China's Tainted Product Exports Continue: Cadmium and Kids' Jewelry

From counterfeit or exploding consumer products, to melamine, lead, mercury, stinky drywall or the fake fireworks at the Olympic opening ceremonies, one of China's biggest exports for unsuspecting buyers continues to be fraudulent or otherwise tainted products. The latest cause for concern is kids' jewelry which, according to the AP, may contain "high levels of the toxic metal cadmium." This time around, the Feds are taking a proactive stance to keep dangerous products off American shelves, as well as a reactive and punitive stance towards the importers. Accordingly, "inspectors at 10 of the nation's largest ports are now screening children's jewelry -- typically imported from China -- for cadmium ... through the use of special guns that shoot X-rays into jewelry to estimate how much cadmium each item might contain."

All of this is well and good, but what of the current recall? The tainted jewelry impacts about "19,000 charm bracelet sets" sold at retailer Claire's in the US and Europe. The levels of cadmium are alarming. According to the AP dispatch, "testing done for the AP revealed that bracelets sold at Claire's contained up to 91 percent cadmium by weight, and shed alarming amounts during a test that examined how much cadmium children might be exposed to." If you're curious, Cadmium is nasty stuff, especially for kids: "Medical research shows that cadmium in high levels is a known carcinogen and can harm kidneys and bones."

This latest example of Chinese suppliers cutting corners to save a buck and poisoning the world in the process points to a continued disturbing trend: despite world pressure to improve product safety standards and traceability, China will only do what it has to. Sure, they'll adhere to their own RoHS standards in electronics and high-tech, but when it comes to other areas that don't get as much attention or concern, suppliers will continue to endanger lives if it helps their top and bottom line. For a country that can make it rain to disperse pollution during world events held within its borders, you'd think they could better police the practices of their suppliers (especially considering that the vast majority of manufacturing operations have ties to the government, either directly or through the bribes owners must make to local officials).

- Jason Busch

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