Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lead Pencil

We've had the worries of lead-painted toys from China and you may have heard that many Chinese health remedies are equally contaminated. Now its the turn of clothes, with news that cheap clothes made in China have been found to contain high levels of Formaldehyde to protect clothes that have to be shipped great distances against mildew.

Long-term exposure to the chemical in high levels can be harmful, causing problems ranging from minor skin rashes to some types of cancer.

Let's be frank though. Given the way the Chinese treat their own population and pollute their environment, does anyone really believe that in the pursuit of "Golden grease", factory owners are really going to pay too much attention to our European health and safety laws? I rather think not.

Another story caught my eye this week. The BBC warning people not to buy drugs from online internet pharmacies. This is an area I know something about, having chaired the European IP Crime Congress in Brussels in June.

If you buy anything from an online pharmacy - The Canadian outlets are the most popular - then you have a better than 100% chance of receiving fake medicine from an organised Russian, Columbian or even Chinese crime gang.

In Russia, the problem is now so bad that the fakes are better packaged than the real medicines and come with holograms. In Columbian drug factories, the tablet colouring is of such a high lead content, that the pills will probably kill you before the disaeses they are supposed to treat.

So, that Internet Viagra, direct from Pfizers? Forget it unless you simply wish to enjoy the lead-pencil, placebo effect of lead paint.


Anonymous said...

A Chinese friend laughs and jokes about some food products that have a notorious reputation in China and seems to regard the health scares that keep coming to light as 'par for the course'! That said, didn't we have German/Austrian wines being adulterated with anti-freeze a few years back and an EU Olive-oil scanadal that poisoned and killed. Greed and unscrupulous manufacturers make evil combinations any where in the World; sadly its a problem as you point out that is not confined to China.

Doctor Doom said...

A trifle unfair towards China, Simon.

As another contributor observed in separate commentary, the UK and Europe are hardly squeaky-clean when it comes to doing things on the cheap and neglecting healthy and safety standards.

As for sending tainted goods to Britain... Revenge perhaps for the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century when we stole their tea and forced hard drugs on the Chinese population, at gun-point...

We all seem to take great delight in the mistakes China makes as it flexes its economic muscle, and we are all too willing to point the finger about pollution and other failings on their part.

But the bottom line is, China is pandering to the market’s needs – and regardless of the huge Chinese population, their key market is us, the rich Western nations that provide the hard currency that fuels their incredible growth. If we stopped buying their cheap goods, or were willing to pay more for goods produced to higher standards, with insistence on better work conditions and better pollution controls, then China would be forced to adapt accordingly.

Better to do that now, while we have influence as consumer nations, rather than later.

Once China becomes the dominant super-power, the eclipse of western economic hegemony will be complete.

Let’s hope they don’t deem to treat us then as we treat our Third World neighbours today...

DrMoores said...

History isn't relevant. Interesting yes but the hard facts of the matter are that Europe's economy is burned toast by 2015, regardless of all the puff surroundig the Lisbon Agenda. Almost exactly twelve months ago, I buttonholed President Barroso on the subject when it was being discussed in Lyon at the EIN conference, I guess it will probably re-appear in Warsaw on 19th September but I'm not sure if I'll be going this time.

Anonymous said...

History isn't relevant, Doc? It sure is I am afraid. There is precious little in human affairs that hasn't already been tried out some where at some time and the lessons of history are ignored at our peril! The problem with our Labour Government and the USA in Iraq were spelled out in the 1920s if they had bothered to do some history study. I can remember the absurdity of SAS ops in Gulf War 1, with 'bravo 2 zero'(Mcnab?) finding out that the desert in Iraq in winter can be freezing and that snow can fall? A scandal that our elite soldiers were un-aware of local climate and its history! You knock the lessons of history at your peril.

DrMoores said...

Not history in general but history as in the opium war, a shameful chapter in our past which I don't believe is relevant to the present risk to our own future through the growth in the Chinese economy.

We can all learn valuable lessons from the past as you quite correctly point out and perhaps our own is nearer to Gibbons "Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire" in this case?

Anonymous said...

It is certainly a fact of history that the Chinese executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the head of their Food and Drug Administration last month, for corruption linked with faulty and dangerous medicines.

It’s on BBC news here;


The chap responsible for the lead paint sourced it from a friend’s company, and has already hung himself. Perhaps he wanted to save the administration the trouble.

The latest one to break is melamine contamination in Chinese-sourced dog food. Nice.

The Chinese are striking back. This morning’s FT reports a series of 90 minute documentaries on state television called “Believe in Made in China” shown at peak times. The Chinese have blocked imports of American pork, due to alleged contamination with growth hormone, and are returning, of all things, a batch of US-made pacemakers, alleging they are dangerous!

Ewen Cameron

Anonymous said...

I am not an economist but I understand that China has a great amount of US Dollars and could off-load these and wage an economic war against the US if relations become sour?

Tony Beachcomber said...

Anonn 8:17, China is loaning the US money from its trades surplus to finance the budget defecit racked up by the Bush administration. China cannot aford to let the dollar nosedive as it has so many in its reserves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks tony for that! (8.17)