Wednesday, October 31, 2007

USA Today: Can Plastic Alter Human Cells?

Some pretty major publicity for the plastics issue - a huge spread in last week's USA today on plastic, toxicity, and human health.

Women - new or expecting mothers especially - take note. Chemicals used in certain plastic products have been linked to reproductive abnormalities, and can have particularly damaging effects on young children. Research suggests that the timing of exposure is key; infants, fetuses, nursing children etc. are most susceptible.

So where do we find these chemicals?

Baby bottles, baby toys, even the lining in metal cans (yikes) contain Bisphenol A (BPA) one of the dangerous chemical that can act as an endocrine disrupter - see previous posts on BPA.

According to Frederick vom Saal, a leading researcher on endocrine disrupters, BPA is a phenomenally potent chemical that can alter human cells in the part per trillion range".

Parts per trillion may sound like an inconsequential amount, however when you consider vom Saal's finding:

"the amount that leaches out (of a liter bottle) is in the part per billion range, nanogram per milliliter of fluid..." Such that a baby drinking out of a liter bottle is taking in micrograms of BPA.

Sounds like enough to warrant serious concern.....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Further proof: there is no "pristine"

Not even Half Dome, one of the world's wild wonders, in Yosemite National Park, is free of plastic.

Here, en route to the final ascent, above Vernal Falls, I found a handfull of plastic bottles lodged in the rock, discarded by thirsty, "nature loving" hikers. Their short lived purpose served, these bottles will kick around for thousands of years, winding their way downstream, ugly reminders that there is no such thing as "pristine" anymore........

For an excellent synopsis of this idea, see the Shifting Baselines slideshow here. As we increasingly accept trash in even our most treasured national parks, we begin to think this is "normal", and lose our sense of outrage.

We gotta keep being pissed off - while of course maintaining our sense of humor - or nothin's ever gonna change......

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breaking news: THE PAPER CUP

Paper cups are all over the place these days. I mean in the media, not just strewn about streets and seas.....

Toronto Star columnist David Rider contemplates cups in Have mug, will travel, for his weekly "enlightened shopper" column. He contacted me to ask my personal cup preference - ceramic vs. steel vs. plastic (see article for my answer: hint reuse!), and gave BYO a nice mention.

Then noticed this plug for reusables in Real World Green, "Paper cups, do you use them?" Clear message here to bring your own!

Seems a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but such an easy one to shift. And as the Real World clip mentioned, paper cups are NOT in fact recyclable, which most people incorrectly assume.

Personally, I'd avoid the plastic mug with hot coffee, as certain plastics can leach out nasty chemicals, especially when heated.

Granted, there are numerous kinds of plastic, 7 actually, not sure what type is used for these coffee cups. This article gives a plastics-health overview, as well as a breakdown of the #s.

I'd stay on the safe side and stick to ceramic or stainless steel.

And LOVE your cup!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

TRASHED coming to LA

After a smashing success at the World Premiere in Chicago, TRASHED makes its way to Los Angeles, Nov. 1st, 7:30 at the Crest Theatre in Westwood. As the name would suggest, the entertaining, thought-provoking doc examines one of "the fastest growing industries in North America", our garbage.

A Q+A with Director Bill Kirkos will follow the screening, along with a speaker or two talking about solutions. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wrinkle your nose, and you'll vow to make a better effort to ditch disposables and BRING YOUR OWN.

How can you "refuse"?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Green garbage - just toss it!

Finally, the solution to littering: bioplastics. You can toss 'em with impunity, go ahead, they're biodegradable! If you always relished the naughty idea of chucking trash out the window, nows your chance.

Okay okay, this is from The Onion, thus a satirical piece. BUT the message touches on a real issue. Bioplastics, while in some cases a better alternative to petroleum plastics, still don't get at one of the underlying mentality, i.e. our disposable approach to resources.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for avoiding petro-plastics, and encouraging alternatives. And bioplastics may be a great way to get people thinking about the plastics issue. There are however some other factors with bioplastics that we need to address - I'll be exploring these in the next few weeks.

Ultimately, we've got to shift away from single use disposables - though they may be green/biodegradable/compostable, doesn't mean its cool to use and abuse.

You know what approach I suggest.....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tell Arnold to sign AB 258!

AB 258, awaiting Arnold's signature, would demand greater responsibility from plastic manufacturers to prevent pre-production plastic pellets, or "nurdles", from escaping into the marine evironment. By the gazillions. As they currently do, due to poor management practices from the aformentioned industries. And creating a huge mess....

The bill passed the California Legislature, and is now in the Governator's hands, so now is the time to make your voice heard. Send a letter here.

AB 258 is part of the Pacific Protection Initiative, a package of 5 bills aimed at stemming the tide of toxic garbage flowing out to sea. Check out all 5, and stay tuned for an update.

For more on the issue of plastic pollution and the marine environment, see this excellent article in Best of Life. An apropos excerpt:

"Ask a group of people to name an overwhelming global problem, and you’ll hear about climate change, the Middle East, or AIDS. No one, it is guaranteed, will cite the sloppy transport of nurdles as a concern. And yet nurdles, lentil-size pellets of plastic in its rawest form, are especially effective couriers of waste chemicals called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, which include known carcinogens such as DDT and PCBs.

The United States banned these poisons in the 1970s, but they remain stubbornly at large in the environment, where they latch on to plastic because of its molecular tendency to attract oils."