More things to feel guilty about buying

Mary
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If you're still smarting that your significant other didn't present you with (a snazzy new cell phone, a big box of chocolates, five golden rings) for the holidays, take comfort: Foreign Policy says he/she really shouldn't have. From the magazine's recent list of "common consumer items [that] help fuel conflict, ruin the environment, and rely on child labor:"

Cell Phones: The war-torn [Democratic Republic of the Congo] is home to 80 percent of the world's coltan, which is an important mineral for constructing circuit boards found in cell phones and other electronic devices, like computers and TV remote controls. Coltan is the best mineral for storing and conducting electrical currents on circuit boards. The DRC is also home to large amounts of tin, which is increasingly replacing lead as the material for solder on circuit boards. During the past decade, local warlords have used profits from the resources to fund an ongoing civil war.

Chocolate: Seventy percent of the world's cocoa (and most of the United States') comes from West Africa, where nearly 300,000 children under the age of 14 toil in dangerous conditions on cocoa plantations. In the Ivory Coast, where more than half of the region's cocoa is produced, more than 100,000 children work in near slavery, subject to both injury from the machetes used to harvest the plant and from toxic pesticides that are banned in the United States and Europe.

Gold: Gold ore is often sprayed with cyanide after extraction to separate the gold from the host minerals. The cyanide-contaminated leftovers, 20 tons of which are used to produce one gold ring, are often abandoned or dumped in nearby water sources. Moreover, gold mines from Indonesia to the DRC have notoriously poor labor standards.

Perhaps next year you should ask for three organic, free-range French hens?

January 5, 2007 - 10:53am
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