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Consumer Fraud Center Urges Amazon to Halt Uninspected Shipments From China Into Its Warehouses Because of Threat of Carcinogens

December 11, 2012 - Santa Monica, CA

Coming on the heels of a legal action launched by an environmental advocacy group against several major retailers concerning the presence of suspected carcinogens in baby products, the Consumer Fraud Center today joined in urging, Inc. discontinue the practice of allowing direct shipments of products from China into its warehousing and distribution system without inspections for environmental hazards, especially in light of the growing proliferation of counterfeit and illicit goods being sold online.

"The practice of allowing direct shipments of goods from China into Amazon's warehousing and distribution system without inspection or control is one of the most vulnerable spots in the consumer safety net protecting shoppers from potentially cancer-causing or dangerous goods," said James Lee, executive director for the Consumer Fraud Center. "With the growth of counterfeit goods made cheaply and with dangerous chemicals, consumers and their families are at significant risk unless retailers such as Amazon take more aggressive steps in safeguarding them."

Last week the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based environmental advocacy group, launched legal action against several major retailers, including Amazon, urging them to recall baby products such as diaper-changing pads, nap mats and foam products containing unsafe levels of a flame retardant linked to cancer in violation of California's Prop. 65 standards and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, and to provide consumers with warning notices.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) conducted independent tests of nap mats, changing pads, crib mattress pads, infant sleepers, and other foam products for infants and young children and found they contained high levels of the cancer-causing flame retardant chemical chlorinated Tris (tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate or TDCPP), in excess of the safety standard set by California consumer protection law.

"We are particularly concerned with Amazon's announced expansion of its Amazon Pages program, making it even easier for any retailer to set up storefronts and direct ship goods into Amazon's distribution system without any warnings to consumers or inspection of these goods," Lee said. "This practice provides a perfect storm of opportunity for the importation and sale of goods that may be contaminated with carcinogens or other toxic chemicals."

This follows a similar study by the environmental group Greenpeace last month which found popular fashion apparel contaminated with hazardous chemicals from the Nonylphenol (NPE) family that break down to form hormone-disrupting or even cancer-causing chemicals when released into the environment. Not only are the brands with the highest NPE concentrations sold widely on Amazon, but, even more troublingly, counterfeit versions are also sold through the site.

Within hours of the CEH's legal initiative, Wal-Mart announced that it was redoubling its efforts to safeguard California consumers. Lee specifically commended Wal-Mart, along with several other retailers and clothing manufacturers, for taking proactive steps to address the issue of contaminated and counterfeit goods, urging Amazon to follow the lead of corporate responsibility. Lee pointed out China's long and troubled history with contaminated consumer goods including:

  • In 2006, the use of Chinese-manufactured drywall used in home construction was halted because of the presence of radioactive phosphogypsum;
  • In 2007, Pet foods containing Chinese-manufactured wheat gluten contaminated with melamine were recalled throughout North America and Europe after Americans reported the deaths of 4,000 pets;
  • In 2008, the sale of melamine-contaminated dairy products sickened 300,000 people in China and killed six infants, as well as prompted recalls and consumer warnings in the U.S. by the federal Food and Drug Administration; and
  • As recently as this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized at the port of Los Angeles nearly 36,000 Chinese-made rubber ducks, which contained unsafe levels of a phthalate, a chemical used to make vinyl and plastics soft and flexible, but has been linked to birth defects, early puberty, infertility, asthma, ADHD, obesity and diabetes in children.

Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State's drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals through the publication of an annual list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Tris is on the list.

"We strongly urge Amazon to stop stalling and get on the consumer safety bandwagon, or it may find that government regulators will have to force its hand and put a halt to the sale of uninspected goods through its Amazon Pages and Fulfillment by Amazon programs," Lee said. "At the very least, we call on Amazon to beef up its warning disclaimers and help consumers make better-informed decisions when shopping on its site."

The Consumer Fraud Center
The Consumer Fraud Center is dedicated to uncovering the use of legitimate online portals and shopping destinations for the sale of counterfeit and fraudulent consumer goods and products. It relies on its network of activated consumers who submit reports on counterfeit goods sold on websites to create a national database of products searchable by consumers, media and law enforcement. For more information, please visit us at

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James Lee
Media Relations Office
(424) 888-0770
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