the chemical home
November 30, 2003 6:00 PM   Subscribe

the chemical home
"babies are born with toxic chemicals already contaminating their bodies" - we know we are exposed to these dangerous chemicals everyday, greenpeace puts together a nice site describing what the dangerous ones are how to avoid them. Isn't this the kind of thing our tax dollars going to the EPA are supposed to provide? [ via ]
posted by specialk420 (30 comments total)
Also technically not safe for work.
posted by Hildago at 6:28 PM on November 30, 2003

Few people remember how, before HIV/AIDS was known as such, the number of people with damaged immune systems was starting to become obvious. For example, think of the movie, "The boy in the plastic bubble" (though his kind of immuno-deficiency was not AIDS-related.) It just seemed that all of a sudden, there were a lot of people with damaged immune systems.

Well, the reason I mention this is there have been for years now, a large number of people who have suddenly become extraordinarily, and permanently, sensitive to all sorts of artificial contaminants. Usually there is a trigger, like a big exposure to carpet glue or some other chemical, and then it is like they develop severe allergies to dozens or hundreds of chemicals.

Generally miserable, they become shut-ins or try to retire to backwoods "natural" situations. The general assumption is that it is psychological, even when acute physical symptoms are displayed.

There are so many of them these days, however, that travel accommodation providers are now offering rooms that are hypo-allergenic, have never been cleaned with soaps or artificial anything, and may or may not even have sealed concrete, to reduce exposure to mortar dust.

And though their situation may not be fatal, like AIDS, it should be of grave concern if it is *not* induced by the exposure itself *as much* as by some pathogenic organism, a virus, bacteria, yeast, viroids, or prions.
posted by kablam at 6:42 PM on November 30, 2003

Dear MeFi,

In utero exposure to hippie, organic products leads to inferior, old-Europe-style babies.

Yours in better living through chemistry,

Gale Norton
posted by stonerose at 6:43 PM on November 30, 2003

Oh no! somebody call the WAAAAMBULANCE

God damn the world today! Living till 80 with all these icky chemicals our bodies. If only we were dying after 35 years like our forefathers!
posted by delmoi at 7:33 PM on November 30, 2003

See also this thread.
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on November 30, 2003

delmoi, call me when the final daly's (disability-adjusted-life-year-statistics) come in on kids born in the '60,'70s, and after. I'm of the opinion that we should strive to reduce risk factors, regardless of how well we seem to have done so far. Oh - we could also try giving a shit about Africa, where life expectancy is falling.
posted by stonerose at 7:43 PM on November 30, 2003

delmoi: *ahem*.

It's funny, if all the steadfast hippie haters all avoid the 'how to avoid contaminating your babies' page like the plague, lest their membership in the republican party be revoked, and all their offspring are weak, bubble-confined little wormlets. Willfull ignorance shall be the downfall of red meat America, sooner or later :)
posted by Space Coyote at 7:44 PM on November 30, 2003

As far as I can tell from the BBC article homunculus linked to above, the phenomenon - of flushing of fat-soluble PCB's (and other persistent organic pollutants) from mammary glands into nursing babies - is just starting to pop up on the radar screens of scientific researchers.

PCB's and POP's disrupt human and mammalian endocrine systems which - in turn - mediate infant development.

Given that POP's tend to have an estrogenic effect, well......
posted by troutfishing at 8:02 PM on November 30, 2003

We are living in our filth and waste and eventually there will be a die-off. I believe it will look like what is happening in Russia right now. Average life expectancy on the decline, health insurance bankrupting the country, breakup of central powers and return to smaller units of organization. Our civilization will fall apart when our health insurance can no longer keep up with the increasing demands of an older and sicker population that is not making enough new babies to keep up. All of this because of the pollution we are creating.

Folks like delmoi see progress and say things are better but fails to understand that life is cyclical and not linear, progress in a cyclical system has repercussions later on that he has not accounted for.
posted by stbalbach at 8:10 PM on November 30, 2003

Not to let the EPA off the hook or anything, but what exactly can anyone expect a United States agency to do about consumer products in the UK? (products listed in the Greenpeace link are almost entirely British-based).
posted by contessa at 8:28 PM on November 30, 2003

Our civilization will fall apart when our health insurance can no longer keep up with the increasing demands of an older and sicker population that is not making enough new babies to keep up.

It will be amusing to see what really happens with social security, medicare, and medicaid when the baby boomers start retiring en masse and requiring the really expensive end-of-life care at taxpayer expense.

And for all the nasties breastfed babies get fed into them, they still outperform bottlefed children when it comes to health and IQ, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.
posted by beth at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2003

beth - You're right on that, and I actually don't worry too much - because the POP's that get flushed into nursing babies have an estrogenic effetc - they tend to feminize male infants a bit. So : more gays males ( not a problem, in my opinion ) and fewer testosterone-driven violent males.

Fine. The species will survive.
posted by troutfishing at 9:15 PM on November 30, 2003

Watch Penn and Teller people. See greenpeace lying to you. Over and over. Without any regard for your safety or health.

Greenpeace are nothing but liars. I mean big liars. The worst kind of liars. Liars so bad they can't even get Charity Status in Canada.

LOL! Look at their "research". It's so thorough, I bet it's even better than what a 6th grader could do!

Greenpeace rating: red

The manufacturer / retailer has told us the product does contain one or more harmful chemical pollutants and they have no plans to remove them OR the manufacturer/retailer has refused to supply us with any information about their product.

Company position

Axminster Carpets Ltd discharge banned and restricted pesticides from their factory. Some of these chemicals may be present in their carpets. The company does not use brominated flame retardants or organotins.

LOL. So... let's see, because they do something that angers greenpeace, they *MUST* be making bad carpets.

Yup. That makes sense. I mean, GWB bugs the hell out of me, so therefore he MUST BE A TERRORIST.

Good logic there, greenpeace.

Don't listen to their tripe. Next thing you know they'll be telling you how cell phones "rot the brain".
posted by shepd at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2003

item, for someone so eager for documentation you could have taken a moment out of your abuse of shepd to, oh, I don't know, read the first link in the carpets area of the the site to see what he was talking about? Then you would have seen that they can list a total of zero suspected contaminants in their products, but red list for exactly the "we don't like them" reasoning shepd cites.

No, much more productive to accuse shepd of being a flipper baby or something. Carry on.
posted by NortonDC at 11:43 PM on November 30, 2003

Thanks Norton DC. That's exactly what I mean. :-)
posted by shepd at 12:46 AM on December 1, 2003

To live is to suffer. Deal.
posted by delmoi at 1:44 AM on December 1, 2003

NortonDC, Shepd - Your arguments don't extend very far. I'll take it for granted that you two are right on that specific point. But so what? Doesn't this merely point to the fact that some in the environmental movement are guilty of - as are all humans - a certain amount of bias and favoritism?

This observation doesn't extend very far - say to an overall critique of research into how pollution effects living organisms. That's because such a critique is - in the final analysis - impossible.

It is impossible for the simple fact that living things are made out of matter (leaving aside questions of the soul) and not some mysterious, homogenous, and irreducible goo which is somehow not of this Earth or is just fundamentally unaffected by and resistant to most chemicals.

Silicon-based life (if it is at all possible) might be more resistant to pollution.

But we are not silicon based.

Shepd - as a thought experiment, imagine:

You and I are standing around arguing, and I say - "So - you don't think pollution effects life much (if at all). OK, what do you think does effect life? Here's a pail of hydrochloric acid. Why don't you stick your foot in it?"

You, of course, respond : "What! Are you crazy? My foot would dissolve!" - "OK", I respond, "Here's a bathtub full of nice warm 50% bleach solution. Why don't you take a bath?"

"What!", you again respond, "I'd pass out from the fumes. I'd turn white! I might die!". "OK", I go on, "So you think acid and bleach are toxic. Here are the keys to my car which is in the garage. But the garage door is jambed shut. Why don't you warm up the car while I walk down to the hardware store to get a crowbar to open the door? It'll only take me 20 minutes. Oh, and one more thing - you really need to stay in the garage with the car because sometimes it overheats when it first starts up. I've been meaning to have that fixed. But you need to stay in the car while it's warming up, to watch the gauge. Here's a copy of Rachel's Weekly you can read while you're hanging out waiting for me to come back."

"Yeah, you're a great friend", you say - offended, "you're trying to win your argument on pollution by by gassing me!" "OK, no problem", I say, "So you think that high levels of Carbon Monoxide are deadly? OK then. Acid, Bleach, Carbon Monoxide.....We're developing a list of things we both consider toxic. Hmmm... Well, anyway, we don't need to use the car. We'll walk to lunch. I know a nice Chinese restaurant which has a glazed almond chicken special. Their menu says that they enhance the almond flavor with strychnine. Funny....." - I muse - "I've never actually seen anyone in there......Well, no matter, I believe in trying everything once......."

"Gee Troutfishing", you say, "I'm hungry and all - but I've read a few things about strychnine in Agatha Christy murder mysteries. And, besides, glazed almond chicken is a hit-or-miss sort of dish. Maybe you could try it first, for me, to see how it is?....."

So - you can see - if I continue with this thought experiment I can show - if you are not a complete ignoramus (and I know you're not) - that we actually are in agreement about the toxicity of quite a long list of basic substances, chemicals, and elements.

OK then. This brings me back to the PCB's flushing into nursing babies. These are very low levels of PCB's - parts per million or even (probably) parts per billion. So why all the fuss?

Well - the human endocrine system is that system which sends out chemicals to trigger human body processes. Major classes of chemicals are testosterone and estrogens. These endocrine chemicals mediate most of our bodily processes, and they play a crucial role in orchestrating the development of fetuses and infants. And the levels of these chemicals used to accomplish this are very, very low - parts per million or parts per billion. Now, the problem : PCB's, and a newly discovered similar class of compounds also getting flushed into babies - PAH's, are chemically rather similar to estrogens.

But all this arguing and brain work has made me hungry - and I bet you are too. Would you care for a snack? - I've got some really nice, fresh chunks of lead. They're good - sweet. You suck on them like a popsicle. I've been doing it for years..........

NortonDC - But I thought Shepd was a flipper-baby?........hey! - what are you saying about flipper babies anyway? Some of my best friends......
posted by troutfishing at 5:03 AM on December 1, 2003

By the way - Shepd - thanks for the recommendation (for the screening of new members) . But - you know - I'm not all that "green". In fact, I've been doing a shitty job of recycling and sorting my trash lately.

I feel guilty about it too. I think future generations may very well curse me along with the rest of the trash spewing, auto-driving, consumer-lifestyle masses of today, for leaving such a mess and creating huge problems which the people of the future have to deal with.

Oh well - maybe they'll just get used to the 130 degree Fahrenheit average temperature, their extra, random limbs sticking out from odd places on their bodies, their flippers they have instead of hands......

As delmoi noted, life is suffering. They'll just have to deal with it.
posted by troutfishing at 5:17 AM on December 1, 2003

'The manufacturer / retailer has told us the product does contain one or more harmful chemical pollutants and they have no plans to remove them OR the manufacturer/retailer has refused to supply us with any information about their product.'

Company position

Axminster Carpets Ltd discharge banned and restricted pesticides from their factory. Some of these chemicals may be present in their carpets. The company does not use brominated flame retardants or organotins.

shepd - LOL. So... let's see, because they do something that angers greenpeace, they *MUST* be making bad carpets.

on preview: I am glad I previewed before writing any more! What troutfishing said.
posted by asok at 5:27 AM on December 1, 2003

shepd and Norton - the link says the carpet company refuses to divulge the chemicals they use, and traces of the chemical in question are found in the waste water from the company plant. Thus the red rating.
posted by stbalbach at 5:28 AM on December 1, 2003

..what asok said.
posted by stbalbach at 5:30 AM on December 1, 2003

Besides, Interface carpets are much more practical - you can replace individual high traffic worn/dirty areas with individual panels - and environmentally sound as well.

Axminster Carpet is a fossil of a company already.
posted by troutfishing at 6:36 AM on December 1, 2003

shepd and norton.

have you ever met any children with cancer? or with severe ADD ... ? or the plethora of other diseases that have been linked to enviromental toxins? i would have to guess not. - i must say, you never cease to amaze.
posted by specialk420 at 8:39 AM on December 1, 2003

on that note, perhaps delmoi has some suggestions for what to tell our children when they ask why we aren't letting them eat the fish we catch in our north woods lakes? like we did when we were young?
posted by specialk420 at 8:57 AM on December 1, 2003

stbalbach, you're missing the big OR.

Which means...

The manufacturer/retailer has refused to supply us with any information about their product.

I wonder why a company would refuse to give private information to another corporation (I love being able to call greenpeace that). More importantly than that, a corporation with an agenda against all other corporations.

I wonder why... hmmmmm... Does McDonald's let Harvey's know what's in its secret Big Mac sauce? No? Bummer. They too must have an agenda to KILL THE HUMANS.

troutfishing, perhaps what you are saying fits the general modus operandi of greenpeace, but I have to say, on the items *I've* seen, they've generally presented a poorly thought out argument. Most all of the items they present as being dangerous there have some really crappy arguments behind them, mostly tracing back to the post hoc non-sequitur and the Style over Substance fallacy.

I might make mistakes like that, but I'm not a multi-million dollar corporation telling others how to live their lives.

SpecialK, yup, I've seen both. Known them well, not really. However, people have always gotten cancer and ADD is only appearing to be a new problem as it was underdiagnosed (as in NOT diagnosed) for years. This have been linked to such things, but I woud put it to you that cancer has existed for years because people used strong chemicals in the form of melanoma. And ADD, well, how the heck can one show the history of a "disease" that's strongly debated as it its actual existence, and is still considered by many to be genetic.
posted by shepd at 5:22 PM on December 1, 2003

The link's stated raison d'ĂȘtre is to arm consumers with information regarding health risks from chemicals in "household products we use in our everyday lives." shepd cited a page on the site which completely fails to show that the products being red-listed contain any harmful chemicals, but the products are red-listed because of alleged offenses outside the stated purview of the site.

This is Greenpeace trying to trick people into boycotting a company by spreading fear about the company's product despite the fact that their beef is with with the factory processes, not the product that the site claims to addressing. It's dishonest, and the site's credibility is damaged by this.
posted by NortonDC at 5:22 PM on December 1, 2003

I meant to say:

This have been linked to such things, but I woud put it to you that cancer has existed for years without people using strong chemicals in the form of melanoma.


Oh, and troutfishing, you're welcome for the reccomendation. I couldn't think of anyone better for the job. :-)
posted by shepd at 5:28 PM on December 1, 2003

shepd - Thanks. I actually don't have a strong sense of Greenpeace as either well, or badly managed. For whatever reason, I don't think of Greenpeace often right now and, to tell you the truth, my comment was kind of abstracted from the case in point.

Cancer, I'm pretty sure, has been around as long as humans - melanoma, tumors.....I've seen a picture of a medieval woodcut with a woman who had breast cancer. Some claim that incidences of cancer have been rising since the onset of industrialism. I tend to believe that, but it's tricky to prove it. I'm fairly sure, though, that cancer rates have been going up steadily in the US for the last three or four decades. But there's a catch there too - the #1 cancer risk factor is obesity, and Americans are getting heavier.

That puts things in perspective ; being overweight is generally worse - in terms of cancer risk - than exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. Meanwhile....I remember a cancer researcher (an epidemiologist studying cancer) acquaintance from Johns Hopkins who mentioned, about the mice he worked with ; "Some of them have been bred to have no resistance at all to carcinogenic chemicals. First exposure - wham! , they're dead."

NortonDC - Sounds plausible. I'm too exhausted to dig in, but I'm inclined to believe you. I no longer think all "green" organizations wear halos. Ideologues - wherever they are - (Neocons, Greens, whoever) tend to get carried away - in their eagerness to advance idealistic ideological goals they cut corners, lie, or distort the truth.

It's only human, I suspect.
posted by troutfishing at 7:01 PM on December 1, 2003

Oh - on the cellphones - I think most of my brain rot is my own damn fault, but with cellphones I worry actually about cooking my brain a little. I've seen one British study purporting to show a correlation between cell use and brain cancer. Nothing within the last 8-12 months though.....

Speaking of which, another Brit study I recall (what is it with these Brit studies? Less/more rigorous? Different procedures for gov. oversight?) showed a link between high tension lines, but the mechanism was not the one that environmentalists or greens thought the culprit. It wasn't the EMF from the wires - that drops off really fast. It was the air - and particulates in the air - blowing past the wires and getting ionically charged. The particulates in the air would then stick (because of the ionic charge) in people lungs. Upshot? - It's bad to live downwind from high tension wires.
posted by troutfishing at 7:15 PM on December 1, 2003

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