Sunday, October 08, 2006

The United Dump of America

Chemical-laden goods outlawed in Europe and Japan are permitted in the American market.

OAKLAND — Destined for American kitchens, planks of birch and poplar plywood are stacked to the ceiling of a cavernous port warehouse. The wood, which arrived in California via a cargo ship, carries two labels: One proclaims "Made in China," while the other warns that it contains formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical.

Because formaldehyde wafts off the glues in this plywood, it is illegal to sell in many countries — even the one where it originated, China. But in the United States this wood is legal, and it is routinely crafted into cabinets and furniture.

Michael Wilson, a professor at UC Berkeley's Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, said the United States is becoming a "dumping ground" for consumer goods that are unwanted and illegal in much of the world. Wilson warned earlier this year in a report commissioned by the California Legislature that "the United States has fallen behind globally in the move toward cleaner technologies."


"I'll guarantee you that no one tells a customer building a $75,000 kitchen that their cabinets contain plywood from China that will off-gas formaldehyde."


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