Dangerous and Defective Imported Products

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Dangerous and Defective Imported Products 

Lead Tainted Children’s Charm Bracelets
Four year old Jarnell Brown died on February 22, 2006 after swallowing a lead tainted charm bracelet manufactured in China.  The silver-colored bracelets were given away as promotional items with the purchase of children’s shoes from May 2004 until March 2006.  Jarnell’s autopsy results revealed that the charm was 99 percent lead – 98.4 percent over the 0.06 percent lead limit specified in CPSC enforcement guidelines for children’s jewelry.  Nearly one month after Jarnell’s death, Reebok International recalled 300,000 lead tainted charm bracelets.

Dangerous Magnetic Polly Pocket Toys
In February 2006, attorney Gordon Tabor alerted Mattel that his 7-year-old client had to undergo emergency surgery after swallowing magnets from a Polly Pocket toy.  The magnets connected inside her intestines, creating a deadly obstruction.  It took Mattel a year and a half to alert parents and issue of recall of 18.2 million Polly Pocket, Doggie Day Care, Batman, Barbie, and One Piece toys containing magnets that can connect across intestines and “rip through a child’s bowels like a gunshot.”  Before finally recalling these toys in August of 2007, Mattel executives met numerous times to discuss the toys in meetings that revealed graphic evidence of magnets ripping up children’s intestines, injuring dozens.

Lead Paint Coated Mattel Toys
In August of 2007, Mattel recalled 1.5 million Fisher-Price toys and 436,000 die-cast “Sarge” jeeps that were covered in lead paint from suppliers in China.  The Chinese Lee Der Industrial Company used lead paint on children’s favorites like Fisher-Price Elmo, Big Bird, Dora, and Diego figures.  Lee Der’s Chinese owner committed suicide when Mattel revealed the name of his factory.  

Toothpaste and Cough Syrup Containing diethylene glycol
By October 2007, at least 138 deaths were confirmed as a result of diethylene glycol produced in China and exported as a harmless syrup glycerine.  Earlier in 2006, Panamanian government officials had unknowingly mixed this industrial solvent and antifreeze ingredient into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine. The Chinese company that peddled the “glycerine” was not even certified to sell pharmaceutical ingredients, and sold the poison under a false label.

In May of 2007, diethylene glycol was again found in imported Chinese toothpaste sold in 34 different countries, including the United States.  Federal health officials found the poisonous toothpaste in Miami, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico.  In addition to individual consumer use, United States officials also gave the toothpaste to prisoners, the mentally disabled, and troubled youths.  Although there are no reports of anyone being harmed in the United States, Canadian lab tests uncovered diethylene glycol concentrations of 14 percent in Chinese toothpaste, twice the level of poison detected in the deadly Panamanian cough syrup.

Melamine Laced Pet Food
The FDA received reports of more than 4,000 cat and dog deaths as a result of eating pet food that may have been laced with the chemical melamine.  Since March 16, 2007, 60 million packages of pet food containing melamine have been recalled.  The tainted wheat gluten was traced back to two Chinese factories working for a single pet food maker, Menu Foods.  American regulators suspect that Chinese feed producers mixed the industrial chemical into feed to artificially inflate the level of protein necessary to meet pet food requirements.

Vet Drugs in Imported SeafoodEven though the FDA barely inspects 1 percent of all seafood imports, 69 percent of Chinese seafood imports were rejected in April 2007.  Very few drugs are allowed for use in domestic fish farming, but drugs like flouroquinolones, ciprofloxacin, and enrofloxacin are routinely used in Asian fish farms.  These drug residues may encourage the development of drug resistant bacteria, and could induce life threatening allergic reactions. Between January and April of 2007, the FDA refused 78 Chinese seafood shipments for some containing some combination of these veterinary drugs.  Refusal rates for Chinese shrimp and catfish shipments during this time far surpassed the number of refused shipments in all of 2006. 

Defective Tires
In June of 2007, New Jersey tire importer Foreign Tire Service, Inc. (FTS) notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that up to 450,000 tires imported from a Chinese manufacturer (Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., Ltd.) may be defective. According to FTS, these tires were supposed to contain a “gum” strip that prevents the belts from separating during use, but, at some point, the manufacturer omitted the gum strip from the product’s design without disclosing this fact to FTS. The tires are suspected of causing two accidents, one of which resulted in two fatalities.

Contaminated Honey
Almost 70 percent of honey consumed in the United States is imported from China.  In 2002, the United States Customs Service found bulk imports of Chinese honey contaminated with low levels of chloramphenical (CAP), a potentially harmful antibiotic and unapproved food additive.  This antibiotic is usually used to treat only life-threatening infections in humans when other alternatives are not available, and causes a life-threatening side effect – idiosyncratic aplastic anemia – in a small number of people.  More than 50 containers of bulk Chinese honey were detained at U.S. ports.  According to Senator Kent Conrad, of North Dakota, “China also has a long track record of importing adulterated honey.”

Structurally Deficient Steel Piping
China is now the second largest supplier of steel tubing, with levels of imported specialized structural pipe and tubing steel from China soaring to 102,000 metric tons in the first half of 2007 alone.  However, a spokesperson from Vest, Inc., a domestic manufacturer of tubing testified that after purchasing significant quantities of Chinese tubing from independent steel service centers, as high as 50% of tubing from some Chinese manufacturers did not meet the required American Society for Testing and Materials strength standards.[1]  Inferior high-strength steel could cause catastrophic building, pipeline, and transportation failures.


[1] Statement of Chris Knox, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Vest, Inc., Before the Subcommittees on Oversight and Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, Joint Hearing on Import Safety, Thursday, October 4, 2007.

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