Saturday, June 2, 2007

Government Issues Warning on Urinal Cakes

US Federal Trade officials today warned consumers about another Chinese product that poses a potential health risk, this time a shipment of scented urinal cakes that can explode when they come in contact with urine.

The cakes, which have already been distributed in California and much of the Western United States, are typically round or square and come in blue, pink and green hues. Officials advised people to “be very aware of what’s in the urinals before they use them, and to avoid urinating directly on the cakes.”

The warning follows the injury of two San Francisco men after a urinal cake explosion last weekend, with one man losing an eye and the other suffering shrapnel wounds to his midsection.

The urinal cakes were manufactured in Guangzhin province, a region of China better known for its production of fireworks. They were contaminated with ammonium phosphate, a component of the fuses which becomes unstable if subjected to salts such as those found in urine. A chemical reaction can release gaseous ammonia, which can cause them to fracture or, in extreme cases, explode like a small grenade.

The manufacturer of the urinal cakes, Wang Pau Light Industry, pledged that they would investigate how the cakes were contaminated. The incident is expected to further strain US-Chinese trade relations, already difficult because of poisoned fish and rancid meat shipped from China to US consumers.

“We will do everything we can to make sure that Americans can go to the bathroom in peace,” pledged a Wang Pau spokesman. “We do not want them worrying that the bathroom could become a death trap.”