Saturday, March 13, 2010

Are We Helping Pollute the Planet When We Buy Goods From China?

By Don Potter

The Government, our schools and many cause-oriented organizations spend a great deal of time warning Americans of the danger of greenhouse warming and the affect our pollutants have on the planet as well as humans. Finding clean and renewable sources of energy is a philosophical priority if not a financial one. Additionally, safe foods and quality products are vital to maintaining a good quality of individual life. Yet we turn a blind eye when it comes to China.

Of course, there are the usual letters and some sound-bite statements directed to China regarding the need for them to be a responsible partner for a better, cleaner world. Yet the country continues to be one of if not the worst abusers of the environment. They ship tainted and dangerous products to the United States and receive little more than a slap on the wrist for not meeting our quality and safety standards. These products are often made in unsanitary, carbon producing plants using questionable ingredients with less than satisfactory quality control.

While China has actively decided to pursue development of "green" technology, it continues to build new coal-fired power plants. While these plants produce fewer emissions than in the past, China still uses more coal than the US, Europe and Japan combined. True, they are building nuclear plants near big cities, not so much out of concern for the environment but for cost saving purposes, since the coal mines are a long distance from these population centers. So, if we buy cheap Chinese products, aren't we contributing to further pollution?

In addition to environmental concerns, Americans are faced with the fact that they cannot be trusted to produce safe products. Remember the infant formula, which was watered down and then melamine was added to increase the protein level in order save money. This particular episode sent thousand of Chinese babies to hospitals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly investigated the matter while assuring Americans there was no threat of a problem in this country.

"Sadly," Consumer Reports stated, "This is just the most recent egregious example of the unscrupulous business practices that are pervasive in many Chinese factories. In case after case, adulteration of ingredients, components, or other materials has been done secretly at factories as a way of cutting costs. The result has been products delivered to the marketplace - here and abroad - that have sickened or injured consumers."

The list continues to grow. Pet food that sickened or killed our domestic animals. Poison ingredients in toothpaste. Cosmetics that cause allergies. Contaminated seafood products. Toys and games containing lead and dangerous chemicals.

Read the label before buying topical or ingestible products as well anything little children might put in their mouths. If there's a choice, pick the one made in the USA. Besides the safety factor, you might be putting a fellow American to work.

Don Potter, a Philadelphia native, was born in 1936 and is a 50 year veteran of the advertising agency business. Now living in Los Angeles, he has written two novels in retirement, frequently writes on marketing issues, and has a blog dedicated to pre-boomers (those born between 1930 and 1945).

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