08/22/2007, 00.00
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Cancer-causing textiles and re-used chopsticks

Blankets containing formaldehyde levels 900 times above accepted levels are found Australia and New Zealand. The chemical compound can cause allergies and is carcinogenic. All made-in-China textile products, which represent 13 per cent of the country’s total exports, will be tested. In Beijing a factory is found selling re-used non-sterilised chopsticks.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In the latest of a string of made-in-China food and product safety scares, Chinese-made blankets sold across Australia and New Zealand were found to contain high levels of formaldehyde, a human carcinogen, this according to their distributor. In Beijing a factory recycled used chopsticks and sold them without sterilising them first.

Official sources in China revealed that a Beijing chopstick factory sold about 100,000  non-sterilised recycled bamboo chopsticks per day for 0.04 yuan a pair making an average of about 1,000 yuan (0) a day. Officials who raided the factory seized about half a million pairs.

The voluntary recall by an Australian-based distributor of Chinese-made clothes came two days after the New Zealand government launched an urgent investigation after scientists found dangerous levels of formaldehyde in woollen and cotton clothes made in China.

Laboratory tests showed some clothes contained levels up to 900 times above acceptable levels.

Formaldehyde, which manufacturers sometimes apply to clothes to prevent mildew, can cause skin rashes, irritation to the eyes and throat and allergic reactions. It is also carcinogenic.

Australia and New Zealand have no standards for formaldehyde level, but such high concentrations reported in the wake of recent scandals involving Chinese consumer goods, ranging from pharmaceuticals and food to toothpaste and toys, have raised alarm bells.

New Zealand retailer The Warehouse issued a recall of children’s pyjamas made in China last weekend after two children were burned when their flannelette pyjamas caught fire.

Safety problems affecting Chinese goods have worried New Zealand authorities who said they would investigate clothes and textiles imported from China, and drastic steps if necessary.

Li Changjiang, head of China’s safety watchdog, responded to the latest charges by saying that it was unfair to paint all Chinese products with the same brush because of some poorly-made or counterfeit product.

However, experts observe that the problem is not any single product but China’s quality control system which has proven incapable of guaranteeing quality and authenticity.

Textiles and the garment industry made up more than 13 per cent of exports in the first half of the year. By comparison, toys accounted for less than 1 per cent of overall exports last year, whilst foodstuffs made up 1.4 per cent.

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