INSANE TOXIC CORRUPTION
THINGS YOU WISH YOU DID NOT KNOW
INSANE TOXIC CORRUPTION
THINGS YOU WISH YOU DID NOT KNOW
1-Poison for Profit - What A Business Plan! Posted by Dr. Mercola | May 29 2002
By Ashley Simmons Hotz
The huge trans-national companies that produce toxic chemicals found in pesticides, herbicides and industrial and household products profit not only from the sale of these products, but also from the symptoms and chronic illnesses that they trigger.
The vast majority of chemicals found in pesticides and other products, undergo little or no testing for chronic, low level exposures and for chronic health effects.
The same chemical companies that produce toxic chemicals also produce prescription drugs, veterinary medicines, a wide array of medical products and imaging technologies, hold cancer treatment and medical device patents, and a produce a staggering assortment of over-the-counter palliatives.
Families with toxin-induced illnesses often spend large sums for drugs and medical treatment.
This circle of profit is not conspiracy theory, but an easily provable fact.
Below are chem-pharm web sites for the largest companies in the world. There you can see quickly and clearly that these companies profit from all sides of the picture.
Aventis was launched in December 1999 through the merger of Hoechst AG of Germany and Rhône-Poulenc SA of France. At the Main Home Page for Aventis, go to top right and click on "Aventis Worldwide" to see medical, agrochemical and pharmaceutical categories of business. http://www.aventis.com/main/0,1003,EN-XX-100 -- -,FF.html
Aventis is the wonderful company that brought us Star Link genetically modified corn. Aventis "crop sciences" include herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and genetically engineered food. Aventis Pharma is the pharmaceutical division: http://www.aventis.com/main/0,1003,EN-XX-24770-37160 -- ,FF.html
Monsanto is owned by Pharmacia. The Pharmacia Corporation was created through the merger of Pharmacia Upjohn with Monsanto Company and its G.D. Searle unit. Pharmacia employs 59,000 people worldwide and has research, manufacturing and administrative sales operations in more than 60 countries.
BASF-fungicides, herbicides, pesticides: http://www.basf.de/en/produkte/gesundheit/pflanzen/products/
BASF - pharmaceuticals: http://www.basf.de/en/produkte/gesundheit/nahrung/
Merck is known widely as a pharmaceutical company: http://www.merck.com
Merck Research Company; Applications to Register Pesticide: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-PEST/1996/July/Day-10/pr-796.html
Merck produces chemicals and precursors for pesticides and other neurotoxins. "Our broad range of Chemicals for Industrial Applications is widely used in many fields of production within the chemical and technical industries."
Dow Chemical produces both toxic chemicals and pharmaceuticals. (Click on the drop-down list here): http://www.dow.com/products_services/index.html
Dow Pharmaceuticals: http://www.dowpharm.com
Dow's pesticide products include the organophosphate pesticide Dursban (a/k/a Chlorpyrifos/a/k/a RAID a/k/a Lorsban and is found in about 800 other pesticide products). Dursban was to be phased out and banned from indoor, yard and garden use last year because of what it does to the developing brain.
EPA was going to allow Dursban to "continue to be sold until current stocks run out" but Dow has been scrambling to get this delayed, and has been conducting short term clinical trials by feeding Dursban pills to healthy teenagers in an attempt to get it back on the market: http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020422/poisons.html
Dupont Chemical recently sold a pharmaceutical division to Bristol Myers Squibb. Dupont makes pesticides and drugs.
Do you take Bayer aspirin? Did you know that Bayer also makes other drugs, pesticides, chemicals? When you get to the Bayer site from the following URL, go to the "application" search engine and scroll down to pesticides. At the first URL here, go to the right side and click on the drop-down list to see the spectrum of products -- for industrial chemicals and "crop protection" products, to pharmaceuticals. http://www.bayer.com/en/index_en.php
Bayer pharmaceuticals: http://www.pharma.bayer.com
It is interesting to note that the Bayer corporation was originally the I.G. Farben Company with deep ties to the Nazis during the 1920s and 30s. I.G. Farben produced Zyklon-B gas which was used in the Nazi death camps. Other big chem/pharm manufacturers became owners of pieces of I.G. Farben during the lengthy process of dissolving its assets after decades of lawsuits and pressures from international organizations for alleged I.G. Farben Nazi crimes. Here is a quote from the BBC:
"Most of the company's assets were confiscated after World War II and were transferred to four big German corporations: Bayer, Hoechst, Agfa and BASF."
Many of these huge trans-nationals have merged with each other. For example, Ciba-Geigy, Sandoz and other multinational chemical-pharmaceutical companies merged to become Novartis. Then Novartis Agribusiness merged with Zeneca (Astra-Zeneca) Agrochemicals to form Syngenta.
Standard and Poor's Stock Exchange profile on Novartis: http://www.advisorinsight.com/pub/maccess/nyse/nvtsy_66987v_profile.htm
Novartis pharmaceuticals, seeds, genetic engineering: http://www.novartis.com
Novartis owns Syngenta -- produces pesticides, herbicides, etc: http://www.syngenta-us.com
Novartis AG -- incredible list of products, relationships and subsidiaries: http://www.transnationale.org/fiches/70.htm
Then there is Astra Zeneca that sold off part of its agrochemical business to Novartis-Astra-Zeneca.
Mergers Acquisitions & Spin-Offs in the Chemicals Industry 1998 - 2001: http://www.icem.org/events/BKK/chem/ma.html
AMVAC makes the insecticide NALED a/k/a DIBROM, and nineteen other products. AMVAC Chemical Company is owned by American Vanguard Corporation, which makes herbicides, pesticides.
A major portion of its revenues comes from selling its specialty chemicals to the pharmaceutical industry. It is also in the business of "environmental remediation" and "toxic waste management." Like other chem-pharm companies, American Vanguard profits from pollution that they help make, and then get paid to clean up.
AMVAC's brother subsidiaries include, GemChem, Inc. and Environmental Mediation, Inc.
AMVAC's brother GemChem: "... committed to exceeding industry standards as a national chemical distributor. In addition to representing AMVAC as its domestic sales force, GemChem also sells into the cosmetic, nutritional and pharmaceutical markets."
AMVAC's brother Environmental Mediation, Inc. provides clients with: "complex investigative and remedial activities. With... core expertise in the areas of hazardous waste, air toxics, and water quality..."
Environmental Mediation, Inc. offers its clients expertise in: Issue Analysis Strategic Planning Government Relations Regulatory Strategy Environmental Consulting Public Affairs
American Home Products (AHP) pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines has subsidiaries galore, including American Cyanimid among others. American Cyanimid produced many chemical products including pesticides and pharmaceutical chemicals.
http://www.amvac-chemical.com/investor_page/Subsidiaries/subsidiaries.htm AHP later changed its name to WYETH, a major holding company: http://www.wyeth.com
American Home Products was gobbled up by the chem/pharm giant BASF.
And this just shows the cycle of profit in all of its glory when you see the Chemical Business Research website.
Did you know that thousands of toxic chemicals are impregnated into products that we come in intimate contact with every day that have woefully inadequate testing? Synthetic chemicals are found in clothing, furniture, bedding, paper, food storage containers, building materials, pillow feathers, pillow covers, inks, mattresses, food, cosmetics, carbonless paper, fragrances, and tampons. A wide variety of fat soluble pesticides are even impregnated into animal feed (fat soluble means it stores in fat).
One of the reasons this is done is to cut down on flies in the stockyard. The fecal matter becomes so toxic that it ends up killing the flies! So the question is -- does the animal fat cause us to get dosed with low levels of this stuff? See EPA web site for some watered down information.
Most of the public is completely unaware of how pervasive toxic chemicals are in our homes and offices. If it were just one or two of the chemicals -- the effects might be tolerable. But that is not the case at all because the relentless cumulative and synergistic effects of these chemicals is causing great harm to human, animal and environmental health.
When we, our children and our animals suffer symptoms or become ill, have trouble with our reproductive systems -- we spend many thousands of dollars on medical imaging, tests, treatments, operations, hospitals and drugs... a circle of profit that has no equal in the corporate world. Again this year - the chemical-pharmaceutical industry was declared the most profitable industry in the world.
What a business plan!
The mission of redflagsweekly.com is to probe medical, scientific, environmental, artistic and political issues in a manner that one rarely encounters in mainstream news reports. Corporate bottom lines and inadequate training in specialty journalism often provide the reading, viewing and listening public with narrow and simplistic information.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Nicholas Regush was one of the most clued in reporters when he worked for ABC News. After ten years at ABC News, he turned to developing his own website, in hope of advancing the cause of free expression in journalism. He feels today that television news has become a shell of what it once was and that the future of news is on the Web.
This article is a great example of the wonderful resources he is compiling and uncovering on his site. These links make the connections quite clear on how pervasive the drug companies influence is and how your health is the least of their concerns.
Nick has done an absolutely amazing job on his web site. It has only been up for six months and he is already in the top 100,000 sites. Quite an achievement.
However, he has retained many of his media network contacts and plans on using them to help transform the health news coverage of the system. Since we both share similar passions we have agreed to work on collaborative efforts in the future.
His newsletter is one that I definitely review and if your plate is not full already you should consider subscribing to keep updated.
Drug Companies Triple Money on Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads and Drug Company Owns Monsanto and Their Weed Killer is What Funds GMO Crops http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/08/08/gmo-crops-part-two.aspx
2- Household toxins: Toying with our safety
By Amy O'Brian, Vancouver Sun - June 7, 2009
Slow Death by Rubber Duck How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health,
The rubber duck's long history as a kid-friendly bath-time toy is coming to an end.
Exposed by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie as a dangerously toxic little plaything, the rubber duck is now becoming something of a symbol for the hidden poisons that lie within so many of our favourite everyday objects, products and foods.
In their new, best-selling book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects our Health, Smith and Lourie expose the toxic makeup of everyday items ranging from bed sheets to toothpaste to antibacterial hand cleansers.
"People have a profound sense that something has gone terribly wrong in terms of consumer product safety in this country and they're concerned," Smith said in a phone interview from his Toronto office. "That was the point of the book - to really demonstrate that what we buy and what we use in our homes on a daily basis really matter; they really have a direct impact on the level of pollution in our bodies and perhaps more importantly, the level of pollution in our kids."
To hammer their point home - and to make it incredibly personal - Smith and Lourie spent a week as experimental guinea pigs. They deliberately exposed themselves to pollutants that many people casually expose themselves to on a daily basis.
They stayed in a condo with a carpet and couch recently treated with a stain-resistant coating. They plugged in an air freshener. They washed their hair and brushed their teeth with common drugstore products. Smith ate lunch from a plastic container heated in the microwave. Lourie ate several meals of tuna. And they both washed their hands with antibacterial hand soap.
The results from their blood and urine samples were shocking - even to Smith and Lourie, who are long-time environmentalists, fully versed in the dangers of many everyday household products.
Most shocking to Smith were his own triclosan levels, which were 3,000 times higher after just two days of using products containing the antibacterial and antifungal agent.
"I was blown away by my triclosan results," he said. "As a society, our exposure to this stuff has gone through the roof."
Triclosan is found in many toothpastes, hand soaps, deodorants, and even socks and garden hoses. It can weaken the immune system, cause thyroid problems and possibly cancer, and is thought to contribute to bacterial resistance and thereby the rise of superbugs.
Smith notes that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are fine, but said the ballooning use of triclosan in a variety of products is a "big problem."
Smith and Lourie focused on six other toxins that are found in everyday items, some of which are easily flushed from the body and others that linger much longer.
Among those that that are processed and expelled by the body relatively quickly are phthalates - often found in scented shampoos and soaps - and bisphenol A, which is used in hard plastics and was recently banned for use in baby bottles by the Canadian government. Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is also found in the lining of pop cans, food cans and cans used for infant formula.
"BPA is a particularly big one to avoid," Smith said. "Since the 1930s, it's been known to be a hormone disrupting chemical. And it's particularly harmful for kids."
Smith said BPA can contribute to breast cancer and the early onset of puberty, among other health problems. But while phthalates and BPA can be flushed from the body within days, other chemicals are not as willing to leave. Smith said triclosan and mercury tend to linger for a few months, but Teflon and other non-stick coatings - which are applied to everything from frying pans to microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes - can stay in the body forever.
"It's almost diabolical," Smith said. "It's not broken down by any natural process. Once it's in our bodies, it's in there for good."
The good news out of all this, however, is that governments are moving quickly to ban some of these dangerous toxins. And it is relatively easy to remove most of these harmful products from your daily life.
"There are a couple of easy things to do," Smith said. "Microwaving in plastic. Just don't do it. Never do it."
Avoid using hard, transparent plastics with the number seven on the bottom of them - they're likely made with BPA. Try to buy items packaged in glass - rather than aluminum or plastic - whenever possible. Try to buy unscented soaps and shampoos. And replace all your non-stick pans with cast-iron cookware.
"I am very optimistic," Smith said. "We work in this area every day and there are massive changes going on, very positive changes.
3 - Book Review EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro
From tainted pet food to toxic toys, Americans can thank the successful lobbying efforts of the U.S. chemical industry for the secret ingredients in everyday products that have been linked to rising rates of infertility, endocrine system disruptions, neurological disorders, and cancer.
While the U.S. Congress stalls in the face of these dangers, the European Union has chosen to act. Strict consumer-safety regulations have forced multinationals to manufacture safer products for European consumers, while lower U.S. standards allow them to continue selling unsafe products to Americans. Schapiro's exposé shows that short of strong government action, the United States will lose not only its ability to protect citizens from environmental hazards but also, as economic priorities shift, whatever claim it has to commercial supremacy. Increasingly, products on American shelves are equated with serious health hazards, hazards that the European Union is legislating out of existence in its powerful trading bloc, a lead that even China is beginning to follow. Schapiro illustrates how the blowback from weak regulation at home carries a steep economic, as well as environmental, price.
In Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power, investigative journalist Mark Schapiro takes the reader to the front lines of global corporate and political power, where tectonic battles are being waged that will determine the physical and economic health of our children and ourselves.
About Mark Schapiro Mark Schapiro is editorial director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco. He has written extensively on foreign affairs and his work has appeared in Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and other publications, and he has reported stories for Frontline, NOW with Bill Moyers, and public radio's Marketplace. Schapiro lives in San Francisco, California.
Dan Goleman author Ecological Intelligence May 12, 2009 11:12 AM
4- Death by Rubber Duckie: Is Our Stuff Killing Us?
I read that brominated fire retardants -ubiquitous in whatever electronic device you're using right now -- are carcinogenic. Now brominates are helpful: they keep our stuff from bursting into flames, which is why they're peppered in our carpets, paint and upholstery, as well as computer circuits and cabinets. But a few days later I read another little news item saying that those objects shed and out-gas brominate molecules, which end up in house dust -- and so in you and me.
Such cheery bits of science news come to me daily in a free email feed from Above the Fold, a project of the Environmental Health Working Group. These folks, a network of experts in medical and environmental science, are tracking all the ways molecules that should never have been put into play in the first place, but which permeate our manufactured goods, wreak havoc in nature and in our bodies.
There are, it seems, about 100,000 industrial chemicals in regular use in manufacturing and the things we buy -- 62,000 of which were arbitrarily grand-fathered in as "safe" by virtue of their being used already, way back in the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency was first created. Those chemicals included some like ethyl benzene, an industrial solvent that medical studies show to be a powerful neurotoxin. But the most disturbing problem, according to a report by the Government Accounting Office, is that 30 years later the EPA has required testing of only a few hundred or so of those chemicals. The rest -- including the many thousands of compounds introduced since -- are mysteries.
Since then, toxicologists have evaluated the safety of industrial chemicals in a model that assumes one chemical causes a given disease or biological defect. That model makes it hard to find conclusive evidence that a chemical that causes, say, breast cancer in lab rats, will be dangerous in humans. Yet there's no doubt such a compound is a "chemical of concern," something best to avoid -- even though manufacturers can claim that, technically, it "poses no health risk."
Some toxicologists argue their discipline may have a blind-spot when it comes to the stew of chemicals we breathe, drink, or otherwise absorb over the course of life. Studies are showing, for instance, that simultaneous exposure to two different chemicals, each of which passes the standard test for toxicity, can cause damage like the neural degeneration seen in Parkinson's disease. In short, we need new thinking on "toxic": it's not just one chemical -- it's the whole mix. That mix, other studies show, causes inflammation and oxidative stress, which set the stage for diseases from asthma and diabetes to cancer.
Another problem: our bodies accumulate these chemicals. When I talked about this dilemma with Michael Lerner, head of Commonweal in Bolinas, California, I learned that when and his wife Cheryl Patton had been tested for their "body burden" of suspect chemicals, they discovered they carry a multitude of toxic compounds. But so do we all -- extensive body burden tests have failed to find anyone anywhere free of industrial toxins.
Consider the home experiments done by Rick Smith, author of one of the best-named books of all time: Slow Death by Rubber Duckie: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects out Health. In a heroic move akin to "Supersize Me," Smith purposely exposed himself to suspect chemicals in everyday products and had his body assayed to see the effects. When he spent two days restricting his diet to canned foods heated in polycarbonate plastic storage containers, the levels of bisphenol-A -- the hormone-disrupter linked to breast and prostate cancer -- jumped 7.5 times.
The best defense against this chemical stew is to lessen our exposure. This "precautionary principle" already guides policy in the European Union, where an ambitious project is underway to test for toxicity all those tens of thousands of industrial chemicals that were grand-fathered years ago. The plan: publish lists of chemicals that show troubling results as a heads-up for manufacturers to start searching for alternatives that are safe.
In the States we can send the same message to companies without waiting for the government to act. How? By voting with our dollars for safer chemicals every time we shop. SkinDeep.com, another project of the Environmental Working Group, evaluates every chemical in those long ingredient lists on the back of shampoos, baby wash, lip gloss -- every personal care product. SkinDeep.com does the homework for us, searching in medical databases to see if there are any findings that would make a given ingredient a "chemical of concern" -- such as lowering sperm counts or causing nerve disorders.
The website GoodGuide.com expands the search beyond personal care products to include food, household cleaners, and toys (with more products being added). GoodGuide.com comes also as a free app for the iPhone, and some retailers are considering putting its 10-point ratings next to the price tags of products so we don't need to go to the Web to get the truth.
Daniel Goleman blogs at www.danielgoleman.info. His audio investigations of ecological intelligence can be heard at http://www.morethansound.net/ecological-awareness.php.
+++++++++++++++++++++++ xxx http://blogs.edf.org/personalnature/2009/12/07/toxic-ignorance-is-not-bliss/
5-Toxic Ignorance is Not Bliss December 7, 2009
Why I'm Outraged About BPA and Other Chemicals, and What We Can Do
We are exposed to thousands of synthetic chemicals all day long. It would be next to impossible to avoid them; they lace our lives. We sleep on chemical fire retardants in the fabrics covering our mattresses. We wake and wash with chemical soaps, and slather chemical-rich moisturizers on our bodies, shampoos on our heads, cosmetics on our faces. We cuddle our babies in plush armchairs, upholstered in fabric that is treated with stain-resistant coatings. Our toddlers cut their teeth chewing plastic toys that contain chemicals to make them soft.
We live in a society that, if anything, seems too full of rules and regulations. But that means we can trust the products that come to market; they've been analyzed and researched and exposed to exhaustive, long-range testing, right?
Wrong. Most of the synthetic chemicals we live with-and some are so pervasive that they are now in the bodies of virtually all Americans-are under-tested and under-regulated. Those bottles, those non-stick pans, shampoos and lotions, those cleaning products-so much of the stuff of everyday life-may, in fact, be harmful to our health. All those times I nestled a warm bottle into my hungry child's mouth, I may have been exposing him to toxic substances.
"Without agreeing to it...we have become the chemical industry's guinea pigs."
"Society needs to pay much more attention to this problem," says Dr. Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at EDF. "We've been complacent about it." Denison maintains an influential blog tracking the debate over chemical safety.
In 1976 Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Unfortunately, the 62,000 chemicals on the market at that time were given a free pass: no requirement they be tested or assessed for safety. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has garnered some information about chemicals through voluntary submissions by industry in a program that EDF helped start, limited testing has been required on a mere 200 chemicals over the past three decades. Worse, EPA has managed to restrict only five substances-and even that overstates the agency's efficacy. The only group of chemicals entirely banned was PCBs, because Congress required it. Even Cal Dooley, the president of the American Chemistry Council, commented on EPA's incapacity in this matter: "EPA cannot make a determination on whether or not a chemical is safe for its intended use."
We should be worried about what amounts to a huge, uncontrolled human testing experiment. Without agreeing to it, without understanding it, without even knowing it, we have become the chemical industry's guinea pigs. "We have a system that puts the burden of proof on the government to show that a chemical is harmful," says Denison. "We need to flip this. The burden of proof should be on industry, to show that a chemical is safe."
The chemical most in the headlines these days is bisphenol A (BPA). Among its many applications, BPA has been used in the linings of food cans, and because it makes plastic clear and nearly shatterproof, it has been used in baby bottles. Traces of BPA have been found in the bodies of 92% of Americans.
Bisphenol A has been getting attention as scientists have released reports showing that this compound-first identified as a "synthetic estrogen" in the 1930s-is an endocrine disrupter. It has been connected to increased breast cancer risk, altered brain and breast development, altered thyroid function, recurrent miscarriage and erectile dysfunction. While independent scientists and industry chemists continue to debate acceptable levels of leaching and toxicity, some states, manufacturers and retailers have taken it upon themselves to ban BPA from baby products. Even Walmart, the world's largest retailer, no longer sells BPA baby products. While this is terrific, the federal government should ban BPA from all products. Babies always ignore labels telling them not to chew on the grown-up's stuff.
BPA seemed like a good idea at the time. A plastic bottle meant your toddler wouldn't crash to the floor holding glass in his hands. Lightweight plastic launched two year olds into the take-out habits of our dining culture: Those sweet fruit drinks, steadily leaking through the nipple, led to rampant tooth decay. Dentists began protectively coating children's teeth with-you guessed it-plastic sealants containing BPA.
BPA is a telling example of the shortcomings of America's regulatory processes. It was one of the chemicals that sailed past TSCA in 1976, and is now produced in amounts exceeding 6 billion pounds annually, even though its hormone-like properties have been known since at least the 1930s. And BPA is a harbinger of even greater trouble in the industry. Christopher Gavigan, executive director of Healthy Child Healthy World, says there are many other chemicals that raise similar concerns. To name a few: flame retardants (PDBEs), phthalates (used extensively to soften plastics) and organo-tin compounds, which harm aquatic life. Denison underscores the danger: all these synthetics are in widespread use, humans have been significantly exposed to them, and there is growing evidence of their toxicity.
"We have much better science today than we did thirty years ago," says Denison. "We are gaining an understanding of our biological response to even small doses of chemicals. But we have old regulations-blind to the new science."
Solutions that Work Can Walmart help uncover the chemical ingredients of common household products?
EDF and Walmart announce the creation of GreenWERCS, a unique information gathering tool.
Read more… As consumers, we find ourselves in a familiar and uncomfortable position: individual efforts to stay safe, versus inadequate information and weak government regulations. Indeed, it often seems that government protects industry better than people. Consumers can try to avoid BPA-laden canned food. We can be vigilant about not using anything that has known carcinogens in it. We can consult websites (like those listed above on the right) to get some of that information. But there are countless undisclosed chemicals in everything we use. We have no clue where the next toxin lurks. The burden of responsibility should not be on the consumers. Manufacturers must be held accountable for the safety of the products they make and sell.
We shouldn't despair-but only because that won't do any good. We should be outraged. We should make noise, lots and lots of noise. Demand reform of the laws governing toxic substances. Demand that the EPA have the power to restrict the use of dangerous chemicals. Demand more rigorous testing. Demand transparency: Ingredients that might be harmful to human health should be disclosed. But more to the point, products made with unsafe or untested chemicals should never reach the marketplace. Because that's how they end up in our bodies, and in the bodies of our babies. When it isn't clear that even the smallest exposures to certain chemicals are safe, regulators cannot continue with business as usual. You can take action right now-tell Congress to strengthen standards for toxic chemicals.
Our social networks are buoyed by trust. Trust in the companies that make the things we buy. Trust in the stores we buy things from. Trust that our government makes laws to protect us. Trust that most people believe in doing no harm. But trust is earned, not assumed. And it has been broken. It is up to us to demand, more than anything else, the repair of trust between consumers, industry and government. Now more than ever, we need the retailers we have been trusting to take the lead on ensuring that we aren't being poisoned by the things they are selling. Their combined market leverage will provoke greater cooperation from manufacturers, and pressure government agencies to require transparency and proof of safety.
There shouldn't be anything to hide, should there? As with any relationship, all we're looking for is good chemistry.
6- Mark Shapiro's "Exposed": Deregulating Chemicals by: Leslie Thatcher, Truthout Book Review Wednesday 15 October 2008
"Exposed" describes how US corporatist ideology and deregulation trump common sense: providing US citizens with second-class, third-world protections against toxins, while slashing America's competitive edge in the global marketplace.
"Exposed": The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life and What's at Stake for American Power, by Mark Schapiro, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont: 2007.
Leslie Thatcher reviews Mark Schapiro's book, "Exposed," which describes how US corporatist ideology trumps common sense, providing US citizens with second-class, third-world protections against toxins, while slashing America's competitive edge in the global marketplace.
Mark Schapiro, editorial director for San Francisco's Center for Investigative Reporting, has written a book about America's chemical industries from an international relations perspective that vividly illuminates the - possibly inevitable - consequences of a corporate-dominated, anti-regulatory regime in one sector of the economy, just when people are beginning to realize the consequences of this type of regime in the financial sector. This valuable, lucidly written, well-documented and blessedly concise examination of how the US has lost its competitive edge in key industries through its protection of corporate rather than citizens' interests could serve as a textbook case of how deregulation has backfired on the very corporations which have spent so much time, energy and money lobbying for it. Schapiro's book is sparingly polemical, so he does not explicitly assert that the very time, energy and money spent wriggling out of regulation could more profitably have been spent on innovation, product research and development: instead, Schapiro satisfies himself with proving that case.
The book starts with a meeting of US engineers in early 2006. They have just learned they have less than six months to redesign all electronic devices for export to Europe to comply with the European Union's "RoHS," the directive "on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment." Six highly toxic substances commonly used in electronics - mercury, cadmium, lead, chromium and two polybrominated biphenyl flame retardants - had been banned. The engineers would have to completely rethink the ingredients of all the electronic products their companies sold or they'd lose access to the largest and most affluent economy in the world: the European Union, with its population of 450 million, a GDP exceeding that of the US, and a pattern of international commerce that makes it the largest single trading partner for every continent but Australia.
As Truthout has reported (1) over the years, Europe has adopted the precautionary principle (2) with respect to its chemical industries, a far more aggressive standard to protect its citizens' health than that applied in the US, where conclusive evidence of a chemical's toxicity is required before it is banned. As Schapiro documents, "conclusive" is an extremely elusive standard, especially when industry controls the scientific data, funds election campaigns and makes intensive use of lobbyists. As the history of the tobacco industry illustrates, it can take years - years during which much irreversible harm is done - to conclusively prove harm.
With my own background in economics, I am frequently surprised at how rarely "free market" proponents promote the perfect information that is a necessary precondition for free markets to function. Schapiro, however, highlights the inequality of knowledge between consumers and producers that Joseph Stiglitz calls "information asymmetry" and invokes as a central flaw of market capitalism. (3) As we have seen with tobacco - industry knowledge about the impact of products is shrouded in "trade secrecy" and "proprietary information," although consumers cannot possibly be construed as making free choices when they are unaware of the potential impacts of the products they buy and use. Now smart European regulation is revealing new or previously private information about chemical health and environmental impacts and "European 'life-cycle analysis' is revealing how much the profits of US-manufactured goods are inflated by hiding the real costs of production and 'end of life' disposal." (4)
"Exposed" details how the differential regulation of various key segments of the chemical industry - cosmetics, plastics (phthalates, specifically), Persistent Organic Pollutants (also known as POPS), GMOs, electronic and vehicular waste disposal - have, in each instance, made Americans less safe than Europeans and made American industry less competitive as it struggles to catch up to European standards or looks for dumping grounds for products that are no longer state-of-the-art.
Those dumping grounds are all too often the US domestic market, where, as Schapiro describes in a subsequent chapter on the US regulatory regime, not even asbestos has been banned: thirty million pounds of it are still used annually "in an array of products." (5) After explaining how the 1976 US Toxic Substances Control Act controls very few substances - only five are banned by the EPA - Schapiro reports on how the US chemical industry and the American Chamber of Commerce, both directly and through the United States government, attempted to bring the kinds of pressure that shapes US legislation and regulation to bear on the European Union to oppose the European REACH legislation that "places the burden of proof on manufacturers to demonstrate that their products could be used safely. And ... proposed to limit the amount of health-related data that companies could claim was 'proprietary,' and to release that information on the European Chemical Agency's Web site ..." (6) This intrusion into Europe's affairs - an intrusion, moreover, that so flagrantly demonstrated the moral and imaginative bankruptcy of US industry as well as the Bush administration's position as industry's handmaid and enabler - was widely resented and backfired. Almost as a footnote to that story, Schapiro describes how industry in the US has been promoting the nomination of "industry-friendly" judges, creating a US judiciary ever less concerned to protect either the citizenry or the environment.
Schapiro's overarching argument is that a more rigorous regulatory regime ultimately costs industry less and is more realpolitik than Utopian as demand for Europe's safer, greener products and more transparent approach grows. It is difficult not to read his story with disgust for an American system that coddles the status quo and discourages innovation, that rewards investment in lobbying rather than investment in progress, and that, ostrich-like, ignores chemical hazards rather than entrepreneurially confronting them, discovering green replacements and improvements. As we are seeing in the financial system, our "free-marketeers" are mere freebooters who run to the nanny state for protection when their own greed, complacency and laziness come home to roost.
Schapiro is outraged that US industry - formerly a pace-setter for innovation and safety - should engineer its own relegation to second - or worst - place. He is astounded that the same companies that have successfully adapted their products to meet European requirements continue to use products Europe has identified as hazardous for US consumption - and to argue in the US that replacing them would be "too costly." He successfully documents how ideology and short-termism have worked not only against the American consumer and environment, but also against the global competitiveness and long-term viability of the very companies they supposedly "protect."
If there is to be a silver lining in the current crisis in finance, perhaps it will be the recognition that intelligent regulation pragmatically protecting the health and well-being of the citizens and the air, earth and water that are the foundation of any country's true wealth is a prerequisite for this country's return not even to leadership, but to membership of the world's "developed" countries. Mark Schapiro's book is a convincing argument for beginning that regulation of the American chemical industry.
Leslie Thatcher is Truthout's French Language Editor and quondam book reviewer.
1. See: (Refs. & Websites at end)
2. "One of the most important expressions of the precautionary principle internationally is the Rio Declaration from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as Agenda 21. The declaration stated: 'In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.'" www.biotech-info.net/handbook.pdf.
3."Exposed," Mark Schapiro, p. 134.
4. Ibid. p.11.
5. Ibid. p.134
6. Ibid. p.138.
All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.
7-Europe's Rules Forcing US Firms to Clean Up By Marla Cone The Los Angeles Times; Monday 16 May 2005
Unwilling to surrender sales, companies struggle to meet the EU's tough stand on toxics. At their headquarters in Santa Clara, researchers at Coherent Inc., the world's largest laser manufacturer, are wrestling with an environmental law that is transforming their entire product line.
Soon, everything produced at the Bay Area company - even the tiniest microchip inside its high-powered lasers that fly on NASA satellites and bleach jeans sold at boutiques - must be free of lead, mercury and four other hazardous substances.
The mandate that has Coherent and other American electronics companies scrambling doesn't come from lawmakers in Washington, or even Sacramento.
Instead, it was crafted 5,000 miles away, in Brussels, the capital of the European Union.
Europe's law, governing any product with a battery or a cord, has spawned a multibillion-dollar effort by the electronics industry to wean itself from toxic compounds.
"This is the first time we've encountered something like this on such a global scale," said Gerry Barker, a vice president of Coherent, whose lasers are used to create master copies of Hollywood films, test the safety of car tires, imprint expiration dates on soda cans and more.
And the electronics rule is only the beginning.
Already, Europe is setting environmental standards for international commerce, forcing changes in how industries around the world make plastic, electronics, toys, cosmetics and furniture. Now, the EU is on the verge of going further - overhauling how all toxic compounds are regulated. A proposal about to be debated by Europe's Parliament would require testing thousands of chemicals, cost industries several billion dollars, and could lead to many more compounds and products being pulled off the market.
Years ago, when rivers oozed poisons, eagle chicks were dying from DDT in their eggs and aerosol sprays were eating a hole in the Earth's ozone layer, the United States was the world's trailblazer when it came to regulating toxic substances. Regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats controlled the White House, the United States was the acknowledged global pioneer of tough new laws that aimed to safeguard the public from chemicals considered risky.
Today, the United States is no longer the vanguard. Instead, the planet's most stringent chemical policies, with far-reaching impacts on global trade, are often born in Stockholm and codified in Brussels.
"In the environment, generally, we were the ones who were always out in front," said Kal Raustiala, a professor of international law at UCLA. "Now we have tended to back off while the Europeans have become more aggressive regulators."
Europe has imposed many pioneering and aggressive - some say foolish and extreme - bans meant to protect people from exposure to hundreds of industrial compounds that have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and other health effects. Recent measures adopted by the European Union have taken aim at chemicals called phthalates, which make nail polishes chip-resistant, and compounds added to foam cushions that slow the spread of fires in furniture.
EU's Big Market
Many companies, even those based in America, follow the European rules because the EU, with 25 countries and 460 million people, surpasses even the United States as a market. Rather than lose access to it, many companies redesign their products to meet European standards. For example, Revlon, L'Oreal and Estee Lauder have said that all their products meet European directives that control the ingredients of cosmetics. And U.S. computer companies say they are trying to remove lead and other substances banned in the EU from everything they sell.
As the EU emerges as the world's toughest environmental cop, its policies increasingly are at odds with Washington.
Among the compounds now phased out or restricted in Europe but still used in high volumes in the United States are the pesticides atrazine, lindane and methyl bromide; some phthalates, found in beauty products, plastic toys and other products; and nonylphenol in detergents and plastic packaging. In animal tests, those compounds have altered hormones, caused cancer, triggered neurological changes in fetuses or damaged a newborn's reproductive development.
The "biggest single difference" between EU and U.S. policy is in the regulation of cosmetics, said Alastair Iles, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group. Cosmetics sold in Europe cannot contain about 600 substances that are allowed in U.S. products, including, as of last September, any compound linked to cancer, genetic mutations and reproductive effects.
Driving EU policy is a "better safe than sorry" philosophy called the precautionary principle. Following that guideline, which is codified into EU law, European regulators have taken action against chemicals even when their dangers remain largely uncertain.
Across the Atlantic, by contrast, U.S. regulators are reluctant to move against a product already in use unless a clear danger can be shown. A chemical, they say, is innocent until proven guilty.
Critics say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's search for scientific clarity takes so long that the public often goes unprotected. Paralysis by analysis, the critics call it.
U.S. risk assessments can last years, sometimes longer than a decade, and in some cases, the EPA still reaches no conclusions and relies upon industries to act voluntarily. For instance, despite research that showed by 2002 that polybrominated flame retardants were doubling in concentration in Americans' breast milk every few years, the EPA has still not completed its risk review. Meanwhile, the U.S. manufacturer of two of the flame retardants agreed voluntarily to stop making them last year after they were banned in Europe and in California.
In the 1970s and '80s, all the major chemical and pollution laws in the United States had a precautionary slant, said Frank Ackerman, an economist at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute.
Lengthy reviews of chemicals, which now dominate U.S. policy, began to evolve under President Reagan and grew in the 1990s. Carl Cranor, an environmental philosophy professor at UC Riverside, said that a conservative groundswell in American politics and a backlash by industries set off "an ideological sea change."
Part of the change stems from the much more vocal role of U.S. companies in battling chemical regulations, said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. American attitudes toward averting environmental risks haven't changed since the 1970s, Jasanoff said. "What has changed is politics and political culture," she said.
EPA's Limited Role
The Toxic Substances Control Act, adopted by Congress in 1976, grants the EPA authority to restrict industrial chemicals that "present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment." The law, however, also tells EPA to use "the least burdensome" approach to do so and compare the costs and benefits.
A pivotal year for the EPA was 1991, when a federal appeals court nullified its ban on asbestos. The court ruled that the agency, despite 10 years of research, had failed to prove that asbestos posed an unreasonable risk and had not proved that the public would be inadequately protected by steps short of a ban.
Since then, the EPA has not banned or restricted any existing industrial chemical under the toxics law, except in a few instances where manufacturers acted voluntarily. New chemicals entering the market are more easily regulated, and so are pesticides, under a separate law.
Some states, including California, are filling what they see as a void by adopting their own rules. California and Maine banned some polybrominated flame retardants, for example.
Iles said that restricting a chemical under federal law now requires a "very tough burden of proof."
"Americans tend to think that products are safe because they are in the market and must somehow have passed government regulation," he said. "But there is no real regulation. Cosmetics, for example, are almost unregulated."
Since the asbestos rule was thrown out by the court, EPA officials perform more complicated calculations to quantify how much risk an industrial chemical poses, assigning a numeric value, for example, to the odds of contracting cancer or figuring out what dose might harm a fetus or child. They also do more research to predict the costs and the expected benefits to public health.
But making these precise judgments is difficult with today's industrial compounds. In most cases, the dangers are subtle, not overtly life-threatening.
Studies of laboratory animals suggest that low doses of dozens of chemicals can contribute to learning problems in children, skew sex hormones, suppress immune systems and heighten the risk of cancer. Some chemicals build up in the bodies of humans and wildlife, and spread globally via the air and oceans. But while harm is well-documented in some wild animals and lab tests, the risks to human beings are largely unknown.
In the face of that scientific uncertainty, Europeans say, their precautionary principle is simply common sense. If you smell smoke, you don't wait until your house is burning down to eliminate the cause, they say. Their standard of evidence for chemicals is similar to the creed of doctors: First, do no harm.
"In the EU, if there is a risk with potentially irreversible impact, we don't wait until the last piece of information," said Rob Donkers, the EU's environmental counselor in Washington, D.C.
"You can study things until you turn purple, but we do not work from the concept that you really need to prove a risk 100,000 times," he said. "In the face of potentially very dangerous situations, we start taking temporary risk management measures on the basis of the science that is available."
Europe's policy is, in part, a reaction to a series of disturbing revelations about dioxins in chicken, mad cow disease, toxic substances in diapers and baby toys, all of which have made many Europeans more averse to taking risks with chemicals.
Under Europe's rules, "there are chemicals that are going to be taken off the market, and there probably should be," said Joel Tickner, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts' School of Health and the Environment.
Conservative critics and some officials in the Bush administration criticize Europe's precautionary approach as extreme, vague, protectionist and driven by emotions, not science.
EPA officials would not go on the record comparing their policies with the EU's. But they asserted that their approach, while different, is also precautionary.
Instead of banning compounds, the EPA teams with industry to ensure there are safe alternatives. In the last five years, 3M Corp. voluntarily eliminated a perfluorinated chemical in Scotchgard that has been found in human blood and animals around the world, and Great Lakes Chemical Corp. ended manufacture of polybrominated flame retardants used in foam furniture. In those cases, EPA officials said, forming partnerships with industry was quicker than trying to impose regulations and facing court challenges as they did with asbestos.
More than any other environmental policy in Europe, the proposal known as REACH, or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, worries U.S. officials and industries.
Under REACH, which was approved by the EU's executive arm and is scheduled to go before the European Parliament this fall, companies would have to register basic scientific data for about 30,000 compounds. More extensive testing would be required of 1,500 compounds that are known to cause cancer or birth defects, to build up in bodies or to persist in the environment, as well as several thousand others used in large volumes. Those chemicals would be subject to bans unless there is proof that they can be used safely or that the benefits outweigh the risks. The testing would cost industries $3.7 billion to $6.8 billion, the EU says.
Some company executives contend that Europe is blocking products that pose little or no danger. In Santa Clara, Barker of Coherent said that the EU's precautionary approach sounds good in principle but it forces businesses to do things that are "unnecessary and probably very expensive."
In some cases, U.S. officials say, Europeans are using the precautionary principle as an excuse to create trade barriers, such as their bans on hormones in beef and genetically modified corn and other foods.
Not on the Same Page
"There is a protectionist element to this, but it goes beyond Europe trying to protect its own industries or even the health of its public," said Mike Walls, managing director at the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, the nation's largest exporter. "It's a drive to force everyone to conform to their standards - standards that the rest of the world hasn't weighed in on."
John Graham, an economist and senior official of Bush's Office of Management and Budget, which reviews new regulations, has called the notion of a universal precautionary principle "a mythical concept, kind of like a unicorn."
"Reasonable people can disagree about what is precautionary and what is dangerous," he said at a 2002 conference.
It is ironic, says Richard Jensen, chairman of the University of Notre Dame's economics department, that Europeans "who embrace the precautionary principle should have such a high tolerance for risk from smoking and secondhand smoke."
Americans are more fearful of cigarettes, nuclear power and car exhaust - and it shows in their laws. They also pasteurize foods to kill bacteria, while European children grow up drinking and eating raw milk and cheese.
Said UCLA's Raustiala, "The United States is quite schizophrenic, as are Europeans, about when we decide" to be cautious.
All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.
8-We Are All Chemically Contaminated By Andr Cicolella Le Monde
Wednesday 12 October 2005
July 22, 1719, the ship Grand-Saint-Antoine left Marseille for the calls of the Levant (as they were described at the time). In Syria, the ship took on a Turkish passenger who died two days later, a victim of the plague that afflicted the region at that time. Eight sailors and the surgeon on board had died when the ship reached Livorno. Nonetheless, the Italian authorities allowed it to return to Marseille, where it arrived May 25, 1720.
Capitan Jean-Baptiste Chataud was in a hurry to deliver his cargo of fabric worth 100,000 ecus before the Fair at Beaucaire. On his arrival, the ship-owners played on their relationships to obtain a "soft" quarantine from Marseille's municipal magistrates. They wanted to avoid a "hard" quarantine that would isolate the ship and its precious cargo in the middle of the ocean for forty days.
The sailors, therefore, were enclosed only in a lazaretto. They gave their dirty linen to laundresses and on June 20, a 58-year-old laundress, Marie Dunplan, died of the plague. It was the beginning of an epidemic that would cause 50,000 deaths among the 100,000 inhabitants of Marseille, 220,000 deaths in Provence, and which would only be over two years later.
A story that belongs to the past? No, the battle surrounding the proposed European regulation, Reach, recalls this tragic history. The issue for Reach, an acronym for Registration Evaluation Authorization of Chemicals, is the risk evaluation of chemical substances.
Seven years ago, the European Council decided to reform the regulations in force regarding marketing of chemical substances. Three years later, a White Book was published. It proposed a change of logic in the management of chemical risk, the principle of which is "no data, no market," a rupture with decades of a rigorously opposite procedure.
Now, European Commission Vice President Gunter Verheugen, responsible for companies and industry, has, in the latest version, proposed to backtrack on this principle and to return the burden of proof back to governments, just as the European Parliament was in the process of examining the initial text.
As in Marseille in 1720, economic interests arrogate the right of coming before the interests of public health to themselves, with the connivance of certain politicians.
The health stakes of Reach are considerable: at issue is mastery of the modern epidemics of cancers (up 63% in France the last twenty years), effects on reproduction (one couple out of seven is infertile), allergies, kidney and neurological diseases ...
When one out of two men, one out of three women, today is affected by cancer, it's no exaggeration to talk about an epidemic. Certainly, it's not as visible as the epidemic of the plague. The victims don't die on the street, but the tribute exacted is heavy, with 150,000 deaths a year in France. Risk factors other than chemical substances are implicated (diet, tobacco use ...), but with the evaluation of chemical substances, we know for certain that we can dry up a part of the source of these chronic illnesses. Moreover, it is unacceptable that this public health imperative not be imposed upon the chemical industry.
The volume of chemical substances at a global level has gone from 1 million tons during the 1930s to 400 million tons today! The chemical industry has thus put on the market - without evaluating them - substances that will sometimes be withdrawn once the damage to the population's health is assessed. That's the "proof by people" to demonstrate toxicity that was the rule at the end of many long years. Still, that's only the case for a minority of substances, since for 97% of the substances data is incomplete or nonexistent.
Today, virtually the entire population is impregnated with a certain number of substances, some of which are toxic to development or carcinogenic. Numerous epidemiological and toxicological data show the link between this generalized chemical pollution and the growth of modern epidemics.
As in 1720, in Marseille, what's at stake concerning Reach is perfectly irresponsible and even suicidal, since, just as with Marseille's municipal magistrates, neither politicians nor industrialists can personally escape this modern plague, since they are also contaminated, as was shown by the results of the tests conducted on the blood samples from Environment Ministers - including Serge Lepeltier, then French Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development - published on October 19, 2004.
Up until now, the European Union has played a big role in the protection of its citizens in the face of climate change. European citizens expect a Europe that will effectively protect them against the plagues of our own era rather than a Europe that panders to merchants.
The European Parliament's Environmental Commission refused to follow the Commission and has, on the contrary, voted for a strengthened proposal. We must hope that European citizens' pressure will be sufficiently strong and clear so that the health perspective wins the day.
Andr Cicolella is a researcher in environmental health and in charge of the [French] Greens' health commission.
9-One More Failed US Environmental Policy By Kristin S. Schafer Foreign Policy In Focus
Wednesday 06 September 2006 Also see below: Le Monde - "Africa's Polluters" and "Pirates"
Key Points The United States has failed to adopt two key treaties: the Stockholm Convention on eliminating chemicals the international community has agreed are extremely dangerous to human health and the environment, and the Rotterdam Convention, which controls the international trade of highly toxic chemicals.
Washington's inability to adopt these treaties - now ratified by 127 and 110 countries, respectively - constitutes a failure not only of U.S. leadership but of responsible participation in global efforts to protect human health.
Between 2001 and 2003, the United States exported 28 million pounds of pesticides that are banned domestically.
Back in 2001, two global toxics treaties offered a rare opportunity for U.S. leadership in the international environmental policy arena. Today not only is the opportunity for leadership lost, but the United States seems bent on undermining the effectiveness of these important treaties while the rest of the world moves ahead on implementation.
The issues at hand are global elimination of persistent chemicals and control of trade in toxics, and the two international treaties that address these challenges are the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. As of August 2006, at least 127 countries had ratified the Stockholm Convention, and 110 had confirmed the Rotterdam Convention. Both conventions have been in force for more than two years, but the United States has yet to approve either.
The chemicals addressed under the Stockholm Convention are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These toxic substances are transported across the globe, persist in the environment, accumulate in the body fat of humans and animals, and concentrate up the food chain. Even at very low levels of exposure, POPs can cause reproductive and developmental disorders, damage to the immune and nervous systems, and a range of cancers. Exposure during key phases of fetal development can be particularly damaging, and infants around the world are born with an array of POPs already in their blood. POPs are found in the current U.S. food supply, even though many of the chemicals in question have been banned in the United States for decades.
The global nature of these pollutants led the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to sponsor extensive negotiations that culminated in the signing of the Stockholm Convention on POPs in 2001. The treaty entered into force in May 2004 after ratification by 50 countries. The POPs treaty identifies an initial list of twelve pollutants slated for elimination. Nine of these - aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, chlordane, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, and toxaphene - are pesticides that have been targeted for elimination by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world since the early 1980s. The other chemicals on the convention's initial list are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and furans. Although it banned PCBs and POPs many years ago, the United States continues to produce dioxins and furans as byproducts of chlorine-based industries and waste incineration.
The Stockholm Convention establishes various timetables for the elimination of the listed POP chemicals. Provisions specific to the ever-controversial DDT call for its ultimate elimination but allow interim use of the pesticide for malaria vector control, if use is accompanied by aggressive efforts to develop and implement safe and effective alternatives. DDT is currently used to control malaria in about two dozen countries, mostly in Africa.
Importantly, the Stockholm treaty also includes a process for identifying and reviewing additional POPs. Five nominated chemicals, including the pesticide lindane and the flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (PBDE), have already passed the first stage of the rigorous, scientific review process on their way to being banned. Another five chemicals are under consideration.
The Rotterdam Convention, which also came into force in 2004, is a complementary treaty providing important controls on international trade of highly toxic chemicals. It requires that any country importing pesticides and certain other hazardous chemicals must be informed of bans or severe restrictions on those substances in other countries. This gives a receiving country the option of refusing shipments of chemicals listed under the treaty on the grounds that they may be harmful to the environment or to the health of its population.
According to the most recent analysis of U.S. customs records conducted by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, more than 1.7 billion pounds of pesticides were exported from U.S. ports between 2001 and 2003. Nearly 28 million pounds of this total were pesticides that have been banned in the United States. Developing countries often lack the capacity to adequately evaluate and regulate highly toxic chemicals imported from their Northern neighbors. The Rotterdam Prior Informed Consent treaty (PIC) is the international community's response to this inequity. Although the convention could be strengthened - some analysts believe that the current rules for adding chemicals to the "PIC list" are designed to limit the number of new substances that can be added - it represents an important tool to help the international community monitor and control the world's massive trade in dangerous substances.
Problems With Current US Policy (06 September 2006)
Key Problems The Bush administration's refusal to establish a workable domestic system for eliminating chemicals added under the Stockholm Convention has delayed ratification and represents a clear violation of the spirit of the treaty.
Congress is implementing legislation for the treaty to weaken domestic toxics laws and undermine states' rights.
U.S. policies do not adequately reflect the precautionary principle, a more effective approach to chemical policies prevalent in Europe and integral to these two global agreements.
Just prior to Earth Day 2001, President Bush announced that he intended to sign the Stockholm POPs treaty and move quickly toward ratification. He pointed out the bipartisan nature of the commitment, promising to conclude a process overseen by his Democratic predecessor. Many U.S. NGOs welcomed the Bush administration's commitment to the treaty, and they hoped that the State Department and Senate would follow through with ratification of the Stockholm Convention and its companion, the Rotterdam Convention, before the end of 2001.
More than five years later, U.S. ratification is still elusive. Before the Senate can provide the necessary advice and consent, Congress must make modest amendments to fix loopholes in two key federal statutes. A controversial version of the required implementing legislation currently being considered by the House (the Gillmor POPs bill) would virtually ensure that the United States never regulates any POPs added to the Stockholm Convention. It also threatens states' rights to protect their citizens from POPs by preempting stricter state rules. This bill has drawn fire from the United Steelworkers, American Nurses Association, attorneys general in eleven states, and dozens of environmental health advocacy groups. The House is likely to consider the proposed legislation, which modifies the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, in early September.
The United States has a history of slow ratification of international agreements, many of which have been known to languish for years in the Senate, the State Department, or somewhere in the policy netherworld. In the case of the Stockholm Convention, the delay is inexcusable. The treaty has widespread support from the NGO community, the chemical industry, and governments around the world, and it regulates a set of chemicals that have been known for decades to be extremely dangerous.
The primary barrier to ratification has been a reluctance to establish a reasonable domestic system for taking action when new chemicals are added under the treaty. The treaty is designed so that every participating country can opt in or opt out of taking action on newly added chemicals. Once the United States has decided to opt in, a domestic process must be in place to meet the treaty commitments. The current version of legislation delinks the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision-making from the international scientific process, even after the United States has decided to opt in for action on a new chemical. This is a serious barrier to streamlined action and a clear violation of the spirit of the convention.
Some of the chemicals likely to be considered for addition, such as the pesticide endosulfan, are still in widespread use in both industrialized and developing nations, despite clear evidence of toxicity, persistence in the environment, and bioaccumulation. Elimination of these additional chemicals is certain to be more controversial in the United States than agreement on the initial pesticides targeted under the treaty, which have already been banned domestically for decades. In a White House Rose Garden statement announcing his intent to sign and ratify the POPs treaty, President Bush noted that POP chemicals "respect no boundaries and can harm Americans even when released abroad." This statement, while true, does not reflect the other side of the equation - that continued use and release in the United States of persistent chemicals not included on UNEP's initial list under the convention can and do harm citizens in other countries around the world.
The science-based process of adding new chemicals under the Stockholm Convention should be governed by precaution, a concept that appears in several places in the treaty's text and is strongly supported by health and environmental advocates worldwide. The precautionary principle recognizes that when there is evidence that a chemical threatens "serious or irreversible damage," action should be taken even in the absence of full scientific certainty. This principle recognizes the tremendous complexity of scientific research on the environmental and health impacts of synthetic chemicals, and it directs the international community to take protective action based on available knowledge to avoid irreparable harm.
Most European countries are well ahead of the United States in embracing the precautionary principle in both domestic and international policies. In negotiating the Stockholm Convention, the United States strenuously opposed precautionary language, while Europe strongly promoted it. This proved, along with the topic of financing, to be one of the most contentious issues in the final hours of treaty negotiations.
During negotiation of the Rotterdam Convention, the United States clearly recognized the potential impact of the more precautionary and protective policies in Europe. Under the voluntary PIC procedure, a pesticide qualified for the PIC list if it had been banned or severely restricted in any single country. The alternative proposal, supported by the United States and eventually incorporated into the final Rotterdam Convention, stipulates that a pesticide must be banned in at least two countries belonging to two separate global regions to trigger the PIC procedure. The boundaries used for the treaty include the United States and Canada as one region and the 43 countries of Europe as another. The U.S. position on this issue stemmed from concerns that bans in Europe, based on more precautionary policies, would lead to a larger "PIC list," potentially undermining markets for U.S. pesticide manufacturers.
Yet despite U.S. reluctance, the international community is moving toward precautionary approaches that will provide real protection for both human health and the environment. The Rotterdam Convention is itself an example of a fundamentally precautionary instrument that allows governments to choose to avoid harm by not allowing imports of chemicals that have been deemed too dangerous in other countries.
Toward a New Foreign Policy
Key Recommendations Congress should pass strong implementing legislation that does not weaken the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions.
Washington should empower progressive state actions rather than seeking to undermine them.
The United States should phase out production and use of additional persistent chemicals that qualify as POPs under the Stockholm Convention.
Congress must pass implementing legislation for the two conventions that ensures appropriate transparency and public notification, protects states' rights, effectively meets treaty obligations, and, in the case of the Stockholm Convention, allows a streamlined process for adding new chemicals based on decisions taken by the countries that have ratified the convention - the Conference of Parties. Under the convention, an international Scientific Review Committee has been established to recommend bans on additional chemicals. The Conference of Parties will consider these recommendations and come to agreement on any list expansion. To fulfill its treaty obligations, the United States must have a domestic program in place to rapidly implement decisions made under the treaty.
Draft legislation meeting these criteria exists in the House (the Solis POPs bill), but it was voted down along party lines in committee in July 2006. Congress must roundly reject the controversial Gillmor bill moving forward that does not meet these criteria. Although environmental health groups around the United States are eager to see the conventions ratified, they would rather wait for proper implementing legislation than accept ratification that undermines the POPs treaty and weakens U.S. participation in its implementation.
Because the United States has not yet ratified the conventions, it is participating in official meetings as an observer. Yet this does not mean the United States cannot take steps to demonstrate a commitment to treaty implementation and advance toward meeting treaty objectives. The United States should immediately initiate the development of a national implementation plan, including a focus on the byproduct POPs (dioxins and furans) and an evaluation of persistent chemicals not yet listed under the Stockholm Convention.
In developing a national plan, federal officials should examine progressive policies at the state level. Several states such as Maine, Washington, and California are addressing the ongoing use of persistent pollutants. For example, a February 2006 executive order by the governor of Maine established a task force to identify and promote safer alternatives to persistent bioaccumulative toxins, neurotoxins, and other chemicals discovered through biological monitoring. The state of Washington is implementing a plan under its Department of Ecology to phase out releases of persistent pollutants like mercury and dioxins. And in 2002, California phased out the pharmaceutical uses of lindane, a persistent pesticide finally banned from agricultural applications by the EPA in 2006 after a 29-year review process. Lindane has already been outlawed in at least 52 countries and was nominated in 2005 for inclusion under the Stockholm Convention. Progress currently underway through state-level initiatives like these can help the United States move toward national evaluation, reduction, and eventual elimination of persistent pollutants that threaten human health.
The NGO community continues to track ratification of the Stockholm and Rotterdam treaties with great interest, but the cautious optimism of five years ago is long gone. In his 2001 speech linked to Earth Day, President Bush announced his support for the Stockholm Convention, reminding the country that "the risks are great, and the need for action is clear." These words now have a hollow ring, as the United States is once again left far behind in the international environmental policy arena, and U.S. public health remains at risk.
Kristin S. Schafer email@example.com, program coordinator with Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), is co-author of Nowhere to Hide: Persistent Toxic Chemicals in the U.S. Food Supply (San Francisco: PANNA, 2001) and Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability (San Francisco: PANNA, 2004). Daryl Ditz of the Center for International Environmental Law and Carl Smith of the Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Education contributed to this article, previous versions of which appeared in the September 2001 (vol. 6, no. 31) and September 2002 (vol.7, no.11) issues of Foreign Policy In Focus.
10-Africa's Polluters Le Monde | Editorial
Thursday 14 September 2006
It's a scandalous story about gangsters who break the laws and abuse the poor world. It's the story of globalization with a horrible face, one of laissez-faire for the wolves in the sheepfold. It's the shameful story about a Europe that pollutes Africa. It's a story that should have consequences: legal, administrative, and political consequences.
A chemical tanker, the Probo-Koala, a ship registered in Panama, belonging to a Greek company, discharged 581 tons of toxic waste in the port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on August 19th. The boat is chartered by an oil trader, Trafigura Beheer BV, registered in the Netherlands for fiscal reasons, but the true headquarters of which is in Lucerne, Switzerland. In Abidjan, the Puma Energy company, a Trafigura subsidiary, contacts an intermediary, the Waibs company, which advises that it deal with the Tommy company, only accredited since July 12. The latter attends to spreading products in a dozen of the public dumps around the Ivory Coast's economic capital.
The population is immediately deeply discomfited, then poisoned. Thousands of people suffer from asphyxia. Six die. Europe is upset, sends experts. They demand the immediate removal of the waste.
What does this waste consist of? It appears that Trafigura explained that it was shipping waste, the goo that remains at the bottom of holds. These "slops" are the subject of an international convention called the Marpol Convention that prohibits dumping them in the sea. They remain nonetheless exportable, to be treated in adequate installations. But it is strongly suspected that Trafigura lied and dumped European industrial storage residues in Africa. That type of waste, according to the Basel Convention, must be re-treated as close as possible to its source and may not be exported without verification of its destination.
Investigations are under way. In Ivory Coast, seven people have been arrested. In the Netherlands, inspectors are looking for the officials who allowed the ship to leave without verifying the true content of its storage tanks. Trafigura is accused of involvement in the United Nations "Oil for Food" program scandal in Iraq. The company was supposed to have paid commissions, notably to Kofi Annan's son. That company is also the subject of accusations in South Africa and Congo.
Justice must be firmly dealt to Africa's polluters. But Europe may not content itself with seeing the Basel Convention hijacked. It's time to put some order in the transportation sectors where intermediaries, arms dealers and traders live who are suspected of murky behavior, but allowed to act with complete impunity.
Pirates By Pierre Haski Liberation
Thursday 14 September 2006
The residents of Abidjan are living through an exemplary drama. Virtuous Europe endows itself in vain with the most restrictive rules in the world on the export of toxic waste; reality is often less bright. The recipe is simple: greed, inadequate controls, and the inability to trace the waste on the one side, maggoty administrations and corrupt politicians on the other, which, together, make the game work for all kinds of traffickers. And, once again, it is the residents of black Africa - weak link in the chain par excellence by virtue of its internal political turbulence - who are devastated. Every time a state lets down its guard, or worse, hires itself out to the highest bidder, modern pirates stream in and spill the developed part of the planet's scum. In the south of China - even though it is a highly-supervised country - you can find tens of thousands of migrant workers taking apart, in contempt of all social and environmental norms, tons of electronic waste illegally sent from the United States, the rest of Asia, some of Europe.... In Africa, one after another, states at civil war or in decomposition see themselves flung into the ranks of "the world's garbage cans".... In every instance, there are the corrupters and the corrupted. And the victims. In the Netherlands, as in the Ivory Coast, at both ends of this chain of death, light must be shed. And for this exemplary affair, an exemplary punishment is in order, even if it is politically explosive, as could be the case in Abidjan. The stakes for global governance are major, and countries, international organizations, and civil society all have a role to play. And a much blunted credibility to regain.
11- Buyers at Risk: Christmas Season of Toxic Recalls By Mark Schapiro AlterNet.org
Wednesday 19 December 2007 Also see: AOL/Microsoft-Hotmail Preventing Delivery of Truthout Communications
Who is out there protecting Americans from these hidden hazards? Practically no one.
As we pass through the season of toy recalls into the season of Christmas consumerism, none of the presidential candidates on either side of the aisle have focused on a singular issue that would send a powerful signal of commitment to protecting Americans. The question of ensuring the security of Americans from the hazards to their health contained in hundreds of consumer products hangs like a ripe fruit for any candidate willing to pick it.
Who is out there protecting Americans from these hidden hazards? The answer: practically nobody.
We now know what happens when illegal substances like lead are integrated into toys and shipped to the United States from China: They slip into the country past the eviscerated Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose sole toy inspector spends most of his time making sure toys don't break in children's hands, rather than assessing the toxic substances that may enter into their bodies. In fact, the CPSC's budget has dropped in a more or less inverse proportion to U.S. toy manufacturers sourcing production in China.
Hillary Clinton may have called for greater vigilance of our imports from China, but it's not just illegal substances like lead that are being integrated into an array of consumer products. A host of substances suspected of causing cancer, mutating genes and disrupting the reproductive system are permitted in the United States, while much of the world - our economic peers in Europe, Japan and even in emerging economies like Korea - are banning them from use.
U.S. influence has been slipping globally, diminished by a bellicose foreign policy, the rapidly dropping clout of the dollar and the quicksand of Iraq. But nowhere are Americans feeling this shrinking global presence more than in the realm of their safety from consumer products that can cause innumerable life-threatening health problems.
Once, 30 years ago, the United States was the leader on environmental protection. What we did in America - creating the EPA, passing laws regulating chemicals - was followed by the rest of the world. The Toxic Substances Control Act was our law. It was the first in the world to address the potential health dangers from chemicals. But it included a massive loophole: Any chemical already on the market as of 1981 did not have to undergo any testing for its effects on human health or the environment.
The result: Some 30 years later, 90 percent of the chemicals on the market today - some 65,000 substances - have never been assessed for their toxicity.
Over the intervening 26 years, our laws have not kept up with the exponential increase in scientific knowledge of chemicals' effects on the human body. But the rest of the world is moving ahead. Those moves are being led by the European Union, which now includes nearly 500 million people in 27 countries - a market far larger than the United States.
Why did the EU make the changes? It's just good business. They are looking at the billions of dollars in costs to public health triggered by exposure to toxic chemicals. They did the math. It's cheaper to act before the problem worsens. They are taking a preventative stance, while the United States remains complacent with the status quo.
Take toys, for example: the Europeans responded to a growing body of evidence suggesting that a plastic additive called phthalates may contribute to decreased production of testosterone in infant boys by banning the substance from use in products aimed at children under the age of 3. Much of the evidence used by the Europeans to make that decision came from American scientists, some of whom have been supported in their research by our own EPA. But no one in the U.S. government has been willing to listen.
The result: Toys are manufactured in China without phthalates for export to the European Union and with phthalates for export to the United States. European manufacturers have found far less toxic alternatives, and European kids have as many plastic animals and other goofy playthings as their American counterparts.
Another example, cosmetics: No independent body anywhere in the United States independently assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics. Who knew how many carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive system inhibitors are included in cosmetics? Now we know, because the Europeans have published a "negative" list banning such substances from cosmetics now sold in Europe. And not just Europe: increasing numbers of emerging economies, like Korea and Brazil, are beginning to look to Brussels, capitol of the EU, and not Washington for guidance on how to address such potential hazards.
Altogether, America's bluff is being called: The world's other major economy is showing that safety and financial success are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, at a time of rising environmental sensitivity in the marketplace, many of these "greener" businesses are now posing a competitive challenge to U.S. producers. The first candidate to realize that this issue strikes directly at American's sense of safety and security will reap major benefits at the polls.
Mark Schapiro is the author of "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power" (Chelsea Green, 2007).
12- I'll Have My Cosmetics With a Side of Infertility, Please By Heather Gehlert AlterNet.org
Thursday 25 October 2007
Author Stacy Malkan reveals the dangerous truth about everyday products we put in our hair and on our skin. Carcinogens in cosmetics? Petrochemicals in perfume? If only this were an urban legend. Unfortunately, it's a toxic reality, and it's showing up in our bodies.
In 2004, scientists found pesticides in the blood of newborn babies. A year later, researchers discovered perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, in human breast milk. Today, people are testing positive for a litany of hazardous substances from flame retardants to phthalates to lead.
In her new book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, Stacy Malkan exposes the toxic chemicals that lurk, often unlabeled, in the personal care products that millions of American women, men and children use every day.
AlterNet spoke with Malkan about these toxins and her five-year effort with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to get the beauty industry to remove them from its products.
Heather Gehlert: There are so many environmental issues you could've written a book about. Why cosmetics?
Stacy Malkan: I think cosmetics is something that we're all intimately connected to. They're products that we use every day, and so I think it's a good first place to start asking questions. What kinds of products are we bringing into our homes? What kinds of companies are we giving our money to?
It has something pretty interesting in common with global warming too.
It does. I think of it as global poisoning. I think that the ubiquitous contamination of the human species with toxic chemicals is a symptom of the same problem (as global warming), which is an economy that's based on outdated technologies of petrochemicals - petroleum. So many of the products we're applying to our faces and putting in our hair come from oil. They're byproducts of oil.
Many cosmetic products on the market right now claim they are pure, gentle, clean and healthy. But, as you reveal in this book, they're far from it. Toxic chemicals in these products are showing up in people. What were some of the most surprising toxins you discovered in cosmetics?
Lead in lipstick was pretty surprising. We (the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) just released that report last week. Many personal care products have phthalates, which is a plasticizer and hormone disruptor. That's why we started the cosmetics campaign - because we know that women have higher levels of phthalates in their bodies, and we thought that cosmetics might be a reason. But, I think overall, the most surprising thing was to know that there's so much that we don't know about these products. Many, many chemicals are hiding in fragrance. Companies aren't required to list the components of fragrance. Products also are contaminated with carcinogens like 1,4 dioxane and neurotoxins like lead that aren't listed on the label. So it's difficult for consumers to know what we're using.
As a consumer I just want to know what ingredients to avoid, but you say in the book, protecting myself is not as simple as that. Why not?
There are no standards or regulations like there are in, for example, the food industry, where if you buy organic food or food labeled "natural," there's a set of standards and legal definitions that go behind those words. We might like to see those be stronger, but nevertheless, there are meaningful legal definitions. That's not the case in the personal care product industry, where companies often use words like "organic" and "natural" to market products that are anything but. And some of the most toxic products we've found actually had the word "natural" in their name, like natural nail strengtheners that are made with formaldehyde.
Generally speaking, risk assessment involves two factors: a hazard and people's exposure to that hazard. Could you explain some of the unique challenges to assessing risks with cosmetics?
That's a good question. Risk assessment is an extremely oversimplified way of pretending we have enough information to know how much chemicals we can tolerate in our bodies. A risk assessment equation will say, "How hazardous is a chemical, how much are we exposed to it from this one product, and is that harmful?" There's a lot of information left out of that picture: studies that haven't been done to determine impacts on fetuses, the fact that we're exposed to so many of these chemicals in so many places every day, and the fact there have been no - or very few - studies about chemical mixtures.
In chapter 2, you say that toxic cosmetics should raise concern for men too, regardless of whether they use any themselves. How so?
Well, men do, first of all, use personal care products. When I ask a group of people what products they've used today, the men will be keeping their hands down and eventually, reluctantly, raising their hands because they're using shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, cologne, lotion.
So it's not just a makeup problem.
No, it's not just a makeup problem. It's all products. And we know that some chemicals in these products are particularly problematic for men. We're all exposed to phthalates, and phthalates interfere with the production of testosterone, and they're linked to health effects like lower sperm counts, birth defects of the penis, testicular tumors.
You've had to struggle with some scary health problems. Tell us about that.
Like many of us, I've had bizarre health problems that nobody can explain: benign lumps in my breasts and thyroid, which is quite common among young women to have thyroid problems. And then also infertility, which is something that's becoming an increasingly common experience for people. And so many of us have heard from our doctors, "Well, we don't know why; we can't tell you why." But I think that's an interesting disconnect that we're looking at how to treat disease, but we're not looking at how to prevent disease.
You admit in the book that you used to be addicted to makeup and so-called personal care products. Do you think that could be related to the health issues you've had?
Well, who knows, and we can never say what caused what and so that's why risk assessment is not a useful tool to - how do I want to say this - that's why, in my opinion, we need to get rid of toxins wherever we possibly can in makeup, shampoo and lipstick is obviously a place where they don't need to be. But, yes, I did use a lot of cosmetic products - 200 chemicals a day just in those products. And I also grew up in a very industrialized neighborhood near one of the largest incinerators in Massachusetts, near oil refineries. And we really didn't talk about these issues at all.
Do you think part of the problem with creating awareness around this issue is that the effects from toxins are often not that immediate? People don't say, Oh, I've been to this toxic site and now I have a rash all over my body.
Right, and that's what we hear from the cosmetics companies when they say, "Well, my product is safe if used as directed, and you can't prove otherwise." Which is true. We can't say that use of X product led to X disease because we're talking about long-term diseases with contributing factors. Doctors usually can't tell us why we got cancer, because it could be due to multiple factors in our pasts. We also know that exposures during critical windows of development - babies in the womb, even teenagers - can lead to later-life diseases.
Can you give me an idea of how many chemicals one product can contain? Earlier you said you were exposed to 200 chemicals a day during your youth, but that's not all from one product.
No, I used about 20 products a day. The average woman in the U.S. according to our survey uses 12 products a day with about 180 chemicals. And men use about six products with 80 chemicals combined. But it depends on the product. Some products have dozens of chemicals - fragrances can have dozens or even hundreds of chemicals that aren't listed on the label. And even fragrance-free products can have a masking fragrance.
Talk a little about the history of the cosmetics industry. When did it come about and why is it so unregulated?
The cosmetics industry has fought really hard to keep itself unregulated for the last 30 years. It was first regulated under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. That is a 350-page law with about 1.5 pages that address cosmetics. But it didn't give the FDA the power to require testing (cosmetic) products before they go on the market. The FDA can't require follow-up health monitoring; they can't even recall products. Basically, the FDA has to prove in court that a product is harmful before it can take action. There were several attempts to regulate the industry over the years, and the most well-known was in the 1970s with Thomas Eagleton, a senator from Missouri. He proposed that cosmetics should be regulated more like drugs, where there's a rigorous testing protocol that has to happen before products go on the market, but that was shot down and co-opted. What the industry has done is propose voluntary regulations every time a regulatory threat arises. And so the system that we have now is an industry-sponsored and run panel called the Cosmetics Ingredients Review Board, which is in charge of determining the safety of ingredients in cosmetics. We found lots of problems with that panel. They rushed through ingredients quickly, they hadn't looked at most of the ingredients or actually used these products and, most of the time, they find things to be safe. Even when they do make recommendations to restrict or eliminate ingredients, the industry is free to ignore them and sometimes does.
You say in the book that some companies have different formulations of the same products. Some, with harmful toxins removed, go to Europe, and others, with toxins, go to the U.S. Why is that?
Well, it's outrageous, but Europe has much better health protection laws, and they really take a precautionary approach. The European Union has banned 1,100 chemicals from cosmetics that are thought to cause cancer or reproductive harm, and so they take a precautionary approach by saying, "We know these chemicals are hazardous." Nobody argues about that. Instead of arguing about at what level are they safe in products, we need to take them out of the products and figure out how to make products without them. The United States, on the other hand, says, "We need to be able to prove that an ingredient in this product causes harm before we're going to do anything about it. Consequently, there are lots of known toxins in consumer products. It's not just cosmetics. Another example is formaldehyde in kitchen cabinets - perfectly legal in the United States. You can buy kitchen cabinets, and they're wafting the carcinogen formaldehyde into your kitchen. You can't sell those cabinets in Europe, in Japan, even in China.
Is it really expensive for companies to reformulate their products to remove toxic chemicals?
It's not expensive to reformulate; many companies have already done it because they had to do it if they want to sell in the European market.
When did you begin working on cosmetic issues? How has the industry changed since then? What's the future outlook?
Well, we started the cosmetics campaign in 2002, when we were concerned about phthalates and found out they were in the majority of cosmetic products. At that time, we started to contact companies to try to have a dialogue with them about the chemicals they were using.... Overall, I would say the mainstream companies have been incredibly resistant to any kind of change, but we have seen a big change in some products in the last few years. Because Europe banned phthalates, we were able to use that to pressure companies to remove phthalates from some U.S. products, particularly nail products. So we've seen a major shift in the formulation of nail products in the last few years because of the campaign (formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalates have been removed from most nail products). So, it's possible that companies can change. They are changing, but not enough and not fast enough.
One thing that struck me about this book is that it's not just a story about cosmetic hazards. It's a story about activism. What was the thinking behind that?
Well, activism is fun, first of all. I think it's the best job in the world. And the inspiring stories from so many people from moms to former models who are speaking out, to the teenagers who have lobbied in Sacramento to get bills passed and now realize they have a political voice that they want to keep using, to nurses who have come together to pressure companies to pass protective policies. I think that's all so positive, and I think that people are coming together in ways that we haven't before.
What practical advice can you give to people wanting to clean up their cosmetics bags?
My best advice is that simpler is better. Really, fewer ingredients, fewer products. For instance, hair color and bubble bath are two things that I've given up. But there are a lot good (nontoxic) products out there on the market, and I would say start by switching out the ones that you use the most frequently like shampoo and deodorant that we're putting by our breast tissue, experiment with different kinds of natural products and just make changes as you can. You can also use the skin deep database to research your products.... The onus at this point is on consumers to do our own research.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I think it's really important, especially for women in this culture, to recognize that the beauty industry is all about profit and bottom-line thinking. It's not concerned about our health issues. It is not concerned with telling the truth about its products.
13- Toxic Spritz? EU Sniffs at Everyday Chemicals By Elisabeth Rosenthal The International Herald Tribune
Thursday 28 April 2005
When a small Dutch laboratory announced in February that it had measured high levels of chemicals potentially harmful to human health in some of the world's most popular perfumes, the results were meant to inflame. And they did.
Commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace, and published under the alarmist subtitle "L'Eau de Toxines," the report suggested that women and men may be spraying themselves with toxic substances. The French Perfume Manufacturers Association reacted immediately with a terse statement blaming environmentalists for "throwing doubt on the innocence of perfumes."
The angry exchange illustrated just how high the stakes are in a debate that goes far beyond perfume. The European Union is preparing landmark legislation that would require companies for the first time to study and report on the safety of the hundreds of thousands of chemicals they put into consumer goods - from cars and computers to beauty products.
The legislation, known as Reach, for Research, Evaluation and Approval of Chemicals, which is expected to be adopted by early next year, will dramatically change the way Europe regulates household chemicals - and may also vastly improve understanding of the hazards posed by the soup of low-level chemicals in the backdrop of contemporary life.
"There was growing concern about the linkage between chemicals and disease, but really the biggest concern was the general lack of overall information," said Yvon Slingenberg, acting head of the chemical unit of the European Commission's Environment Director- ate General. "There are all these substances out there having an impact, but we don't know what it is."
The European commissioner for environmental affairs, Stavros Dimas, noted this week that legislation is the only way to force all companies to pay attention to chemical safety. These firms should be prepared "to preempt scares and scandals by replacing dangerous substances up front," he said.
Chemicals developed since 1981 have already had to undergo intensive scrutiny in Europe. Older, widely used compounds - like some of the ingredients in perfume, flame retardants and hair dyes - have been less widely studied. As scientists struggle to explain rises in diseases like breast cancer and brain tumors, as well as declining male fertility rates, many wonder if low-level exposure to certain substances may hold the key.
For its report, Greenpeace had the Dutch chemistry lab TNO Environment and Geosciences analyze a "random selection" of 36 perfumes for the presence of two groups of chemicals: phthalates and synthetic musks. The results showed, for example, that Calvin Klein's Eternity for Women contained 2.2 percent by weight of the chemical diethyl phthalate. Jean-Paul Gaultier's perfume Le Male was more than 6 percent synthetic musk. The White Musk from The Body Shop, which trumpets its eco-friendliness, contained nearly 10 percent synthetic musk.
There is no direct evidence that the phthalates or synthetic musks pose a risk to human health. But much remains unknown, and there are recent indica- tions that these chemicals may not be innocuous. It is unclear, for example, how much of these compounds is absorbed through the skin and how dangerous such doses are to humans.
Animal models are providing emerging evidence of potential danger. According to extensive research in the past decade, phthalates interfere with the development of male fetuses. Synthetic musks inhibit a newly discovered enzyme system that keeps other toxins out of cells.
The French perfume manufacturers noted in their statement that "many scientific authorities have confirmed that these compounds are safe under the conditions used in perfumes."
"Consumers can continue to use them in total confidence," the statement added. However, some companies are already hedging bets. The Body Shop has stopped using phthalates and synthetic musks in new product development "as a precaution," said Shelley Simmonds, a company spokeswoman, and is attempting to find other ingredients to substitute in established brands.
On a broader front, resistance to the Reach legislation has been fierce. Chemical manufacturers argue that the costs of safety testing on hundreds of thousands of chemicals would be prohibitive; consumer product companies fear a huge rise in prices of raw materials and finished products.
Opponents of the legislation say that many of the products that would come under scrutiny have been in use for de- cades and that deleterious health effects would long have become obvious. Under current European and U.S. regulations, consumer products are put on the market, then withdrawn if evidence later arises that they contain a substance harmful to heath.
Now Europe is poised to adopt what legislators and environmentalists like to call the "precautionary principle," demanding extensive study before chemicals are approved for use. "We know that we have an exposure problem and that there are potential risks," said Helen PerIvier of Greenpeace in Brussels.
Phthalates, which are widely used in a variety of industries, can now be found at low levels in almost all human blood samples from industrialized countries. These compounds are used to make plastics pliable, as in intravenous tubing or bags for intravenous medicine. They are also used to make the scent of perfumes evaporate more slowly.
Two years ago, a U.S. expert panel convened to study the emerging data said it was "highly concerned" about phthalate exposure in hospitalized infants. But the panel said it had "minimal concern" about the levels of phthalates to which adults are normally exposed. Concern has increased a bit since then, said Robert Kavlock, a scientist at the United States' National Institutes of Health who was on the panel.
Analysis of phthalate levels in blood and urine in the general population are higher than scientists had anticipated, and are especially higher in women of childbearing age, he said.
That is of particular concern because scientists have now found that the most potent effect of phthalates, at relatively low doses, is to interfere with the sexual development of male fetuses.
"I don't think that the levels in personal care products should be a health concern," Kavlock said. "On the other hand, pregnant women are told to avoid unnecessary exposures. And you don't have to wear perfume."
Also, as scientists turn their attention to compounds spread in the environment, they are finding subtle but consequential health effects. Scientists in Croatia and the United States have found that the synthetic musks disrupt a system used by many animals to keep toxins out of cells. Although this early research is on mussels, virtually all creatures, including humans, use similar transport systems to keep foreign chemicals at bay.
"There are all these personal care products that have never been considered dangerous because they do O.K. on conventional toxicity tests," said Tvertko Smitar of the Ecotoxicology Lab in Zagreb. "But this could be a new kind of hazardous chemical. They could be quite dangerous to the environment and human health. So they should be tested more."
In collaboration with researchers at Stanford University in California, his lab is planning further study on the effects of synthetic musks in humans.
"There is lots of work in Europe to suggest that these chemicals in personal products don't just go down the drain," said David Epel of Stanford. "Some stay in the body. They get into the environment and hang around in low levels. And the question is, what effects do they have?"
The Reach proposal does not prohibit the use of such compounds, merely says they should be studied and registered. If health risks are found, the producer must seek authorization from EU authorities to distribute the product and provide a plan to minimize the potential danger. There is currently no proposal to mandate the replacement of questionable compounds with provably safer alternatives.
"Most substances will turn out to be fine," Slingenberg of the European environment directorate said. "Some will not. But then at least we will know what we're up against."
All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.
Environmental Law and Litigation
News and analysis by a top Ontario environmental lawyer
14- Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Dianne Saxe
Monday, June 15, 2009
Does Canada do enough to regulate toxic chemicals? Nearly half a century after Rachel Carson's exposé of the lethal potential of pesticides in "Silent Spring", controversy still rages about the toxic cocktails we eat, breathe, drink and bathe in. In the recently released consumer classic, Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie show that people rapidly absorb toxic chemicals from even two days' exposure to typical consumer products.
Heating food in "microwave safe" containers; using air fresheners or scented shampoos; preheating a nonstick pan; eating seven meals of tuna - all of these resulted in immediate and dramatic increases in their body burden of toxics. And many soft plastic toys, such as the eponymous rubber duck, release phthalates, chemicals associated with genital abnormalities in males. People absorb these chemicals with frightening ease, through our lungs, skin and food.
Does it matter? It's not clear. Environmental Defense and other activist groups have repeatedly proven that volunteers across Canada have many different chemical pollutants in their bloodstreams, including lead, arsenic, mercury, PCBs, PBDEs (a flame retardant banned in Europe and eight U.S. states but still in use in Canada), plus an array of other chemicals. For details, see http://www.toxicnation.ca/.
Toxicologists aren't certain what to make of all this information. Many note that modern technology can detect incredibly tiny quantities of pollutants, sometimes in parts per trillion or quadrillion. "One part per trillion is one second in 32,000 years," noted Dr. Joe Schwartz, a chemist at McGill University's science and society department. "That you can detect things in that concentration is far better than finding a needle in a haystack. It's like finding a needle in a world full of haystacks."
Our ability to measure data, however, has outstripped our ability to interpret the data, he said. The ultimate goal has to be to find out what, if any, detrimental health or environmental effects exist. We rarely know this even for individual chemicals; we are even more ignorant about complex mixtures, the chemical soups that we are exposed to in modern daily life. Some estimate that up to 100,000 different chemicals have been introduced into the global marketplace in the last century, with about 1,500 new ones introduced yearly in products ranging from new energy drinks and pharmaceuticals to baby bottles and shower curtains.
In March 2007, Health Canada began a methodical investigation of body burdens, testing 5,000 Canadians for the chemical pollution in their bodies. Tests are being done on blood, urine, hair, saliva and breast milk. Eventually, Health Canada hopes to be able to compare medical records with the level of chemical exposure to find a possible relationship between the two. Preliminary results for heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury are scheduled to be made public in November. Final results for all 5,000 volunteers are scheduled for release in January 2010. But it may take much longer to know what the data means.
"The value of bio-monitoring is going to be long term," Schwartz said. "If we have a good baseline data now, we get good data and then we check 10, 20 years down the road to see if there is any alteration in disease patterns for those people and then you look back to see if there is any link."
Canada does have substantial legal tools for the regulation of toxic substances, but are we doing enough with them? Traditionally, this has been primarily the job of the federal government. Environment Canada has a program to evaluate the toxicity of new substances, that were first manufactured or sold in Canada since 1984. Its Chemical Management Program is partway through a decade-long process of evaluating the toxicity of 23,000 older substances. The federal government also regulates pesticides and drugs and has a small program to regulate products under the Hazardous Products Act. We also cooperate with other countries, as part of the International Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management agreement signed in Dubai in 2006.
But is the federal government doing enough with the powers that it has, even on indisputably toxic substances like mercury? Municipal and provincial governments across the country don't think so. We are therefore seeing local rules springing up, to the anger and despair of many industries already struggling to survive in Canada's small market.
The most recent example is a new law, the Toxics Reduction Act (Bill 167) which passed the Ontario legislature on June 3. This law will require industries in the mineral processing and manufacturing sectors to publish materials accounting, toxic reduction planning and reporting on how they will reduce their use and release of designated toxic substances. Ministry of the Environment will set up reporting systems to inform Ontarians about how, where and in what quantities toxic substances are being used and released by facilities.
Now that the bill has been passed, the regulations process will begin developing guidelines that actually specify what substances are considered toxic, what amounts are safe thresholds, what the minimum number of people that can be employed, and which industry sectors are targeted for compliance. The provincial government has pledged C$24 million to help businesses develop green alternatives, plan for toxics reduction and develop transparent information about their products' ingredients.
Many manufacturers are furious that Canada's governments can't get their act together on toxics. A single set of federal rules would be much easier to comply with than a patchwork of local laws. One of the things that drives businesses crazy is that Ontario's list of toxic substances will overlap, but not be identical to, the federal List of Toxic Substances, and Toronto's new list of toxics under its environmental reporting and disclosure by law. List of toxics aren't very credible when each government has a different list, and it makes it very difficult for businesses to plan ahead and decide which things to avoid. A second problem is that while Ontario businesses may be unable to make products using toxic substances, the same substances are made into products elsewhere then imported into Ontario. This adds to the already substantial burden of making anything here, on top of "Buy American" and the high dollar.
But it seems likely that, in the end, we will find that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Modern chemicals have given us untold convenience and prosperity, and perhaps contributed to our record-breaking lifespans. But I expect there will be consequences, sooner or later, to loading our bodies (and environment) with powerful artificial chemicals, and that government won't have done a good job of protecting us. So I read Slow Death by Rubber Duck, and threw out our non-stick frying pans. Good thing we don't have a rubber duck.
Monday, June 15, 2009
15- Environmental Law and Litigation News and analysis by a top Ontario environmental lawyer Sunday, October 25, 2009 Contaminated Sites: 10 Things You Need to Know
A frightening amount of money is spent every year in litigation and other anguish over contaminated sites. In terms of harm to human health and the environment, contaminated sites are far less important than clean air, clean water, climate change and urban sprawl. But because of our regulatory structure, contaminated sites pack a huge financial wallop.
Environmental law is often puzzling for those in other practice areas, since contamination is usually invisible and the liability rules may not make "common sense". Here is a reminder of ten things every real estate lawyer and agent should know:
Basic principles: 1. The Polluter Pays principle is a growing part of Canadian law. Regulators can often require polluters to cleanup decades after the fact, even if their conduct was legal at the time, and regardless of subsequent agreements of purchase and sale. There are also signs of growing civil liability for polluters. Rylands v. Fletcher is making a comeback, especially where companies profited from using toxic substances then left their messes behind.
2. This does not necessarily mean that a subsequent purchaser (of the original source of contamination or of an adjacent site) can obtain compensation, even in those fortunate cases where the polluter is still solvent. Non-polluters often end up paying and/or taking a loss. Caveat emptor is still in effect, and appropriate vendor warranties matter.
3. Non-polluters do not have unlimited liability. For example, an innocent purchaser is rarely liable for contamination that left the property before they bought it. But owning a contaminated site is usually expensive and always risky.
4. "How clean is clean" remains contentious. In McGeek v. Shell, the court didn't require any cleanup, even though the regulations did. In Tridan v. Shell, the court went to the other extreme, requiring Shell to pay for cleanup to pristine, not just to Ministry of the Environment guidelines. Neither rule may apply now that there are regulatory cleanup standards. Regulatory requirements keep changing, and each set of standards contains several options and cleanup levels. For a November 2009 presentation on "how clean is clean?", click Safeguarding_real_estate_transactions.
5. Just because the Ministry of the Environment can make a polluter pay does not necessarily mean that they will. They may bend over backwards to help homeowners in a Minister's riding, but they are often unmoved by commercial disputes.
6. Any site may be contaminated: homes, farms, apartment buildings, plazas, as well as industries and institutions. Often this is a question of history: did you know that part of Toronto's Forest Hill used to be industries served by the Belt Line? The most common problems are from petroleum products (e.g. gas stations and leaking heating oil tanks, many of them forgotten for decades); chlorinated solvents (e.g. platers, drycleaners), waste disposal sites; and coal gasification plants (the once ultra-modern process of producing artificial gas from coal for municipal and domestic lighting).
7. Every site is different. For one thing, geography has a big impact on the significance and migration of contamination, and on whether it can realistically be cleaned. In coarse sand, contamination can run far and fast, but may be amenable to in-situ (underground) remediation. In clay, it may be enough to 'dig and dump', if the contamination didn't escape through sewer bedding. In fractured bedrock, all cleanup bets may be off. And it matters enormously if anyone drinks the groundwater.
8. Then there's chemistry. Petroleum products float on groundwater, smear into soil as the water table rises and falls, and become less toxic as they degrade. Chlorinated solvents (e.g. metal cleaning, dry-cleaning) sink through the water table, and become ever more toxic as they degrade. Leachate from putrescible waste worsens for some years, then eventually improves. Metals don't degrade…
What can we do about it?
9. A good Phase I environmental site assessment (ESA) answers the questions, should we expect contamination on this site and, if so, where? A good Phase II ESA answers the question, is this site contaminated? It may not identify the source of the contamination or the cost to clean it. Of course, no report is a guarantee and not all consultants do good ESAs. At a minimum, make sure the consultant has good insurance. And check the retainer letter - many contain limitations of liability so strict that the report is almost useless.
10. For the owner of a contaminated site, all options are expensive. Excavation is quick though costly, but it is often impractical and won't necessarily fix groundwater. Risk assessment, in-situ remediation and lawsuits are all painfully slow and unpredictable.
The bottom line is that a rather dysfunctional regulatory regime imposes huge, poorly warranted costs on owning contaminated sites. As a consequence, such sites remain a fertile cause of lawsuits against real estate lawyers, agents and consultants. But they keep good environmental lawyers busy!
See also http://envirolaw.com/quick-intro-canadian-environmental-law/ Canadian environmental law: Quick Intro Sunday, October 25, 2009
16- How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Beauty Products Member By Gabriella67, eHow Member
The skin is the largest organ in the body and skin is pretty sensitive about absorbing chemicals. Did you know that 95 percent of all products marketed for skin, hair, personal care or beauty contain chemicals linked to cancer or skin disorders? Many people aren't aware that the FDA doesn't monitor the marketing or manufacture of beauty products in any way. Short of moving to Europe where rules are stricter, here's some steps you can take to protect your health.
Step 1 Since one of the most toxic activities women do every day is taking a shower (yes, literally), consider installing a shower filter. Avoid all that benzene, toluene and the myriad of other chemicals that lurk in our tap water. You'll find that your skin and hair are softer.
Step 2 Switch to mineral makeup. You'll have less trouble with breakouts and irritation, as the skin breathes better with the fine powder or liquid foundation brands like Physician's Formula (available at Target) provide. Avoid talc in your makeup; it's been linked to cancer and is a respiratory toxin.
Step 3 Avoid petrochemicals in the products you purchase. These include ingredients like Denatured Alcohol (causes dermatitis), Benzyl Alcohol (severe irritant for eyes, skin, respiratory system), Coal Tar (a carcinogen--look for cade tar or pine tar instead), 1-4 Dioxane--found in baby bath products, a known carcinogen and Parabens--the methyl-, propyl paraben family of preservatives have been implicated in a multitude of serious health problems. And of course mineral oil and Vaseline are acne-producing, skin-drying and may be carcinogenic.
Step 4 Avoid the sodium lauryl sulfate family. They are essentially harsh detergents that are acne-producing and are considered mutagens. And yes, it's possible to find shampoos without them.
Step 5 Avoid phthalates. They're found in most mainstream cosmetics, glues, nail polish, plastics and vinyl shower curtains. They're showing up in the blood of pregnant mothers and infants, suspected as causing birth defects.
Step 6 Also avoid, wherever possible, carcinogenic Benzoates and DEA ingredients like Cocamide DEA.
Step 7 You'll find the beauty product section of health stores is an excellent resource for clean and green care products like shampoos, lotions, moisturizers, soaps and toothpaste. Have fun. Look for labels like Giovanni, Aubrey Organics, Toms of Maine, Alba Botanica, Nature's Gate and Desert Essence.
With the proliferation of thousands of chemical household products, millions of consumers wonder if it is possible to avoid dangerous household toxins
Many common household cleaners contain toxic agents and are very harmful and unhealthy. In fact it has been said that the average home contains sixty-two toxic chemicals and the long term effects of these chemicals are unknown because less than two percent have been tested. Less than 2 percent!
If you're not consistently using products that are holistic, natural or "green" it's very difficult to avoid dangerous household toxins.
Is it possible to completely eradicate household toxins? No, it isn't. But the point is this: the more EFFORT YOU EXPEND to reduce dangerous household toxins, the more your health and the health of your family will improve.
Knowing what to look for is the first step to better health.
The greatest household toxin found in many homes is formaldehyde which is present in various common products in the home including the following: deodorants and or antiperspirants, toothpaste, furniture polish, mouthwash and floor waxes. All of these products can cause asthma, allergies and cancer and can affect the immune system.
Phenols are another dangerous household toxins. They are commonly found in mouthwash and acne medicines. Phenols are absorbed in the lungs and through the skin and are known to cause hyperactivity, damage to the liver and kidney and much more.
The following are three of the most common type of harmful household products:
Dishwashing liquids... one of which has been identified as the main cause of accidental poisoning in the United States.
Laundry detergents because they can contain lye which is a top pollutant in homes
Insect repellant sprays because some include the presence of DEET which is known to cause seizures in some people.
In many households, one or more family members suffer with persistent illnesses. Trying to figuring out whether an illness is being caused by a harmful substance can be a complex task.
You don't want to make people believe there's a boogeyman behind every corner as you try to diagnose the possible source of persistent symptoms. Since the symptoms can vary so widely, it's important to consider environmental factors like air quality, smoking habits and allergy-inducing products and animals in the home. One sure sign that a member of the family is suffering from home-grown toxins is if the symptoms clear up when he or she leaves.
It may seem impossible to create an environment free of toxin compounds or poisons since we're surrounded by so many chemicals. But you can start to avoid dangerous household toxins by starting with a mental walk-through of your property. Try thinking about how your home fares in terms of ventilation, paint quality, and the heating and air conditioning systems. Also evaluate all of your consumer purchases and consider trading in plastic items for quality wood or stainless steel versions. Contact the manufacturers of appliances, cabinetry and electronics when unsure of their chemical ingredients. Learn more by viewing the free online eBook: "The Little Green Book For Safe & Healthy Homes".
18- How to Fight Toxic Exposure and Keep Chemicals Out of Your Home By Simran Sethi December 22, 2009
We can thank WWII for inventions like SPAM, plastic wrap and modern-day chemical cleaning products. When hostilities ended, the same companies that had been manufacturing chemicals for nerve gas and other weapons began to bottle their concoctions for the general public, who used them to disinfect their homes. Sixty years later, Mr. Clean may seem well intentioned, but a toxic chemical is still a toxic chemical, no matter how diluted or how many "Danger! Do not swallow!" warnings a bottle is branded with. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that household chemicals label info on poison control and toxicity but doesn't mandate ingredient disclosure. We each have our own allergies and sensitivities, so what may be deemed "safe" for one person may be harmful for another.
Kids are among the most vulnerable. Children under the age of 6 are more likely to die from ingesting dish soap than any other product in the home. Luckily, most of us ingest or inhale dish soap residue in doses much too small to be lethal, but the chemicals are still having an effect. Women who work at home are 54 percent more likely to die from cancer because of a higher exposure to household cleaning products. And the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that indoor air quality may be twice as polluted as outdoor air.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that everyday products like dish soap and laundry detergent are polluting our air and our bloodstreams with toxic chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and stunted development. You're probably thinking sure, you're fill-in-the-blank age, you've been exposed to a lot in your short/long life. But here's the kicker: We're toxic from womb to tomb. A recent EWG study tested the umbilical chord blood of 10 unborn babies and found a total of 287 toxic chemicals, an average of 200 per fetus. (You can find out more in the accompanying video.) The chems in babies included 28 waste byproducts, 47 consumer products like Teflon and Scotchgard and 212 industrial chemicals and pesticides (such as PCBs and DDT) that were already banned more than 30 years ago. Our newborns are coming into the world with a heavy "body burden" of toxins that will effect their health and development. Theoretically, our government should be protecting children from exposure to toxic chemicals that may lead to major health concerns.
But our outdated Toxic Substances Control Act assumes all chemicals to be safe until proven otherwise and doesn't require studies for new chemicals introduced to the market. When bisphenol-A, a common component in plastic baby bottles and water bottles, was found to have strong links to cancer earlier this year, the Canadian government publicly declared the substance "dangerous," the first step in a countrywide ban. Due to consumer pressure, Nalgene has since phased out bisphenol-A bottles and Target pulled baby bottles containing the substance from their shelves. But the U.S. government has taken no action to officially ban bisphenol-A or warn Americans of the danger.
The Food and Drug Administration actually said, "We believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects."
As far as we know, American citizenship doesn't automatically immunize us to the effects of toxic chemicals, so why is our government so much more careless than our neighbors up north?
Don't despair. The bad news is also good news-if these carcinogenic and damaging chemicals come from the products we buy, we also have the power to keep our homes and schools toxin-free. Buying sustainable furniture, eating organic foods and steering clear of high-mercury fish like tuna, filtering tap water and improving home air quality with toxin-filtering plants are all easy steps we can take to cleanse our immediate environments. But we can't control everything (as much as we try). Everyone is at risk of exposure unless our government takes proactive measures to regulate chemicals and require companies to disclose full ingredient lists on their bottles.
Seventh Generation, the largest natural cleaning and home care product company in the world, has stepped up without a government stick. They're leading a "Show the World What's Inside" campaign for full ingredient disclosure on all household cleaners. (Watch their webcast on "Toxic Chemicals and Children," which Simran moderated, for more info.) Taking the power of knowledge a step further, Seventh Gen's website includes a database where consumers can search hard-to-pronounce chemicals to find out exactly what they're used for and how they affect the human body. In addition to accessing it from your desktop, the application can be downloaded onto your iPhone or BlackBerry so you can search ingredients at the store.
Seventh Generation and EWG have also teamed up in support of Sen. Frank Lautenberg's proposed Kid-Safe Chemical Act. The bill would require basic data on all industrial chemicals and establish a national program to assess human exposure, assuming new chemicals to be toxic until proved otherwise instead of the other way around. We've signed a petition supporting the bill here.
Clean can be green when you know what to do. Heather swears by the boiling water, vinegar and baking soda combo. Simran's lazier and uses Seventh Gen, Ecover and Mrs. Meyer's products.
19- The Toxic Chemicals in Your Home They Aren't Telling You About
Posted by Dr. Mercola - July 31 2004
Several everyday consumer products are made with toxic chemicals that can't be found anywhere on the package label.
In a study, 40 household products such as hair coloring, lipstick and paints were tested for toxic chemicals. Out of these 40 products, evidence of the following chemicals was discovered in 34 (85%) of the products: glycols, organic solvents and phthalates. These chemicals did not appear on the label of the products.
Although the study didn't test at what level these chemicals were harmful to people, they did find that these chemicals could contribute to impacting the nervous system, reproductive system and cause other health issues. For this reason, researchers expressed the need to look further into chemical affects and people's level of exposure to them.
Researchers also stated the most common toxic chemical that people would most likely inhale come from household products. These chemicals included chlorine, toluene, xylene, methyl, ethyl ketone and n-hexane.
Based on the findings from these studies, environmental groups recommended stricter labeling requirements.
A chemical spokesperson stated that these claims weren't supported by scientific evidence and served merely as scare tactics as a way to get people to not buy the products they depend on for everyday use. Another spokesperson for the cosmetic industry claimed that the amount of toxic chemicals used in cosmetics and other household products was very low and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Excite News July 14, 2004
20- Ways to Avoid Household Toxins One expert offers tips for consumers who want to avoid exposure to everyday household toxins and chemicals.
By Christina Gillham | Newsweek Web Exclusive Oct 1, 2008
Barely a month goes by without some toxic scare, whether it's the chemicals in the plastic used for some baby bottles, or lead in lipsticks. You could be forgiven for being a nervous shopper, even if much of the data on what's toxic is inconclusive. It's not necessary to become compulsive, but to help cautious consumers navigate all the confusing warnings and advisories, Nena Baker, author of "The Body Toxic" (North Point Press, 2008), offers her tips for reducing your exposure to everyday toxins.
1. Filter Your Water. A simple water filter can capture a lot of pollutants. Some cities' water supplies can contain trace amounts of arsenic, lead, perchlorate and/or atrazine, a pesticide that may cause cardiovascular and reproductive problems, and possibly cancer. (Though the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that atrazine is not likely to cause cancer in humans, it is awaiting the results of further studies.) Traces of atrazine in drinking water are most likely to be found in areas of heavy agricultural production like the Midwest and Southeast. (To find out how safe your city's water is, get a copy of your local water-utility report at the EPA's water-safety site.)
2. Know What's in Your Grooming Products. Shampoos, lotions and makeup can contain a number of toxins like parabens and phthalates, which have been identified as hormone disruptors and may be linked to certain cancers. When shopping for cosmetics and personal-care products, read the ingredients labels-avoid anything that includes the words "paraben" (often used as a suffix, as in methylparaben) or "phthalate" (listed as dibutyl and diethylhexyl or just "fragrance"). If there isn't an ingredients list, log on to cosmeticsdatabase.com, a Web site devised by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) that identifies the toxic ingredients of thousands of personal-care products.
3. Don' t Eat Microwave Popcorn. The inside of a microwave popcorn bag is usually coated with a perfluorinated chemical (PFC) called a fluorotelomer that can break down to form perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Designed to prevent oil from seeping through the bag, PFOA can migrate into the food when heated. It has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and preliminary epidemiological studies suggest that a pregnant woman's exposure to PFOA may reduce her baby's birth weight. Moreover, the EPA's scientific advisory board has recommended that the chemical be listed as a likely human carcinogen. The good news is that the EPA has asked manufacturers to work toward eliminating PFOA from their products by 2015. While it's unknown what level of exposure from popcorn bags is harmful, Baker says that consumers should be aware that any exposure could result in very long lasting presence of the chemical in your body. Some perfluorinated compounds are extremely persistent and never break down in the environment, she explains.
4. Don't Get Stain-Protection Treatment. This is an extra you can add to new furniture, shoes or clothes, but Baker says you should avoid this option because these treatments usually contain perfluorinated chemicals. "If you use this on new furniture, it's going to be in your home; you're going to breathe it," she says. Baker also recommends avoiding pots and pans that have a nonstick coating. While nonstick materials are not made of perfluorinated chemicals, the substance is often used in their production. If the pan gets scratched or worn, the chemicals can be released into the air, says Baker.
5. Limit Use of Canned Food and Plastic Containers. Baker recommends reducing your intake of canned foods. Most canned goods are coated with a resin lining derived from Bisphenol-A (BPA), which recently made headlines because of its presence in the plastic used in some baby bottles. A component of polycarbonate plastic, BPA may be linked to certain cancers, fertility and behavioral problems in children. The risk is especially great when exposed in the womb; women who are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant and young children should be especially careful of their canned-food intake.
21- How to Avoid the Top 10 Most Common Toxins 19 Feb 2005
Environmental toxins are chemicals and other materials created largely from industry and carelessness. These chemicals have saturated our water, food and the very air we breathe. You can't see, feel, or smell many toxins--at least, not right away. We don't realize their affects until we come down with a chronic disease after years of exposure.
77,000: chemicals are produced in North America Over 3,000: chemicals added to our food supply Over 10,000: chemical solvents, emulsifiers and preservatives used in food processing 1,000: new chemicals introduced each year
The Effects of Toxins on Your Body
A study by The British Medical Journal says that 75% of most cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. A report by the Columbia University School of Public Health estimates that 95% of cancer is caused by diet and environmental toxicity.
Most Americans have between 400- 800 chemicals stored in their bodies, typically in fat cells. Some of the short- and long-term effects of these toxins include:
Neurological disorders (Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, depression, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) Cancer Nutritional deficiencies Hormonal imbalances Enzyme dysfunction Altered metabolism Reproductive disorders Fatigue Headaches Obesity Muscle and vision problems Immune system depression Allergies/Asthma Endocrine disorders Chronic viral infections Less ability to tolerate/handle stress
The 10 Most Common Toxins
The following toxins are among the most prevalent in our air, water and/or food supply.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): This industrial chemical has been banned in the United States for decades, yet is a persistent organic pollutant that's still present in our environment.
Risks: Cancer, impaired fetal brain development Major Source: Farm-raised salmon. Most farm-raised salmon, which accounts for most of the supply in the United States are fed meals of ground-up fish that have absorbed PCBs in the environment and for this reason should be avoided.
Pesticides: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60% of herbicides, 90 % of fungicides and 30% of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic. Alarmingly, pesticide residues have been detected in 50% - 95% of U.S. foods. Risks: Cancer, Parkinson's disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects, blocking the absorption of food nutrients Major Sources: Food (fruits, vegetables and commercially raised meats), bug sprays
Mold and other Fungal Toxins: 33% of people have had an allergic reaction to mold. Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems with exposure to only a small amount. Risks: Cancer, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes Major Sources: Contaminated buildings, food like peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages
Phthalates: These chemicals are used to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics. Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children) Major Sources: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers. All of these can leach phthalates into our food.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCs are a major contributing factor to ozone, an air pollutant. According to the EPA, VOCs tend to 200%-500% in indoor air than outdoor air, likely because they are present in so many household products. Risks: Cancer, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment Major Sources: Drinking water, carpet, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellants, air fresheners.
Dioxins: Chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil). Risks: Cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, chloracne (a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions), skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, mild liver damage Major Sources: Animal fats: Over 95 % of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats.
Asbestos: This insulating material was widely used from the 1950s to 1970s. Problems arise when the material becomes old and crumbly, releasing fibers into the air. Risks: Cancer, scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer) Major Sources: Insulation on floors, ceilings, water pipes and healing ducts from the 1950s to 1970s.
Heavy Metals: Metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment, can accumulate in soft tissues of the body. Heavy Metals Risks: Cancer, neurological disorders, Alzheimer's disease, foggy head, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels Major Sources: Drinking water, fish, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant, building materials, dental amalgams, chlorine plants Heavy Metals
Chloroform: This colorless liquid has a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste, and is used to make other chemicals. It's also formed when chlorine is added to water. Risks: Cancer, potential reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage. Major Sources: Air, drinking water and food can contain chloroform.
Chlorine: This highly toxic, yellow-green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents. Risks: Sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) (a type of asthma) Major Sources: Household cleaners, drinking water (in small amounts), air when living near an industry (such as a paper plant) that uses chlorine in industrial processes.
Welcome to Tox Town An introduction to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks you might encounter in everyday life, in everyday places. http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/index_content.html
Tips to Avoid Toxins
It's impossible to avoid all environmental toxins. What you can do, however, is limit your exposure.
Buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce and free-range, organic foods. Rather than eating fish, which is largely contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consume a high-quality purified fish or cod liver oil. Avoid processed foods -- remember that they're processed with chemicals! Only use natural cleaning products in your home Switch over to natural brands of toiletries Remove any metal fillings as they're a major source of mercury. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist. Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing. Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG Get plenty of safe sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels and your immune system (you'll be better able to fight disease). Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath). Seek to build your health up through the nutrition insights Total Health Program, and then limit your use of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) as much as possible.
Content adapted from: http://www.mercola.com/2005/feb/19/common_toxins.htm
22- EIGHT Toxic Household Cleaning Agents to Avoid By the Gaiam Staff (Feb 10, 2010)
How To Green Your Kitchen
A surprising number of the most harmful toxins ever created are found right in our own backyard - indeed, right inside your mop closet. Here are ways you can detoxify your home, make it safe again, and keep it that way.
The air in our homes is filled with fumes from petrochemical solvents added to cleaners to dissolve dirt. The average household contains anywhere from three to 25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are in cleaners. No law requires manufacturers of cleaning products to list ingredients on their labels or to test their products for safety. It's up to you to make sure your home is not only clean, but also nontoxic.
Unfortunately, it isn't easy to identify which products contain these hazardous ingredients. While cleaners are the only household products regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission under the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, their sellers aren't required to reveal these products' ingredients. These ingredients are considered "trade secrets," so government regulations are actually designed to protect this proprietary information, not to protect human health or the environment.
When it comes to cleaners, the consumer has little to go on beyond the warning labels that manufacturers are required to put on their products. The labels DANGER, WARNING and POISON give only a very general idea about the seriousness of the unknown substances a product contains. In fact, a New York Poison Control Center study found that 85 percent of product warning labels are inadequate.
These warnings apply only to a product's immediate health effects; they don't illuminate what happens when we use them over a long period of time. If you're using common household cleaners, you're likely to encounter the following chemicals (among many others), and the following effects, while cleaning:
Chlorinated phenols found in toilet bowl cleaners are toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems. Diethylene glycol found in window cleaners depresses the nervous system. Phenols found in disinfectants are toxic to respiratory and circulatory systems. Nonylphenol ethoxylate, a common surfactant (detergent) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is banned in Europe; it has been shown to biodegradeslowly into even more toxic compounds. Formaldehyde found in spray and wick deodorizers is a respiratory irritant and suspected carcinogen. Petroleum solvents in floor cleaners damage mucous membranes. Perchloroethylene, a spot remover, causes liver and kidney damage. Butyl cellosolve, common in all-purpose, window and other types of cleaners, damages bone marrow, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver. The list could fill a book. And it's a book that would include thousands of other chemicals - some so dangerous that they're found on lists of chemicals associated with Superfund toxic waste sites and in the toxins section of the U.S. Clean Air and Water Acts.
To detoxify your mop closet, first rid it of cleaners that are toxic or that you suspect may be toxic. You can be sure of this if the label says WARNING, DANGER or POISON.
If you're like most people, you've probably got more than a few rusty, crusty, almost-empty bottles of cleaning products, along with some dried-out sponges and a furniture-polish-soaked T-shirt hanging around in your mop closet.With a little organization and attention to labels, you can transform it into a complete and efficient collection of products that will not only help keep your house spic-and-span, but also help reduce dangerous indoor air pollution created by most conventional household cleaners.
Some cleaners may advertise that they are "environmentally sound" but fail to provide a full list of ingredients.
The manufacturer that gives you the most information about its product is usually the manufacturer you can trust. Start by pulling everything out and making three piles: one for the things you use every week (laundry detergent, toilet paper, trash bags, paper towels), the second for things you use every once in a while (window cleaner, hardwood floor cleaner, stain and odor removers), and the third for things you can't remember using and things that look caked on, rusted over or petrified beyond recognition.
Take a close look at the labels on the products in piles 1 and 2. Anything that you know to be toxic,move to pile 3. The items in pile 1 go back into the closet. Store products you only use now and then (pile 2) on an out-of-the-way shelf in the closet. And items in pile 3 get banished from the house forever - but do not dispose of them down the drain or in the garbage; your local department of public works can tell you how to safely dispose of these hazardous household wastes. After this exercise, you might find that you need to do some restocking to meet your cleaning needs with safe and natural products.
When you buy new cleaning products, look for those that list their ingredients on the label, and make sure those ingredients include no petroleum-based surfactants, chlorine or phosphates. Also look for the words "nontoxic" and "biodegradable." A host of products now available in naturalfood stores and in many supermarkets are designed to clean as effectively as their petrochemical counterparts, but won't pollute your home or the earth in the process.
If you use sponges to clean any part of your home, make sure they're pure cellulose sponges that are not treated with a synthetic disinfectant. Most sponges sold in U.S. supermarkets these days are impregnated with triclosan or other synthetic disinfectants. Packaging that claims "kills odors" or "resists odors" makes these sponges easy to distinguish. In reality, a disinfectant-laden sponge is ineffective at sterilizing countertops or other surfaces; the disinfectant simply gives you a "germ-free" sponge. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.
Sponges by nature are perfect breeding grounds for germs, since they are a moist, warm habitat and come into close and frequent contact with bacteria when wiping up spills, meat juices, etc. However, the disinfectants used in these sponges may help contribute to the evolution of drugresistant "super" germs. It's easy to keep a pure cellulose sponge germfree by boiling it in a pot of water for three to five minutes, tossing it in the top rack of the dishwasher, or microwaving it on high for one minute. Pure cellulose sponges can be found in natural-food stores and hardware stores.
Home Made Cleaning Solutions: Nontoxic recipes for effective cleaners.
Furniture Polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable oil. Apply a small amount to a clean cotton cloth and wipe wooden parts of furniture.
Rug Deodorizer: Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
Mothballs: Use cedar chips or a sachet with any or all of the following: lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, white peppercorns.
Whitening Scouring Powder: Combine 1 cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1/8 cup borax, 1/4 cup grated lemon, orange or grapefruit peel and mix well. Scrub using a damp sponge.
Glass Cleaner: Combine 1 1/2 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup water and 8 drops citrus essential oil in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray and wipe with a dry cloth or towel.
23- Obama Administration Backs Overhaul of Toxic Chemicals Law
WASHINGTON, DC, October 2, 2009 (ENS) -
Principles to guide Congress in writing a new chemical risk management law that will fix weaknesses in the current law, were announced by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Tuesday.
Legislation to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is expected to be introduced in Congress this fall by Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, and Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Jackson identified chemical management reform as one of her top priorities.
"In my tenure as head of the EPA, I intend to focus on four key areas of special need," she said, "confronting climate change and getting America running on clean energy; protecting and cleaning up our air and water; updating our country's regulations and laws on chemicals and toxics, and expanding the conversation on environmentalism."
Jackson outlined the principles she says Congress needs to write into the new legislation.
Chemicals should be reviewed against risk-based safety standards based on sound science and protective of human health and the environment
Manufacturers should provide EPA with the necessary information to conclude that new and existing chemicals are safe and do not endanger public health or the environment
EPA should have clear authority to take risk management actions when chemicals do not meet the safety standard, with flexibility to take into account sensitive subpopulations, costs, social benefits, equity and other relevant considerations
Manufacturers and EPA should assess and act on priority chemicals, both existing and new, in a timely manner
Green Chemistry should be encouraged and provisions assuring Transparency and Public Access to Information should be strengthened
EPA should be given a sustained source of funding for implementation Senator Lautenberg said, "America's system for regulating toxic chemicals is broken. Far too little is known about the hundreds of chemicals that end up in our bodies and EPA has far too little authority to determine their safety. Today's announcement marks a breakthrough for public health and makes clear that President Obama and the EPA understand the problem and will fight for the right solution."
"Americans deserve to know that products they rely on - from household cleaners to personal care products to building materials - are safe and will not harm their families," said Lautenberg.
From the chemical industry to environmental nonprofit groups there is a widespread view that the 30-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act needs to be updated.
"There's general agreement that we need to reform this law," said Glenn Ruskin with the American Chemical Society, representing chemists and chemical engineers. "That's very rare that you find such typically disparate groups agreeing."
"The system we have now assumes that chemicals are innocent until proven guilty," said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which maintains a database of toxics in everyday products. "These reforms introduced today would flip that."
"This really gets the ball rolling," said Ernie Rosenberg, president and chief executive of The Soap and Detergent Association, which represents the U.S. cleaning products industry. "Cleaning product makers and their suppliers want to ensure that there is public confidence in the system that governs the use and management of the ingredients in our products."
"We understand that industry has to provide more data and a greater transparency to that data," said Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical manufacturers. "Without a comprehensive approach, the American people will be left with minor adjustments to the current federal regime, and a patchwork of state and federal laws that will not enable a robust chemical management system that can become the gold standard for the world."
Jackson told the Commonwealth Club audience, "A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our history. A 2005 study found 287 different chemicals in the cord blood of 10 newborn babies ? chemicals from pesticides, fast food packaging, coal and gasoline emissions, and trash incineration. They were found in children in their most vulnerable stage. Our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food."
"Now, some chemicals may be risk-free at the levels we are seeing. I repeat: some chemicals may be risk-free. But as more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused. Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven't been ignored," Jackson said.
"Right now, we are failing to get this job done," she said.
Since it was first enacted in 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act has "fallen behind the industry it's supposed to regulate," said Jackson, and in addition, "it's been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects."
Environment News Service (ENS) 2009.
24- Toxic Toy Guide Lists Chemicals Found in Hundreds of Toys
December 3, 2008 by Environmental News Service (ENS)
ANN ARBOR, Michigan - One in every three of the more than 1,500 children's toys tested in time for the holiday shopping season have been found to contain "medium" or "high" levels of chemicals of concern such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
Lead, bromine and chlorine were found in this piece of low-cost jewelry. Researchers with the Michigan-based nonprofit Ecology Center tested for chemicals that have been associated with reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer; and for those identified by regulatory agencies as problematic.
The testing was conducted with a screening technology - the portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer - that identifies the elemental composition of materials on or near the surface of products.
The Ecology Center and partners across the country today released their second annual consumer guide to toxic chemicals in toys, which can be found online at www.HealthyToys.org.
Environmental health groups are holding toy testing events nationwide and urging manufacturers and the federal government to phase out the most harmful chemicals at once.
"There is simply no place for toxic chemicals in children's toys," said Ecology Center's Jeff Gearhart, who led the research.
"Our hope is that by empowering consumers with this information, manufacturers and lawmakers will feel the pressure to start phasing out the most harmful substances immediately, and to change the nation's laws to protect children from highly toxic chemicals," he said.
Lead was detected in 20 percent of the toys tested this year. Lead levels in 54 products were well above the 600 parts per million federal recall standard used for lead paint, and will exceed the U.S. legal limit in February, according to the new Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations.
If the new regulations were in effect today, some of the toys on the shelf this holiday season would be illegal to sell. When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible.
Levels of lead in many of the toys tested were above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended ceiling of 40 ppm of lead in children's products.
Children's jewelry remains the most contaminated product category, maintaining its spot at the top of HealthyToys.org's "worst" list for a second year.
Overall, jewelry is twice as likely to contain detectable levels of lead as other products, the researchers found.
Numerous Hannah Montana brand jewelry items tested high for lead. HealthyToys.org recommends that consumers avoid low cost children's jewelry.
The website allows searches by product name, brand, or toy type to see if certain toys have toxic chemicals. The newly-redesigned site also lets visitors create a personalized holiday wish list that can be sent to family and friends, and a blog-friendly widget to quickly search the toy ratings.
With millions of toys on the market, HealthyToys.org could not test them all, but visitors to the website can nominate other products to be tested. The most commonly requested items will be tested each week leading up to the holidays.
Through its testing, HealthyToys.org found toys made in China are not the only ones that contain toxic chemicals. Tests show that 21 percent of toys from China and 16 percent of those from all other countries had detectable levels of lead in 2008.
About one-third of the 17 toys tested that were manufactured in the United States showed detectable levels of lead. Two toys had levels above 600 ppm. Among the highest lead levels detected was in a Halloween Pumpkin Pin made in the USA, which showed 190,943 ppm of lead.
Lead is not the only toxic found in the toys. Researchers also found toys containing cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and bromine. Forty-five products tested showed bromine at concentrations of 1,000 ppm or higher, indicating the use of brominated flame retardants - chemicals that may pose hazards to children's health.
Arsenic was detected at levels greater than 100 ppm in 22 products, while 289 products contained detectable levels of arsenic.
Cadmium, a heavy metal, was found above 100 ppm in 30 products, while 38 of products contained detectable levels of cadmium.
Mercury was found above 100 ppm in 14 products, while 62 of products contained detectable levels of mercury.
HealthyToys.org identified products made with polyvinyl chloride, PVC, plastic by measuring their chlorine content.
"PVC is a problematic plastic because it creates major environmental health hazards in its manufacture and disposal and may contain additives, including phthalates, that may pose hazards," the Ecology Center said. Twenty-seven percent of the toys tested this year by HealthyToys.org, excluding jewelry, were made with PVC.
"The good news is that 62 percent (954) of the products tested contain low levels of chemicals of concern, and 21 percent (324) of all products contain no chemicals of concern. These products look and feel no different than other children's products on the shelf," said the Ecology Center. "These findings show that manufacturers can and should make toys free of unnecessary toxic chemicals."
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) 1367 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20036 Voice: (202) 785-8700 Fax: (202) 785-8701 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.ciel.org Contact: Daryl Ditz
Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC) P.O. Box 2217 Bangor, ME 04402 Voice: (207) 827-6331 Fax: (207) 827-57551 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.preventharm.org Contact: Michael Belliveau
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education 4801 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 215 Los Angeles, CA 90010 Voice: (323) 937-9911 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.fasenet.org Contact: Carl Smith
International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) c/o Northern Co-chair National Toxics Network, Inc. 12 Craig St., East Ballina New South Wales 2478 Australia Voice: (612) 66815340 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.oztoxics.org Contact: Mariann Lloyd-Smith
National Environmental Trust (NET) 1200 18th St., N.W. Washington, DC 20036 Voice: (202) 887-8800 Fax: (202) 887-8877 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.net.org Contact: Andy Igrejas
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 49 Powell St., Ste. 500 San Francisco, CA 94102 Voice: (415) 981-1771 Fax: (415) 981-1991 Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.panna.org/ Contact: Kristin Schafer
Pesticide Action Network UK Voice: (4420) 7274-8895 Fax: (4420) 7274-9084 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.pan-uk.org/ Contact: Barbara Dinham
Red sobre Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México (RAPAM) Voice/Fax: (525) 954-7744 Email: email@example.com Contact: Fernando Bejarano
Washington Toxics Coalition 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Ste. 540 Seattle, WA 98103 Voice: (206) 632-1545 Fax: (206) 632-8661 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.watoxics.org/ Contact: Gregg Small
Sources & Publications
A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bill Bryson 2003
Slow Death by Rubber Duck; How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health; by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Fast Food Nation; by Eric Schloesser.
Zachary Coile, "House Eyes National Toxics Law: GOP Lawmakers Would Forbid States from Passing Tougher Pesticide Bills," San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 2006. Available at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/07/13/MNG20JU7DK1.DTL.
Carol Dansereau, et al., Visualizing Zero: Eliminating Persistent Pollution in Washington State (Seattle: Washington Toxics Coalition, 2000).
Peter Hough, "Prior Informed Consent--A Long Haul to Gain Accountability," Pesticide News, no. 42, 1998. Available at http://www.pan-uk.org/pestnews/pn42/pn42p10.htm.
International POPs Elimination Network, IPEN Stockholm Declaration (Stockholm: IPEN, 2001). Available at http://www.ipen.org.
Ronald Macfarlane, "PIC Your Poison," in Anil Agarwal, et al., eds., Global Environmental Negotiations--2 (New Delhi: Centre for Science and the Environment, 2001).
Maine Governor John E. Baldacci, Executive Order 12 FY 06/07, An Order Promoting Safer Chemicals in Consumer Products and Services, February 22, 2006.
Peter Orris, Lin Kaatz Chary, Karen Perry, and Joe Asbury, Persistent Organic Pollutants and Human Health (World Federation of Public Health Associations, USA, 2000).
Pesticide Action Network North America, DDTand Malaria: Setting the Record Straight(San Francisco: 2006). Available at http://www.panna.org/resources/documents/ddtTruthSheetJuly06.pdf.
Pesticide Action Network North America, EPA Announces Halt to Lindane for Ag Use: Risk to Children Remains through Pharmaceutical Products, press release .Available at http://www.panna.org/resources/newsroom/lindaneAgUseHalt20060802.dv.html.
Remarks by the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in "Environmental Announcement," at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/04/20010419-2.html.
Kristin S. Schafer, Susan E. Kegley, and Sharyle Patton, Nowhere to Hide: Persistent Toxic Chemicals in the U.S. Food Supply (San Francisco: Pesticide Action Network North America, and Bolinas, CA: Commonweal, 2001). Available at http://www.panna.org/resources/documents/nowhereToHideAvail.dv.html.
Kristin S. Schafer, Margaret Reeves, Skip Spitzer and Susan E. Kegley, Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability (San Francisco: Pesticide Action Network North America, 2004). Available at http://panna.org/campaigns/docsTrespass/chemicalTrespass2004.dv.html.
Carl Smith, "Pesticide Exports from U.S. Ports, 2001-2003," International Journal of Occupational Health (in press).
Karen Perry Stillerman, U.S. States and the Global POPs Treaty: Parallel Progress in the Fight Against Toxic Pollution (Washington: Center for International Environmental Law, May 2005).
World Wildlife Fund, Advancing International Controls on Toxic Chemicals (Washington: World Wildlife Fund Global Toxic Chemicals Initiative, 2001).
Global Environment Facility http://www.gefweb.org/
The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade http://www.pic.int/
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants http://www.pops.int
US POPs Watch http://www.uspopswatch.org
FPIF Citizen-Based Global Affairs Agenda: Ratifying Treaties Controlling Toxic Chemicals http://www.irc-online.org/fpif/cgaa/toxics.html
TRUTH OUT -
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