delivery of dairy products will also be tracked, it said in a statement.

The breadth and speed of the proposed changes echo actions taken last year, when a slew of Chinese exports — from toothpaste to toys — were found to contain high levels of potentially deadly chemicals.

After an initial unwillingness to acknowledge problems, authorities threw themselves into a campaign to protect export industries and bolster the country’s reputation as the world’s manufacturing base.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open three offices in China this week

November 17, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open three offices in China this week in an unprecedented effort to improve the safety of exports headed to America amid recurring product safety scares.

The new FDA offices, which are the first outside of the United States, will increase effectiveness in protecting for American and Chinese consumers, according to the office of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Leavitt and the agency’s Food and Drug Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach will open the first office in Beijing on Wednesday, followed by one in Guangzhou and another in Shanghai.

Associated Press

“Establishing a permanent FDA presence in China will greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness of our regulatory cooperation and our efforts to protect consumers in both countries,” Leavitt’s office said in a statement last week.

Safety issues involving the blood thinner heparin, food and other products imported from China has put pressure on the FDA to boost its international presence. In the heparin case, a Chinese-made component contained a contaminant linked to as many as 81 deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions.

In October, cribs made in China were included in a recall of 1.6 million cribs issued by New York-based Delta Enterprises.

Last year, U.S.-based Mattel Inc. recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide. Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny, detachable magnets that might be swallowed.

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China is the World’s E-Waste Dumping Ground

January 5, 2008

By Terry J. Allen
In These Times
January 5, 2008

The highway of poisoned products that runs from China to the United States is not a one-way street. America ships China up to 80 percent of U.S. electronic waste — discarded computers, cell phones, TVs, etc. Last year alone, the United States exported enough e-waste to cover a football field and rise a mile into the sky.

So while the media ride their new lead-painted hobbyhorse — the danger of Chinese wares — spare a thought for Chinese workers dying to dispose of millions of tons of our toxic crap.

Most of the junk ends up in the small port city of Guiyu, a one-industry town four hours from Hong Kong that reeks of acid fumes and burning plastic. Its narrow streets are lined with 5,500 small-scale scavenger enterprises euphemistically called “recyclers.” They employ 80 percent of the town’s families — more than 30,000 people — who recover copper, gold and other valuable materials from 15 million tons of e-waste.

Unmasked and ungloved, Guiyu’s workers dip motherboards into acid baths, shred and grind plastic casings from monitors, and grill components over open coal fires. They expose themselves to brain-damaging, lung-burning, carcinogenic, birth-defect- inducing toxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium and bromated flame retardants (the subject of last month’s column), as well as to dioxin at levels up to 56 times World Health Organization standards. Some 82 percent of children under 6 around Guiyu have lead poisoning.

While workers reap $1 to $3 a day and an early death, the “recycling” industry — in both the United States and China — harvests substantial profits. U.S. exporters not only avoid the cost of environmentally sound disposal at home, but they also turn a buck from selling the waste abroad. After disassembly, one ton of computer scrap yields more gold than 17 tons of gold ore, and circuit boards can be 40 times richer in copper than copper ore. In Guiyu alone, workers extract 5 tons of gold, 1 ton of silver and an estimated $150 million a year.

Many U.S. exporters pose as recyclers rather than dumpers. But a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that “it is difficult to verify that exported used electronics are actually destined for reuse, or that they are ultimately managed responsibly once they leave U.S. shores.”

This dumping of toxic waste by developed countries onto developing ones is illegal under the Basel Convention, a 1992 international treaty that was ratified by every industrialized nation — except the United States.

Unhindered by international law and unmonitored by Washington, U.S. brokers simply label e-waste “recyclable” and ship it somewhere with lax environmental laws, corrupt officials and desperately poor workers. China has all three. And a packing case with a 100-dollar bill taped to it slips as easily as an eel through Guiyu’s ports.

E-waste fills a neat niche in the U.S.-China trade. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap Chinese goods has created a trade deficit that topped $233 billion last year. While e-waste does little to redress the financial disparity, it helps ensure that the container vessels carrying merchandise to Wal-Mart’s shelves do not return empty to China.

In the 19th century, England faced a similarly massive deficit with China until a different kind of junk — opium — allowed it to complete the lucrative England-India-China trade triangle.

Britain, after destroying India’s indigenous textile industry and impoverishing local weavers, flooded its colony with English textiles carried on English ships. The British East India Company fleet then traveled to China to buy tea, silk and other commodities to sate Europe’s appetites for “exotic” luxuries. But since there was little the Chinese wanted from either India or Europe, the ships traveled light and profitless on the India-China side of the triangle. That is, until England forced Indian peasants to grow opium and, in the process, precipitate mass starvation by diverting cultivable land.

The trade fleet then filled up with opium and pushed it to China through the port of Canton. Since opium was illegal in China, Britain started a war in 1839 to force Peking to accept the drug. By 1905, more than a quarter of China’s male population was addicted.

Now it is Americans who are addicted to Chinese junk. And our own government policies and corporations are the ones stoking the jones. Slick marketing and consumer fetishism push Americans to buy the latest, lightest, biggest, smallest, fastest, trendiest items. And even if you are not hooked on the latest gadgets, repairs or upgrades are impractical. The half billion computers we trashed in the last decade have to go somewhere, and shipping them to China and other poor nations is a win-win solution for Chinese and U.S. industry.

As for the populations of both countries, we can feast on the irony that the same ships that carry toxic toys and food ingredients to Americans return bearing deadly e-waste for the Chinese.

Terry J. Allen is a senior editor of In These Times. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, New Scientist and other publications.

More China Made Products Recalled as Toxic

November 21, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued another batch of lead paint-related recalls of Chinese-made children’s products on Wednesday, including metal jewelry sold by discount retailers Family Dollar Stores and Big Lots Inc, and school supplies.

About 205,000 units of recalled jewelry were sold at Family Dollar stores from January 2003 through August 2007 under the Rachel Rose and Distinctly Basics brands, CPSC said in a statement.

Also recalled were about 43,000 Sparkle City charm bracelets and tack pin sets sold at Big Lots stores from August 2005 through April 2007 for about $1, the agency said.

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China’s Effort to Resolve Food, Product Safety is Questionable

November 2, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 2, 2007

As November dawned, China said it needed to tackle the year-long food and product safety scandals as it tackled the SARS outbreak more than four years ago. That reponse, for as many as nine months, was a total disaster.

SARS is a deadly viral infection know by its full name as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Reuters filed this report on November 2, 2007, from China:

“Vice Premier Wu Yi — who is leading China’s effort to stamp out tainted, toxic and dangerous food and exports after a damaging torrent of scares — said lack of information at the village level and poor enforcement of laws were big challenges.”

She was quoted as saying:

“Looking back at the last two months of work, it can be said that progress has not been insignificant, results have been obvious — and this has not come easily.  But there are still many weak links and our task is increasingly hard.”

“Everywhere must engage in propaganda, just like that promoting patriotism, public health and family planning, pushing safety knowledge on farm product quality and safety on a grand scale.”

“Agricultural departments must arrange special budgets, as during the SARS outbreak, to print propaganda posters and illustrated booklets, putting them into the hands of every farmer, and sending them to every rural school,” she added.

Well, we ask China: “Do you think we are asleep, stupid or uncaring?”

China’s reaction to the SARS outbreak was a DISASTER.

The below essay is republished here as a reminder and a cautionary alert:

China’s Ham-Handed SARS Response
Omen in the Future of Disease Control?
By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
First Published
Sunday, May 4, 2003. Page B5

The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention now says the deadly viral infection Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is under control and abating in Singapore, Vietnam, and Toronto.

China continues to experience an increase in SARS cases.

The source of the outbreak, or at least the first place it was diagnosed: Guangdong Province, China. Guangdong is the province surrounding Hong Kong. It is the most densely packed province in China and people there tend to live right on top of their farm animals.

In Hong Kong, for example, when you go to buy a chicken, a duck, or a pig for the family dinner, you get a live animal and it comes from a cage filled with 20 or 30 other animals. You can imagine the sanitation in this situation leaves a lot to be desired.

Some doctors are now thinking the first signs of SARS developed in the farm animals and then spread to the people. Ducks are known to routinely produce strange new viral infections that don’t harm the ducks but spread with devastating affect to chickens and pigs.

The virus then mutates and spreads to humans.

China has a population of about 1.3-1.4 billion people. That’s about 22% of the world’s population.

The population of the U.S. is between 300-350 Million.

Some doctors are saying the mortality rate for SARS is 5-6%. If that is true you could have 15-21 million human deaths in America, worst case – if the disease spread out of control and prevention measures failed.

That is why we all have to be aware.

Causing fear and anxiety is not the reason we mention these numbers. The point is: SARS may be the tip of a new communicable disease iceberg in the twenty-first century. As the world becomes more crowded and mobile, our ability to quarantine a disease like SARS early enough to prevent widespread outbreaks is decreasing.

China is a particularly dangerous nation when envisioning the future of viral infections. It seems as if the Chinese were very slow to react once people started to get sick and die of SARS. It might have taken the Chinese government two months to even admit that there was a problem.

The disease spread to Beijing and Shanghai. Government officials basically fired the mayor of Beijing and his health minister for their apparent cover-up of the extent and importance of the disease.

In Chagugang town, up to 2000 villagers torched a school earmarked as a SARS quarantine center. The villagers didn’t want the SARS infected in their neighborhood.

We also learned that China lacks sufficient medications, medical staff and hospital facilities to properly service their own population.

The World Health Organization estimated that only about 4% of China’s medical professions were prepared for a disease like SARS.

SARS deaths are still on the rise in China even though they have stabilized or fallen in Singapore, Vietnam and elsewhere.

China has not had a methodical, rigid, disciplined approach to solving this problem. China produced lots of furious activity but much of it ineffective and only for show.

Big headlines boasted that all movie theaters, internet café’s, etc. were closed. But if you really wanted to look around and find an internet café open for business you could. As you enter, they wash your hands with disinfectant and give you a face mask. These are questionable prevention techniques at best.

Isolation by quarantine has proven to be the most effective prevention and control method.

My colleague in China e-mailed me from an internet café in Beijing right after every newspaper there claimed that the cafes were closed. Once you get out of Beijing – and the further you get from Beijing – the interest in SARS avoidance and precautions remains low if it exists at all.

Another problem is at play here. People who think they are sick, people who think they could have SARS in China, are reluctant to turn themselves in. They fear the government more than the disease.

My colleague in China started a trip from down near Hong Kong at the beginning of April, and traveled through Beijing and into northern China (Jilin Province). The only place SARS awareness existed was in Beijing. There was virtually no SARS awareness or prevention along this 1,300 mile trek through China except in Beijing. And the Beijing SARS prevention effort was almost entirely for show, aimed at news and cameramen, with little measurable or proven effectiveness.

The Chinese government appreciates media manipulation and SARS caused the “spin machine” to go into overdrive.

So before SARS gets too far or we discover a new deadly disease, here are a few things we need to remember about China in the twenty-first century:

*There is no effective, centrally managed organization like the Centers for Disease Control in China.

*The Chinese government has a track record of covering up bad news like the outbreak of an infectious disease.

*China is a densely populated nation with cultural and sanitation standards and methods more than a century behind that of the western world.

*Many citizens of China fear their oppressive government and have a tendency to keep problems to themselves.

*China tends to “fake” efficiency and effectiveness in a lame attempt to manipulate the media.

Before the outbreak of the next vicious, deadly disease, we need to discuss these problems with China.

China boycott means no action figures, cheap trikes

October 22, 2007

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Instead of presents, Mary Naden gives her teenaged children skateboard lessons or takes them on outings — an effort, she says, to avoid buying goods made in China.

“I like my cheap goods, too, but there’s something that just sticks in my craw,” said Naden, 49, who lives in suburban Washington and works as a vocal coach.

In the wake of recalls of millions of toys with lead paint and other dangers, seafood tainted with chemical residues and toothpaste containing an antifreeze chemical, some U.S. consumers have become wary of Chinese goods.

A total of 75.8 percent of almost 1,000 people surveyed said they would not buy Chinese-made toys, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on October 17.

China seizes on Mattel apology to emphasize safety

September 24, 2007

BEIJING (Reuters) – China highlighted Mattel‘s apology over its recall of huge numbers of toys on Monday to press Beijing‘s claim that its exports are generally safe and foreign politicians and media have unfairly hyped quality scares.

Before those recalls, a spate of complaints involving unsafe Chinese products ranging from other toys and seafood to toothpaste that entered EU and U.S. markets prompted calls on both sides of the Atlantic for stricter scrutiny of made-in-China goods.

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Lead Paint Danger in China Toys Worse Than First Thought

China Claiming “Major Advances” in U.S. Relationship

September 20, 2007

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
September 20, 2007

On Saturday, September 15, the official communist news agencies in China were buzzing with news of a new “White Paper” from China’s government stating that China and the U.S. were having a wonderful year of comity and togetherness.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry, the relationship between China and the United States has been stable in the past year, with some “major” advances.

The next day, two newspaper items caught the eye.

The first headline is rather self explanatory: “China recalls leukemia drugs in safety scare.”

The headline “Quality control urgency” brought readers to a commentary in the Washington Times by Herbert Klein. The essay begins, “Toys, toothpaste and pet foods are only a small part of the U.S.-China trade. But the angry public reaction to the sale of contaminated products demands priority attention from both nations.”

Hardly the stuff of a smoothly sailing international relationship.

The relationship between China and the U.S. is complex and multi-faceted, certainly. But to allow the communist government and their state controlled media to distort the facts unanswered is unconscionable.

China views the world this way, according to an amassed pile of Chinese Foreign Ministry press releases and state controlled media stories during the past year:

–despite several food, toy and other product safety scandals this year, more than 90% of China’s products are safe and China continues to strive for product safety perfection.

–while the West questions China’s intent as it expands and modernizes its military, China only seeks better self defense and no nation should be alarmed.

–critics say China has a pollution problem but China is a developing nation exempt from the Kyoto treaty and other measures and China is working very hard to lesson pollution everywhere.

The facts in all these issues may be debatable. But in the view of many China watchers, international diplomats and international organizations including the United Nations, the counter arguments to China’s Foreign Ministry and state controlled media look like this:

On food and product safety, the central government in Beijing has little control over a vast and far-flung array of farms, factories, entrepreneurs, middlemen and vendors.

According to Les Lothringer, a China expert based in Shanghai who has done business in China for many years, “It is quite impossible for any Chinese official to guarantee anything in China because of the lack of control that the government has and the lack of standards we take for granted in the West.”

On the issue of China’s military build-up, China has embarked on a huge military build-up. But nobody knows how much China is spending on defense, and procurement projects are shrouded in secrecy.

Since late last year, a Chinese ship-attack submarine surfaced within sight of a U.S. aircraft carrier before being detected for the first time in history, China demonstrated an anti-satellite missile capability the first time in history, and China has continued to verbally bully Taiwan.

During this last summer, both Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and a Defense Ministry “White Paper” from Japan voiced concern about China’s defense matters.

In Australia, Mr. Howard said, “The pace and scope of its military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region.”

Japan’s paper on defense said, “There are fears about the lack of transparency concerning China’s military strength. In January this year China used ballistic missile technology to destroy one of its own satellites. There was insufficient explanation from China, sparking concern in Japan and other countries about safety in space as well as the security aspects.”

With regard to pollution, China has the worst pollution of every kind in the world.

“I wouldn’t expect a world record in the marathon in Beijing [the Beijing Olympics, Summer Games 2008],” says Marco Cardinale, a doctor who advises the British Olympic Committee. “The issue isn’t just air quality, but the combination of heat, humidity and bad air.”

Michael Mueller, a German environment ministry official said that the Chinese delegates to a U.N. environmental meeting had been “masters of deception and the art of interpretation.”

”It is a very awkward situation for the country because our greatest achievement is also our biggest burden,” says Wang Jinnan, one of China’s leading environmental researchers. ”There is pressure for change, but many people refuse to accept that we need a new approach so soon.”

China lowered its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by just 1.2 percent last year — against a goal of four percent — while pollution emission levels actually rose by two percent.

And meanwhile, China continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rate of more than one a week.Finally, in another example of Beijing’s lack of effective central control, U.N. inspectors found that factory managers not closely situated near Beijing generally took the attitude of, “We’ll use coal, produce more products and ignore Beijing as long as we continue to increase profits.” Beijing has told the U.N. it can significantly reduce pollution.

These differences between China’s view of itself and the views provided by less biased observers doesn’t even mention the vast gulf between China and international groups like Human Rights Watch on the issue of rampant human rights abuses in China.

In short, China is boasting of its wonderful relationship with the U.S. during this past year including some “major” advances. The U.S. should clearly set the record straight.

Mr. Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to the Washington Times.

Lead Paint Danger in China Toys Worse Than First Thought

September 20, 2007


Lead Paint Danger in Toys Worse Than First Thought Leaders of the agency responsible for protecting consumers from faulty products pleaded Wednesday with Congress to increase their budget and authority in the wake of huge recalls related to lead contamination.The testimony from Consumer Product Safety Commission officials came as El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel Inc., producer of 1.5 million of the 13.2 million toys recalled in the past month, revealed that its tests found that lead levels in paint in recalled toys were as high as 110,000 parts per million, or nearly 200 times higher than the accepted safety ceiling of 600 parts per million.“We are all to blame” for a system that allowed children to be exposed to lead-tainted toys, CPSC Commissioner Thomas H. Moore said in the first of two days of hearings before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. That includes, he said, “those who stood by and quietly acquiesced while the commission was being reduced to a weakened regulator.”Moore thanked lawmakers for rejecting a Bush administration budget proposal that would have required cutting full-time staff by 19 people, and urged Congress to pass legislation to give the agency better tools to protect consumers from product safety hazards.“Our small agency has been ignored by the Congress and the public for way too long,” said the CPSC’s acting chairman, Nancy A. Nord.

The agency was founded in 1973 with a staff of about 800. It currently employs about half that number, and Moore said it has about 15 people, out of a total field investigative staff of fewer than 90, to visit ports of entry to inspect the more than 15,000 product types under its jurisdiction.

The commission banned lead paint on toys and children’s furniture in 1978, but is not authorized under law to regulate lead in a product unless it may cause “substantial personal injury.” When ingested by children, lead can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Nord noted that the recalls, mainly of toys manufactured in China, have had the intended purpose of goading the entire toy industry into changing practices to prevent such violations in the future. It has also inspired the introduction of several bills to increase the authority and budget of the CPSC and better monitor imports from China.

“We must start with the CPSC,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee overseeing consumer protection. “Is the commission capable of preventing these products from entering state commerce?”

Nord and Moore also pointed to an agreement reached with the agency’s Chinese counterpart last week under which China will immediately implement a plan to eliminate the use of lead paint on Chinese manufactured toys exported to the United States.

Mattel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Eckert, in prepared testimony, stressed the safety of the 800 million products the toy maker and its vendors manufacture every year. He also acknowledged that the company’s investigation revealed “that a few vendors, either deliberately or out of carelessness, circumvented our long-established safety standards and procedures.”

“These recent lead recalls have been a personal disappointment to me” and those working at Mattel, he said. “Those events have also called on us to act, and we have.”

But several members of the panel complained that Mattel blocked committee staff members from visiting its plants in China and talking to the Hong Kong executives who oversee those plants. “That’s a poor kind of cooperation to be afforded this committee and it will hardly be helpful in our relationship with the company,” said committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich.

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