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Chinese cars recalled for asbestos in exhausts, engines

Great Wall Motor and Chery Automobile, two major car companies in China, recently announced that they had to recall at least 23,000 trucks and cars because it was discovered that there was asbestos present in the vehicles' exhaust gaskets and engines. The recall, for now, is limited to vehicles shipped to Australia, with no indication whether any such contaminated products were sold in North Carolina or elsewhere in the United States.  The company's recall order may have been motivated by a well-founded fear of the possibility of product liability claims from exposure to the toxic substance, which can cause respiratory problems and various forms of cancer.

The recall after the fact shows again that some manufacturers, in the interest of maximizing profit, will cut corners and put quantity of output above considerations of quality and safety. There is now a long history of companies who adopt this stance and use asbestos in their products. However, these negligent companies are being held financially responsible for the serious illnesses and deaths which result for workers, their families, and consumers put at risk from such reckless behavior.

These Chinese car companies experienced a 50 percent increase in exported sales to many foreign markets in 2011. But that increase in sales may have been achieved by shoddy manufacturing practices and lax inspections standards, enabling the companies to keep costs and prices low. The companies surely were aware of the dangers of asbestos, and the asbestos did not get into the components of the vehicles on its own.

Indeed, the companies even acknowledged the problems the presence of asbestos would represent by signing and sending letters to a distributor containing a guarantee that no such asbestos was present in their products. However, around the same time, representatives of the Great Wall company made ludicrous statements that asbestos exposure would not harm people, supposedly based on the company's own testing program.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Chinese Asbestos in Australia? Blame 'Quality Fade'," Michael Dunne, Aug. 17, 2012

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