So remember how I said yesterday I had a mountain of stuff to dig through? I did. Until my e-mail crashed this afternoon precipitating two hours of empty folders where there should have been big piles of blog fodder and triggering a tide of rising panic that threatened my cranium with explosive decompression. It’s all better now thanks to my friend Google and some laborious repairs. But it does make you think…
When I moved this summer to my new house, I found the now ancient memo I wrote to Jeffrey asking permission to spend $30 a month on an internet subscription and an e-mail address for the company. It’s dated June 15, 1995. In it I carefully explain what the World Wide Web is and how it all works and how it’s maybe going to be the Next Big Thing and maybe we could even someday sell our stuff on it. A couple of people were already via these things called “web sites. The idea seemed to have potential, I wrote.
How far we’ve come in just a decade. Now e-mail is a necessity. The net is all. And life without either, as I found out this afternoon, is a bleak nightmare of technological despair in which I don’t really remember how we functioned. We stream. We download. We play. We blog. And we report newly rescued news items like these…
Bisphenol-A, the chemical that leaches from can linings and polycarbonate plastics continues to gain a good head of steam in the news. It’s excellent to see people talking about it. The Baltimore Sun has a good article with a nice list of tips courtesy of our friends at the Environmental Working Group. And here’s a piece about Mountain Equipment Cooperative, Canada’s largest outdoor chain, which recently decided to clear polycarbonate water bottles off their shelves.
Shortly before the reindeer arrived, the New York Times ran a great story about green building. I think this trend is going to be all the rage in 2008. The article notes the viral nature of the concept as friends influence friends via their new green homes building projects. Fact is, when it comes to construction, you can do just about anything green these days. The industry has definitely matured and come a long way from its nascent days a decade ago. Now consumers just have to catch up. The fact that so many options are waiting for them will only accelerate the process.
Fanning the fires of the flame retardant controversy is news that two previously unsuspected chemicals used for the purpose have been turning up in household dust along with all the PBDEs we’ve known about. This one is totally new to me. I know nothing about these chemicals, which are called hexachlorocyclopentadienyldibromocyclooctane (good luck…) and (somewhat more simply) hexabromocyclododecane. Neither does anyone else apparently as the article notes there’s little if any data on the chemicals’ persistency, bioaccumulation potential, and/or toxicity. I’m going have to look into this. But I already know this is how these things always start: with an single obscure study in an even more obscure scientific journal. I’ve seen it a thousand times. I’d put even money on hearing a lot more about these molecules in about a year or so. Especially because the first one (and no, I am not spelling it again) contains chlorine, and I’ve yet to meet a chlorinated chemical that wasn’t looking for trouble. The article ends with some valuable perspective on dust and kids. As I say, I’ll have to look into this further, but for now, here’s a list of safe dusting tips (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing!)
Speaking of chemistry, it’s back to the New York Times for this about-time look at the chemistry behind everyday life and the things it may be hiding. (What took you guys so long? We’ve been writing this article for years!) The paragraph that stood out for me:
The United States has held on to its original 30-year-old chemical regulatory systems, which make it difficult for agencies to ban chemicals or require industry testing. While the government has worked with the industry on a voluntary basis to study as many 2,000 chemicals and phase out certain ones, it has required the study of only 200 chemicals and restricted the use of only 5 since 1976.
That’s just extraordinary. When Jeffrey and I wrote Naturally Clean, I learned that the EPA gets approval applications for around 2,000 chemicals a year. That’s about five per day. And in the last 30 years our government has only asked for further study on 200?! Think about that then read the last paragraph of the flame retardant article. I think you’ll see where I’m coming from on all this stuff. It just boggles what’s left of my e-mail crash-shattered mind.
Here’s a news item that made me smile. Frustrated by the dreadful lack of any positive U.S. government action on climate change (Only 382 days to go. Can you use the words “legacy” and “failure” in the same sentence?), the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered because the sea ice that forms the seals' habitat is vanishing in the heat. Because of the way endangered species law works, the designation could force action on the climate crisis. Federal agencies would have to create a recovery plan and that plan would have to address the causes of the habitat destruction. If that cause is human-induced global warming, well… you get the idea. Quite the smooth move.
Lastly, a bit of nuts and bolts because, in the end, it’s the nuts and bolts that are ultimately going to get us where we need to go. GreenBiz pointed me to a terrific Paper Consumer's Guide to Climate Change. It’s geared to businesses, but it’s got a lot of things everyone should be aware of and thinking about.
And so it goes…