The United States government shamelessly allows profiteers to export cancer-causing products, defective baby goods and hazardous pesticides to the unsuspecting people in underdeveloped countries. Even products that have been banned from the American market can be legally exported.
This may not fit the image most Americans have of themselves as a compassionate people who pour out food and clothing to the less fortunate.
Yet we have established that the government permits companies to export products that have been withheld from Americans as unsafe. Our associate Gary Cohn nailed down the evidence by posing as a clothing representative who wanted to unload tris-treated children's sleepwear overseas.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has banned tris-treated sleep-wear from U.S. stores after discovering it could cause cancer. Yet Cohn had no trouble finding companies willing to purchase the harmful sleepwear for export to children outside the United States.
We should stress that it is not illegal to sell the banned children's clothing overseas, but it is certainly morally reprehensible.
At the LMR Trading Co. in New York City, an official told Cohn that his firm would unload the tris-treated sleepwear in South America. He cited Argentina, Brazil and Peru as markets his company could supply.
However, in a subsequent phone call, Frank Rodosta told Cohn that after checking on the tris-treated sleepwear, "I wouldn't touch it and I wouldn't export it." Companies that export the products, he said, have "no consideration for human life . . . children." A lot of exporters, Rodosta said, "don't care what the hell they sell."
Another New York firm, called Cresmond Industries, offered to purchase the sleepwear but refused to say where it would be shipped. Helena Fabrics of New York City would not buy tris-treated garments but would consider exporting tris-treated fabrics for sale "mostly to Africa."
An official of Intercontinental Dyvours, Inc., in Hialeah, Fla., stated that his company would purchase the condemned sleepwear for export to South America.
What is unfit for American children, apparently, can be sold to foreign children.
Footnote: Cohn made another telephone call to each company listed in this story and identified himself as a reporter. A Cresmond Industries official conceded he had made inquiries about selling tris-treated garments to Central Africa, but had never actually made any sales. A respresentative of Intercontinental Dyvours, Inc., also said that his company hadn't sent any tris-treated garments overseas. At Helena Fabrics, an official accused us of deceptive tactics, refused to answer our questions, told us to "go drop dead" and slammed down the phone.
Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.) will introduce legislation prohibting the export of products banned from the U.S. market.
Behind Closed Doors - What happens behind closed White House doors is often more newsworthy than the public announcements. Here are some news items from confidential White House minutes:
President Carter told subordinate that he "is interested in keeping in close touch with the military in various ways, including frequent meetings with the joint chiefs and visits on aircraft, nuclear submarines" and other military craft. The president boasted that he has "generated a compatibility among the strategic planners of our government unknown in former administrations."
Jimmy Carter is eager to scratch congressional backs and win more friends on Capitol Hill. Congressment complain to him, he informed the Cabinet, that they aren't notified about federal grants to their districts. They like to issue the announcements and take credit with the voters for bringing federal money into their community. The president instructed his Cabinet members "personally to double-check in their departments and to raise the subject at their next staff meeting."
Trade Ambassador Robert Strauss, doubling as a political adviser, urged the president to meet with business, labor, consumer, religious and ethnic groups. Carter not only agreed to sit down with more delegations, but called on his Cabinet officers to attend "such meetings at the White House whenever they are asked to do so."
Defense Secretary Harold Brown offered the president his analysis of the emotional opposition to the Panama Canal teaties. "The general unease about the treaties," he suggested, "derives chiefly from the belief that they are part of a general retreat of American power and influence."