Blog Additional Posts
Showing 21 - 40 of 47 Articles
< Previous 123 Next >
Plastic Packaging Waste
 
Plastic packaging and other non-biodegradable disposables are the most persistent and infrequently recycled forms of waste.
Extreme Weather
 
Highly reliable global temperature measurements show the planet is warming and the water cycle (hydrological cycle) is becoming more active; creating higher rates of evaporation and precipitation. Droughts and floods are the natural consequences of warmer temperatures: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warmer seas release more water vapor.
Dead Zones
 
This year’s heavy rainfall and flooding means excessive runoff and nitrogen input for the Gulf. 2011 could see the worst Gulf dead zone yet...
Hydraulic Fracking Basics
 
Things you might not have known about hydraulic fracking, but should know...
BP Spill - One Year Later
 
Our government has not passed one law to protect our environment from oil or gas drilling since the spill...
The WE Party Manifesto
 
This is 'our' planet and our children's future depends on this planet. Our air, our water, our land, our wildlife...all of these precious resources are collectively ours. We can no longer sit silent and let dysfunction take our planet down.
The Japanese Tsunami's Wake
 
The earthquake took place at 14:46 JST, the tsunami hit the closest land at 15:12 JST. The surge was as high as 33 feet. A catastrophe of incomprehensible magnitude.
A Tribute to Dolphin Mothers and their Calves
 
Sad events are taking place in the Gulf...
Koch Brothers' Products
 
If you have been following news about the Koch brothers, you might be curious as to which products they manufacture. It would be highly unlikely that you are not surrounded by their goods...
Midway Island Albatross
 
I know these photos by Chris Jordan have been out for a while now. But I just could not face these images until recently. It really is life changing if you do look; and learn the story behind this aberration...
DEET in our Waterways
 
The Minnesota Department of Health has placed DEET on the top spot on its list of "chemicals of emerging concern" and will conduct numerous tests this year. The main objective of the research will be to calculate a "safe" level of exposure. Although DEET has been okayed for clothes and skin (in moderation) it has never been meant for consumption. But with its increasing popularity and abundant usage it is showing up in ever greater quantities in our rivers, streams and lakes and it is only a matter of time before it shows up in our drinking water as well.
How The Average American Uses Energy
 
The average U.S. American consumes 335.9 million BTUs per year, the world per person average is 72.4 million BTUs. 48.2% of US electricity comes from coal. Only 3.7% comes from solar, wind, and geothermal. The average U.S. American uses 441 gallons of gas for their car each year... and more...
DECT Phone Safety
 
Radiation from cell phones has been getting a lot of press of late but according to the BioInitiative Report cordless phones look to be just as deadly as cell phones when it comes to brain tumors and acoustic neuromas. DECT technology originated in Europe and has since been widely introduced throughout the world. Today more than 800 million DECT systems are in use. The pulsed frequencies of the radiation used in DECT technology are in the microwave band. The ICNIRP is responsible for monitoring and creating guidelines for radiation technologies. The ICNIRP guidelines focus exclusively on high frequency radiation and thermal activity. But many scientists have been pointing out that pulsed microwaves at low frequencies are also cause for alarm.
BP Oil Spill
 
It is somewhat ironic that an extensive environmental study in the Gulf carried out by the Minerals Management Service, that counted and noted habitat preferences of cetaceans (marine mammals with a blowhole for breathing- including whales, porpoises and dolphins) encountered two species (melon-headed whales and fraser's dolphins) that were rarely seen in the area before... During the study the ship heard and saw numerous sperm whales in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon. There is a native population of about 1400 sperm whales that live in the Gulf of Mexico year round. And scientists say if we lose just a few of them due to this spill, it could dangerously tip their numbers into the negative. See many more photos here- of native cetaceans and the Gulf dilemma....
Is spring arriving earlier?
 
A new study out of the UK, published by the Royal Society, shows that flowers are blooming 2 to 12 days earlier than they did 25 years ago. The study used 400,000 records of first blooms, and looked at over 400 species of flowers. The research showed this pattern of early blooming to be the first in recorded history. The study also showed that a 1 degree Celsius change, over a short two year period, resulted in an earlier flowering time of five days. An earlier British study "Rapid Changes in Flowering Time in British Plants" (Fitter, 2002) showed that 385 plant species bloomed 4 and a half days earlier during the 1990s than the 4 decades prior. And yet another study out of the UK, by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that in 2005, species were breeding on average 11.7 days earlier than in 1976. In the U.S....
Organic vegetables start out as seed...
 
For the past year there has been an uproar in the vegetable seed business as Monsanto has purchased Seminis (a seed conglomerate that has 40% of the U.S. vegetable seed market) and De Ruiter Seeds. Monsanto is now in the vegetable seed business for the first time and it's in big time. 55 percent of store bought lettuce, 75 percent of U.S. tomatoes, and 85 percent of peppers now originate through Monsanto's fingers. If you wish to steer clear of purchasing Monsanto seed- you need to do a bit of homework, as even reputable seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, are still selling Seminis (now Monsanto) seed. Buying seed from a seed exchange, buying open-pollinated and organic are safe ways to avoid Monsanto seed.
State of the Planet
 
Today, during the State of the Planet Conference 2010 at Columbia University, Prince Albert of Monaco, via satellite, expressed "we are at the dawn of major changes." Here in the West, as we wake up to this new day, there is much yawning and shaking away of the slumber... Letting go of 100 years of combustion, and starting a new paradigm, is an awesome challenge for developed nations who are stuck in their vision of fenced in, lawn-covered yards and oil dependent infrastructure.
Old fridge recycled- new fridge rebate...
 
On the government's Energy Star site there's a "Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator". I put in approximate age of fridge, size, type (side-by-side), electricity rate. Hit go. Wow, says this old fridge here in NY costs $410 a year to operate. Says the savings would be $1565 over the next five years if it were replaced by an Energy Star model which would cost a quarter less to operate; $97 a year (v $410) for a similar type fridge. Plus a $105 rebate...
Wheel like Honeywell Wind Turbine
 
This August Honeywell will release its 6 foot diameter gear-less (therefore lightweight) rooftop wind turbine that operates at wind speeds of 2-42 mph. Honeywell claims it will produce 2000 kWh/yr in class 3 winds and 2752 kWh/yr in class 4 winds at 33'. By eliminating the central gear shaft and using the blade tips to produce the energy Honeywell has created a turbine that can start producing energy at an amazingly low 2 mph.
Now supermarkets, schools and hospitals have an inexpensive way to compost.
 
Peninsula Compost Group in Wilmington Delaware has built the largest compost center on the East Coast that will handle commercial as well as residential waste.
 
Showing 21 - 40 of 47 Articles
< Previous 123 Next >

 



Flame Retardants, so light, so small, so much = everywhere

 

                In the United States, fires claim over 3,500 lives a year and injure more than 18,000. To help prevent these life-threatening blazes from ever starting, flame retardants are used in the manufacture of a variety of consumer products. Recent research is showing that the use of these chemicals in the manufacture of electronics, plastics, clothing, and furnishings may be problematic in their own right.


flame retardants
BFR = Brominated Flame Retardant. America imbues goods with 54,000 metric tons of flame retardants per year! Wikipedia states that annual consumption of flame retardants is currently over 1.5 million tonnes per year.^ niehs.nih.gov




Today, more than 175 chemicals are used as flame retardants.
The four major groups with examples are:

Inorganic  50% - Aluminium trihydroxide (ATH), Magnesium hydroxide (MDH), antimony, boron, zinc...
Halogenated organic  25% - decaBDE, BCOs, BEOs, TBBPA, HBCD, chlorinated paraffins...
Organophosphorus  20% - Organophosphates, Tris, TPP, RDP, BPADP, tri-o-cresyl phosphate, DMMP...
Nitrogen-based  >5% - Melamine, melamine derivatives, boric acid, cyanuric acid, phosphoric acid...


      Flame retardants work by slowing the ignition rate of items in which they are included. But instead of confinement to these products, flame retardant chemicals can migrate out, accumulating in the environment and the human body. The early flame retardant, PCB was banned in 1977 when it was finally deemed toxic.1 Although no longer produced in the United States, PCBs and its component parts (PCBs = a mix of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds/congeners) are still found in the environment. Since the ban, chemical companies have shifted to using brominated flame retardants such as Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) and decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) which unfortunately are structurally similar to toxic PCBs, dioxins, and furans.* All are persistent organic pollutants that resist breakdown in the environment and in the bodies of animals.


      PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) were banned in the U.S. after the Velsicol Chemical Corporation (then Michigan Chemical Company) delivered an undetermined quantity* of poorly marked bags of PBB to the Michigan Farm Bureau Services in 1973.^ The PBB was distributed to feed companies that mistakenly added the PBBs (thinking it magnesium oxide, a nutritional supplement) to its feed for meat and dairy cattle, an accident that subsequently resulted in nine million residents consuming contaminated milk and meat for almost one full year before the mistake was identified.^ The serious toll on human health in Michigan is still being felt to this day.^ After PBBs were banned, Velsicol illegally dumped over 200,000 pounds of PBB in an unlined landfill. The site of Velsicol's St. Louis, Michigan plant is now one of the U.S.'s costliest superfund sites. Velsicol Chemical Corporation today produces Hexachlorocyclopentadiene (HEX), a persistent organic pollutant, which is used to manufacture flame retardants for plastics, wire, and to make pesticides.


     The inclusion of PBBs and PBDEs in electric and electronic devices was recently prohibited in EU countries, but PBDEs are still legal product additives in most U.S. states (California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, New York, and Washington have all enacted some legislation to either ban, regulate the use of, or investigate the effects of PBDE).^

 

     Exposure to flame retardants is almost universal. They are present in birds, fish, mammals, sediments, air samples, sewage sludge, meat, vegetables, and human tissues across North America, Japan and Antarctica. 97% of Americans have detectable levels of PBDEs in their bodies, and the world’s highest are found in Californians. This is probably due to the state’s stringent product flammability standard, Technical Bulletin 117, which requires that furniture be able to withstand an open flame for at least 12 seconds.^ Using flame retardants in furnishings is the most cost-effective way to meet this standard, but with the consequence of bioaccumulation and persistence, we most likely have just begun to feel the lasting impact of PBDE. (As an example, the calculated half-life of PBBs is 10.8 years.)2



flame retardant graph
Californians have the highest levels of PBDEs in their bodies.



      How are flame retardants like PBDE finding their way out of our belongings and into everything else – including us? Scientists aren’t definitively sure. But products made with flame retardants can break down over time and release them into the surrounding area, such as polyurethane foam found in mattresses, upholstery, car seats, and other cushionings.^ Besides just making you sneeze, household dust may be a common exposure route to flame retardants like PBDE, and the coat on your television set sports particularly high levels of it.^ Scientists from Boston University’s School of Public Health theorize that flame retardants in the TV are vaporized by the heat it generates, and incorporate into settling dust that is inadvertently consumed and breathed in. PBDEs also rinse off laundry and end up in sewage that's applied to farm fields as fertilizer. PBDEs are also released into the air during manufacturing and when products are landfilled, where it can be inhaled or settle on food products.^&^


      Infants and small children may be at the greatest risk for bodily accumulation of flame retardants. Besides having greater contact with household dust, a study spearheaded by Duke University found that 80% of cushions in children’s furnishings, from cribs to car seats, contain a flame retardant called chlorinated Tris.^ Its chemical cousin, brominated Tris, was briefly banned as a children’s sleepwear retardant in 1977 after its mutagenic and carcinogenic properties were discovered.^ Chlorinated Tris is linked to similar adverse health effects, and the other compounds identified in baby products are lacking in safety data. Contaminated fetal environments may also be problematic, since PBDE in the blood of pregnant mothers might affect developing children by lowering IQ, birthweight, and attention span.^&^ Brominated flame retardants are also present at high levels in breast milk, particularly in the United States.^ Scientists check for PBDEs in breast milk because the chemicals stick to fat. PBDEs may also result in developmental toxicity of the brain, thyroid, and reproductive system.



flame retardants in fish
Total PBDE concentration - farmed salmon (in red) is most likely being further contaminated from the feed.


What has flame retardants?

Mattresses, furniture, appliances, car seats, strollers, car upholstery, carpet padding, drapes, electronics, cell phones, computers, toner cartridges, tvs, hair dryers, plane cabins...

     If you decide that the potential risks of brominated flame retardants like PBDE outweigh the benefits, the list below provides ways to help minimize exposure in American states where PBDE is still used -some of the tips are from the Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org:

 

  • A Natural Latex or Organic Cotton Mattress does not require flame retardants, but they are costly. So, top your existing mattress with a pure wool or natural rubber mattress topper. Or, enclose your mattress in a zippered encasing or natural-fibered barrier cloth. Both would be safest, especially for children's mattresses.

    Inspect foam items.
    Replace anything with a ripped cover or foam that is misshapen and breaking down. If you can't replace these items, try to keep the covers intact. Beware of older items like car seats and mattress pads whose foam is not completely encased in protective fabric.

 

  • Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter or buy an air purifier. Hepa-filter vacuums are more efficient at trapping small particles and will likely remove more contaminants and other allergens from your home. A quality HEPA air filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air) will eliminate 99.97% of all particles the size of 3 microns or larger. Some furnace filters are designed to remove 90% or more of allergens and particles 2-10 microns in size.

 

  • Don't reupholster foam furniture. Even those items without PBDEs might contain other, poorly studied fire retardants with potentially harmful effects.

  • Be careful when removing old carpet.
    The padding may contain PBDEs. Isolate your work area from the rest of your home. Clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and mop to pick up as many of the small particles as possible. Remove all scrap foam from your home and yard immediately.

 

  • When purchasing new products, ask the manufacturers what type of fire retardants they use. Avoid products with brominated fire retardants and be aware that "natural" latex foam and natural cotton are flammable and depending on the product may by law require a fire retardant method. Because the replacement chemicals for PBDEs in foam are not fully tested for their health effects, opt for less flammable fabrics and materials, like leather or wool.

     
  • Prevent young children from touching and especially mouthing fire-retardant items as much as possible (especially your cell phone or remote!), and wash their hands prior to eating.

 

  • Shop PBDE-free. Many companies have committed not to use PBDEs – ask before you buy!

    Pajamas.
    Pajamas are not treated with PBDEs, athough synthetic fabrics are often made with a chemical additive to make them fire resistant. Chemicals used in sleepwear labeled "fire resistant" will remain in the fabric for at least 50 washes. To avoid any chemicals in sleepwear and reduce the risk of igniting sleepwear, choose natural fibers that are inherently fire resistant and snug-fitting.

    Possibly a solution would be to have mandatory fire prevention courses - and then we could leave the synthetic chemicals out of our personal items!





Notes:
1) Monsanto, the only North American producer, marketed PCBs under the trade name Aroclor from 1930 to 1977.
2) Rosen DH, Flanders WD, Friede A, et al. 1995. Half-life of a polybrominated biphenyl in human sera. Environ Health Perspect 103(3):272-274.


Resources:

1.The Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Egginton, Michigan State University Press (2009) www.amazon.com
2.San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants - A group of 145 prominent scientists from 22 countries signed the first-ever consensus statement documenting health hazards from flame retardant chemicals: www.ehp03.niehs.nih.gov
3.Natural Resources Defense Council,  “Chemicals: PBDEs.” www.nrdc.org
4.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2010. “Emerging Contaminants: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers and Polybrominated Biphenyls.” www.epa.gov



Fire Retardants - for Forest Fires:
Fertilizer type salts, coloring agent, corrosion inhibitors, and flow conditioners.
Fire retardants used in firefighting can be toxic to fish and wildlife and drops within 300 feet of bodies of water are generally prohibited.
See: Fire Retardants Kill Fish and Poison Waters and Might not Work www.adventure-journal.com
See: Effects of the fire retardant Phos-Chek on vegetation in eastern Australian heathlands www.publish.csiro.au
Phoscheck Fire Retardants for Forest Fires: phos-chek.com

 

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Blog Additional Posts
Showing 21 - 40 of 47 Articles
< Previous 123 Next >
Plastic Packaging Waste
 
Plastic packaging and other non-biodegradable disposables are the most persistent and infrequently recycled forms of waste.
Extreme Weather
 
Highly reliable global temperature measurements show the planet is warming and the water cycle (hydrological cycle) is becoming more active; creating higher rates of evaporation and precipitation. Droughts and floods are the natural consequences of warmer temperatures: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warmer seas release more water vapor.
Dead Zones
 
This year’s heavy rainfall and flooding means excessive runoff and nitrogen input for the Gulf. 2011 could see the worst Gulf dead zone yet...
Hydraulic Fracking Basics
 
Things you might not have known about hydraulic fracking, but should know...
BP Spill - One Year Later
 
Our government has not passed one law to protect our environment from oil or gas drilling since the spill...
The WE Party Manifesto
 
This is 'our' planet and our children's future depends on this planet. Our air, our water, our land, our wildlife...all of these precious resources are collectively ours. We can no longer sit silent and let dysfunction take our planet down.
The Japanese Tsunami's Wake
 
The earthquake took place at 14:46 JST, the tsunami hit the closest land at 15:12 JST. The surge was as high as 33 feet. A catastrophe of incomprehensible magnitude.
A Tribute to Dolphin Mothers and their Calves
 
Sad events are taking place in the Gulf...
Koch Brothers' Products
 
If you have been following news about the Koch brothers, you might be curious as to which products they manufacture. It would be highly unlikely that you are not surrounded by their goods...
Midway Island Albatross
 
I know these photos by Chris Jordan have been out for a while now. But I just could not face these images until recently. It really is life changing if you do look; and learn the story behind this aberration...
DEET in our Waterways
 
The Minnesota Department of Health has placed DEET on the top spot on its list of "chemicals of emerging concern" and will conduct numerous tests this year. The main objective of the research will be to calculate a "safe" level of exposure. Although DEET has been okayed for clothes and skin (in moderation) it has never been meant for consumption. But with its increasing popularity and abundant usage it is showing up in ever greater quantities in our rivers, streams and lakes and it is only a matter of time before it shows up in our drinking water as well.
How The Average American Uses Energy
 
The average U.S. American consumes 335.9 million BTUs per year, the world per person average is 72.4 million BTUs. 48.2% of US electricity comes from coal. Only 3.7% comes from solar, wind, and geothermal. The average U.S. American uses 441 gallons of gas for their car each year... and more...
DECT Phone Safety
 
Radiation from cell phones has been getting a lot of press of late but according to the BioInitiative Report cordless phones look to be just as deadly as cell phones when it comes to brain tumors and acoustic neuromas. DECT technology originated in Europe and has since been widely introduced throughout the world. Today more than 800 million DECT systems are in use. The pulsed frequencies of the radiation used in DECT technology are in the microwave band. The ICNIRP is responsible for monitoring and creating guidelines for radiation technologies. The ICNIRP guidelines focus exclusively on high frequency radiation and thermal activity. But many scientists have been pointing out that pulsed microwaves at low frequencies are also cause for alarm.
BP Oil Spill
 
It is somewhat ironic that an extensive environmental study in the Gulf carried out by the Minerals Management Service, that counted and noted habitat preferences of cetaceans (marine mammals with a blowhole for breathing- including whales, porpoises and dolphins) encountered two species (melon-headed whales and fraser's dolphins) that were rarely seen in the area before... During the study the ship heard and saw numerous sperm whales in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon. There is a native population of about 1400 sperm whales that live in the Gulf of Mexico year round. And scientists say if we lose just a few of them due to this spill, it could dangerously tip their numbers into the negative. See many more photos here- of native cetaceans and the Gulf dilemma....
Is spring arriving earlier?
 
A new study out of the UK, published by the Royal Society, shows that flowers are blooming 2 to 12 days earlier than they did 25 years ago. The study used 400,000 records of first blooms, and looked at over 400 species of flowers. The research showed this pattern of early blooming to be the first in recorded history. The study also showed that a 1 degree Celsius change, over a short two year period, resulted in an earlier flowering time of five days. An earlier British study "Rapid Changes in Flowering Time in British Plants" (Fitter, 2002) showed that 385 plant species bloomed 4 and a half days earlier during the 1990s than the 4 decades prior. And yet another study out of the UK, by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that in 2005, species were breeding on average 11.7 days earlier than in 1976. In the U.S....
Organic vegetables start out as seed...
 
For the past year there has been an uproar in the vegetable seed business as Monsanto has purchased Seminis (a seed conglomerate that has 40% of the U.S. vegetable seed market) and De Ruiter Seeds. Monsanto is now in the vegetable seed business for the first time and it's in big time. 55 percent of store bought lettuce, 75 percent of U.S. tomatoes, and 85 percent of peppers now originate through Monsanto's fingers. If you wish to steer clear of purchasing Monsanto seed- you need to do a bit of homework, as even reputable seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, are still selling Seminis (now Monsanto) seed. Buying seed from a seed exchange, buying open-pollinated and organic are safe ways to avoid Monsanto seed.
State of the Planet
 
Today, during the State of the Planet Conference 2010 at Columbia University, Prince Albert of Monaco, via satellite, expressed "we are at the dawn of major changes." Here in the West, as we wake up to this new day, there is much yawning and shaking away of the slumber... Letting go of 100 years of combustion, and starting a new paradigm, is an awesome challenge for developed nations who are stuck in their vision of fenced in, lawn-covered yards and oil dependent infrastructure.
Old fridge recycled- new fridge rebate...
 
On the government's Energy Star site there's a "Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator". I put in approximate age of fridge, size, type (side-by-side), electricity rate. Hit go. Wow, says this old fridge here in NY costs $410 a year to operate. Says the savings would be $1565 over the next five years if it were replaced by an Energy Star model which would cost a quarter less to operate; $97 a year (v $410) for a similar type fridge. Plus a $105 rebate...
Wheel like Honeywell Wind Turbine
 
This August Honeywell will release its 6 foot diameter gear-less (therefore lightweight) rooftop wind turbine that operates at wind speeds of 2-42 mph. Honeywell claims it will produce 2000 kWh/yr in class 3 winds and 2752 kWh/yr in class 4 winds at 33'. By eliminating the central gear shaft and using the blade tips to produce the energy Honeywell has created a turbine that can start producing energy at an amazingly low 2 mph.
Now supermarkets, schools and hospitals have an inexpensive way to compost.
 
Peninsula Compost Group in Wilmington Delaware has built the largest compost center on the East Coast that will handle commercial as well as residential waste.
 
Showing 21 - 40 of 47 Articles
< Previous 123 Next >