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Toys Medicine News Science

Rudolph the Cadmium-Nosed Reindeer 454

Posted by kdawson
from the unregulated-does-not-mean-safe dept.
theodp writes "Barred from using lead in children's jewelry because of its toxicity, some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting the more dangerous heavy metal cadmium in sparkling charm bracelets and shiny pendants being sold throughout the US, an AP investigation shows. Charms from 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' bracelets were measured at between 82 and 91 percent cadmium, and leached so much cadmium that they would have to be specially handled and disposed of under US environmental law if they were waste from manufacturing. Cadmium, a known carcinogen, can hinder brain development in the very young. 'There's nothing positive that you can say about this metal. It's a poison,' said the CDC's Bruce Fowler. On the CDC's priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7. Jewelry industry veterans in China say cadmium has been used in domestic products there for years. Hey, at least it doesn't metabolize into GHB when the little tykes ingest it."
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Rudolph the Cadmium-Nosed Reindeer

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  • REGULATORS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:01PM (#30732676)

    Let's put these things together.... from TFA:

    Cadmium is a known carcinogen. Like lead, it can hinder brain development in the very young, according to recent research.

    and...

    Some of the most troubling test results were for bracelet charms sold at Walmart, at the jewelry chain Claire's and at a dollar store.

    So we've got a substance dangerous to kids in just the kind of jewelry they can afford on their allowance.

    This stuff is absolutely something that needs regulation to control it. Sometimes "letting the market decide" just rolls off the bowling lane and into the gutter. No, knocking down pins in somebody else's lane doesn't count. That's why they put the gutter in.

  • Itai-Itai (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:44PM (#30732992)

    The Japanese have experience with environmental pollution from cadmium mining.

    They call the results itai-itai disease, which is roughly translated into ouch-ouch. Few victims actually die from the disease, they typically commit suicide to get relief from the pain it causes.

  • by TheWizardTim (599546) on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:50PM (#30733030) Journal

    This is the problem with our Trade Agreements. We enforce IP laws to no end, but other issues? Workers rights and safety issues never seem to come up.

    The Libertarian view does not work here. Sure, we can sue Walmart for importing these toys. We can sue the maker, somehow. The problem is that if one kid dies or becomes permanently sick because of these toys, it's too late. We need regulation. We need trade agreements that not only enforce IP, but make sure that the companies are not using methods or materials banned in the US.

    The same applies to any company operating in the US. Self regulation only goes so far. We had the Sego mine disaster in 2006. Who was the head of US mine safety? A mine owner. So in Europe when the same thing happened, the workers had a bunker with food, water and air to retreat too. To save money, the US did not have any regulations requiring bunkers. The workers here died.

  • by toby (759) * on Monday January 11, 2010 @10:50PM (#30733034) Homepage Journal

    Jewelry industry veterans in China say cadmium has been used in domestic products there for years.

    And we know the Chinese don't give a damn about poisoning [independent.co.uk] their [independent.co.uk] backyard [genetologi...derzoek.nl] or themselves. [independent.co.uk]

    We'll all pay for this unforgivable, mindless destruction eventually.

  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:13PM (#30733220) Homepage
    I was tempted to just mod you up, but I want to reiterate your point. Our debt is the greatest national security issue we face. Take for example how the US, as a creditor to Great Britain after WWII, forced GB to follow the will of the US:

    The United States also put financial pressure on Great Britain to end the invasion. Eisenhower in fact ordered his Secretary of the Treasury, George M. Humphrey to prepare to sell part of the US Government's Sterling Bond holdings. ...

    Britain's then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harold Macmillan, advised his Prime Minister Anthony Eden that the United States was fully prepared to carry out this threat. He also warned his Prime Minister that Britain's foreign exchange reserves simply could not sustain a devaluation of the pound that would come after the United States' actions; and that within weeks of such a move, the country would be unable to import the food and energy supplies needed simply to sustain the population on the islands.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis [wikipedia.org]

    Why do you think there is nothing serious done about human rights violations or trade unfairness? It is because China could simply end the US economy. Debtors are slaves.

  • by McFortner (881162) on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:18PM (#30733250)
    Wow, you sound like a shill saying that. Get real, the Chinese Communist Central Committee doesn't care as long as they can get our money and get away with it. As soon as we find out, some poor middle management schmuck gets put up against the wall and shot. Remember, Lenin said "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." We sure are making the job easy for them....
  • Re:silver lining (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jameskojiro (705701) on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:24PM (#30733288) Journal

    And Americans will have become overly weakened because we will use medicine to keep people barely alive who have been poisoned by heavy metals.....

  • To Stop This (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randallman (605329) on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:26PM (#30733316)

    Whatever company outsources the labor or imports/markets the dangerous merchandise should be held accountable. So if Barbie comes back with lead paint, Mattel should pay the price.

  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:48PM (#30733432)

    Half the time people cry out for more regulation, there already is regulation in place. The problem is the very entity you want to enact regulations, is inept, certainly fallible

    "Inept" isn't the word I'd use: instead, I'd say the regulators have been captured [wikipedia.org] by powerful industry lobbies. They're certainly fallible too, in the sense that we're all human and all corruptible.

    This debacle does not constitute evidence that regulation doesn't work. On the contrary, it's evidence that our regulatory system has been co-opted by the industry it was meant to regulate, and deep down, that's due to our extreme inequity of wealth in this country distorting our political process.

    End campaign contributions. Institute reasonable top-end incoming taxes, like 90% above $5 million. Break up huge corporations.

    Having done that, our regulatory problems will disappear on their own, because government will again work for the people.

  • Re:Makes nice paints (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Monday January 11, 2010 @11:56PM (#30733484)
    It's very effective corrosion resistance plating as well. Even better when you put on a chromate conversion coating after (also toxic).
    It's not used much in consumer goods though, mostly military stuff (chrome conversion can conveniently turn it olive-drab, too.)

    I believe the main problem with Cd is - it's very similar to Zn. And due to this similarity, your body absorbs it, as zinc, but you are unable to excrete it, and get something like a horrible zinc deficiency? I'm not entirely certain, but I seem to recall something like that.

    Coincidentally, Cd and hex-chrome as both banned in the EU, under RoHS, - Well It would be if these were electronics.
  • Re:Makes nice paints (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:14AM (#30733600)
    I should add - after years, plain cadmium plating oxidizes, and turns to a sort of butternut yellow coloured powder. I think this is when it is most dangerous, because it is very easy to inhale or ingest.

    I see it on occasion on the metalwork of electronic equipment from the 50's and 60's.
  • Solar Cells (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EndoplasmicRidiculus (1181061) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @01:46AM (#30734010)
    Most thin film solar cells are based on cadmium telluride. Cadmium is one of the rarer metals so making children's bracelets out of it seems like a waste as well.
  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:45AM (#30734246)

    You still don't explain why the government would spend the balance of that 6 million better than I would, or indeed why the government would be better run if it had it.

    Good question. It's because the rich spend the money on luxury goods that are inferior (from a utilitarian perspective, because they benefit only a few people) to social benefits (which are very useful to everyone). Furthermore, luxury goods have a lower multiplier effect, which means the money spent on them recirculates less, and causes less economic activity.

    And that's money that's actually "spent". Most of it isn't, and is instead invested, usually in the kind of bubble we've seen lately. That money is written off when these bubble pop, thus making sure the economic value of that money never made it into the real economy. Yes, investment can be a good thing, but when there are too many dollars chasing too few assets, bubbles result, and bubbles always pop. It's like flaring off otherwise-useful natural gas: it's both wasteful and harmful.

    Actual experience of trying out tax rates like that suggests that it is a seriously bad idea - just ask any successful Briton form the 1970s, or any Argentinian farmer today.

    We had tax rates that high in the 1960s and 1970s, yet we didn't suffer. Argentina's economic problems had more to do with a flawed industrial policy, an ossified political structure, and punishing tariffs on imports from other first-world nations.

    Furthermore, there are plenty of success stories. A whole continent full of them, in fact [nytimes.com]:

    Strange to say, however, what everyone knows isn't true. Europe has its economic troubles; who doesn't? But the story you hear all the time -- of a stagnant economy in which high taxes and generous social benefits have undermined incentives, stalling growth and innovation -- bears little resemblance to the surprisingly positive facts. The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:35AM (#30734994) Homepage Journal

    People like you voted for Nader and inflicted Bush the Younger on yourselves, our country, and the world.

    If Al Gore and John Kerry can't beat an ape by a significant margin with the rank and file democrat votes then they didn't deserve the job. It's pretty pathetic to blame the swing voters and the far left for the problems of the world. 59M people voted for Kerry out of 215M possible voters. There were 92M voters who really did throw their vote away by not even showing up. Why don't you attack them instead of the roughly 1.1M who voted outside of the two main parties. Barely half a million for Nader.

    I think I'll blame the Bush catastrophe on the 59M democrats for not picking someone better in their primaries, at least that sort of unreasonableness has some logic to it.

  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gtall (79522) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @05:46AM (#30735034)

    There are two other problems the Chinese face with dumping dollars. The increase in inflationary pressure makes the dollar cheaper and hence U.S. exports more competitive with their Chinese crap. And with those inflated dollars, since Americans won't be earning any more of them than before, Americans won't have as much money to buy the Chinese crap.

    There is also a third problem but not directly related to the dollar, the Chinese economy is addicted to hypergrowth. With hypergrowth comes inefficiencies and graft. If the Chinese economy slows, it runs the risk of imploding as investment heads for the exits. It is a growing problem for them because the rest of the world has Chinese goods coming out their various orifices. The only way to soak them up in the future will be for the Chinese to increase domestic consumption. That's when the Chinese will be forced to use the crap they've been pawning off on the rest of the world. Their legal system won't be able to sort out the mess, the government is already sclerotic and gets the heebie-jeebies when the Falon Gong start doing exercises in the street.

    What will be a problem for the U.S. is when the Chinese get tired of buying U.S. debt. Congress-critters won't be able to kick the can down the road any further and the budget will be forced into a better alignment with revenues. Congress-critters will only make changes when they have no other option. The Obama administration is all hat and no cattle so they will be mere by-standers.

  • by Inda (580031) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @06:54AM (#30735446) Journal
    And the USA, the would leaders in Chinese hatemongering, could take some responsibility. I'm getting really fed up with the way the USA wants everything cheap and cheerful without a thought for anyone else. The hate is borderline racism - call them Chinks and sprinkle some sugar on the top.

    I work for a German company, in the UK. Our partners are mainly Swiss and French. When we commission the Chinese to work for us, we help them. We fly our people over, we explain why we wont let them machine our metal in an asbestos covered factory, we perform QA on every 200th part, we show them COSHH sheets, we help. The Chinese are more than happy to follow our safety procedures. They honestly like the help we give them. And they obviously love the work and the money and we like the quality produce they produce for us.

    Sloppy work is all your fault. Just saying.
  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @08:06AM (#30735886)
    "De facto" means 'in practice', so I think you're looking for 'de jure' meaning 'in law'. Something is something de facto just because of its nature, whereas de jure means that they passed a law making the corporation a legal entity (which is necessary so that they can own property such as buildings, manufacturing equipment, etc). just sayin'.

    but seriously, i'm sick of all this Chinese crap and I'm sick of people buying the cheapest thing even if its not nearly the best, or even "pretty good" just because its the cheapest. I had a conversation one time with Thad McCotter, a Republican member of Congress, and he told me that economic libertarians were responsible for propping up the Communists by allowing free trade with people who use prison labour to reduce their costs. Poisoned childrens' toys are the result of this.
  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @09:13AM (#30736490)

    As an ex-owner of a local business that Walmart bankrupted, I can assure you that nothing "springs up" after they sweep through town. The entrepreneurs? They've been destroyed. Bankruptcy destroyed their credit, and seeing their so-called loyal customers abandon them for 4 cents off each can of coke has opened their eyes. Yes, there will be growth to fill the void (should it ever appear) but it won't happen overnight. It'll take a new generation of suckers to open up their own businesses, not the ones who already got burned hard.

  • Re:Blame Canada! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @09:23AM (#30736618)

    If that country won't take responsibility for the poisons they export to us, why are we dealing with them?

    Because it's cheap.

    Citation needed.

    I know cadmium is very commonly used in plastics because of the bright and weather resistant colors that can be made with it, not because it's cheap.

    You're not using much of any plating metal on cheap charms, so the cost of the material is probably not as significant as the cost of plating it on. You want a metal that's easy to plate, shiny and corrosion resistant, so cadmium fits the bill (in retrospect, shoulda put "non-toxic" in there). What other options might they have used? Chrome might be less toxic, but plating generates hazardous wastes. Perhaps the environment people where the shop is located are more diligent (or more present) than the toy safety people. Silver is benign, but it tarnishes. Zinc doesn't tarnish, but is less shiny. Gold, rhodium, palladium are pricey enough to be getting into significant material cost. The price of indium has gone up since the Chinese stopped separating it from zinc ore. Tin would probably work. Dipping it in mercury would make it nice and shiny, but there's the poisonous thing.

    So how do you pick? I guess you'd find whatever was cheap enough from a material standpoint and compatible with your expertise and equipment. If anyone complains, well, you're not a toxicologist, are you?

  • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @10:04AM (#30737234)

    Which is why you should always buy American!

    Oh wait...we don't make anything anymore.

    The US has a manufacturing sector that produces over $2.6 Trillion [wikipedia.org] annually - larger than any other country on earth including China and larger than the GDP of all but 5 countries [wikipedia.org]. Total imports into the US are just over $2.1 Trillion (16% of those are from China) while US exports are around $1.3 Trillion. (only China and Germany export more)

    But we don't make anything anymore... Right... Never let the facts stand in the way of a good sound bite.

  • by TheWizardTim (599546) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @11:19AM (#30738418) Journal

    Government regulation works, when we want it to work. The problem is that since the 80s we had people in charge of government that hate government. Look at the last administration. We had a horse trader in charge of FIMA. We had a mine owner in charge of mine safety. Today we have a big banker in charge of policing the banks.

    If you are able to source all of your own food, and products you buy, good for you. The rest of have to have some group that checks on companies and products to make sure they are following the rules.

  • Re:REGULATORS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shotgun (30919) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @12:38PM (#30739786)

    No, it's social science. How do you manipulate people to make them demand the change?

    It is actually much more difficult than rocket science. You can't draw out a path to follow using math.

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