Online retailer Asos has withdrawn 641 belts from sale after US border patrol officials discovered radioactive material in the belts' metal studs. According to an internal report obtained by The Guardian, only 49 of the belts were sold before the discovery, and Asos says all purchasers have been contacted informing them of the danger. The belts tested positive for Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope, and could cause injury if worn for more than 500 hours. The unsold belts are being held in a radioactive storage facility.
Two companies are fighting over who's responsible
The bizarre nature of the incident has since heightened, as Asos and the supplier of the belts, Haq International, have argued over who's to blame. The Guardian reports that company boss Faizan Haq was refused permission to inspect the belts — according to Asos, counter-terrorism agencies believe he is a security risk. The paper goes on to note that "the belts Asos claims are contaminated do not match the description of the belts supplied by Haq, or any of the 30 products supplied by the firm." The belts being held have more metal studs and are lighter than the belts Haq reportedly supplied. Asos puts the discrepancy down to the belts being handmade.
According to Asos' internal report, "the incident is quite a common occurrence. India and the far east are large consumers of scrap metal," and during the refining process "radioactive sources are sometimes accidentally melted at the same time." The company is seeking £100,000 compensation (around $151,000) from Haq International, and initially refused to pay the £64,000 ($96,000) that it owes the company (it's since offered to pay Haq £24,000). Haq says the ordeal has forced him to cancel orders with other retailers, shut his factory down for five months, and sell his own car to pay legal fees.