Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My take on the Melamine Contamination in China

There has been so much bad news coming out of China in the area of consumer safety. Just to name a few of late, there was poisoned toothpaste, exploding grills, poisoned dog food, contaminated heparin, toxic toys but by far the worst scare to date in my humble opinion is the latest go round with Melamine contamination into the baby formula and dairy product supply. It has also spread to cookies and candies as well and has affected many other countries, most especially in Asia. The culprits (manufacturers) placed the toxic chemical into the food chain as a cost saving measure and it was easy to do as it replicates the protein content in milk. Melamine is used to make plastics and fertilizer. Health experts say ingesting melamine can lead to kidney stones and kidney failure, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritation. It also robs infants of much-needed nutrition. Down the road it can lead to cancer and sterility. Of course, these results are in lab animals as a human being would never be subjected to this chemical but the conclusions can sure be drawn that it would have the same results for humans and even more dire effects for innocent formula drinking babies.

When I first got word of this scare in September, I was under the impression that it was isolated to the most recent past. Of course, I was very upset for the effected children. Then word began to get out about this going back into late 2005. That is when I started to be concerned about our children. Then, one of the large China Only Adoption Agency's directed it's clients who adopted back though early 2006 to speak to their pediatricians about what steps needed to be taken to discern whether those children had been compromised in the form of kidney stones by a chemical ingestion.

I asked my pediatrician about what tests would need to be done to make sure our DD were indeed fine and kidney stone free. The Doctor tried to assuage my fears by reminding me that they had both urinalysis and blood work that would have found a problem if there was any. I felt relieved by that information, that is until my friend Kim, who is living in Shanghai with her three children sent me an urgent e-mail saying that the crisis there had deepened and that scope of the milk adulteration scandal in China widened, with four infants dead from contaminated baby formula and at least another 53,000 sickened. She said that China was paying to test children with Renal Ultrasounds so if that was the case, I needed to speak again to our Pediatrician and share this info with her. Now, anyone that knows Kim knows that she is no alarmist. In fact she had poo pooed the actions of many of her ex pat friends that were frantic in Shanghai just days before. Now, even she was concerned and that set me off once again. I sent an e-mail to our wonderful pediatrician who also used to treat Kim's kids when they lived in South Florida. I actually forwarded Kim's e-mail to her and she e-mailed me back with the answer that Kim obviously was in the know and that was enough for her to order the Renal Ultrasounds.

Well, yesterday was the big day; the day that the DD would have their sonograms. I told them what to expect so that they would not freak out. When we entered the room to administer the US, the technician asked the children who wanted to go first. Of course, Katie said Ethan and Ethan said Katie. I tried to lift Ethan up and quickly realized by Ethan's demeanor that Katie should go first. Thankfully, Mommy's instincts were right on as Katie did really well and enjoyed watching the picture on the screen. She chatted away about this, that and the other and had the tech in hysterics. Of course, the promise of a lollipop was also quite helpful in reminding her to stay still. Then, it was Ethan's turn and he was still a bit reticent. Katie was an awesome big sister (by 2 and a half months mind you) and told her brother that it would all be OK and it just tickled....it did not hurt! She stood there by his side and kept her hand on his leg while she comforted him. It did not take long before Ethan decided it tickled too and was cracking up. Then it was our job to keep him from laughing too hard :) Thankfully, we were able to get lots of good views for the doctor to read.

The two of them charmed the tech who then in turn wanted to introduce them around the facility. They sure know how to make friends and influence people ;0)

The end result is that we got the all clear today. They are stone free...thank goodness! I felt in my heart that this would be the end result but without our children's health history and with really no prior information to speak of we felt it better to be safe than sorry. I know that this is not every adoptive families take on how to handle it but it was ours and we feel good about it.

What I feel bad about is that there are so many children suffering in China and around the world because of this. I also am sick about the fact that China has not tightened it's safety standards and that there is evidence that they covered-up and prevented news of the tainted formula from being made public for a month or more during which the Olympic games were held. Was it ignorance of the gravity of the situation or was it a more serious omission of the damning evidence? In China, is it the political or psychological structure of the culture and government that is completely out of step with the rest of the world? Whatever the answer to that question is there is one thing that I know for sure, sorry is not enough! There there are too many people in China and around the world at risk due to all of their exports. The welfare of people always need to come before profit and so there must be REAL change in the Peoples Republic of China.


Tammie said...

I am in total agreement with your assessment of how China has handled this tragedy.

I only hope that we continue to get good news on all the ultrasounds that our children are going through.

Gail said...

Very, very well said Lori. I don't ever pretend to understand China and how they handle situations and particularly this situation. My own personal belief is that it's all about how it 'looks or appears' to the outside. The sad fact is that children have died or gotten seriously ill from melamine. I love China and it's culture in many ways but can never truly understand why they do what they do.

Vivian M said...

It is tragic and sad that in this day and age greed and corruption still exist, and to this extent. I will never understand how a human being can purposely harm another for profit. However, I can totally understand why there are people out there that would like to see those guilty people hanged!
Sigh. I am just praying all our kids are safe. They have been through so much all ready.

Heather said...

We decided to be safe also and took Libby to her pediatrician Tuesday and had all the testing done today. I expect everything to be fine, but will have a better peace of mind knowing we did what we could to help as soon as we knew. I think our agency should have contacted us also and am disappointed they did not, but sadly not surprised. I don't understand the way China handles things either, but I think jobs and possibly lives will be lost when the issue and companies are investigated.

captain corky said...

I'm glad the kids are ok!

I agree that there needs to be real change in China and with the rest of the world for that matter. It's pretty shitty out there right now.

ChinaCalling said...

I know you can't believe I'm commenting here. LOL! But I just wanted to add another layer to the mystery. The US helped set China up in the dairy industry. We sent them some cows. Well, they've been milking those same cows and inbreeding the cows from generations. It is to the point now that the quality of the inbred milk was so poor that and the government's requirement of protein so high that the two would never meet naturally.

So what to do? Add a carcinogen to the milk that would show up as protein, or get some new cows.

I actually think that AskJane has a brother in law who is selling a bunch of new cows to China. Wish I had thought of that first!

To me it's another example of making things way harder than they have to be. And in this case, people/children get hurt.

Not only did the milk get contaminated, but it probably was of little nutritional value anyway.