Juanna Graham, noticed that something was wrong with her four-year-old son, Jarnell Brown. Jarnell seemed unusually lethargic and would not get up from the couch in the family’s living room. Worried, Graham took her son to the hospital to find out what was wrong.
In February of 2006, Doctors at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN ran several tests and found that Jarnell had lead in his blood at levels three times higher than what is normally considered dangerous. The source, it was later determined, was a silver colored pendant that came with a pair of Reebok shoes that Jarnell had accidentally swallowed a few days earlier. The pendant, which was produced in China, was nearly 99% lead.
At the hospital Jarnell’s lethargy turned to sickness; he began vomiting and convulsing in seizures before going into respiratory arrest. Jarnell Brown died from lead poisoning on February 22, 2006.
Between May of 2003 and March of 2006 nearly 300,000 boxes of shoes containing the pendants were sold. During that three year period, no one—not Reebok, not the Chinese government, not US trade officials or consumer safety agencies—tested those Chinese pendants to see if they were safe for children to play with.
Was Jarnell’s death an extraordinary accident? Or do the cheap imports that we’re getting from countries like China pose a serious and pervasive threat to our children, our homes, and our communities?
Read more from the USW's new report, The Toxic Truth, released today.