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Here is why we have regulation in the first place, although as the story shows, it's far from enough..

We Know How To Stop The Epidemic Of Lead Poisoning. So Why Aren’t We?


 MAR 24, 2016 9:38 AM

Before Lanice Walker moved her family into a new home in Chicago, she and her nine children had to share the cramped quarters of a three-bedroom apartment. Even so, she struggled to afford that small space. The single mother was facing homelessness, which would mean likely having to send her children to live with their grandmother.

Getting a housing voucher to help cover rent is almost like winning the lottery. Just one in four eligible low-income families actually get the assistance, thanks to underfunding and long waitlists. In 2013, families spent nearly two years on average waiting for a voucher and over a year waiting for a public housing spot. In Chicago, 282,000 families compete for about 3,000 slots. So when Walker got approved for a voucher to help cover rent in a better apartment in early 2012, it was a cause for celebration.

“It felt like the best thing that could have happened,” she said. “It was like my life was brand new, like I could breathe a new breath.”

Little did she know that it would soon lead to her children getting poisoned.

Just two months after the family moved into their new home, Walker took her youngest daughter to the doctor for a routine checkup and received some devastating news: she had elevated levels of lead in her blood. The source was the apartment.

It had been visually inspected for potential lead hazards like peeling paint before her family moved in, as are all publicly funded units, and given a clean bill of health. But clearly something had been missed. Lead poisoning is particularly detrimental to children’s development, so Walker immediately told the Chicago Housing Authority what she’d learned from the doctor — only to find out that her daughter wasn’t poisoned enough to warrant an emergency move.

“They treated me as if I wasn’t nothing,” she said. “I had to choose between having a place to stay and my kids’ health. That was really rough.”

Most public housing units were built before lead paint was banned and are often left in states of disrepair and neglect, increasing the risk that the inhabitants are exposed to lead. We now know how exactly how to eliminate those hazards and keep children safe. Yet federal regulations that are supposed to protect these families in any kind of housing, public and private, have lagged far behind current scientific research and mean thousands of children across the country are still being poisoned by their homes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that there is no safe level of lead for children’s bloodstreams, and it has updated its guidance such that 5 micrograms per deciliter is considered to be elevated and requires intervention. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which regulates publicly funded housing, still operates with different criteria that hasn’t been updated since it was released in 1999.

To get intervention — an order that a landlord fix dilapidated housing or the ability to simply pick up and move — a child under the age of six has to have a blood lead level of 20 micrograms or above in a single test or 15 and higher in two tests taken within three months. It’s a problem the agency now says it is starting to try and change, although there are plenty of other loopholes that keep children in lead-tainted homes.

The science has continued to evolve, the CDC has continued to reduce blood lead levels at which intervention is necessary, and HUD’s regulations have remained in the Bush era,” said Emily Benfer, director of the civil legal aid organization Health Justice Project at Loyola University. “It’s very problematic.”

Walker didn’t have many options when she found out that her children had lead in their blood. She went back to the housing authority four times, but it kept telling her she couldn’t get an emergency move because their levels hadn’t risen above the 15 micrograms mark. She doesn’t have family in Chicago so she had no one to stay with, and with her income she couldn’t afford to pick up and move into a new market-rate apartment. “I would have been there if we had had somewhere to go,” she said.

So she and her children were trapped in her apartment for another two yearsThe levels of lead in their blood continued to rise. She did what she could, wiping down surfaces to try to collect lead dust every day, Googling remedies, feeding her children vegetables and vitamins to try to counteract the effects.

Despite her efforts, Walker sees the impact on her children every day. It took her daughter Mahogany, now eight, two years to learn to write her name. “It takes her a long time to catch onto things,” she said. Her three youngest all struggle with learning disabilities. “And the behavior…” she said, her voice trailing off.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Walker felt abandoned by the people whose job is to keep her family healthy and safe. “I went on and just did what I had to do because I felt like I was treated unfairly and nobody was really trying to help me,” she said. “It was really stressful just knowing and knowing the types of dangers it caused… A lot of nights I couldn’t sleep.”

The country has made remarkable progress in combating the widespread epidemic of lead poisoning. In the early 20th century, lead was ubiquitous: it was used in appliances, toys, pipes, gasoline, food cans, paint. Health officials first began raising concerns about the impacts of lead exposure in the 1950s, but the industry waged a mighty marketing and lobbying campaign to convince everyone that lead was safe, even claiming it promoted health. Action didn’t arrive until the 1970s after the scientific consensus of lead’s harms became undeniable and litigation piled up. The government banned its use in residential paint in 1978 , and it was phased out of gasoline and banned as a material for pipes in the 1980s.

The bans had a major impact. Between 1976 and 1980, about 78 percent of Americans had blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter; that fell to 4.4 percent by the 1990s. The share of children ages one to five with this level of blood poisoning fell by 84 percent between 1988 and 2004, reaching just 1.4 percent. Today, 0.5 percent of children tested under the age of six have lead levels that high.

Still, in 2012 about 122,000 children had blood lead levels of 5 micrograms per deciliter or above, and that’s just in 29 states — the others didn’t send data to the CDC. The agency estimates that there are a half a million children between the ages of one and five with that much lead in their blood, and despite the focus on lead-tainted water after the disaster in Flint, Michigan, peeling paint or paint chips is the biggest source. Victory over lead poisoning, a completely preventable public health disaster, is still far out of reach.

“This isn’t about getting an A or going most of the way,” said Ruth Ann Norton, president of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. “We have the knowledge, we have the facts, we have the science, we have the data. We know kids are getting poisoned… If we know it and we know what to do, then I think we should do everything we can at every moment.”

Children Slipping Through The Cracks

Stories like Lanice Walker’s are common, particularly because federal regulations meant to keep lead out of public housing have gaping holes that families frequently fall through.

One big problem is the lack of preventative measures, especially since the effects of lead poisoning are irreversible. HUD requires any home a family with children moves into that is supported by federal funding — a public housing unit or an apartment rented with a voucher, for example — to be visually inspected for lead hazards, which should mean that children are protected from being poisoned in the first place. But these inspections don’t mean much.

“The current assessments that occur prior to approving a home for occupancy by children will not identify lead,” Benfer said. A visual inspection means a certified inspector comes in and looks for peeling or chipping paint. But without taking actual samples of paint and other materials, they miss other potential sources of lead poisoning — the most common of which, according to Benfer, is dust. Dust samples from floors and windows, according to one study that focused on Rochester, New York, are reliable predictors of whether children will have high blood lead levels.

The inspectors, meanwhile, are far from experts on the subject. To get certified, a would-be inspector just needs to click through a series of online slides with text and images about lead paint.

Benfer herself has gone through the process. “I’m actually certified for visual assessments,” she said. “I cannot tell you with 100 percent certainty a child will not be poisoned in [a] unit.”

A thorough inspection could have helped Tolanda McMullen’s son Makheil’s health improve. Instead, lead followed him from home to home, making him sicker and sicker.

Makheil first got lead poisoning in a private market apartment in Chicago when he was just 18 months old. That meant McMullen qualified for a housing voucher to move somewhere that was free of lead hazards so that he wouldn’t get any worse. But she lived in three different units throughout the city, all of which passed visual inspections but ended up having lead present anyway.

She’s still living in one of those units. There wasn’t any chipped paint when they moved in last year, but when her son got a physical before the school year began, the doctor told her his blood lead level was at 20 micrograms per deciliterThe city eventually came back for a more thorough inspection and pinpointed the problem: lead paint on the windows, where Makheil loves to look out and watch cars go by. “He probably ingested it watching for his school bus,” McMullen said. “He loves cars.”

Eventually her landlord replaced the windows, but McMullen claims he didn’t hire contractors trained in lead safe techniques and that the workers left paint chips all over her floor and even in her heating vents. Because the landlord took some action, she didn’t get approval to move until February, when her lease was about to run out. “Basically we had to sit there until the lease was up,” she said.

Lead exposure has stolen an immeasurable amount from her family. “My child was a normal baby,” she said. But after he was poisoned, he started missing milestones. It took him until age four to talk and he still struggles with communication. “He used to run and crawl and jump up and laugh,” she said. Now he just “sits and stares… he’s lifeless.”

He was robbed of being a normal little boy,” she said. “That shouldn’t be taken away from him at such an early age.”

It has also cost McMullen herself a lot, including her car, her job, and her husband, Makheil’s father. She winds up in the hospital to treat Makheil’s health two or three times a month. “My job didn’t understand,” she said, and she doesn’t have any family in the area that could help out. Without a job she couldn’t pay her car bill, so it got repossessed. Meanwhile, Makheil’s father blamed her for what happened. “He thought it was my fault, that I picked the place,” she said. “He didn’t understand that I didn’t know, I didn’t know this stuff was here in these units.”

Her task now is to find an apartment for her and her son that’s free of lead, but after so many wrong turns she’s scared that her misfortune will continue. “I got to live somewhere, but I don’t want to compromise my son,” she said. “I’ll stay sleeping in our car before I live in another unit that has lead. Or I’ll go to a shelter.”

It’s not just children in Chicago’s public housing who are suffering. Similar crises have been identified in cities as widespread as New Orleans, LouisianaRochester, New York; and Cleveland, Ohio. “The current regulations are not preventative,” Benfer argued. “They almost guarantee that the child is a litmus test for a lead hazard… we’re using their bodies to identify lead hazards instead of risk assessments that actually work.”

And it’s no secret in the federal government. In 1994, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Children in Section 8 Tenant-Based Housing Are Not Adequately Protected.” It found that while cities were complying with the requirement that they conduct visual assessments, those inspections were missing a lot of lead, especially in windows and floors. At the time, it recommended that HUD conduct a pilot project that used more rigorous inspections to determine whether its regulations should be changed.

“No one in HUD or the federal government can explain why it has taken so long to respond to these issues,” Benfer said.

Demanding Government Do More

That’s why Benfer’s Health Justice Project, along with 29 other groups and individuals, has sent a petition to HUD to change its rules. In February, they delivered their request that the agency adopt the CDC’s definition of lead poisoning; replace visual assessments with risk assessments that would take and analyze samples of dust, dirt, water, and paint in units built before 1978; and allow families to get an emergency move if a lead hazard is identified in their home, among other things.

Members of Congress have made a recent push to address lead poisoning in public housing as well. On March 7, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (IL) and Robert Menendez (NJ) and Reps. Keith Ellison (MN) and Mike Quigley (IL) introduced legislation that would bring HUD’s lead poisoning guidelines in line with the CDC’s, require risk assessments, and help families move.

“I’m trying to push my friends in Congress and these agencies toward prevention and inspection,” Durbin told ThinkProgress. An important first step is updating HUD’s thresholds. “I think we should err on the side of the CDC, which has a fraction of the HUD level, when it comes to establishing a danger,” he said. “There is no acceptable level of lead contamination, so the lower the better as far as I’m concerned.”

Durbin also wants to press forward on helping families get out of apartments that are poisoning their children. “It just takes entirely too long to resolve the issue and to put the family in a safe place,” he said.

Time will tell whether the bill gains any traction, but Durbin is hopeful. “I think the time’s right,” he noted, pointing to the awareness raised around lead poisoning after the Flint water crisis.

HUD has heard at least some of these messages. Secretary Julian Castro submitted a proposed rule change to the Office of Management and Budget on March 8 to adopt the CDC’s lead poisoning threshold. “We cannot stand by as lead poisoning diminishes the health and future opportunities of the next generation, which is why we’re taking this necessary and decisive action to address the issue of lead in HUD assisted properties,” Castro said in a statement to ThinkProgress.

A HUD spokesperson also acknowledged that risk assessments are not required for all publicly funded housing, and making them uniformly required is something Castro is looking into. “This change may require legislative assistance, and the Secretary pledged to work with Congress if that authority is needed,” she said.

One major challenge to implementing some of these reforms is that they incur more short-term costs. Beefed up inspections, of course, won’t come free. But there’s evidence that these kinds of preventative measures pay off in the long termOne study found that every dollar spent on getting rid of lead paint hazards will eventually return as much as $221 through savings in health care, special education, and criminal justice plus benefits from children’s higher earnings and taxes.

Because the savings don’t show up immediately, however, it can be difficult to convince lawmakers of the value of reforms. “You don’t see those savings for 10, 15 years,” Benfer said. “It’s very hard to move things when the federal budget cycle is a four-year period.”

The petitions to HUD and the legislation pending in Congress are only scratching the surface of the obstacles standing in the way of eliminating lead from homes. Simply identifying publicly funded houses that are poisoning children is a challenge. The 1994 GAO report recommended requiring housing authorities to request data on children’s blood tests from health agencies and match it against the addresses of their own properties and voucher locations, identifying the sources of poisoning.

That is, in theory, what should be happening today. But it frequently doesn’t. Given gaps in the regulations and lax enforcement, the data sits with health departments unused. After all, if the authorities were to identify potential problems, they would have to send inspectors out to the properties and possibly spend money abating the hazard or at least force a landlord to deal with it.

No one is doing this,” said George A. Thomas, a civil legal aid attorney based in Ohio. In his state, for example, just one local housing authority requested lead testing data from the health department over the last year. “If there’s no enforcement mechanism built into the regulations, there’s a really good chance that the public housing authorities are going to ignore it. They have other priorities,” he noted.

The HUD spokesperson acknowledged the problem, noting, “HUD’s compliance monitoring has revealed gaps in local communication, data sharing and capacity on both the public housing authority and health department sides.” She asserted that if a health department simply says it doesn’t want to get such reports, it doesn’t have to under current law.

But HUD could also do more to crack down on state health departments and urge them to collect the data, abiding by the original intent of the law. “It is an important part of the solution,” the spokeswoman acknowledged.

If public housing is so dangerous, low-income families with enough resources could take their chances on the private market. But they aren’t any safer there, as McMullen well knows. In fact, it’s just as common for families in run-down private homes in Chicago to be faced with the prospect of lead poisoning and have little recourse to escape it, a reality John Bartlett, executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, sees firsthand. The poor families who call his hotline are often forced into unbearable choices in private housing.

“In the private market, it’s all about resources. Families don’t have the options of necessarily always being safe,” he said.

No Safe Place To Turn

The problem is vast: A 2011 study found that about 35 percent of all homes have lead-based paint, and it constitutes a hazard in 22 percent, or more than 23 million houses. And poor families with few resources to move into nicer, newer homes are usually most at risk.

Preventative measures are even rarer in private housing, as inspections aren’t required at all. As a result, parents often have no idea what they’re moving into. “The question becomes, is it better to have a home or not a home,” he said. “Do you end up in a shelter situation or do you take what you can get?”

And even tenants who want to do something about it have little power to get landlords to listen to them. “Tenants lack the resources to go anywhere else, but they also lack the resources to stand up to the landlord,” Bartlett said. Many are already behind on rent and feel like they can’t raise an issue. And they might risk getting kicked out of their home rather than getting an actual fix. “Oftentimes landlords, instead of wanting to get rid of the lead hazard, want to get rid of the tenant,” he continued. That’s a particular problem in private housing, where the protections against wrongful evictions are weaker.

And as with HUD’s high threshold for blood poisoning, as of January, 26 states still hadn’t reformed their laws so that they require intervention in housing, public or private, at the CDC’s 5 micrograms per deciliter threshold. “It’s not only subsidized housing that follows the higher blood lead level in terms of intervention,” explained Anita Weinberg, a professor of law at Loyola University. “Our laws are written so that we respond after a child is harmed.” In those states, no inspections or clean up is required from private landlords until children’s levels hit the 15 or 20 microgram per deciliter levels.

There is one requirement that is meant to stop children from being poisoned in the first place: If a house was built before 1978, contractors who do any work are supposed to be certified in lead-safe techniques so that construction doesn’t kick up a bunch of lead and create a hazardBut there is little enforcement around it because HUD and the Environmental Protection Agency don’t have the resources to crack down on all contractors and homeowners don’t have to check to make sure contractors are certified, so it often falls by the wayside.

Some cities and states have instituted proactive rental inspection programs, which require housing to be checked at regular intervals, rather than waiting for a resident to make a complaint. That not only means that lead hazards are hopefully abated before poisoning becomes an issue, but that tenants who might fear taking action against landlords don’t have to shoulder the burden.

That proactive approach is what Bartlett has been pushing his city of Chicago to adopt. His group wants the city to mandate inspections every five years to catch lead hazards before children become poisoned. “If you’re not going out and pre-inspecting things, then kids move in, they get poisoned,” he said. The city has resisted the effort so far, though, because it would cost more to mandate extra inspections.

Green & Healthy Homes, which is based in Baltimore, has been working with the city and proven that it’s feasible to do much more. Baltimore has been ravaged by the plague of lead poisoning. As with the rest of the country, it’s made big strides toward eradicating the problem, with the number of new cases of lead poisoningdropping by 86 percent since 2002. Still, nearly 5,000 children in the state have been poisoned over the last decade, and the real number is likely higher as not all children are tested.

Norton’s organization has gotten the city to dedicate 250 housing choice vouchers to people whose children’s blood levels are at 5 micrograms per deciliter or above in any type of housing so that they can move to a new home immediately.

Now she’s working with the state of Maryland to require risk assessments, not just visual inspections, before people move into units financed through HUD funding and to adopt the 5 micrograms per deciliter level into state law. The state is putting up some resistance, but Norton says she’ll push forward. “If we say that 5 micrograms per deciliter is the correct threshold, then every state and every county should be looking at 5 micrograms per deciliter,” she argued.

There is little national urgency on the issue. “If anybody in your home was at threat for being poisoned, you’d make changes today,” Norton said. “Somehow we get to the public policy venue and we tend to move slower.”

But that may be changing, particularly with the recent spotlight on lead poisoning following the water crisis in Flint. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has now made lead a prominent plank of her policy platformpledging at the debate in Flint to get rid of it in any source — including paint, water, and soil — within five years. “I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is,” she said.

Norton thinks that’s achievable. “I think we can do that, eliminate childhood lead poisoning as a major public health threat,” she said.

Advocates crave federal attention on the issue. Norton’s organization has called for the president to reconstitute the task force on childhood lead poisoning to make the issue a clear priority for the country, as well as to align policies and practices among different government agencies. “Money is one thing, but standards is another,” she noted.

“You have to declare war on this if you really want to put a stake in its heart,” she added. “Otherwise it will continue to drip along for decades more.”

Lanice Walker doesn’t have decades to wait for things to change. She’s speaking out now in the hopes that the suffering her family has endured won’t afflict others. “I wouldn’t want this to happen to someone else,” she said.

The good news is that she finally got clearance to move and has since left the home that poisoned her family. “I feel so much better to be out of there,” she said. But she also knows that her problems haven’t ended; the ramifications will likely be with her children for their whole lives. The learning and behavior issues they’re living with now aren’t going away.

“I’m still worried about what’s to come,” she said. “That’s real stressful.”
And some more reasons why we have regulation..

Baidu shares slip amid CEO summons report

1 Hour Ago

Baidu shares closed down almost 8 percent Monday after Chinese news outlet Sina reported the company's CEO, Robin Li, would be summoned by Chinese authorities over the death of a student.

China's Internet regulator said on Monday it would send an investigation team to Chinese search leader Baidu over the death of a university student, who had used the search engine to look for treatment for his cancer.

Wei Zexi, 21, died last month of a rare form of cancer.

He had turned to Baidu to look online for the best place for treatment, finding a department under the Second Hospital of Beijing Armed Police Corps that offered an experimental form of treatment that ultimately failed, according to state media.

Before dying, Wei had posted criticism online accusing Baidu of promoting false medical information, as well as the hospital for misleading advertising in claiming a high success rate for the experimental treatment, state radio said.

"Wei's family says they trusted the treatment because it was promoted by one of the military hospitals which are considered credible, and the attending doctor had appeared on many mainstream media platforms," state radio said.

The regulator said in a short statement Wei's case had attracted widespread attention on the internet.

It, along with the health ministry and State Administration for Industry and Commerce, would investigate Baidu over the case and "handle it in accordance with the law" and publicize its findings.

Shares in Baidu dropped 7.9 percent on the Nasdaq composite to $178.91 each after the reports surfaced, while the volume of options contracts traded was two-and-a-half times larger than usual, with sentiment heavily skewed toward bearish bets, Reuters reported, citing Trade Alert data. Baidu said in a statement it deeply regretted Wei's death and sent its condolences to his family.

"Baidu strives to provide a safe and trustworthy search experience for our users, and have launched an immediate investigation of the matter," it said.

The company added it welcomed the investigation and would fully cooperate.

Internet portal Sina cited unidentified Baidu sources as saying the regulator had also asked to speak to the CEO, Li, but that the subject of the discussion wasn't clear.

Reuters was not able to reach the hospital for comment.

Baidu has been in trouble before for medical related issues.

This year, it was criticized for selling management rights for an online forum related to haemophilia to an unlicensed private hospital, which then used the platform for self-promotion and deleted comments that challenged its credentials, the official Xinhua news agency said.

In 2010, China's state-run television accused Baidu of promoting counterfeit drugs through its search engine.
And this is why we have regulation:

Quote:Last October, The Wall Street Journal published a now famous story that brought up concerns over how Theranos' blood tests were run and how accurate they were. Four months before that story was published, Theranos sent in a legal team of five lawyers to try and squash the story, Vanity Fair's Nick Bilton reports. That team included David Boies, the high-profile lawyer who has also taken on cases such as United States v. Microsoft* and now sits on Theranos' board of directors.
Theranos lawyers in Vanity Fair - Business Insider
Quote:British-based firm Reckitt Benckiser has admitted for the first time selling a humidifier disinfectant that killed about a hundred people in South Korea. The head of its South Korean division was attacked by angry relatives as he apologised at a Seoul hotel. Reckitt Benckiser is among several firms whose products are blamed for the deaths. It has offered compensation to the families of those who died, as well as the hundreds more who were injured. Reckitt Benckiser withdrew its product from the market after South Korean authorities suggested a link between chemicals to sterilise humidifiers and lung conditions in 2011.
Reckitt Benckiser sold deadly sterilisers in South Korea - BBC News
More lead..

New Jersey is facing a 'poisoning' scandal in its schools — and parents are saying it's a 'cover up' Parents of four Newark Public School students have filed a proposed class-action lawsuitclaiming the district and other city and state officials "poisoned" thousand of students by deliberately exposing them to toxic levels of lead from March 2011 to present, which caused gastrointestinal and cognitive health problems.

The complaint, which names New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Superintendent of Newark Schools Chris Cerf among the defendants, also alleges the district made a conscious decision to conceal the elevated lead levels present in schools' water supply from children, parents, and teachers, even after the information became public in March 2016 after testing from the Department of Environmental Protocols.

"Since [then] the Defendants have done nothing but attempt to cover up their actions, mislead parents and teachers, and make it difficult for the parents to get their children tested for lead," the suit reads.

The suit also claims that the defendants "haphazardly and secretively installed filters" into some water sources to combat the issue but that the district failed to provide adequate maintenance, which would take as little as five minutes, twice a year.

"The Defendants intentionally failed to change the filters for years despite the requirement that these filters be changed every six months," the suit claims.

The district left some filters unchanged for "more than five years after they expired," according to the complaint.

Further, the suit claims the defendants drank bottled water, instead of the schools' water, while leaving students to consume lead-infused water on a daily basis.

No level of lead in the blood is considered safeaccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to high enough levels can cause an array of serious health issues in children and pregnant women, especially.

Some who drank the water, according to the suit, experienced "life threatening and irreversible bodily injury."

Changing filters on some water sources would have taken five minutes, twice a year, according to the suit.

The district has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but it's working to communicate with the community, said Dreena Whitfield, a spokesperson for Newark Public Schools, in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

The statements reads:

At Newark Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. That is why we have taken proactive measures to share water quality results broadly with the public; to engage experts to create a new baseline for water quality in our schools; and to go beyond efforts taken in the past to solve this historic issue once and for all.

With the suit, the parents are seeking a jury trial, compensation for damages, and the establishment of a medical fund as well as the appointment of a monitor to oversee water operations in Newark Schools.

New Jersey joins Flint, Michigan, and Sebring, Ohio, as cities in the midst of lead crises.

SEE ALSO: More lead found in Newark schools' drinking water
Yes, we don't need any regulations..

The age of impunity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs   MAY 13, 2016

THE PANAMA PAPERS opened yet another window on the global system of financial corruption, showing how political leaders and businesses use shell companies in secrecy havens like the British Virgin Islands and many US states to evade taxes and hide corruption and other crimes. Yet the system of corruption depends on another factor beyond secrecy, one that is perhaps even more important: impunity. Impunity means that the rich and powerful escape from punishment even when their malfeasance is in full view.

Impunity is epidemic in America. The rich and powerful get away with their heists in broad daylight. When a politician like Bernie Sanders calls out the corruption, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal double down with their mockery over such a foolish “dreamer.” The Journal recently opposed the corruption sentence of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for taking large gifts and bestowing official favors — because everybody does itAnd one of its columnists praised Panama for facilitating the ability of wealthy individuals to hide their income from “predatory governments” trying to collect taxes. No kidding.

Our major institutions, the ones that should know better, are often gross enablers of impunity. Consider my alma mater, Harvard University, and its recent nuptial with hedge-fund manager John Paulson. Paulson was the coconspirator with Goldman Sachs of one of the most notorious scams of the recent financial bubble.

Paulson and Goldman constructed and marketed a portfolio of toxic assets to sell to unwitting investors so that Paulson could bet against the portfolio. Goldman and Paulson thereby turned the sucker investors’ quick $1 billion loss into an equivalent $1 billion gain for Paulson, with Goldman collecting on fees. The SEC fined Goldman but left Paulson untouched. As one disillusioned SEC investigator put it: The SEC is “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors.” Yet Harvard was delighted last year to take $400 million of Paulson’s ill-gotten gains, leave Paulson with the rest, name its engineering school after Paulson, and declare Paulson to be “the epitome of a visionary leader.”

Impunity. Paulson remains a much-celebrated figure on Wall Street. He has many kindred spirits, such as his partner in crime, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who has described himself as just a banker “doing God’s work.” Or consider JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank has paid well over $30 billion in fines while Dimon remains CEO with a $27 million salary for 2015The hedge-fund industry itself is a case study of impunity. With few exceptions, it is domiciled in tax and secrecy havens, enjoys crass tax breaks brokered by cronies in Congress (such as Wall Street Senator Chuck Schumer), and pays itself billion-dollar-plus paychecks even while leaving investors with below-market returns or outright losses over the years.

The recourse to cheating within the financial industry now seems to be deeply ingrained, part of the corporate culture, and enabled by the prevailing impunity. An ingenious scientific study published in December 2014 showed the rot. Employees of a major international bank were divided into a control group and a treatment group. All subjects were asked to flip a coin 10 times and report truthfully on the number of heads, with more heads resulting in a bigger monetary prize. The treatment group was subtlety reminded they were bankers, while the control group was not. Simply reminding them that they were professional bankers was enough to induce the employees to cheat by exaggerating the number of heads they flipped.

Impunity is of course not limited to banking. Consider the poster-child of impunity in Big Pharma, Gilead Sciences. Gilead brazenly bought the patents on a life-saving cure for Hepatitis C and then gouged patients and taxpayers by charging $1,000 per pill — for a drug that costs $1 per pill to manufacture. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are unable to afford treatment, and many are dying, while Gilead earns far more in profits each year than it paid for the patents. Gilead adds to this deadly effrontery by booking its profits in an offshore tax haven.

Or consider another tech company in the health sector, Theranos, led by Elizabeth Holmes, until recently much lionized on Wall Street. Holmes, it now seems, may have been lying about Theranos’s supposed high-tech blood-testing technology and reporting faulty blood test results to boot. Yet when confronted with these serious concerns, Theranos board member and famed lawyer David Boies expressed his view that the board has “complete confidence in Elizabeth Holmes as a founder of the company, as a scientist, and as an administrator.” It seems not to have dawned on Boies and the board to call for an urgent, impartial, and complete investigation of the serious allegations swirling around the company.

Impunity is not an accidental or incidental defect of American society. It is a system foisted on us by the rich and powerful, and it continues to work its magic. It has enabled Hillary Clinton to come within reach of the presidential nomination without releasing the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street banks. The Clintons long ago perfected the art of impunity, becoming rich and powerful by blurring the lines between their campaign fund-raising, public policies in office, Clinton Foundation work, big-money speeches, and off-the-record favors for foreign governments.

This week British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit in London in the wake of the Panama Papers. He was speaking accurately when he was caught on an open microphone telling the Queen that leaders of two “fantastically corrupt countries,” Nigeria and Afghanistan, would be at the summit. Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, himself a corruption-fighter, concurred with Cameron’s assessment, but called on the UK to return the money stolen by Nigeria’s former leaders and deposited in British and other Western banks. He might well have added the historic role, for more than a half century, of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria’s oil-sector corruption.

Buhari is, in fact, making a much larger point. While there is enough top-level political corruption to go around — from Afghanistan and Nigeria to Malaysia, Brazil, South African, FIFA, and many more places — the channels of corruption and secrecy havens are largely owned and operated by the big boys — the United States and the UK — and depend absolutely on the gross impunity that prevails at the highest reaches of power and finance in the United States.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of “The Age of Sustainable Development.’’
Sixty Million Car Bombs: Inside Takata’s Air Bag Crisis

How the company’s failures led to lethal products and the biggest auto recall in history.

June 2, 2016
Carlos Solis was driving a familiar route, the few miles from his home to his brother’s apartment outside Houston, on a Sunday in January last year. His cousin sat beside him, and a dog was in the back seat. Just as they turned into the complex, their car, a 2002 Honda Accord, was hit. It was a low-speed collision with modest damage. Both front air bags deployed. Solis’s cousin got out of the car uninjured. The dog was fine, too. But Solis didn’t move. He’d been hurt, though at first it wasn’t obvious how. His cousin called Solis’s brother, Scott, who ran to the car. Scott tried to stanch the flow of blood from a deep wound in Solis’s neck; so did the paramedics. Solis died at the crash scene.

An autopsy, now part of court records, showed that a round piece of metal the size of a hockey puck had shot out of the Accord’s air bag, sliced into Solis’s neck, and lodged in his cervical spine and shoulder. It severed his carotid artery and jugular vein and fractured his windpipe. Solis was 35 and the father of two teenagers. He was also the sixth person in the U.S. killed by an exploding air bag made by the Japanese company Takata.
A Takata air bag inflator that deployed in 2014. The driver was killed by metal shards.

Source: Didier Law Firm P.A.
Two weeks after Solis’s death, his wife received a recall notice for the air bag. The first Takata recall had come seven years earlier, in 2008, limited to air bags in about 4,000 Hondas. The effort has been expanded 20 times, most recently in May, and is the largest and most complex in U.S. history. It covers more than 60 million air bags in vehicles from BMW, Ford, Honda, Tesla, Toyota, and 12 others, or one of every five cars on the road in the U.S. The recall could affect more than 100 million vehicles around the world. Shrapnel from the devices has killed 13 people, including 10 in the U.S., and injured more than 100.

A Senate investigation and personal injury litigation have turned up company documents suggesting that Takata executives discounted concerns from their own employees and hid the potential danger from Honda, their biggest customer, as well as from U.S. regulators. A Takata spokesman says via e-mail that the “data integrity problems reflected in some of the documents cited by the Senate Committee and produced in litigation are entirely inexcusable and will not be tolerated or repeated,” but are not related to the root cause of the air bag ruptures. The company declined to comment further.

It will take at least three years for Takata and other manufacturers to make enough air bags to replace the company’s defective ones. Because of their chemistry, Takata’s devices become less stable over time. That leaves millions of drivers with cars that could contain an air bag that’s like a ticking time bomb.

Exploding Air Bags and the Biggest Auto Recall Ever

Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, June 6 - 12, 2016. Subscribe now.
Takata, founded by the Takada family in the 1930s as a textile maker, produced parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. In 1960, Takata began manufacturing seat belts for Japan’s carmakers, which were leading the country’s industrial expansion. It was the only company whose seat belts passed the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test standards in 1973.

A few years later, Honda asked Takata to look into manufacturing air bags. The automaker had a small stake in its supplier, and they worked closely together. When Honda opened a plant in England, Takata opened one in Ireland. When Honda went to China, so did Takata. “They were in lockstep to conquer the world,” says Scott Upham, the head of Takata’s marketing division in Auburn Hills, Mich., from 1994 to 1996 and now the chief executive officer of Valient Market Research. Despite Honda’s enthusiasm about air bags, Juichiro Takada, who had taken over from his father as CEO in 1974, hesitated. Air bags deploy in controlled explosions. Their designs are drawn from rockets and munitions. A former Honda engineer, Saburo Kobayashi, described Takada’s reservations in a 2012 memoir. “If anything happens to the air bags, Takata will go bankrupt,” Takada said, according to the book. “We can’t cross a bridge as dangerous as this.” Eventually, he relented.

Air bags aren’t filled with air. They’re filled with gas created by a burning propellant. Propellants are used in jet aircraft to produce thrust; in the interiors of gun chambers; and in mining and demolition. In air bags, the propellant is compressed into aspirin-size tablets and placed in a metal tube called an inflator. After a crash, the tablets are ignited and convert from solid to gas, which erupts out of the inflator and into the bag in milliseconds. Air bags have been mandatory in every U.S. car since 1989, and regulators say they save about 2,500 lives every year. Unlike drugs, there’s no approval process for air bags.

“There are about 10,000 components in a car,” Upham says, “and air bags are probably the most highly engineered among them, even more than the electronics.” They have to be small and light enough to fit into the steering wheel and other tight spaces, and they have to deploy with just the right force. Propellant experts keep patent offices busy. They’re always trying to come up with formulas that are more efficient, cheaper, and proprietary. Each of the world’s five main air bag manufacturers has developed its own chemical compound.

It’s best to make explosives in a place with low humidity. Takata started making air bag inflators in the U.S. in 1991, at a facility in Moses Lake, Wash. It’s near an old U.S. Air Force base, east of the Cascade Range, where the high-plains air is dry. Takata set up a joint venture with a company called Rocket Research, and when it looked like the business would succeed, it bought the other 50 percent, says Mark Lillie, who was hired as a propellant engineer in 1994 and has spoken out about his experiences at the company. “They spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the facility,” he says. “Takata was working hard to catch up and grab market share by being technologically sophisticated. We were moving so fast. It was terrifying, but exciting.”

Takata’s original propellant was based on a common chemical, sodium azide, derived from a formula the military had developed for launching torpedoes and missiles. Sodium azide was difficult to handle in the factory, though—prone to exploding when exposed to air, light, or jostling. When inhaled, it was toxic, and after the air bags deployed, they left a residue inside cars. Most companies that used it were looking for an alternative.

Takata’s second-generation propellant, introduced in 1996, was based on a chemical called tetrazole, which was safer than sodium azide and just as effective. Researchers code-named the formula 3110, and the company marketed it as Envirosure. Takata was the first to use tetrazole, and the chemical helped the company bring in Ford and General Motors, expanding its share of the North American market to 10 percent. But the supply of high-quality tetrazole was limited and costly. “Takata made promises to customers for volumes that could not be supported by the existing pipeline for the raw materials,” Lillie says. “The culture was: We will make a commitment to the customer, and then we will work like the dickens to make it happen somehow.”

When Takada visited Moses Lake in 1997, he took the managers to dinner to thank them for keeping up with production quotas in tough circumstances. Lillie says Takada told a story: Japanese scientists once cultivated wasabi in labs and test farms, and while it looked beautiful, it had no flavor. Natural wasabi grows on the side of rugged mountains. The scientists realized that the stress on the wasabi produced its distinct flavor. Lillie says, “Then Juichiro turned to the group, paused, and said: ‘You are the wasabi! You’ve been through these extreme things, and it’s going to make you stronger!’ ”

Takata also had a skunk works near Detroit, Automotive Systems Labs, and gave it an assignment: develop a propellant formula that would be easier and cheaper to produce than Envirosure and would allow the air bags themselves to be smaller and lighter. “ASL looked at every chemical compound known to man,” Upham says. Among them was ammonium nitrate, the most widely used commercial chemical explosive in the world, almost as powerful as dynamite. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh used 2,000 pounds of the chemical to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma.

Ammonium nitrate was about one-tenth the price of tetrazole, according to Upham, who also reviewed industry patents. But ammonium nitrate had a critical flaw that he says led other air bag makers to give up on it: Ammonium nitrate has five phases of varying density that make it hard to keep stable over time. A propellant made with ammonium nitrate would swell and shrink with temperature changes, and eventually the tablet would break down into powder. Water and humidity would speed the process. Powder burns more quickly than a tablet, so an air bag whose propellant had crumbled would be likely to deploy too aggressively. The controlled explosion would be just an explosion. “Everybody went down a certain road, and only Takata went down another road,” says Jochen Siebert, who’s followed the air bag industry since the 1990s and is now managing director of JSC Automotive Consulting. “If you read the conference papers from back then, you can actually see that people said, ‘No, you shouldn’t. It’s dangerous.’ ”

When Lillie and other Moses Lake engineers met with their ASL colleagues in December 1998 to review a new design using ammonium nitrate, Lillie says they were told the phase stability problem had been solved. He rejected the design nonetheless. ASL wasn’t able to provide documented evidence of the safety of its product, he said in a January 2016 deposition, taken as part of a personal injury suit against Takata and Honda. “Never any evidence, never any test results, never any test reports, nothing to substantiate they had overcome the phase stability problem,” Lillie testified.

“At the meeting, I literally said that if we go forward with this, somebody will be killed,” he adds in an interview, echoing his testimony. After the design review, Lillie says he met separately with the engineer who served as the liaison with Takata headquarters in Tokyo. “What I gathered from the conversation was, ‘Yes, I’ll pass on your concerns, but don’t expect it to do any good, because the decision has already been made.’ ” The head of ASL was Paresh Khandhadia, who had a master’s in chemical engineering and “was a very smooth operator,” Lillie says. “Tokyo put a tremendous amount of stock in his credentials.” Neither Khandhadia, who left Takata in 2015, nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment. During a deposition last year, Khandhadia was nearly silent, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself.

Lillie says he left Takata in 1999, partly because the company ignored his warnings about ammonium nitrate. He says Takata’s executives and workforce were unprepared to take on such a difficult design and manufacturing process. “Takata engineers claimed they had this magic,” he says. “No one else could figure it out, and they had.”

As the Moses Lake facility prepared to manufacture inflators with the ammonium nitrate propellant, some of Lillie’s former employees became anxious. “It was always push, push, push the envelope,” says Michael Britton, a propellant engineer who left in 2000. Lillie testified that a Takata engineer wasn’t allowed to investigate an inflator that ruptured during testing, and that when he protested, he was reassigned. A quality manager told Lillie that he was pressured by an executive at Moses Lake to manipulate test data. “Torture the data until it confesses” is the way the engineers described it, Lillie said in his deposition. A Takata spokesman says ASL conducted testing that “went beyond industry standards at the time” and found no significant changes in the propellant’s performance or physical properties, and that a German research institute has since tested the propellant and found no evidence of a loss of phase stability. He also says there’s no evidence that Lillie raised any concerns about using ammonium nitrate or that Takata executives weren’t interested in hearing them.

In November 2000, Tom Sheridan, then a Takata product engineer, wrote a memo to his bosses about test data for Honda. “The objective of this cover letter is to point out that the Honda test report has incorrect data, data that cannot be validated, data that was incorrectly labeled, or data that does not exist,” it said. The memo was turned over to plaintiffs’ lawyers suing the two companies. Sheridan, who left Takata in 2002, testified that after he submitted the report, none of his bosses spoke to him about the issues he raised. A company spokesperson says: “Takata deeply regrets that this validation test data was incorrectly reported,” but that the test results aren’t related to the cause of the ruptures.

Pieces of metal shrapnel from a defective Takata air bag are displayed at a 2015 news conference in Washington, D.C.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
By 2001, Takata was confident it had engineered a safe way to make air bags with ammonium nitrate and was selling them to automakers including Honda and Nissan. It began moving production to a new plant in Monclova, Mexico, where workers were paid less and had less experience with explosives. Takata hired local managers and gave them a great deal of autonomy, Upham says. From late 2001 to late 2002, workers there left some of the compressed propellant exposed to uncontrolled moisture, which can over time lead to “over-aggressive combustion,” according to regulatory filings. Takata later told NHTSA it had improved manufacturing conditions.

When an air bag exploded in a Honda Accord in 2004, shooting out metal fragments and injuring the driver, Takata called it an anomaly. The accident, in Alabama, turned out to be the first of more than 100. Honda says it settled with the driver; the terms are confidential.

Around the same time, a former Takata senior executive based in Europe says he challenged Khandhadia about the use of ammonium nitrate, but Khandhadia had Tokyo’s support. The executive, who remained at the company for a decade, didn’t want to be named because he still works in the industry. He wasn’t the only one in Europe who considered ammonium nitrate too risky. Renault refused to buy air bags with it. The former executive went around Khandhadia rather than fight him. He says he hired a propellant specialist to help develop a more stable formula using guanidine nitrate, and since about 2008, Takata in Europe has sold air bags using that. He says Takata’s China team also adopted the formula.

Bob Schubert, a Takata propellant engineer in the U.S., also worried about ammonium nitrate, according to the former executive. In January 2005, Schubert wrote to his boss that the company was “prettying up” air bag data sent to Honda. At one point, the devices were said to have passed tests that never occurred. “It has come to my attention that the practice has gone beyond all reasonable bounds and likely constitutes fraud,” he wrote in an e-mail produced in a lawsuit. Schubert, now a member of Takata’s new-product safety group, wasn’t made available for an interview. Takata says it apologizes for these lapses, but they’re unrelated to the current air bag inflator recalls.

A 2006 explosion at Takata’s factory in Mexico.

Photographer: Gustavo Adolfo Rodriguez/Reuters
Three explosions shook the Monclova factory in March 2006. Fireballs spewed out, windows on nearby houses were shattered, and local papers reported that authorities had to evacuate thousands of residents. Takata says only that employees weren’t handling “propellant scrap” properly and that afterward the factory improved its safety procedures. The plant resumed operations within a month, and Takata’s customers didn’t suffer any production disruptions.Automotive News called Takata’s quick recovery “remarkable.”

Takata engineers were filing patents for processes to improve the stability of ammonium nitrate. One described coating the chemical particles with paraffin to create a shield against heat and humidity, says Lillie, who’s reviewed the documents. Another said that phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellants “exhibit significant aggressive behavior with regard to ballistic properties” and that air bag inflators are subject to environmental conditions that can cause problems, including “over-pressurization of the inflator leading to rupture.” Takata previously has said that it’s “always understood the effects that moisture may have on the combustion characteristics of ammonium nitrate, but phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant is safe and effective for use in air bag inflators when properly engineered and manufactured.”

In 2006 a Takata engineering manager sent an e-mail to a colleague that suggests data about potential problems with product tests were being hidden or ignored: “It is yet another mess-o-shit we will be handed with no real fix possible. The plant should have been screaming bloody murder long ago.” A Takata spokesman reiterates that such data integrity problems are inexcusable and won’t be tolerated, but that they have nothing to do with the root cause of the air bag ruptures.

Takata went public in November of that year, listing shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Takada family and trust retained a stake of more than 80 percent (it’s now about 60 percent). A succession plan was put in place the following year. Juichiro Takada became chairman, while remaining CEO until the time came to hand over leadership to his son Shigehisa, then 41, who was promoted to president. Akiko Takada, Shigehisa’s mother, resigned as a director and became an adviser. The differences between father and son were striking: Juichiro, known as Jim to his American employees, would get down on his knees to inspect factory equipment. Lillie describes Shigehisa as awkward, quiet, and entitled. When he visited Moses Lake in the late 1990s, he wouldn’t put on safety glasses, and Lillie didn’t let him onto the factory floor.

Honda announced the first recall of 3,940 cars in November 2008, citing excessive moisture that had affected the ammonium nitrate propellant at Takata’s plant in Mexico. Takata assured Honda and federal regulators that the manufacturing problems were limited and had been addressed. In fact, Takata changed the composition of the propellant mix itself, adding a desiccant, a substance that absorbs water. The engineers believed this would prevent the ammonium nitrate from degrading and exploding.

Eight months later, Shigehisa Takada had to defend his company in front of Honda executives. At a meeting in Honda’s offices outside Los Angeles, which was recounted in an internal e-mail produced in a lawsuit, he was asked if he grasped the gravity of their predicament. The Honda executive said he was “constantly worrying” because Takata didn’t appear to have control of the situation. “Tighten the system inside Takata again,” the Honda executive said, according to the e-mail. A Honda engineer added that Takata was moving too slowly: “Why does it explode? I want to know the truth.”

U.S. regulators began an investigation into Takata in late 2009 and closed it six months later, noting the company had identified the problem—a manufacturing mistake at its other plant at Moses Lake—and Honda had issued a recall for those air bags. “My take is that if NHTSA had done the right thing and really probed Takata, they could have caught it a lot sooner and we wouldn’t have the crisis we have today,” says Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety. “Takata made one of the most colossal blunders in the history of the industry.”

A recalled Takata air bag inflator.

Photographer: Joe Skipper/Reuters
In a widely reported incident on April 2, 2010, Kristy Williams stopped at a red light in Morrow, Ga., and the air bag in her 2001 Honda Civic deployed by mistake. The inflator exploded, and shredded metal hit Williams in the neck, severing her carotid artery. She stuck two fingers in the gaping wound to stop the bleeding as she waited for an ambulance. The blood loss led to several strokes, a seizure, and a speech disorder, according to a lawsuit she filed against Takata and Honda. The companies settled her case confidentially.

Honda expanded recalls of cars with Takata air bags in 2009, 2010, and 2011, eventually to include 2.5 million vehicles. In 2013, Takata filed a defect reportwith U.S. regulators stating that certain passenger-side air bags could rupture as a result of manufacturing errors that were exacerbated when the air bags were exposed to heat and humidity. A year later, NHTSA asked 10 car companies to recall 7.8 million vehicles with Takata air bags in seven Southern states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the announcement, so many people checked the NHTSA website that it crashed. Toyota advised passengers not to sit in the front seats of several models until the air bags were replaced.

The situation in Monclova threatened to create other problems for Takata. Guillermo Apud, a supervisor at the plant, had to scold employees in a May 2011 e-mail about their sloppy, and potentially dangerous, work habits. He had noticed that they were “reworking,” trying to fix defective parts on the inflator assembly line rather than removing them to be examined later. “Rework on the line is PROHIBITED!!! We can’t have leaders/materials/people/operators REWORKING material left and right without ANY control, this is why we have defect upon defect. We need to change NOW!” In 2012 workers there put the wrong part into inflators, and more than 350,000 vehicles from three carmakers had to be recalled. Takata says Apud was trying to convey the importance of quality and safety and make sure the inflators were properly manufactured.

In March 2012, Angelina Sujata was driving her 2001 Honda Civic at about 25 miles an hour near Columbia, S.C., when the vehicle ahead of her slammed on the brakes. The 18-year-old hit the car, and the next thing she remembers was feeling a sharp pain in her chest. “My chest was sliced open, down to the bone,” she says in an interview. Sujata was rushed to the hospital, where a doctor pulled out several metal fragments. A year later she received a recall notice about the defective air bag. She sued Honda and Takata and is waiting for a trial date.

It took until 2015 for Takata to acknowledge the problem was more widespread, and NHTSA announced a nationwide recall of some 22 million inflators. “Takata provided inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information to regulators for nearly a decade,” says NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas. “Had they told the truth, Takata could have prevented this from becoming a global crisis.” Takata declined to comment.

Shigehisa Takada took over the company after Juichiro died in 2011. He was 45 and had worked at Takata his entire adult life, mostly in his father’s shadow. As recall followed recall, he apologized in written statements and newspaper ads. When the company was called to testify before Congress, he sent deputies on all four occasions. Takada didn’t make his first public apology until June 25, 2015, after the annual shareholder meeting. He bowed and whispered: “The company that should be offering the safety to the users ended up hurting them. It grieves me most deeply.” He also insisted that Takata’s air bags were safe. He didn’t mention that Takata had tried to fix the problem by changing the propellant formula in 2008. He made it seem as if the source of the trouble was a mystery.

“They continue to deny that ammonium nitrate is to blame,” Upham says. “They say they’re still looking for the root cause. That’s like O.J. saying he’s going to find Nicole’s killer.”

Shigehisa Takada’s public apology at the shareholder meeting, June 2015.

Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Five months later, on Nov. 3, 2015, U.S. regulators announced that Takata wouldpay a fine of $70 million—and as much as $130 million more if it fails to meet its commitments. It also has to cooperate with an independent monitor. NHTSA says the civil penalty is the largest the agency has ever imposed and the extent of the monitor’s oversight is unprecedented. CEO Takada said the company agreed to the penalty “considering the strong demand from NHTSA and also the users’ anxiety, even though we are confident of the safety of our product.” The same day, Honda said publicly that the air bag maker seemed to have manipulated test data. When Takada was asked about that at a news conference, he said, “We did not do it. I don’t think.”

In early May, federal safety regulators said three independent investigations had come to the same conclusion about the lethal air bags: Long-term exposure to changes in temperature and moisture can make ammonium nitrate propellant dangerously powerful. “The science now clearly shows that these inflators can become unsafe over time, and faster when exposed to high humidity and high temperature fluctuations,” said Mark Rosekind, the head of NHTSA. The agency also expanded the recall to more than 60 million air bags—every one that doesn’t have the drying agent. The bags must be replaced by 2019. Takata has until the end of 2019 to prove that even the air bags with the drying agent are safe. On June 1, a Senate report noted that four carmakers are still selling new models with faulty air bags that will need replacing.

Japan also recently expanded its own recall to almost 20 million vehicles. A definitive count isn’t possible; Takata doesn’t disclose the total number of air bags that will have to be replaced. Bloomberg News contacted affected carmakers and used regulators’ announcements to calculate a worldwide figure of roughly 100 million.

Schubert, the engineer who’s joined Takata’s product safety group, said in a deposition that the ammonium nitrate propellant doesn’t cause problems “until the degradation process has proceeded a very long way, and then the results fairly quickly go to rupture.” He suggested the process could take 10 years, while lawyers for some of the victims say it can happen in as few as seven. This would explain why most of the deaths have occurred since 2011 in cars with air bags manufactured roughly a decade before.

Only 8.4 million Takata air bags had been replaced in the U.S. as of May. Carmakers and dealers face two problems. Although Takata used the same chemical compound as the base for its propellant, the air bags came in various shapes and sizes, complicating their replacement. Takata says it has “dramatically increased” production of new parts, but its competitors have been only too happy to step in. NHTSA says those companies are making 70 percent of the replacement inflators. Still, there won’t be enough.

The second challenge is that it’s been difficult in many cases to find the owners of older vehicles, which are more likely to have changed hands at least once. That was the case with Carlos Solis, whose Honda had two previous owners before he bought it from a used-car dealer. Such dealers aren’t required to keep track of recalls for the cars on their lots. Since last year, Honda has flashed alerts on stadium scoreboards and placed ads on Facebook and Twitter. It’s even hired private detectives to track down owners of older vehicles.

Takata is under a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and has been sued by the state of Hawaii for allegedly covering up the defects in its air bags. (Takata says it’s cooperating fully with Justice. It declines to comment on the lawsuit.) The company faces potential fines, as well as the cost of litigation and payouts to victims. At some point it also will have to settle up with carmakers that for now are paying for the replacement air bags. The total could be more than $11 billion, according to an analyst at Jefferies. Takata doesn’t have billions. It has only $520 million on hand and is worth about $340 million, less than one-tenth what it was worth at its peak in 2007. The company had a 17 percent share of the global air bag market then; Upham estimates that will have shrunk to 5 percent by 2020.

On May 25, Takata said it had hired Lazard to help secure funding and negotiate with its customers. That’s a polite way of saying someone else will decide its future. No matter who that someone is, the Takada family’s stake will likely be reduced and the CEO replaced. “Takata will have to own up to what they’ve done,” says Carlos Solis’s brother, Scott. “They brought this on themselves.”

With Yuki Hagiwara

But what?! That always becomes a bit of a problem when you ask these deregulators. Here is Trump's proposed agricultural man:

Quote:He then mentioned reducing the inheritance tax (applied only to estates valued at $5.45 million or higher) as a "big issue," and said that rolling back regulation would be "at the forefront" of Trump's first 100 days as president. "We regulate, regulate, regulate," he complained. Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, he added that "if it moves, the government's response is to tax it; if it keeps moving, the response is to regulate it; and if it stops moving, the response is to try to control it and subsidize it." I asked him to specify what regulations he sought to dismantle. "We're not gonna pinpoint and try to detail the minutiae of all of those, because the first thing we have to do is we have to win," he said. "I believe we are gonna win, but I've always said, 'Until you win, all of the great ideas in the world aren't going to help you, because you have to win to implement 'em.'"
Here Is the Mysterious High Roller Donald Trump Wants to Put in Charge of Our Food | Mother Jones

Does that sound familiar? Well..

Quote:What about the Leave campaign’s arguments? The first is that Britain is overregulated because of EU membership. But that isn’t what international comparisons show (see chart). The World Bank’s survey on the ease of doing business ranks Britain sixth, one spot above the US. Nor is it clear what regulations the Leave campaigners want to scrap; a Daily Express list of the eight worst EU rules includes one on the prevention of cruelty to animals in transport and another on the elimination of excessive packaging, things most Britons would like to see controlled. When the Leave campaign talks of scrapping rules, they may well mean regulations that protect workers; something they don’t mention for fear of alienating their working-class support.
EU referendum: The arguments for voting Remain | The Economist

And how about a bit of reality..

Quote:But however much Brussels is reviled for burdensome regulations, especially in the conservative British press, it is primarily up to the national governments to regulate business and ensure that their regulation is competitive. In recent years, individual European countries have actually improved the environment for doing business. Half of the 25 countries in the world where it is easiest to do business are EU members, according to the 2016 World Bank’s Doing Business survey. These are Denmark (3), United Kingdom (6), Sweden (8), Finland (10), Germany (15), Estonia (16), Ireland (17), Lithuania (20), Austria (21), Latvia (22), Portugal (23), and Poland (25). Malta is the lowest-ranked EU country, at 80 (of 189 economies).
European Red Tape Is a Bogus Justification for Brexit | PIIE
Hey STP, these details will usually be filled in by lobbygroups behind closed doors..
Nooo, we don't need regulation, all unnecessary, slowing down business, adding cost, etc.

Quote:As the sensor’s light hits the material, a software programme performs an analysis. This time the substance is a good match. It quite often isn’t. In some batches, up to 40% of the ‘dried oregano’ came from leaves of another plant, such as myrtle or olive trees. The problem is not just that people are getting ripped off by having cheap dried leaves added to their packet of herbs. It’s also that, often, those cheaper leaves weren’t properly washed and prepared for human consumption. Even in your 20% adulterated oregano, you were getting a very nice dose of pesticide “When we went and did the pesticide checks, they were absolutely hooching with pesticide,”

Today, the value of the global retail food market is $4tn (£3tn) – and rapidly growing. Some predictions hold that by 2020, it will reach more than $8tn (£6tn). As a result, supply chains are getting more and more complex – and more at risk of a type of criminal fraud in which cheap, often nasty substances are mixed in at some step of the process. The adulterators siphon off billions from the legitimate market. And in doing so, they put people’s health at risk.
BBC - Future - These toxins in our food almost certainly shouldn’t be there

The simple truth is that as economies are becoming more complex, it becomes ever more difficult what exactly you are buying, increasing the opportunity for fraudsters to profit from these 'information asymmetries'.

So basically, when economies get richer (and therefore more complex), regulation should increase, not decrease. Of course there are always an X amount of redundant regulations, but to blame regulations for slowing whole economies down is not only nonsense, it's dangerous. A little more from that article:

Quote:Even more dangerous substances might be added. Countries prone to hot weather, where the inside of a transport lorry might reach 40C, can be especially vulnerable, says Elliott. “One of the scams is that they will add preservatives to the milk to stop it going off during transportation. One of the preservatives they like to add is formaldehyde,” he says. “Formaldehyde is a deadly poison.” Even if a toxin isn’t deliberately mixed in to a product, the food might still contain it – including in concentrations that should take the product off the market, but may not. Depending on where and how rice is grown, for example, it may contain high levels of arsenic, a heavy metal that can increase the risk of cancer.

Because catching fish with nets contributes to overfishing, to entangling other animals like dolphins and sea turtles, and even to damaging coral reefs and seafloor habitats in the case of bottom trawling, ethically-minded consumers often pay a premium to eat only line-caught specimens. But how can one tell which is which by the time the fish ends up in a shop?
BBC - Future - These toxins in our food almost certainly shouldn’t be there

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