- - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TOXIC JEWELRY

Settlement to help limit cadmium in jewelry

LOS ANGELES | More than 20 major national retailers, including Target Corp. and Gap Inc., have reached a settlement with a California environmental group that should almost entirely eliminate the use of the toxic metal cadmium in jewelry and other accessories.

Cadmium is a known carcinogen that also can attack the kidneys and bones. Some manufacturers of children’s metal jewelry were using it instead of lead, which Congress effectively has banned.

The legal agreement, approved by a judge Friday, is between the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and 26 retailers and suppliers.

Starting in 2012, jewelry sold at the stores in California must contain less than three-hundreths of a percent of cadmium. Because of the size of California’s market, that effectively becomes a national standard.

GREECE

Borrowing costs hit new record

ATHENS | Debt-crippled Greece’s borrowing costs reached a new record high Tuesday on fears about the country’s austerity program, a new blow as Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired a Cabinet meeting aimed at finding ways to speed up delayed structural reforms.

The interest rate on Greek 10-year government bonds was about 20 percent - some 18 percentage points above the rate for the benchmark German bonds of the same maturity. The borrowing rates of troubled fellow eurozone countries Italy and Spain also came under pressure Tuesday.

Extravagant borrowing costs forced Greece out of international bond markets last year, and the country now relies on international loans to keep solvent.

However, Athens still holds short-term debt auctions and was able to raise $1.8 billion Tuesday in an auction of 26-week treasury bills at a slightly lower interest rate than a similar sale last month.

SERVICE FIRMS

Report: Sector grew at slightly faster pace

Service firms, which employ 90 percent of the U.S. work force expanded at a slightly faster pace in August. But the sector remains too weak to help an economy that is barely growing and struggling to create jobs.

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index for service companies rose to 53.3 in August, up from 52.7 in July. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The service sector includes everything from restaurants and hotels to health care firms and financial service companies. It has grown in all but one month over the past two years. The index reached a five-year high of 59.7 in February.

Still, overall growth among service businesses has declined in four of the past six months. High gas prices and scant wage gains have left consumers with less money to spend on services.

TEXAS

Shell to pay $500,000 for pollution

HOUSTON | Shell Chemical LP has agreed to pay $500,000 to a Texas county over five air-pollution events at its Deer Park refinery.

The settlement was reached after Harris County accused Shell Chemical, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, of failing to notify officials about the toxic releases. Two schools and many homes are close to the Shell refinery in Deer Park, about 18 miles southeast of Houston.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said he is pleased Shell agreed under the terms of the agreement to notify officials within 24 hours of any chemical releases. The law already requires petrochemical companies to notify the county, but Shell apparently failed to do so in five events between 2008 and 2010.

EURO

Report: Costs of leaving euro higher than bailouts

FRANKFURT, Germany | Leaving the euro would cost Europe’s indebted countries 40 percent to 50 percent of their entire economy in just the first year, with heavy costs continuing for years, economists for the Swiss bank UBS said in a report.

Leaving the euro would be so complicated legally, politically and financially that the report concludes it has “close to zero probability” and that some form of closer European cooperation between euro member countries on budgeting and spending is more likely.

Despite the low probability, economists Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan and Larry Hatheway tried to model what would happen if a country pulled out of the currency. Costs included a probable collapse of the departing country’s banking system and its trade with other euro countries, plus government debt default and widespread corporate bankruptcies.

The result: It would cost a financially weak euro country - such as Greece or Portugal between (euro) 9,500 to (euro) 11,500 per person, or 40 to 50 percent of annual gross domestic product in just the first year, with (euro) 3,000-(euro) 4,000 per person in costs each following year.