back to article Amazon agrees to stop selling toxic jewelry, school supplies to kids, coughs up some couch change ($700,000)

Amazon on Thursday agreed to pay $700,000 and stop selling toxic children's school supplies and jewelry – after a probe found dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in some of the e-commerce site's wares. The agreement to cough up the cash and halt the sale of the poisonous trinkets was brokered with the Office of the Attorney …

  1. JassMan Silver badge

    I'd be a bit leery about some of the tritium based products they sell as well. Even if it is in a vial I am sure some youngsters wanting to win a Darwin award would be wondering what happens if you break the vial and smear it on your tongue.

    Also how can they tell how old the purchaser is? Kids are so damn street savvy these days they always know 10 times more about defeating age checks than their parents.

    1. Starace

      Good luck with trying that with a tiny amount of radioactive hydrogen.

      Back in the day the official route to getting rid of Betalights was to take them to the car park and smash them with a hammer.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    If I were a betting man...

    I would bet that all these products come from China. Sure, they'll pole the products off the market, re-brand them for a "new company" and carry on. They've been playing this shell game for a long time even with products that are only sold in China.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: If I were a betting man...

      Being caught selling blatantly toxic products in China is a very good way to end up sans freedom.

      If there is an associated bodycount then a lethal dose of lead a few days after a very short trial isn't unknown.

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        Cadmium in cheep jewelry.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WzFuHg3NcY

      2. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        selling blatantly toxic products in China

        That's why they sell them in places that are not China and that's why Amazon is full of this cheap sh*t.

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: If I were a betting man...

      Beat me to it. And I have little sympathy for Amazon; they've brought this on themselves by opening up their site to every scummy, dodgy Chinese reseller. Seriously - search for LED bulbs, or a thousand other product types, and you'll see page after page of identical product photos, sold by randomly-generated company names (AGH Co, AKL Co, IIK Co, etc etc). It's becoming more of a wretched hive of scum and villainy every day.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        I too am getting utterly sick of the hundreds of products that are exactly the same bar the brand slapped on it. Something I was exasperated with recently when I was trying to buy a battery charger. Better than that the same product has varying levels of reviews which you cannot trust these days without running them through fakespot. Don't get me started on the "I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review" accompanied by 5 stars every single time.

        The argument that "everything is made in China anyway" I can understand being made, that they "make things to the specification of the buyer" I cannot understand as often there is no buyer. The Chinese sellers on Amazon are just selling rebadged stuff that has in a lot of cases been ripped off from a decent quality product that had gone through testing and made with the lowest quality parts down to the cheapest price. Even clothes suffer, buying supposedly decent expensive pyjamas from a Chinese seller on Amazon (you can only guess from the delivery time that's where its coming from) as a gift for someone recently only to find the stitching starts falling apart in weeks.

        Amazon never used to be like this, they could and should definitely do more to clear this up or they're going to find people deserting them in droves for a clear and trusted market place where there's quality control in the supply chain.

        1. NATTtrash
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          Amazon never used to be like this

          Rubbish. Amazons biz model has always been like that, and their behaviour in this one is no different. As other "modern" services, their biz model revolves around cutting costs, responsibility, indemnity, product quality, or even other obligations like certain labour legislation in some countries. Fact however is that others have grabbed Amazons platform (with Amazon saying "not our responsibility", looking the other way while taking their considerable cut) to exploit customers hunt for a bargain. And thing is, by now, companies that interpret (local) rules, expectations, and (dare I say) culture in a self service way are so big, that they now can leverage, demand, and rule. So, whether you let Amazon supply your kids with Pb and Cd pencils, whether you burn your house down with a non-certified cheap Amazon ("It looks just like an Apple!") charger, or the missus had all those different size shoes delivered by the non-minimum wage, outside legal working hours, no social security, no employment contract, "independent entrepreneur", remember that Amazon is indeed brilliant... because they were so smart that they figured this out before anybody else, and now have you and I (still) ordering with them anyway.

          1. Martin Summers Silver badge

            Re: If I were a betting man...

            No, Amazon definitely did not used to be like this. I've been a customer of theirs since 1999 when they only sold books. When they first launched Market Place it wasn't so bad, then very soon it started crawling with crap.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: If I were a betting man...

              I remember a time where Amazon was nicer. Not perfect, of course, but you could usually find what you were looking for, which would be sold there. You could get a relatively exhaustive list of all the options for that thing and compare them. Then you could read the reviews and clearly figure out which were fakes, then purchase the thing, which would be sent to you easily enough. It was a very useful experience then. I think this was around the time I used to think of Google as an ally because they opposed crazy break-the-internet suggestions and released a bunch of code as open source. All of this has dramatically worsened. Google's worsening is clearly intentional, but I don't even know why Amazon let that happen to them. They have a lot of resources from selling all of this; one would think they would eventually realize that there are a few things, like having the search results at least match a little bit the search query, that couldn't help but enhance their business.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: If I were a betting man...

                "I don't even know why Amazon let that happen to them"

                Trying to do too many things. Sourcing and selling was one thing. Add in Kindle, Prime, market place, AWS, launching rockets...

            2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

              Re: "I've been a customer of theirs since 1999 when they only sold books"

              It's kind of difficult to find lead, mercury and cadmium in books. I think you really have to find a very specialized print shop to get that stuff into a book.

              However, Chinese companies have already been found guilty of putting lead into almost everything under sun, including milk formula. What kind of utter asshole thinks that was a good idea is beyond me.

              In any case, although you may be right, the post you replied to is not necessarily wrong either, because when Amazon started expanding its product base, it quite obviously behaved toward the new products just like it had with books - ie no check whatsoever.

              In other words, you're both right.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: "I've been a customer of theirs since 1999 when they only sold books"

                "It's kind of difficult to find lead, mercury and cadmium in books. I think you really have to find a very specialized print shop to get that stuff into a book."

                Fillers in the paper and pigments in covers are two possibilities. Maybe coloured inks as well. Or polluted water in either paper or ink manufacture.

              2. jfm

                Re: "I've been a customer of theirs since 1999 when they only sold books"

                However, Chinese companies have already been found guilty of putting lead into almost everything under sun, including milk formula.

                I hadn't heard about lead but I do know about melamine being added to formula and petfood because it was detected as additional protein by protein-content testing. (I believe the tests now used can tell the difference).

              3. Kernel Silver badge

                Re: "I've been a customer of theirs since 1999 when they only sold books"

                "However, Chinese companies have already been found guilty of putting lead into almost everything under sun, including milk formula. What kind of utter asshole thinks that was a good idea is beyond me."

                I have read that lead has a sweet taste, so it is possible someone though it was a good way to reduce the sugar content - it would also be a way to get the right package weight while including less actual product.

                You will probably be horrified if you search Youtube for clips about 'gutter oil' as well.

        2. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          Amazon will sell anything. It's full of magic woo.

          https://www.amazon.ca/WHITE-VORTEX-BioShield-Neutralizer-Radiation/dp/B00K03L8DA/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_3?keywords=cell+phone+signal+blocker+sticker&qid=1557582621&s=gateway&sr=8-3-fkmrnull

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          "Amazon never used to be like this, they could and should definitely do more to clear this up or they're going to find people deserting them in droves for a clear and trusted market place where there's quality control in the supply chain."

          Whilst I agree in principle the problem with this is that the sheer size of Amazon makes it difficult for such a competing market place to get established. After all, it's not going to be eBay is it?

        4. Simon B-52

          Market share and madness.

          The self-destroying products sold under ten thousand different brand names sell in large numbers and destroy competition very effectively.

          Increasingly, what remains of real-place retailing is selling products of only slightly better quality, usually tested by retail chains to mostly last just long enough to avoid large scale refunds.

          Even industrial plant installers, using components like valves, counters and sensors now often finds it more profitable to buy cheap chinese knock off crap, test it themselves, ditch the 50% that fails testing and install the rest.

          Make your own guess as to how well this works out in the long term.

          1. Flywheel Silver badge

            Re: Market share and madness.

            The real problem here is that, yes, China make some very good quality products (many of which I use on a daily basis), but then they spoil it by manufacturing vast piles of junk products. As you say, many of these are self-destroying, and this is having a calamitous effect on the planet's resources, both in raw materials and in waste disposal.

            If we are at all serious about even the short-term future of this planet, something needs to be done to stem the flow of instant landfill, and China needs to understand that they can't keep giving so-called developing countries aid paying despots a backhander then robbing them of mineral wealth just to make new trading posts from which to produce more junk that no-one wants.

        5. Stuart Halliday

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          Amazon doesn't care. If it did it would be doing random testing like Britain has to for the last 15 years.

          To claim it cares is just to prevent legislation being forced upon it.

          China and other Eastern countries don't care what they produce when they're not being regulated. Their own governments don't give a jot what they make. Take the past production of the dodgy protein Melamine in the making of pet and baby food that killed and maimed thousands of pets in Britain. Then went on to kill 50+ kids in China.

          They even put Lead back in paint for goodness sake and sold the items to kids!

          They've done this so many times now and we still don't regulate the import.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I were a betting man...

      Everything comes from China, including iPhones.

      The fact that the US Gov is running a long propaganda campaign to make you a racist xenophobic git is entirely separate to the quality of goods China is able to produce. As a manufacturing economy, China make things to specifications, quality and cost required by the buyer, in this case US sellers. The Chinese are not evil, they are just fulfilling orders.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        You need to ask why your cheap reading glasses from Amazon were rose tinted.

      2. Reg Reader 1

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        I agree that China can produce very high quality products. No question about that. The problem, in my opinion, is human rights, pay, hours expected, healthcare etc.. all those things that we in developed economies have, or used to have thanks to unions. We, in developed economies, cannot compete as our cost of living is so much higher and having had a large, vibrant middle class from the end of WW2 through the 1980s we are have expectations that freedoms, quality education, healthcare will continue, except our governments and the money that owns them is moving us away from that model and toward the Chinese model. Lets face it the wealthy have more control than we'd like and that is increasing.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: If I were a betting man...

      you're probably right, as they have less strict environmental (read: none at all) concerns over there.

      I think we should export some of our wackier environmentalists to Beijing and let them protest the air quality, for starters.

      In the mean time, a _LOT_ of the concern over these materials is more like PARANOIA instead of science. It is true that buildup of heavy metals is detrimental to your health. But there ARE safe levels of these elements, which occur in nature. I have been using leaded solder for electronics, and continue to do so. So I'm "exposed" directly to lead. And lead solder or just lead was often used in the making of jewelry, particularly the less expensive kind [normally I'd expect a silver solder to be used nowadays, which is also what I do, if I do anything with jewelry, which I have].

      In any case, the source of the problem might be gross environmental contamination at those facilities (let's say in China) where EVERYONE is exposed to high levels of otherwise toxic materials, all of the time, and it ends up on what they make. That's my theory, and I bet it's true.

      In the mean time, a bit of cleanup is in order. And I doubt any of those kids was in any REAL danger. It's not like they're eating lead paint chips because lead compounds taste "sweet" like a type of artificial sweetener. They're just "being exposed", which is far less likely to pose a problem.

      And if "they" are THAT concerned about Hg, why is it still used on FILLINGS IN YOUR TEETH???

      Hypocrisy, much??

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        >And if "they" are THAT concerned about Hg, why is it still used on FILLINGS IN YOUR TEETH???

        >Hypocrisy, much??

        No chemistry.

        Mercury bound into an amalgam in filings is just about perfectly safe, even raw metalic mercury isn't too bad if you don't heat it up and breath in the fumes. Mercury bonded to a bunch of organic compounds where it can be absorbed into the body = extremely toxic.

        Sodium Chloride on your chips = no problem.

        Liquid sodium metal poured over you or chlorine gas pumped into your house = worth worrying about.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          Small amount of Dihydrogen Monoxide... no problem. Some people even find it refreshing.

          Large amounts of DHMO rushing into your house = major problem. And it happens more regularly than you'd think. When is the government going to DO SOMETHING???

        2. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          "Liquid sodium metal poured over you or chlorine gas pumped into your house = worth worrying about."

          Is it OK as a dip though?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: If I were a betting man...

            If mixed thoroughly yes

        3. Simon Harris Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          "Liquid sodium metal poured over you"

          Sodium melts at about 98C - having anything that hot poured over you wouldn't be good for you.

          My mum still has the scars from where she tipped boiling water over herself 40-something years ago.

      2. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        Re: If I were a betting man...

        'wackier environmentalists' !!?

        Those people who actually point out the dangers of pollution ? The USSA, the USSR, the Chinese Communists, the Capitalists, the Neo-Liberals, Wall Street, the Progressives, all the major democratic parties could all care shit about dangers to life and limb until dragged kicking and screaming into the limelight by wacky environmentalists; and as far as all are concerned your air could be Donora's, your water Flint's, and you could slip on the pavement each day from the blood running from open abattoirs so long as it makes somebody money. Without wacky environmentalists the average lifespan would be very short.

        Kings and rulers from Edward I on made laws against air pollution and over-crowding; later politicians just get paid off [ 'lecture fees' ]. And the Chinese government are presently doing far more against air pollution than Amerika has the last decade; and to be fair, their pollutions have been no worse than we used to face in the West until we had socialism and government control.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If I were a betting man...

          " And the Chinese government are presently doing far more against air pollution than Amerika"

          Yes, although to be fair they've already turned that around and marched past most of the world with their clean energy and ultra high voltage technology, and have so much capacity for clean renewables they are investigating exporting to Europe using said UHV technology.

          It's fun to be racist though, so you carry on drinking the US kool aid

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: If I were a betting man...

            Er, no. They are selling loads of renewable tech to the West, whilst burning vast amounts of coal. The local renewables use is a rounding error .

            The anti-pollution efforts are around big-city smog, not CO2 emissions

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If I were a betting man...

              That’s the difference between research and propaganda. Try the former and you’ll discover their vast solar and wind farms and long distance DC transmission lines. Get all your “information” from western tabloid media and yes, it’ll look like China is doing bad things so we must fear them. They aren’t, they are actually very advanced in clean energy and phasing out coal already.

              1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

                Re: If I were a betting man...

                I get my facts from, er, facts: https://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/chinas-growing-coal-use-is-worlds-growing-problem-16999

                Their renewable efforts may seem large, but China's energy use is simply huge.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: If I were a betting man...

                  Wwell thank goodness you aren't using biased sources ;)

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    The free market will fix this

    That is what differentiates us from the communists, along with "In God We Trust" on our currency.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The free market will fix this

      I suspect the downvoters are either red-blooded rabid patriots or really, really needed to see the joke icon to get it.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: The free market will fix this

        I didn't vote up or down. I just facepalmed.

  4. Richard Jones 1
    WTF?

    The Ways of the World

    When I lived out in the Far East there was a joke about the goods producers there. At the end of the day the night watchman was told to ensure that the first quality goods went to named big stores in Japan. The second grade goods went to other named stores in Japan, big names in the USA and Europe, third quality went other names in those places. Finally sweep the floor anything you clear up goes to UK, they buy anything as long as it is cheap.

    With children's clothes it showed, the ones we bought in Japan lasted years and were still in good condition, those we bought in the UK went out of shape or fell apart in weeks. We did not buy much else besides kids clothes and toys back then but it appears things do not change that much.

    Buy crap, get crap: what happened to buyer beware or even a bit careful?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Ways of the World

      More trolling?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The Ways of the World

        Says an A/C

  5. A.P. Veening

    'Top priority'

    "Customer safety is Amazon’s top priority," an Amazon spokesperson said in an email to The Register.

    Wrong, the bottom line is the top priority. The deal is already made, but next time there should be a huge fine, just to encourage the others.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 'Top priority'

      I'm pretty sure they have recently, on a number of occasions, claimed that ""Customer data security is Amazon’s top priority,."

      Either way, "Amazon" is lying. They could, possibly, clarify their statements and specify which department has which priority and what they do when each departments "top priority" comes into conflict with another.

    2. NATTtrash

      Re: 'Top priority'

      Wrong, the bottom line is the top priority.

      Indeed. And with the risk of being served with a "really grumpy old person" icon, I personally think the solution is not that difficult. While calling the bluff on all those "We take the <foo> of our customers extremely seriously" statements.

      Let's start by reinstating direct, non-negotiable supplier responsibility. Supplier being the person selling it to you. So you buy with Amazon, THEY are responsible. Like it used to be before all these "helpful" portals and services popped up. With nice big, bottom line influencing fines like @A.P. Veening says. You know, nothing personal, just to ensure seriousness. Oh, and let's shift the obligation to "prove" who is at fault to the supplier. And let's reinstate the silly practice that a sale is a simultaneous exchange of valuables (aka let's pay them when you have the product in hand and had the chance to "inspect" it is what you really want). Let's charge the carbon footprint that all that convenient product moving has. Let's treat Amazon as a real employer, holding them accountable for all involved, paying them normal minimum wages, legal contributions, on normal contracts, working normal hours. Oh, and yes, in the country where you live (and not some country where there are enough kids anyway). Let's, let's...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: 'Top priority'

        Question: If companies were NOT making money, would they be able to AFFORD to hire YOU?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: 'Top priority'

      FYI - a company exists in order to make money.

      It's just that to make money and STAY in business, you need to make sure your customers are happy enough to be REPEAT customers, and not because they're bound to you by some kind of enslavement (or monopoly). So yeah, NOT poisoning or otherwise endangering customers is ALSO good for business.

      Still I suspect that in THIS case, no actual harm was done. It's not like the kids are eating leaded paint chips. As I mentioned before, lead paint chips taste 'sweet' because lead compounds act like an artificial sweetener. And didn't we used to put LEAD IN GASOLINE such that it was IN THE AIR EVERYWHERE?

      The current enviro-knee-jerk maximum levels are probably WAY TOO LOW, though I'm not complaining too hard because staying below that level shouldn't be THAT hard... unless your ENTIRE COUNTRY is horribly polluted. Like in China... ?

      (again, I use leaded solder all of the time, for electronic work. I've done so for *YEARS*. It's not like I'm eating it or inhaling lead vapor. But I'm "exposed" to it. And people who own guns are exposed to the lead in the ammo. You kinda have to INJEST it to make it really bad for you... so wash your hands before eating?)

      1. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        Re: 'Top priority'

        again, I use leaded solder all of the time, for electronic work. I've done so for *YEARS*. It's not like I'm eating it or inhaling lead vapor. But I'm "exposed" to it.

        Explains an awful lot.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: 'Top priority'

          Usually I disagree with Bob... but this time, have an upvote. the lack of lead in solder in modern electronics is why it's so damned unreliable. And ditto with the leaded solder. I have several 5kg reels that I expect to outlast me. Found in a skip (dumpster) outside an electronics repair business when RoHS first came in. I don't think that was an intended consequence...

      2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Children -were- injured

        Children -were- injured, that is how this came to light. A bunch of kids were found to have high levels of heavy metals in their blood that was traced back to school supplies and jewelry that was purchased off Amazon. In one case, an entire class was found to have elevated levels of cadmium in their blood that was caused by absorbing it through the skin from pencils a teacher bought in bulk off Amazon.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Top priority'

        " And people who own guns are exposed to the lead in the ammo.'

        I love it when the great mysteries of life solve themselves...

    4. Wapiya
      Childcatcher

      Re: 'Top priority'

      That reminds me:

      https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2004-01-28

    5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: 'Top priority'

      quote: but next time there should be a huge fine, just to encourage the others.

      should be a minor change in the law to make Amazon legally responsible for the stuff sold through their website as well

      No more of this 'reseller' or "3rd party" bs... you list it on your website, you recieve money for the goods , its your fault if the goods have lethal levels of HCN.......

      Icon.... sign for the next amazon package at work....

    6. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: 'Top priority'

      Although not so much the current bottom line, but the future bottom line. Amazon is very much willing to lose tons of money in the short term if it means they can undercut competitors. Then once competitors are put out of business, they'll ratchet prices higher than they did before now that there is no longer strong competition to pull prices back down.

      For an example, look at the saga of Diapers.com and Amazon. They started out fairly small, developed a good business model that started generating profit in short order. Amazon then started selling diapers at fairly big loss until Diapers.com was forced to either sell themselves to Amazon or go out of business in a few years. Once acquired, Amazon pushed prices well above what both diapers.com and Amazon were selling at (And in many cases, selling for higher than even brick-and-mortar prices even though their business model makes it far cheaper)

  6. Simon B-52

    Hg or not Hg ? Clickbait Periodic Table Pic ?

    The header picture highlights Cd, Hg and Pb - Cadmium, Mercury and Lead.

    However, the article makes no mention of Mercury, though several comments clearly show their authors thought it to be involved.

    Is Mercury involved or not?

    If we think this issue worthy of consideration, we need accurate, not misleading reporting.

    The choice of picture may be nothing to do with the author of the text.

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