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Story Publication logo October 27, 2007

'Cheap' Imports from China: Who Pays the Real Cost?


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Reporter Loretta Tofani gets inside America's factory, China, where the lack of health and safety...

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Yu Wanlin and his wife in their apartment in Shenzhen. Mr. Yu lost part of his index finger while making couches for America, a result of using primitive equipment while sawing. Image by Loretta Tofani. China, 2007.

Aired Friday October 26, 2007

Recalls of toys and other products have American consumers worried about imports from China. What about the workers who make them? We hear how constant exposure to toxic chemicals wreaks havoc with health and safety. Who's paying the real cost of "cheap" merchandise? Would Congressional action do any good? Also, Iran responds to new economic sanctions, and the UN's latest Global Environment Outlook says the human population is outrunning the Earth's ability to sustain it.

Workers conduct quality-control checks on tires at the Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company factory, 25 July 2007. Foreign Tire Sales, an importer in the US, has been hit by a lawsuit over a fatal accident and has filed an $80 million suit against the company and called for a recall of 450,000 of its tires. The firm has denied there are any problems and China's top quality-control agency also claimed that its own tests have vindicated the company.

Are Chinese Workers Paying the Price for Cheap Goods?

Some 21 million toys made in China and imported by the United States have been recalled because of lead paint or other dangerous defects. With the holidays approaching, that has Americans worried and angry about possible health affects on their children. Yet while trying to improve its 21st Century standing by sending men to the moon, China's workers are living and dying in 19th Century conditions. That's according to journalistic investigations and testimony to Congress, which is looking at a proposal to ban imports from overseas "sweatshops," where Chinese workers are exposed all day, every day to Benzene, Lead, Cadmium, Toluene, Nickel and Mercury. We hear about workers exposed to a witches' brew of cancer-causing chemicals 84 hours a week for 53¢ an hour. Already worried about product safety, will US consumers pay more for the safety of human beings 5000 miles away?

Warren Olney

Loretta Tofani: veteran journalist
Ted Fishman: former floor trader, Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Robert Kapp: former President, US-China Business Council
Charles Kernaghan: Executive Director, National Labor Committee

Produced by:
Katie Cooper,
Karen Radziner,
Dan Konecky





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