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Friday, January 18, 2008

Chinese workers are sick of making toxic cadmium batteries

Over the holidays, millions of American children received Chinese-made toys powered by cadmium batteries. Cadmium batteries are safe to use. They are also cheap, saving American parents about $1.50 on the average toy, compared with pricier batteries, but cadmium batteries can be hazardous to make as workers inhale the toxic red cadmium dust that filled the air in the plant.

As the U.S. and other Western nations tightened their regulation of cadmium, production of nickel-cadmium batteries moved to less-developed countries, most of it eventually winding up in China.

In America, five years after Hasbro stopped using nickel-cadmium batteries, Mattel and Toys "R" Us are yet to follow suit, but say they are exploring alternatives. Wal-Mart no longer purchases cadmium batteries from GP Batteries but declined to comment on whether it still uses them in its products.

Mattel says cadmium batteries have some performance advantages over alternatives, such as a better ability to retain a charge when not used for long periods.

Only this year, the European Union is banning the sale of nearly all cadmium batteries.

In China, government standards on cadmium exposure are in line with those endorsed by the World Health Organization. And without question, there are safe cadmium plants in China.

But having rules and enforcing them are two different things.

Source : The Wall Street Journal Asia

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