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The Corporate Crime of the Century

It's called dumping: When the U.S. government forces a dangerous drug, pesticide or other product off the domestic market, the manufacturer then sells that same product—frequently with the direct support of the State Department—throughout the rest of the world.

Tom Mboya was the hope of the western world. Bright, energetic, popular and inclined to be democratic—he was a born leader who, Washington hoped, would rise to power in Kenya and help keep Africa safe for United States commerce. In 1969 he was shot down in the streets of Nairobi. An emergency rescue squad was by his side in minutes. They plugged him into the latest gadget in resuscitative technology—a brand new U.S. export called the Res-Q-Aire. What the rescue team didn't know as they watched Tom Mboya's life slip away was that this marvelous device had been recalled from the American market by the US government because it was found to be totally ineffective. The patient died.

Losing Mboya to the Res-Q-Aire was perhaps a subtle retribution for the US, for to this day we allow our business leaders to sell, mostly to Third World nations, shiploads of defective medical devices, lethal drugs, known carcinogens, toxic pesticides, contaminated foods and other products found unfit for American consumption.

Ten years after Mboya's assassination, in fact, Kenya itself remains a major market for unsafe, ineffective and contaminated American products. At the 1977 meeting of the United Nations Environmental Program, Kenyan Minister of Water Development Dr. D. J. Kiano warned that developing nations would no longer tolerate being used as "dumping grounds for products that have not been adequately tested" and that their people should not be used as "guinea pigs" for chemicals.

The prevailing sentiment in Washington contrasts considerably with Dr. Kiano's. Say the word "dumping" in federal government circles and the predominant response will be "Oh, yes, 'dumping.' Really must be stopped. It's outrageous, not in our economic interests at all...unscrupulous bastards...."

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Sounds as if we've solved the problem, doesn't it, except what our bureaucrats are talking about, one discovers, is foreign corporations "dumping" low-priced goods on the American market -- Japanese cars, Taiwanese televisions, Hong Kong stereos, Australian beef, etc. The export of banned and hazardous products, which Mother Jones calls "dumping," is considered business as usual.

As the following articles make painfully clear, dumping is, in fact, big business as usual. It involves not only manufacturers and retailers, a vast array of export brokers, tramp steamers, black marketeers and go-betweens who traffic an estimated $1.2 billion worth of unsafe goods overseas every year, but also the United States Export-Import Bank, which finances large dumps; the Commerce, State and Treasury Departments, which have the statutory authority to stop or control dumping, but won't; and a President who, in his quiet way, subverts the efforts of the few progressive members of Congress who seek to pass uniform anti-dumping legislation.

Hard evidence of dumping and its tragic consequences has repeatedly been brought to the attention of federal agencies, the Congress and the White House. Here are some examples:

  • 400 Iraqis died in 1972 and 5,000 were hospitalized after consuming the by-products of 8,000 tons of wheat and barley coated with an organic mercury fungicide, whose use had been banned in the U.S.
  • An undisclosed number of farmers and over 1,000 water buffalos died suddenly in Egypt after being exposed to leptophos, a chemical pesticide which was never registered for domestic use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but was exported to at least 30 countries.
  • After the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device killed at least 17 women in the United States, the manufacturer withdrew it from the domestic market. It was sold overseas after the American recall and is still in common use in some countries.
  • No one knows how many children may develop cancer since several million children's garments treated with a carcinogenic fire retardant called Tris were shipped overseas after being forced off the domestic market by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
  • Lomotil, an effective anti-diarrhea medicine sold only by prescription in the U.S. because it is fatal in amounts just slightly over the recommended doses, was sold over the counter in Sudan, in packages proclaiming it was "used by astronauts during Gemini and Apollo space flights" and recommended for use by children as young as 12 months.
  • Winstrol, a synthetic male hormone, which was found to stunt the growth of American children, is freely available in Brazil, where it is recommended as an appetite stimulant for children.
  • Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive banned for such use in the United States because it caused malignant tumors in beagles and monkeys, is sold by the Upjohn Co. in 70 other countries, where it is widely used in U.S.-sponsored population control programs.
  • 450,000 baby pacifiers of the type that has caused choking deaths have been exported by at least five manufacturers since a ban was proposed by the CPSC. 120,000 teething rings that did not meet recently established CPSC standards were cleared for export and are on sale right now in Australia.
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