Now With Less Toxic Chemicals (Eventually)! UNEP Adds to “Dirty Dozen” List

Recently the United Nations Environment Program added nine new chemicals to it’s original “dirty dozen” list of toxic chemicals that have been banned or restricted. The chemicals on this list are known as POPs, or Persistent Organic Pollutants, which not only accumulate in the tissues of living beings and can cause significant health and environmental problems, but they also tend to stick around for…oh, about forever, once released into the environment.

The UNEP first banned/restricted what became known as the “dirty dozen” POPs in 1995; the list includes chemicals such as aldrin, chlordane, DDT, hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated biphenols.

Although DDT has been in use in some countries, for battling malaria, enough alternative methods have been created that the UNEP has decided to phase out the use of DDT by 2020.

Dan Shapley at The Daily Green did a great job of outlining the list, so I’m just going to post his:

  1. Pentabromodiphenyl ether
    This PBDE congener, sometimes referred to as “penta,” was used as a flame-retardant in foam upholstery and furnishing. It was first banned in Germany, Norway and Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, then in the Europe Union in 2003. The last U.S. manufacturer stopped producing the chemical in 2005, and the Environmental Protection Agency subsequently banned its production in the U.S. It is still manufactured elsewhere, primarily in China, and can be imported to the U.S. Maine and Washington have banned it and nine other states have proposed bans.

    The chemical may cause a range of health problems, including liver disease and reproductive and developmental problems. It has been found in human breast milk.

  2. Octabromodiphenyl ether
    Like its sister “penta” this polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE, has been linked to health issues and has largely been phased out in developed nations.
  3. Chlordecone
    This insecticide, also known as Kepone, was used until 1978 in the United States on tobacco, ornamental shrubs, bananas and citrus trees, and in ant and roach traps. It is chemically almost identical to Mirex, which was one of the original “Dirty Dozen” banned by the treaty.

    Workers using chlordecone suffered damage to the nervous system, skin, liver and male reproductive system. It may still be in use in developing nations, despite its being banned in the industrialized world.

  4. Lindane
    An agricultural insecticide also used to treat head lice and scabies in people, lindane has been banned in 50 nations because the organochlorine pesticide can attack the nervous system. In the United States, it was used until 2007 on farms, and it is still used as a “second-line” treatment for head lice when other treatments fail.

    Additionally, because Lindane is the only useful product in a family of chemicals generated to produce the pesticide, there is persistent chemical waste created by the process. For every ton of Lindane produced, six to 10 tons of waste are produced.

  5. Alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane
    One of the persistent chemical waste products produced by making Lindane, alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane may cause cancer and liver or kidney problems.
  6. Beta-hexachlorocyclohexane
    Another of the persistent chemical waste products produced by making Lindane, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane may cause cancer and reproductive problems.
  7. PFOS
    The company 3M used PFOS to make Scotchgard fabric and other stain-resistant products until 2002. The chemical is also used in a number of industrial processes. It is found in the bodies of people around the world, and in relatively high concentrations in Arctic wildlife — reflecting the global transport of persistent chemicals like these. Unlike the other chemicals on the “nasty nine” list, PFOS will have its use restricted, not banned.
  8. Hexabromobiphenyl
    A polybrominated biphenyl, or PBB, hexabromobiphenyl is a flame retardant that has been linked to a range of health problems, including weight loss, skin disorders, nervous and immune systems effects, and effects on the liver, kidneys, and thyroid gland. While it is no longer used in developed nations, it may still be in use in developing nations.
  9. Pentachlorobenzene
    Used in the manufacture of an insecticide, and as a flame retardant, Pentachlorobenzene may damage the nervous and reproductive systems, as well as the liver and kidneys. It is also used as a head lice treatment and can be found in the waste streams of some paper mills, petroleum refineries, sewage treatment plants and incinerators.

~ Marsha


What’s Your Water Footprint?

Sometimes it can be challenging to really get a good sense of how much water we use, especially when we don’t think about all the water it takes to grow our food, create the products we use, and so on. Good Magazine has a great chart that maps out your potential water use and impact throughout the day, from what you eat to how much you use to shower, and do laundry and dishes. The chart also offers a few suggested water savers and notes the amount of water savings.

This is a great tool to use for sparking discussions with loved ones and colleagues about  water use and/or the hidden impacts of our choices.

There’s also a great little online water footprint calculator from H20 Conserve that helps you estimate your water footprint and gives suggestions for reducing your water use. A friend told me about this tool, and she says that her college students are “fascinated with it.”

~ Marsha

(Thanks, Cool People Care, for the heads up about the chart.)

Ordinary Hero: 3 Cups of Tea, a Man Transformed, Thousands of Children Educated

In 1993 a failed mountain ascent by a climber led to an encounter with a tiny village in Pakistan and the children who had no school there, which led to transformation and a new life’s purpose. Greg Mortensen vowed to the children he met in that village that he would build them a school. Since then, Mortensen has helped establish nearly 80 schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he has focused on educating girls, believing that “You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads, or put in electricity, but until the girls are educated a society won’t change.”

Mortensen co-authored a book about his experiences, called Three Cups of Tea. The award-winning best-seller has inspired and motivated others, and it has been so popular that Mortensen has created a version for young adults, as well as a children’s book called Listen to the Wind.

Mortensen has also created a non-profit, the Central Asia Institute, to help with the education of children (especially girls) in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pennies for Peace, an educational and fundraising campaign for kids to learn more about helping other kids.

~ Marsha

43 Ways to Stop Child Trafficking Globally and Locally

smilinggirlRecently I did a (late) post for Human Trafficking Awareness Day about resources (mainly videos) to help educate and empower us to help stop human trafficking.  Activist Diana Scimone, who has a blog and an organization focused on stopping child trafficking, left a comment, sharing about her work.

I visited her site and wanted to share with you that she has a great list: 43 Ways to Stop Child Trafficking on the left side of her blog. In addition to lots of suggestions (read, view, learn, organize, act), the list offers helpful and relevant resources.

The list includes:

I did the suggestion to use a web search engine to look for my city and phrases like “human trafficking” or “child trafficking” and discovered stories such as this recent one about Portland being a “hot market in the modern slave trade.” And, as I mentioned before, the City Club of Portland is sponsoring a series on Human Trafficking. Here are the next several topics/dates planned:

Thursday, February 26 – Dr. Kathryn Farr speaks about how wars promote human trafficking.
Thursday, March 26 – Local nonprofits share their experiences.
Wednesday, April 22 – Human Trafficking Task Force.
Thursday, May 28 – Dr. Bill Hillar speaks about global perspectives and how that effects local problems, and what we can do to help.

With 27 million slaves worldwide and tens of thousands being trafficked in the U.S., it can seem like an overwhelming and despairing task to stop the trafficking of humans, but there are at least 43 ways that you can start to make a positive difference.

~ Marsha

Resources to Help You Help Stop Human Trafficking

Today is a day of new hope, of change, of the vision of a better world for all. Our new president, and all of us, have a long to-do list of personal and systemic changes to make in order to help create a humane world. One of those changes should be an end to human trafficking worldwide.

Last week (January 11) was Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S. A day dedicated to bringing attention to the plight of the millions of men, women and children around the world who have been abducted, coerced or tricked into modern day slavery and labor. Most often the exploited are women and children, and many times they’re forced into sexual slavery. Amanda from End Human Trafficking did a nice post about 10 films about human trafficking to watch. I’ve posted most of them here, along with a few additions, and some useful websites. The first step in systemic change is learning more about the issue. Use these resources to help you.

Born Into Brothels (2004)
Academy Award-winning documentary about the children of prostitutes in India.

Call + Response (2008 )
Call + Response goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2007, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.”

The Day My God Died (2003)
“Entering the brothels of Bombay with hidden cameras, The Day My God Died documents the tragedy of the child sex trade, exposing human rights violations and profiling the courageous abolitionists who are working towards change.”

Features “investigative footage of the dark and hidden world of sex traffickers, pimps and buyers. Demand exposes the men who buy commercial sex, the vulnerable women and children sold as commodities, and the facilitators of the sale within the marketplace of exploitation.” From Shared Hope International.

Fields of Mudan (2004)
“When Mudan, a frightened, young Asian girl, is forced into modern day slavery by the brutal child brothel owner, Madam Zhao, the only solace she finds is through the memory of her Mother and the promise that she would one day find Mudan and take her away to America: the place where dreams come true.”

Holly (2006)
A docu-drama about an American stolen artifacts dealer in Vietnam who tries to save a young girl from child traffickers.

Lilja-4 Ever (2002)
A Swedish film about a teenager who is abandoned by her mother in the former Soviet Union, turns to prostitution to survive, and ends up as a sex slave in Sweden.

Not for Sale: The Documentary (2007)
A documentary that “covers what modern-day abolitionists are doing to fight the rampant terrors of human trafficking in the US and abroad.” From the book of the same name.

The Price of Sugar (2007)
In the Dominican Republic, thousands of Haitians are under armed guard on plantations harvesting sugarcane, most of which ends up in the U.S.

Sex Slaves (2005)
“An undercover journey deep into the world of sex trafficking, following one man determined to rescue his wife — kidnapped and sold into the global sex trade.”

Slumdog Millionaire (2008 )
A new feature film focused on the story of a boy with a chance to win big.

Trade (2007)
A feature film about a 13-year-old girl kidnapped by sex traffickers, and the brother and cop who struggle to find and free her.

Very Young Girls (2007)
A documentary “that chronicles the journey of young women through the underground world of sexual exploitation in New York City.”

(Note: Many of these films contain intense and graphic scenes, so be sure to preview them and ensure that they’re age-appropriate for your audience.)

Human trafficking is happening around the world, including here in the U.S., and if we pay attention and take positive action, we have the power to stop it. In addition to watching and sharing films like those above, you can find out more from sites like these:

Anti-Slavery International
Provides information and action opportunities on modern slavery and forced labor issues. Digital Library
An online library of information, photos and film sources regarding issues of child labor, slavery, sex trade, child marriage and more.

Free the Slaves
A treasure trove of information and resources on modern slavery.

Get reports, news and information about human trafficking from all over the world.

(And, for those of you in the Portland, Oregon area, the City Club of Portland Agora Committee is hosting a series of talks about Human Trafficking. The first one is Thursday, January 22 at 6:00 pm at Kell’s Irish Pub, 112 SW 2nd Ave. Find out more.)

As Gandhi said, “No one is free while others are oppressed.” On this day of hope, let’s work together to create a world where all are free from oppression, exploitation, suffering and violence. YES WE CAN create a compassionate, sustainable, just world!

~ Marsha

Don’t Sweat(shop) the Small Stuff

While our children are all nestled in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing about, and they’re looking forward to acquiring a whole slew of new stuff that they’ll be talking about incessantly with their friends for weeks after winter break is over, it’s an excellent time to encourage them to think critically about all that new stuff — much of which quite possibly came from sweatshops.

Several websites address issues of sweatshops, child labor and fair trade. Here are a few that might be useful for helping your family explore these issues.

Co-op America’s Ending Sweatshops Program provides information about sweatshops, tips for avoiding sweatshop products, and a sweat-free products guide.

Global Exchange Sweatfree Communities offers information about sweatshop issues, resources and ideas. Their site also has a Sweatfree Toolkit for launching a sweatfree campaign in your community.

The focus of the National Labor Committee is “putting a human face on the global economy.” At their website you’ll find personal accounts, photos, news and information about worker conditions around the world.

The Smithsonian Institution currently has an online exhibit about the history of sweatshops in the U.S. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 – present, provides a variety of information and perspectives.

If you’re interested in learning more about sweatshop issues and want to become active in promoting sweatshop-free products and communities, Sweatfree Communities has campaign materials and other information to help citizens create sweatfree communities, as well as a variety of educational resources. They also offer a “Shop with a Conscience Guide.”

Sweatfree also has announced its 2008 Sweatshop Hall of Shame, focusing on corporations that have “consistently flouted labor laws and basic worker protections.” This year’s “honorees” are American Eagle, Carrefour, Cintas, Dickies, Disney, Guess, Hanes, New Era, Speedo, Tommy Hilfiger, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart.

And, for those interested in taking up legislative action against sweatshops, the NLC has been tracking anti-sweatshop legislation in the U.S. Congress. If the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act passes, it would “prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.” The bill was first introduced at the beginning of 2007. So far, about 26 senators and 175 representatives have signed as co-sponsors to the legislation. Students and others are invited to write their representatives to ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor (or to thank them for being one), as well as to encourage other organizations to endorse this legislation.

And, while you’re talking to your own kids about sweatshop products, be sure to take at look at your own goodies, too, and strive to make choices that can ensure that everyone — regardless of where they live — can have a happy holiday (and a happy, healthy life).

~ Marsha

Originally published in the December 2008 Humane Edge E-News.

Image courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg.

Enough of This Either/Or Nonsense: Let’s Have Some Win/Win Thinking!

blackwhite1Why, oh why, do we continue to insist on handling difficult issues and challenges in black and white, either/or terms? Why do we approach problems as jobs vs. environment? People vs. animals? Species vs. individuals? Rich vs. poor? You vs. me? Us vs. them?

I’ve seen a lot of either/or thinking lately. The recent issue of E Magazine has a commentary raising the issue of the “greenie wars,” pitting environmentalists against animal protection advocates. (Though there is a blurb at the very end suggesting both/and solutions may be possible….sometimes..maybe.)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted against whales and for the Navy, refusing to consider restrictions that would have “required the Navy to reduce or halt underwater sonar pulses when marine mammals might be nearby.” Another either/or approach.

And, a big brouhaha has come from the passage of Prop 2 AND Prop 8 in California. Prop 2 will now require the phase-out of gestation crates (for pregnant sows), veal crates (for male calves) and battery cages (for egg-laying hens), meaning animals raised in factory farms in California will endure just a little bit less suffering. The passage of Prop 8, however, has overturned the California law which allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Some gay and lesbian activists, and their supporters, have been incredibly outraged that voters chose “animal rights” over “human rights.” Bloggers and news outlets have been running headlines like “Chickens 1, Gays 0” and “Californians Like Chickens More Than Gay People.” Of course, it’s incredibly upsetting that Prop 8 passed, and while issues of human and animal oppression are deeply connected, the fact that rights for gay and lesbian folks were thwarted this time doesn’t mean that protections for animals should be also.

Author and President of the Institute for Humane Education (and my boss), Zoe Weil, recently wrote a post about this either/or perspective.She says:

“But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.”

“…we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.”

Author Mark Hawthorne shares similar sentiments in his essay for the American Chronicle. Hawthorne notes:

“Abusing animals is always wrong, just as discriminating against humans is always wrong. Why should one oppressed group express their anger by targeting another oppressed group? (I don´t believe there are any beings on this planet more oppressed than farmed animals, who are bred, raised, confined, mutilated and slaughtered at a rate of 55 billion per year worldwide.)”

He continues:

“Moreover, the very fact that people are picking on Prop 2 rather than one of the many other measures on the California ballot underscores the low regard many people have for the animals they eat. After all, no one is complaining that voters care more about veterans than gays because Prop 12, the Veterans Bond Act, passed, or that people care more about children than gays because Prop 3, the Children´s Hospital Bond Act, passed….While gay people have a voice, animals inside factory farms do not: they rely on compassionate individuals to speak out for them. I can only hope that the same people who are disparaging the passage of Prop 2 will see that demeaning animals does not further gay rights … that human liberation and animal liberation are inextricably linked.”

It’s important that we use our creativity, critical thinking skills and ability to connect, cooperate and compromise to find solutions that work for everyone. It usually takes a bit longer, but it helps bring us closer to that compassionate, sustainable, peaceful world that we’re seeking.

~ Marsha