Grab Bag Chemical Cop:
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers : PBDEs
I HATE those guys… don’t you? So, what the heck are they? They are the rising stars in the Chemical Bad-Boy gang.
SO WHERE ARE THEY HIDING?
PBDEs are fire retardants that are found in building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, polyurethane/latex foams and textiles.
Let’s get specific: TV components, mobile phones, fax machines, remote controls, video equipment, printers, photocopiers, toner cartridges, scanners, mattresses, futons, pillows, kids’ car seats, kitchen appliances, fans, heaters or hair dryers, curtains and drapes, water heaters, and lamp sockets.
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
The health hazards of these chemicals have attracted increasing scrutiny. Published studies express concern because exposure to PBDEs impair development of the nervous system. PDBEs have also been shown to have hormone disrupting effects, particularly on estrogen and thyroid hormones. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that even a single dose administered to mice during development of the brain can cause permanent changes to behavior, including hyperactivity. According to U.S. EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, there is evidence that indicates PBDEs may possess liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity.
ISN’T ANYONE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THEM?
The most-common PBDEs that are used in electronics are in a form known as Deca. Deca is banned in Europe for this use and in some U.S. states. For PBDE, EPA has set reference dose of 7 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, which is “believed to be without appreciable effects”. But, Linda Birnbaum, PhD, a senior toxicologist at the EPA remains concerned: “What I see is another piece of evidence that supports the fact that levels of these chemicals in children appear to be higher than the levels in their parents; I think this study raises a red flag”. A previous study by EWG in 2003 published test results showing that the average level of fire-retardants in breast milk from 20 American mothers was 75 times higher than the average levels measured in Europe.
The Penta form of PBDEs used in older foam products was not produced in the US after 2004, but they may still be found in imported items. And don’t most of us have upholstered furniture that is more than 5 years old?
California, Washington and Maine are leading the bans on PBDEs, but these chemicals are SO widespread in our homes that knowing where they are is EXTREMELY important.
Here are the electronics companies who have committed to phasing out all brominated fire retardants: Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba. Other companies have only partial commitments or have not committed at all.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
1. When purchasing building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics, upholstery foams, and textiles, ask what type of fire retardants are used, and steer clear of brominated retardants.
2. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter, which is far more effective in removing ALL contaminants from our homes.
3. Be very careful when old carpeting is being removed. The padding may contain PBDEs. Seal the room off from the rest of your home while the work is underway, and I would encourage all laborers to wear inhalation protection. Clean up should be with a HEPA filtered vacuum and a damp mop to pick up all particles possible.
4. Don’t re-upholster foam furniture. Fire retardants of all kinds from even a few years ago can have potentially harmful effects.
5. Inspect all foam items. Covers need to be completely encasing the foam – items with ripped covers need to be replaced, as do those with misshapen and broken-down foam. Older car seats are a general concern because the foam is often not entirely encased.
Grab Bag Cosmetic Line Overview:
Wouldn’t it be nice to see a new product and know, just by the manufacturer, that the product stands a good chance of being chemically low-risk? Below are just a few of some major manufacturers of cosmetics and skin care products, along with how many of their products have been analyzed on Cosmeticsdatabase.com and the range of ratings those products received. I have included traditional, department store brands as well as brands that have positioned themselves as “green”. Some are, some aren’t.
If you want to know which product lines rate well in general, go to Cosmeticsdatabase.com, type in the name of a manufacturer, see the range reading as I show below, then click on the “(## products)” and a full list of all products will appear, from best ratings to worst in that product line.
Grab Bag Early Christmas Shopper:
Three Tech Tiny Tims:
1. Optoma Pico Pocket Projector:
I kind of thought this was a cute and cool idea that would likely get slammed by the tech reviewers. Much to my surprise, this little gem gets “Very Good” reviews from the 5 major tech journals I checked.
The projector is slightly smaller and slightly thicker than an iPhone. Plugged in or running on battery, it will connect with your video enabled phone (iPhones and whatever other second-rate clunkers are out there :-)), still/video camera, DVD player, video game system, etc., and project a decent 30″ (diagonal) image on any flat surface… ceiling, wall, Uncle Tommy’s backside… perfect for a college kid on the go, or someone who thinks they’re that cool.
The sound out of the little speaker leaves something to be desired… this can be remedied easily enough by connecting small external speakers to the iPhone headphone jack or other unit audio out jack.
All in all, it’s pretty cool. Found it for about $270, including shipping.
2. FlipVideo and Kodak Zi8
Again, about the size of an iPhone, this ULTRA simple video camera comes in a couple of versions. Slips in your pocket, one button operation, no connector cords, USB connector flips right out of the body to connect and load video onto your computer. Case can be customized with your own choice of case artwork or photo when ordering online at theflip.com for $229 plus shipping for the HD version.
Found online at B&H for as low as $167, shipping included.
The Kodak Zi8: Better quality video than the Flip, but not as user-friendly for all. Similar features. $179 online.
Grab Bag WAKE-UP! Moment:
It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish….
Most of you kind readers here live in an earthquake zone. Unless you’ve been dating Ted Kaczynski, or are addicted to reality TV (and there was even a live earthquake on a Big Brother episode), you are well aware that an earthquake of 6.8 or greater is probably overdue somewhere in California. Most of us have made passing attempts, if only in our minds, at formulating a plan or gathering a few things “just in case”. The video below poignantly reiterates the difficulties that will need to be overcome WHEN (not if) it happens. We will all do well to watch and learn…
Grab Bag Brain Game:
Grab Bag Funny Stuff:
Better to see before you buy…
… and … IF ONLY our schools would use this automated greeting… this is a spoof, contrary to internet legend, but it’s a good one… click the arrow below to load up the message