Why 'Made in China' can be a health hazard

As someone who spent 3 years in China and lived to tell the tale...

There is a bit of a stigma attached to buying something 'Made in China.' However, it's not just about the poor quality of the product, or the fact they labeled the bag 'PARDA' instead of 'PRADA.' It's the fact that some of the products can be detrimental to your health. Corruption and greed have led to many companies taking short cuts in the manufacturing process. The potential monetary gain has made it worth the risk of getting a death sentence. If you don't get caught, you become one of China's many new millionaires. If you do get caught, you will be sentenced to death, but it'll happen quite quickly. There's no Death Row in China. You get sentenced to death and the next week your family are crying over the bullet that killed you. But you will have had a great time spending up the money before the end, and that in their eyes, makes it all worth it. So what if you end up killing hundreds of babies, you would have enjoyed spending more money than the average Chinese can dream of.

Recent years have seen many scandals. Just as recently as March this year, four children in the Shanxi province died after being given vaccines that weren't properly stored. The heat-sensitive vaccines had been taken out of air-conditioned rooms because government labels which have to be glued onto the vials to show that the vaccines had been bought from official suppliers at inflated prices, would not adhere to cold vials. Tragically, the government stickers were seen to be more important than keeping the vaccines cold. This has resulted in thousands of children not being properly vaccinated against polio and other diseases.

The great Sichuan earthquake in May 2008 which has an official death total of 90 000, but those in China say is closer to 120 000, is another case of shoddy workmanship, corruption and greed which was responsible for the loss of lives. Many of the schools in the earthquake zone collapsed while classes were still on the go, killing or maiming thousands of children. Building inspectors had accepted bribes to pass sub-standard buildings, believing that they'd never get caught. Some of the building inspectors have since committed suicide. A Chinese activist who was investigating the poor construction of the schools which collapsed, has recently been arrested and sentenced to five years in jail. His crime: subversion.

Although 2008 should have been a good year for China because of the Beijing Olympics, they were more in the news for scandals which resulted in death of the innocents.The big Milk Scandal shocked the world, when producers of baby formula discovered it was cheaper to poison infants than sell authentic formula. Thousands of babies became sick from ingesting milk tainted with melamine, an industrial product more commonly used to make plastics. Milk products produced in China were recalled all over the world. Some babies died. The company directors were sentenced to death, but that didn't help the parents when their children became sick, and the local government's response was to threaten and arrest the parents rather than offer help to the sick children. Incidentally, even the singing of the pretty little girl at the Beijing Olympics was fake. The real singer was recorded but not allowed to perform live as she was said to be, 'not pretty enough' to perform in public. The singer you saw on television was lip syncing.

Then there was the Placebo Scandal, where a pharmaceutical company supplied the state hospitals with placebos but claimed they were antibiotics. Of course, this resulted in deaths as people got sicker instead of better. The company directors got the death sentence.

Toys sold to the US were recalled because they were found to contain lead. Baby cots were recalled when some toddlers died after chewing on the cot rails which were painted with lead paint. Three babies recently sent to America for adoption were hospitalised because of high lead readings in their blood. In Fengxiang, Shaanxi province, where thousands of children have lead poisoning, local officials demonstrated their priorities by allowing the polluting factory to re-open, with no change in its operations. China does not seem to take lead poisoning seriously enough. The industrial pollution and smog which hangs over most Chinese cities is well-documented. It is rare to spot some blue sky. Many nights I woke up with a strong metallic taste in my mouth. My children and I suffered from continual throat infections which miraculously vanished whenever we left China to go on holiday. But it doesn't help going to a state hospital to be tested for lead poisoning, because officials at state hospitals have been bribed to give patients inaccurate readings.

When the recession hit and the US canceled many orders during the Global Credit Crunch, many Chinese factories shut down. The migrant workers who travel from the rural areas were jobless and angry. Riots in the Shenzhen area started as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers tried to get hole of train tickets to travel home. How did China respond to these people who are paid a pittance to work in factories manufacturing sub-standard products? They called in the army, and promptly banned access to all blogs, Youtube and Facebook, hoping that news of the domestic problems would not make it outside.

This is a society where girls would rather use abortion as a method of birth control than take birth control pills as they believe that makes them fat and then the husband they all wish for won't want them. A society where corruption is rife, prisoners and homeless mysteriously disappear and China is one of the biggest suppliers of human body parts for transplant operations. A society where they have perfected the art of copying goods, rather than encouraging innovation. Where 'fake markets' are full of fake copies of prominent brands that look more real than the real thing. A society where people's health is secondary to the amount of money you can make. I have to ask, how did such an ancient civilisation with such a proud history, responsible for the invention of so many products we use today, change so radically? Could it be when Communism came in and destroyed their culture? The high rise apartment buildings built on sites of ancient temples and palaces? Or is it the greed of western companies, who have come in and exploited the cheap Chinese work force, and encouraged them to cut corners in the manufacturing process? Is it the introduction of capitalism? Maybe, it's a combination of all those things; but one thing's for sure. 'Made in China' is hazardous to our health.

I wrote the first half of this book in China.

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Comments 47 comments

dianacharles profile image

dianacharles 6 years ago from India

I suppose any country in the world which does not have stringent policies will have these problems. In India too, we have something called made in USA. It stands for Ulhas Nagar Association. People buy rip offs because they want the good things but cannot afford them. I suppose as long as it is not detrimental to one's health...it could be tolerated. But then greed has no boundaries and one can see that in all the factories that employ child labour and use hazardous materials in their products.

I can see that now you are out of China and Big Brother is no longer watching you can vent... :P


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

haha Diana, you are so right about big Brother!


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Things like this really make you wonder how the world can continue...something has to change.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

I can remember when seeing the label, "Made in Japan," signified a product that was cheap and unreliable. Now it seems that many goods bearing the label, "Made in China," have inherited that dubious distinction. As always, buyer beware.

Thanks for an extremely well-researched as well as eye-opening hub.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

It's horrible. I think most Americans have a sense of these issues in China, but to actually read details is quite shocking. Very well written article.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

Now, I always look at a product to learn where it's from before I buy it. After so many problems with Chinese imports, I decided better safe than sorry. And checking the origins of products has been an education. Particularly with food, so much of it comes from China or other countries I don't trust to have good regulations.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Cindy, This is an excellent article of the problems in China and the reasons why. Human life is reduced to a commodity in a sense and I try not to buy anything that is made in China. Great article!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for this wonderful eye opener. It is such a shame because the people are so willing. Great hub.


eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Yeah, china needs to learn to paint without lead. It shocks me that they let this go so long. They had to know about this before, but kept it quite until they couldn't anymore.

Keep on hubbing!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Enelle, was it Gandhi who said, "We have to be the change we want to see in the world."

Drbj, once a time it was Made in Hong Kong, and then Made in Taiwan. Japanese technology has always been pretty good.

Thanks Chris, howya doing these days?

Yeah Sheila, you can never believe what is put down as the list of ingredients.

Thanks Pam, it's a tough situation, millions of migrant workers depend on Chinese exports for their sole source of income, so we don't buy and factories shut and they starve; we do buy and we risk getting ill or frustrated with poor quality goods.

Hello, hello, yep - willing to make an extra buck or two.

Eovery, they will continue to try and take chances and get away with stuff. Who knows what else they're doing and getting away with.


Aussieteacher profile image

Aussieteacher 6 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Yes, Cindy, you are right. There is so much exploitation and so much wrong in China. I do believe it is changing, but the greed and cutting corners is not unique to China. I am amazed that a civilisation that many years ago was ahead of the rest of the world, floundered for so long. There are many problems to be overcome in this overcrowded place. Time will tell.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Aussieteacher, I do believe though that while the rest of the world is a market demanding the goods, China will continue what they are doing. Maybe more people should start boycotting Made in China stuff and force them to change.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Great hub and good info that I didn't know about thanks for sharing. Cheers.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yeah Ladyjane, many of the goings on in China are not well known


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Well written, Cindy. Excellent points and I absolutely love your closing of this hub. Leaves one feeling rather helpless in changing the mentality of the world. My children have become avid watchers of where things come from. I can only hope that I have and will continue to set a good example to them by keeping my own eyes open and doing what I think is best instead of just talking about what isn't. Thumbs up and some shares.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

I became aware of the health hazards a year or so ago, when Made in China mugs began wearing warning labels that said, "For decorative purposes only. May contain lead."

It seems, one has always to be on guard against such things.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

FB, great to see you! The problem we have, is that while the buying public continues to buy cheap and badly made products, the Chinese will continue to manufacture them.

Ivorwen, I didn't know about the mugs, but why am I not surprised? Who wants to buy a mug for decorative purposes only, gosh!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Very informative thanks! Maybe the only way to set things right is by bringing down the demand to choke off the supply!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Shalini, I think so, let's rather do Made in India lol


jite profile image

jite 6 years ago from delhi

Very true n informative hub,Thanks


robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

Fabulous information and well presented too-- I think many of us here in the USA are getting the picture about China what with lead in the toys, wallboard emitting poisonous fumes etc. Personally, I have stopped buying any food items( including fish) that comes from China and I'm seriously thinking of extending my personal boycott-- some of the facts you present are truly shocking and only falling demand will change them..... thanks for this


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

I think every country that gets sucked into mass production for rich overseas markets has started off at the shoddy/toxic end of the scale, through pressure to keep prices down, coupled with pressure to make a dent early on. The buyers for the big markets often deliberately look for emerging (i.e. unregulated) countries to source their goods.

Some who shout about the need for deregulation and small government in the West would do well to look East for an object lesson. Good hub :)


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

Excellent Hub

Shocking content, it defies belief they way humans treat their fellow humans, especially new-born.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Hi Cindy - How I wish it were so but it isn't :(

India has its own problems when it comes to cheap products as well. Only now that China makes stuff so much cheaper, there's an influx of Chinese goods right across the country!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Jite

Robie, I reckon if I hadn't of lived there, I wouldn't have known about this stuff.

Paraglider, emerging markets=exploitation in my book. The poor work force just work themselves to death for minimum wage, while the fat cats who are so corrupt get richer.

Shinkicker, the cruelty of human beings towards each other never ceases to amaze me.

Shalini, I still think India's quality is better than China's.


Pachuca213 6 years ago

Great article Cindy....you lived there and experienced and saw things we don't want to see, but need to. Its terrible how things are over there. I feel sorry for the people there.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

JJ, the people living there don't know any better. How is your book sales going?


Wendy Krick profile image

Wendy Krick 6 years ago from Maryland

Great hub and good information.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Glad you found it interesting, Wendy!


Pachuca213 6 years ago

Its going, not as good as expected but at least its out there right? And available to whomever wants to read my poetry, And I guess thats all that matters. =) Thanks for caring.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Hey JJ, contact AIDY and make a guest appearance on her blog talking about your poetry and giving a link to your book.


emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

Gosh, I've heard about the milk scandal, and the toys and the slippers but I haven't heard of the others. China is really going all out to suppress these news. Their economy may be growing at a faster rate than the U. S. but at what cost?

Good thing you did not get any lead poisoning there Cindy and you are out of there. Thanks for this eye-opener of a hub. I don't think it will stop our importation of Chinese products but at least we are aware of what not to buy from China.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Emievil you are so righ, it won't stop people buying products made in China. Money wins every time, but as you say, at what cost?


Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 6 years ago

This is a real eye opener, thanks for sharing and making us aware of the various unsafe products being produced at the cost of health and awareness.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

RA, living there you can't help but become aware of all that goes on, no matter how much they try to hush it up.


Aussieteacher profile image

Aussieteacher 6 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

I agree that we who buy Made in China are part of the problem. But there's a catch to it - Australia for example has lost most of its manufacturing to China. There's much we cannot make now. All the expertise/factories etc have gone.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Aussieteacher, i agree we've stopped manufacturing, but we still have the technology to do it, the problem is that we want to be paid good wages so we can buy all the luxury items, where Chinese are prepared to work for a pittance just to be able to buy food.


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 6 years ago from australia

Omg Cindy just read the whole thing and boy that blooming is frightening. I am going to think twice about labels marked from China, hell, what a eye opener. :)


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

BP, unfortunately many of the stores in Oz get their stock from China these days. You can't really escape it. Anyways, howya doing?


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

What a sad indictment of the world. That some would disregard the lives of the down trodden for the sake of a few dollars.

Namaste.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Deborah, unfortunately that happens a lot in the developing world.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Deborah, unfortunately that happens a lot in the developing world.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Yes the rich exploit the poor and this is what tends to happen. Scry stuff! Thanks for the very informative read.

Love and peace

Tony


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Tony, but this has happened throughout history if we look at colonialism! When are we going to learn from our mistakes?


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

When you think of the China of the past compared to todays China, it is indeed a sorry situation, a point which you make strongly and effectively. I bought some body creme the other day and after I got home, noticed it was Made in China. I was nervous about using it.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Christoph, well if your skin develops a rash and your eyeballs pop out, then you'll know they used suspect ingredients lol!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Christoph, well if your skin develops a rash and your eyeballs pop out, then you'll know they used suspect ingredients lol!

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