Cadmium Jewlery

Cadmium Jewlery was Originally Posted on May 19, 2010 by

A news report tells that Miley Cirus jewlery (sold at Walmart) contains high concentrations of cadmium. There were a number of comments on the report and some blamed Walmart for buying the jewlery and selling it and people should shun Walmart. Some blamed China for making it, etc.

It should not surprise you that I too have comments on the problem. Long time readers will recognize that I was able to blend in a few of my pet peeves into one response, but hey, I do that in this blog all the time! :-)

Taken out of context of the flow of the replies, is my take on the issue. Like jeopardy, which starts wit the answer and has to guess the question, this response will help you know what direction many of the other comments were taking.

Interesting that we talk about cheap products from China and how we should stop buying them. Years ago it was cheap products from Japan and how we should stop buying them. In another decade it will be cheap products from somewhere else.

As for Walmart, perhaps you should read “The Walmart Effect”. The author shows that by pushing vendors to reduce prices, the vendors look to producing overseas. That does not let Walmart off the hook, but shows that they are not the ones (necessarily) directly causing the problem. Consumers looking for the cheapest price AND vendors looking to sell tremendous numbers of items at a slim margin, helps the problem. WE are the problem by only looking for cheaply made products regardless of country of origin.

Here is a real example. Kona coffee is expensive to produce because it is a US product from an area with the highest taxes, high cost of utilities and gas, and the pickers get very good pay. Some pickers here make $200 a day while ones in 3rd world countries make pennies a day. So instead of buying expensive 100% Kona, consumers buy a Kona blend at 1/3 the price and think they are getting a bargain. Turns out that 90% of that bag comes from overseas like Viet Nam or Indonesia where the imported product costs pennies a pound. By only looking at price, the consumer buys mostly low-quality product and not what he expected. He can’t taste the 10% real stuff in the 90% foreign he bought. The consumer can be penny wise and pound foolish. You should not be surprised that here in the Kona Walmart, the majority of coffee sold is a Kona blend with that 90% foreign coffee. Visitors think they are getting a deal and the company making the blend is making millions in profits. In this particular example, Walmart sells the product because people buy it. They don’t have to encourage blenders to make it. The blenders already had that figured out decades before deciding to sell at Walmart.

The dogfood problem was a good example of another problem we face. We are told by pet food companies that we must supply a dog 100% balanced mush that they sell. Look at the very long ingredient list (which was boosted by melamine in China to make the product meet those standards). Please ignore the fact that up until a couple decades ago we used to feed our dogs meat from our farms. The dogs did not die of cancers or suffer wheat allergies as they do now. Their diet was beef, chicken and bones, and they made it centuries on that diet. Now we feed them cereal with meat juice drizzled on it and are assured it is 100% complete and balanced. For that dry cereal we pay the same as we would for real meat cutting for the dog. It is also another case where we take swap a simple solution for a complicated one which hurts our health.

Interesting that as I read the comments here, the one I don’t see, which is a better take on the problem perhaps. Why do kids need to be wearing jewlery anyway? The kids want jewlery, the parents want to pay next to nothing for it. Walmart buys it the the vendor with the lowest price. The vendor decided that because he is taxed highly here for production with actual taxes, healthcare, transportation costs and so on, he ships his production overseas. An overseas country may not have our best interests in mind when making a product. They are looking for profits too, so they cut corners.

If you shop smartly and look at the country of origin, perhaps you will be able to buy better products. Just don’t fall into a false sense of security because the United States has also been known to make products that have been recalled.