From the June 2009 Idaho Observer:

Wide range of Chinese imports found to contain radioactive metals

Compiled by The IO

Scripps Howard News Service published an in-depth report by Isaac Wolf regarding the broad range of consumer products imported from China that contain harmful amounts of radioactive metal contaminates. The story, published June 6, 2009, reveals that there is no U.S. agency checking the radioactivity of imported goods.

"Thousands of everyday products and materials containing radioactive metals are surfacing across the United States and around the world," Wolf reported

Among the list of contaminated items are products in everyday use, including, "Common kitchen cheese graters, reclining chairs, women’s handbags, tableware...fencing wire and fence posts, shovel blades, elevator buttons, airline parts and steel used in construction."

A report surfaced over a decade ago that nuts, bolts and other hardware imported from China contained measureable amounts of radioactive metals.

Due to "haphazard screening, an absence of oversight and substantial disincentives for businesses to report contamination, no one knows how many tainted goods are in circulation in the United States," Wolf’s investigation revealed.

Ironically, last year Congress passed the "Consumer Safety Improvement Act" that applied strict rules regarding the importation, sale and even second-hand resale of children’s clothing, toys and books that may contain lead-based dyes, paints and pigments that pose no real risk to health. Yet thousands of consumer goods "...and millions of pounds of unfinished metal and its byproducts have been found to contain low levels of radiation, and experts think the true amount could be much higher, perhaps by a factor of 10."

Wolf cited government records of contamination cases, obtained through state and federal Freedom of Information Act requests, to illustrate the severity of the problem.

"In 2006 in Texas, for example, a recycling facility inadvertently created 500,000 pounds of radioactive steel byproducts after melting metal contaminated with Cesium-137, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records.

"In Florida in 2001, another recycler unintentionally did the same, and wound up with 1.4 million pounds of radioactive material. And in 1998, 430,000 pounds of steel laced with Cobalt-60 made it to the U.S. heartland from Brazil."

But a true picture regarding the magnitude of the problem is difficult to perceive because there are no state or federal agencies responsible for oversight and metal recyclers are not equipped to check for radioctive metal. "Nobody’s going to know—nobody—how much [radioactive metal] has been melted into consumer goods," said Ray Turner, an international expert on radiation with Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based River Metals Recycling. Acording to Wolf, Turner "has helped decontaminate seven metal-recycling facilities that unwittingly melted scrap containing radioactive isotopes."

"It’s your worst nightmare," Turner added.

The importation of goods containing radioactive metal is not confined to Chinese exports. "Reports are mounting that manufacturers and dealers from China, India, former Soviet bloc nations and some African countries are exporting contaminated material and goods, taking advantage of the fact that the United States has no regulations specifying what level of radioactive contamination is too much in raw materials and finished goods. Compounding the problem is the inability of U.S. agents to fully screen every one of the 24 million cargo containers arriving in the United States each year.

It is not clear if the exporters from these nations are contaminating products with the intent of harming consumers or in cooperation with organized medicine, but one fact is not in dispute: Modern production practices generate mountains of toxic waste that must be disposed of somehow. Perhaps the most notorious example of how the toxic byproducts of manufacturing enter the commerce stream is sodium fluoride. As a byproduct of nuclear weapons, phosphate fertilizer and aluminum production, fluoride is created in large quantities that are difficult and costly to dispose of—so the material is sold as a preventative to tooth decay and diluted in municipal water to be synthesized in parts per million by hapless people and the environment.

Just like the situation with fluoride (though no health "benefit" to radioactive metal exposure has yet been sold to the gullible public through prostituted media or corrupt politicans), it is cheaper and easier for businesses to use contaminated metal than dispose of it properly. Plus, according to Wolf, "...facilities in 36 states that want to do the right thing [but] there is nowhere they can legally dump the contaminated stuff since the shutdown last year of a site in South Carolina, the only U.S. facility available to them for the disposal."

And the problem will continue to grow. A U.S. government program to collect the worst of the castoff radioactive items has a two-year waiting list and a 9,000-item backlog—and is fielding requests to collect an additional 2,000 newly detected items a year," Wolf explained.

The levels of radiation being detected are considered "low." The argument is whether or not low levels of radiation are "harmful." To justify not developing a mechanism to detect low-levels of radioactive metals in consumer products, "experts" argue that low levels of radiation exist in nature and so contaminted metals would pose no additional risk.

The argument is absurd and contrary to the federal government’s own findings with regard to the effects of radiation exposure.

By order of President Clinton, the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments produced a "final report" in October, 1995. The 925-page report details the history of radiation experimentation on unsuspecting Americans. Mad scientists, under contract to the U.S. government, exposed people to various levels of radiation for various amounts of time in every way their imaginations could conjure. The bottom line conclusion is that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. With regard to excusing the presence of products in commerce intentionally contaminated with radioactive metals, there is no excuse—and federal regulators at the EPA, the HHS and the FDA know it and have known it since the 1950s. "Radioactively contaminated scrap threatens both human health and the environment," reads a cautionary statement on the EPA’s website.

The effects of low-level radiation exposure was recently reaffirmed in a 2006 report by a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel. Wolf reported that, according to the NAS report, "...there is a direct relationship between radiation and an increased risk of cancer. Prolonged exposure can also lead to birth defects and cataracts, studies have shown.

"There is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial," said Richard Monson, chairman of the Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, at the release of the National Academy report.

Regarding the volume of radioactive products in commerce, "One of the most conservative estimates comes from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which put the number of radioactively contaminated metal objects unaccounted for in the United States in 2005 at 500,000. Others suggest the amount is far higher," Wolf reported.

In calculating the volume of radioactive waste in the U.S. the most recent NRC estimate —made a decade ago by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—is 20 million pounds.

A key point in the origins of this investigation seem to center on a cheese grater. "...last summer, when a Flint, Mich., scrap plant discovered a beat-up kitchen cheese grater that was radioactive. The China-made grater bearing the well-known EKCO brand name was laced with the isotope Cobalt-60. Tests showed the gadget to be giving off the equivalent of a chest X-ray over 36 hours of use, according to NRC documents.

"Estimated to have been in circulation for as long as a decade, the grater likely was four to five times more radioactive when it was new. EKCO’s parent company, World Kitchen, of Rosemont, Ill., described the incident as isolated and found no need to issue a recall," spokesman Bryan Glancy said.

It was not the only cheese grater that was found. NRC documents show that another Cobalt-60-tainted grater had turned up in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2006. The reports do not indicate what brand of grater it was or if it was related to the one that surfaced in Michigan.

Cobalt-60 also tainted a 430,000-pound shipment of metal from Brazil in 1998. Part of that load found its way to Michigan and then Indiana, where it was used to make brackets for 1,000 La-Z-Boy recliners.

The contamination was reportedly detected by a radiation monitor when scrap leftover from the brackets job was shipped to the Butler, Ind., steel recycler Steel Dynamics, according to NRC documents.

"The Cobalt-60 tainted Reclina-Rocker chairs, which would have given off a chest X-ray’s worth of radiation every 1,000 hours, were still in warehouses when the contamination was discovered, and never made it to stores or living rooms, according to Rex Bowser, director of the Indoor Air and Radiological Health Emergency Response Program of the Indiana State Department of Health.

"The recliners’ radiation levels were "enough above background to be a concern for people sitting in La-Z-Boy chairs," Bowser said.

"U.S. officials and metal experts say evidence is mounting that radioactive metal from abroad is increasingly(and intentionally) being sent to the United States, sometimes decades after the contaminated material was first detected and returned to its source," Wolf stated.