Chemical Toxins | Seventh Generation
Skip to Content

Chemical Toxins

  • Pin It

Are We Turning the Toxic Tide?

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

Greenbiz posted an excellent excerpt this week from a new report from Innovest that looks at the forces reshaping various industries whose products either consist of or depend on synthetic chemicals.

The gist is that government regulations (especially in the European Union) and consumer concerns about chemicals are inspiring all kinds of companies to phase-out the big bad toxins they use and replace them with safer alternatives. And in a global marketplace, the decision to ban something one place often ripples out to other places as companies simply decide to reformulate their products to meet the strictest standards they face rather than deal with selling different formulas in different markets.

Even more extraordinary (given the history here) is the fact that many companies are voluntarily making changes and launching their own chemical phase-outs because they think they see some handwriting on the wall and they want to avoid what the report calls “toxic lockouts,” i.e. having their products shut out of a market because they contain newly banned substances.”

See Full Post
  • Pin It

Precaution is Not Toxic

2 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

Chrystie in our marketing department just forwarded an interesting article from the January 22nd issue of New York Magazine entitled Indulge Your Paranoia in which writer Susan Burton discusses her parental struggle to banish toxins from her Brooklyn family’s life. Coming from someone without a background in this stuff, it’s an enlightening take on the subject not so much for the information it provides but for what it tells us about what’s going on in other people’s minds as they think on the issue of playing chemical roulette in daily life.

Her main point is that in today’s chemically intensive world it’s hard to keep track of all the potential toxins around us and even harder to take preventative action on on each and every one. That’s pretty true. But I don’t agree with the throw-up-your-hands-and-surrender attitude that seems to creep in at the edges of the piece. And there are several places in the article where Burton lets myth and misinformation stand.

Bisphenol-A, for example, may not yet have been studied by the National Institutes of Health, but the jury is hardly out. In fact, the vast preponderance of the evidence that exists very strongly suggests that it mimics estrogen to dangerous effect in the body, and the case against it is “still being argued” mostly only by industry spokespeople. Elsewhere she comments on a mother’s worries about a (most likely totally safe) recycled fleece blanket even as she blithely watches her own child dubiously jamming (very probably toxic) “low-VOC” carpet samples into her mouth.

See Full Post
  • Pin It

Hunting for Clues On the Chem Trail

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Oakland Tribune about the little known effects that chemicals can have on human health. It's well worth checking out. Everybody knows that a big chemical exposure (or smaller exposures over time) can make cells go wiggy and turn cancerous. But there’s also a host of other things that chemicals do, and these don’t get much press even though I think they're as important as the carcinogenicity factor.

For example, there’s what happens when chemicals mix and mysteriously magnify each other’s effects. Or what happens when you’re exposed to something inthe womb vs. being exposed later in life. Not to mention the fact the tiny doses of certain substances seem more insidious than big ones.

Then there’s the issue of epigenetics, which I’m convinced is going to be the next big story where chemical toxins are concerned, much in the same way hormone disruption went from wacky fringe science to mainstream acceptance. Epigenetics theories say that chemicals our ancestors encountered can affect us without mutating our inherited genes. Instead, they work by altering the way those genes are expressed.

The Oakland Tribune article touches on all this and more, and while I think they could have done a better and/or more detailed job of explaining some of the ideas they present and offered a little more in the way of evidence, the article is still the first time I’ve seen most if not all of the hugely under-reported aspects of chemical contamination reported in one place.

See Full Post
  • Pin It

Sour Apple (My Computer’s Not Getting Any Greener)

0 comments
Author:

Greenpeace’s Green My Apple campaign is continuing to roil the digital waters. At least where its target is concerned.

As reported in the most recent edition of Rachel's Precaution Reporter, Greenpeace's high profile 'Green my Apple' booth at the Mac Expo was shut-down at the start of the event. Organizers of the Mac Expo claimed they had received complaints from “unnamed sources” about the display.

As a Greenpeace board member and lifelong Apple user I’m sad if not angry at Apple’s heavy-handed treatment of Greenpeace campaigners who are attempting to raise awareness of Apple’s poor environmental design standards.

This unwillingness to engage in dialogue, this unwillingness to tolerate criticism is the exact opposite of what corporate responsibility is about. And the use of huge corporate resources and connections to silence those who are challenging business to do better is a terrible example for such an innovative company to set.

See Full Post
  • Pin It

Another Couple of Bytes of the Worm in the Apple

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

I’ve been reflecting on the new Greenpeace Greener Apple Campaign. I don’t own an Apple. (For reasons relating to the various universes in which I travel, I’ve had to suck it up and become a Microsoft man.) But I certainly own a computer. This is being written on a Dell 8400 that’s the repository for everything from the music I love to very nearly every word I’ve ever written. It’s not an Apple but it’s still fast, efficient, and just plain fun to use. Imagining life without it is like trying to picture life without an arm or a leg. Yeah, I could do it. But I sure wouldn’t want to have to try.

So the news that computers are filled with all kinds of things that aren’t good for people or the planet is disturbing. Of course, I’ve known for awhile that the high tech situation isn’t good. What’s distressing about the recent Greenpeace report is the fact that things have not improved as fast as they should have in the years that people have been talking about issues like e-waste and toxic components.

I came across this well-reasoned post on the Temas Blog that offers some valid criticisms of the Greenpeace greener electronics report card. Greenpeace’s heart is in the right place, but its methodology needs improvement and it focuses on certain aspects of computer toxicology at the expense of others it largely ignores. Plus, it’s picking on Apple while other makers actually get lower grades, and that doesn’t seem fair. Rather than point fingers, I’d encourage computer makers to get down to work and fix the problem. Based on our own experiences working to detox some pretty ugly consumer products, here’s some advice:

See Full Post
  • Pin It

A Greener Apple

0 comments
Author:

Everyday as I read through the news, I'm committed to not let it get me down. And as you know… that ain’t easy. Well, it just got a lot harder.

The only computer I’ve ever owned in my life is an Apple. When our IT department told the company that everyone would be using PC’s, I said, "Great, but not me." When Apple came out with their first lap top, a suitcase sized device, I was one of the first to buy it. My 12 inch PowerBook G4 is an extension of me. It’s always by my side or in my backpack. Wherever I go, whatever I do, it’s right there. This blog post has been written on it as have four books, millions of emails, and who knows how many memos.

But right now my fingers hesitate to touch the keys. I’m ashamed and embarrassed. Steve Jobs, please save me. Do something. Green my Apple!
Greenpeace, an organization I proudly serve as a board member just launched a campaign to let the world know that my Apple (and everyone else’s) contains hazardous substances that other companies have abandoned. Needless to say, for a variety of reasons, this is extremely distressing news to me. The toxic materials inside my Mac are cutting lives short by exposing children to dangerous chemicals in China and India, the two countries most of our so-called "e-wastes" usually end up.

Greenpeace is demanding that Apple “Remove the worst toxic chemicals from all their products and production lines” and “offer and promote free "take-back" for all their products everywhere they are sold.”

Come on, Steve. Please do something!

See Full Post
  • Pin It

Let’s Stop Being Stupid About Smelling Nice

0 comments
Author:

We’ve known it for a long time... Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are bad news. But new research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) has now found that one particularly common VOC is particularly hazardous.

According to a just-released NIEHS study, the chemical, 1,4 dicholorobenzene (1,4 DCB), is likely reducing lung functioning in people exposed to it. 1,4 DCB is a chemical found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs, and other deodorizing products. According to the NIEHS, “even a small reduction in lung function may indicate some harm to the lungs.” The agency suggests that the use of such products and materials be reduced, especially around children and those who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses.

That’s an important statement, but the bigger point of the study is this: We live in a world where there’s no one to protect our families from ordinary consumer products. We all need to be our own gate keepers. Let’s start by getting smart about smelling nice.

See Full Post
  • Pin It

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Toxins

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

Does this sound familiar: You read the papers. You watch the news. You surf the blogosphere. And with every new bit of eco-reporting, you just keep thinking… This is freakin’ nuts. There’s got to be a better way.

And of course there is. We don’t have to be chained to the toxics treadmill. With a little creativity, we can break the cycle and end our chemical addictions. A brand new study from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell shows just how possible it is.

Researchers took five heavy toxicological hitters (lead, formaldehyde, perchloroethylene, hexavalent chromium, and DEHP) and tried to find realistic substitutes for them. They looked at about 100 alternative ideas spread across 16 different applications for which the toxins in question are currently used. For every application they examined, at least one alternative was found that could be employed today with lower impacts in the environment and human health.

See Full Post
  • Pin It

New Evidence Points to the Precautionary Need for More Natural Nurturing

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

Personally, I don’t need any more convincing, but if there’s anyone still on the fence about the importance of the Precautionary Principle, a sudden spate of recent news about the surprising effects of our bodies’ unseen contact with pollutants should be enough to send you running for the nearest haz-mat suit.

Here’s the sudden science in a non-toxic nutshell…

See Full Post
  • Pin It

TRI Wins Reprieve! (Ya Gotta Love Election Years...)

0 comments
Author: the Inkslinger

There is most excellent news from the hallowed halls of Congress this morning: The Pallone-Solis Toxic Right-to-Know Amendment was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 231 to 187. The amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill prevents the EPA from spending so much as one thin dime on enacting changes that would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the Toxic Release Inventory.

See Full Post
Subscribe to RSS - Chemical Toxins