Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Set Up Recycling at Your Workplace

  1. Form a “green team” – Approaching recycling as a team can help ensure the success of your recycling program. A “green team” is a group of employees interested in recycling and helping to set up a program.
  2. Determine materials you will recycle – Performing a waste audit can help. A waste audit is an inventory of the amount and type of solid waste (trash) produced at a location.

    Commonly recycled business items:

    • Office paper
    • Magazines and catalogs
    • Newspaper
    • Cardboard
    • Aluminum cans
    • Plastic bottles
    • Toner and ink jet cartridges
  3. Contact your property manager Find out if there are any recycling programs in place. Ask them to provide office paper, cardboard, aluminum can and plastic bottle recycling as a service to building tenants. Remind them that recycling can reduce waste disposal costs.

On your ownIf your property manager cannot provide recycling, or you are a small business, meet with your green team and decide what materials you want to recycle.

  1. Contact a recycling company – Interview multiple companies and get price estimates for providing a dumpster and pickup services. Most recycling companies provide rebates on materials collected.

These companies provide recycling pick up services in the Kansas City region. They will provide a dumpster and establish a regular pick up schedule to meet your needs.

  1. Drop-off Recycling – If pickup services are not an option, another option is to take your recyclables to a drop-off recycling center.
  2. Coordinate collection with the recycling service provider, janitorial crew and/or staff. Think about:
    • Small bins – You can provide durable recycling containers to each staff person or ask them to use copy paper boxes or something similar at their work stations. Decide what type and size of bin to locate next to printers, fax machines and other machines that generate paper.
    • Central bins – Locate large recycling bins in copy rooms or break rooms.
    • Collection – Create a regular schedule and determine who will pick up recycling from the small and central bins. It may be staff, janitorial crew or a combination.
    • Drop-off recycling – If your staff is using a drop-off collection center, set up a team and schedule for taking recyclables to the center. You may also need to determine a place to store recyclables.
    • Communicate all this information to your entire staff and janitorial crew.
  3. Educate staff
    • Distribute fact sheets describing the new recycling program for employees and janitorial staff and post updates on your company's intranet site.
    • Provide bins and collection containers as mentioned above.
    • Mark containers with signs labeled by item. It is helpful to use the “chasing arrows” recycling symbol.
  4. Plan a fun kick-off event
    • Send a memo from management to all employees encouraging participation.
    • Fun events, giveaways and refreshments could be provided.
    • Distribute fact sheets, signs and containers.
    • Schedule orientation sessions for each department.
  5. Let others know about your efforts
    • Write articles for the employee newsletter, intranet, and building and industry newsletters. Acknowledge people for changing their habits and keep people informed of the results of their efforts. Seek staff’s suggestions.
    • Send out press releases to the local media. You may also want to include information in customer or client mailings.
    • Include your recycling efforts in company promotional pieces.
  6. Maintain your program
    • Have your green team meet regularly to evaluate your recycling program’s progress. A successful program will continue to grow in volume recycled. The team can also address other green issues such as energy consumption and alternative transportation.
    • Stay in contact with staff. Update your staff regularly on the program’s progress. Send out periodic recycling reminders. Train new employees about the recycling program.
    • Identify a recycling point person to handle tasks such as answering staff questions, managing the green team and program oversight.

Helpful links

  • Bridging The Gap – has detailed waste reduction manuals available to businesses. Includes employee surveys, sample kick-off manuals and detailed, step-by-step instructions for a business waste reduction program.
  • Environmental Excellence Business Network – local group that meets four to six times a year to share nonproprietary information, techniques and benefits of environmental improvements and stewardship. Members host workshops, seminars and tours.
  • Byproduct Synergy project – focuses on turning one company's waste into another company's resources. It applies the principles of industrial ecology in which companies work together to match unwanted by-products as resources for new products and processes.
  • Hazardous Waste disposal

For more information, call 714 553 4735 or email

Posted via email from eWaste Disposal and Recycling

Dad killed in crash with son to be honored by state recycling agency

A celebration of life is being planned for Steven Uselton by the state agency for which he worked.
Uselton, 44, and his son Douglas, 17, a student at Oxford Academy in Cypress, were killed in a crash early Saturday. The Buena Park residents were on their way to a debate tournament at the school.

Douglas Uselton, 17, and his father Steven Uselton, 44, both of Buena Park, were killed early Saturday when the car in which they were traveling was struck by a suspected drunken driver, police said.SHEIKH

Related Links

•Tribute for student, dad will last lifetimes
•Teen charged in crash that killed student, father
•Oxford Academy mourns popular student
•School remembers athlete, dad lost in crash
•O.C. athlete, father killed; driver arrested

More from Buena Park-Cypress-La Palma-Stanton
•Kids and family weekend events in Orange County (Dec. 24-26)
•Teen charged in fatal crash had learner's permit
•Ex-councilman's wife charged with shooting at police

Steve Uselton was a longtime employee of state agencies overseeing recycling and disposal efforts. Oxford students held a memorial Monday in honor of Douglas and his father, and a fund has been set up for the family through the school.

Rafael Lopez, 18, of Anaheim, faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter in connection with the high-speed collision. Authorities say he had a 13 blood alcohol level at the time.

The Useltons died at Knott and Crescent avenues in Buena Park when their 2000 Buick LeSabre was hit by a 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer driven by Lopez, prosecutors said. Lopez allegedly sped through a red light.
Steve Uselton grew up in Long Beach, where he attended Millikan High School.

Here is the text of a statement issued by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) about Steven Uselton, who worked in its Long Beach office:

In Memory: Steve Uselton 1966-2010

Steve Uselton, longtime state agency waste management professional, died unexpectedly in a tragic car accident Dec. 18 that also killed his teenage son. Steve was a loyal employee of the California Integrated Waste Board since 1990, and continued his work with the same co-workers and stakeholders in the newly formed Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) in 2010.

Beloved and respected within the Board and CalRecycle, Steve began as a landfill inspector, and throughout the years, made many significant contributions in helping local jurisdictions and industry divert and reduce waste under the mandate of AB 939 (the Integrated Waste Management Act). He lent his professional expertise to create new programs, such as the School Diversion Program in Southern California, helped local government and industry understand and implement a new disposal measurement system, and worked tirelessly to support communities in expanding diversion programs. Most recently, Steve served as the Branch Manager for the southern California office of Local Assistance and Market Development.

"Steve was a real leader in the true sense of the word and the heart and soul of our Southern California branch. He stood strong in carrying forward the goals of CalRecycle and in understanding the needs and challenges of stakeholders," said CalRecycle Director Margo Reid Brown. "Steve was a wonderful colleague, friend, and devoted father. We will miss him so very greatly."

Steve was as highly regarded by local government and industry professionals as he was within his own department. He took time to listen and understand his own employees, as well as the perspective of stakeholders in the solid waste industry. He was truly a fair and knowledgeable resource for anyone seeking his expert opinion. After any meeting, Steve gave a handshake and a smile to let the parties know that he was on their side and that they would be moving forward together.
Steve made his staff a priority, offering support, guidance and mentoring, while considering personal and professional needs. Steve was the first to volunteer, at work and in his personal life, to offer help wherever it was needed. No matter what he was working on, his face would light up with a smile when somebody stopped by to seek his opinion or just to chat.
Steve was a devoted husband and father and was incredibly proud of all of the accomplishments of his wife, son and daughter. He made a point to attend school activities, and was on his way to one of his son's events when the terrible accident occurred. Steve and his family enjoyed camping and sports activities, and were highly regarded in the community for their involvement in many activities.

Steve is survived by his wife, Desiree and daughter, Erin. His son, Douglas, a senior at Oxford Academy in Cypress, California, was also killed in the accident. Steve will be deeply missed by all of his friends and co-workers at CalRecycle.

Memorial services are being planned for early next week. CalRecycle is also planning a celebration of Steve's life, to be held in Southern California in mid-January.

Donations for the family can be sent through the Oxford Academy fund:
Oxford Academy Boosters Inc.
Douglas Uselton Memorial Fund
5172 Orange Avenue
Cypress, CA 90630

Contact the writer:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In light of our bubble’s deflation, perhaps it’s time to rethink how we’ve been generating our wealth.

For the last fifty years, of course, we have doing so by purchasing Stuff, lots and lots of Stuff:

Stuff for the home; Stuff for work; Stuff for the car; Stuff for yourself; Stuff for your mother, your father, your wife, your husband; Stuff for the dog; Stuff for the lawn; Stuff to make you look like you are 26 years old; Stuff to demonstrate your importance and let you feel good about yourself;  Stuff you just can’t resist; Stuff to eat and eat and eat and eat; Stuff to be seen with and Stuff to use in private; Stuff that looks way cool;  Stuff you can throw out and replace with Stuff twice as neat; Stuff you put on the back porch and now can’t remember how to use; Stuff that gives you an erection that might last for more than four hours, in which case you should call your doctor or go straight to the emergency room; Stuff that famous people talk about; Stuff that brings to mind childhood memories or sunsets over the horizon or beautiful women with big breasts riding bicycles; Stuff that proclaims itself to be unlike anything else in the history of humankind; Stuff that will surely make people love you.

And the economics of Stuff has worked.  We’ve spent the last half century consuming our way to the top of the world’s heap and pulling a raft of other nations upward on the strength of our buying binge.  But now, simply put, we can no longer afford to buy enough Stuff to keep all of us afloat.

The first two decades of that half century of Stuff were fueled by an enormous burst of disposable income in the aftermath of World War II and with it, the rise of the pursuit of Stuff as a principal of social organization.  In those days, men supporting a wife and two children could buy enough new Stuff on a single paycheck to make the economy grow.  Then it took both husband’s and wife’s income, then husband and wife working overtime, then husband and wife working overtime plus a line of credit borrowed against all the Stuff they already owned.  Then we woke up one morning in 2008 and there was no value left to borrow against.  So the credit crashed and the edifice of culturally mandatory, often desperate consumption came down on our heads.

“It’s a Ponzi scheme,” Judy exclaimed when I ran into her at the supermarket.  The store was about to fold and everything was marked down. Judy had been a banker before she fled finance for something slower and less hierarchical.  “Our consumption cycle has all the features of a pyramid scam,” she insisted.  “It requires an ever expanding supply of new wealth to keep purchasing the Stuff that drives the economy forward. Eventually that requirement to buy outstrips the resources available to sustain it.  Then constant growth collides with limitations it can’t breach and when it does, people inevitably start falling out the bottom of the economy, just like they are now.  We can’t just buy more as a long term economic strategy.  It won’t cut it.”

I wasn’t up for a lengthy encounter around the subject so I moved on as soon as it was polite to do so.  But Judy started me once again contemplating the End of Stuff.

I soon came up with my five favorite reasons to root for such an outcome:

The dynamic of Stuff has distorted our needs to the point of dysfunction.  Economies were engines of survival before they became engines of wealth.  In those days, need was defined by the stark physical reality of our biological selves.  Since the advent of Stuff, however, need has increasingly serviced our psychological selves, transforming requirements into impulses defined by commercial motives manipulating our emotional confusion.  We are left with little idea of what we really need and what we don’t really need, and that inability cripples our capacity to adjust to the new reality.

The manufacture of Stuff is a cavalier use of diminishing resources. Our Stuff syndrome is a remnant of when the world seemed endlessly bountiful and we had plenty to spare.  That is no longer so.  Instead, all the readily available materials of the Industrial Age are being exhausted at a steady pace and we desperately need to make collective decisions to husband what remains.  You can’t do that and chase endless Stuff at the same time.

The sociology of Stuff has warped our culture. We are now a people linked together in a communal identity that is largely shaped by advertisements engineered to get us to purchase maximum Stuff.  Thirty second television spots teach most of us who we are and who we ought to be as well as what to buy.  The result is a set of self images that bind us to consumption and keep us trapped in a virtual world that is shallow, restrictive, and ultimately manufactured out of whole cloth.

The hegemony of Stuff has set the world on a path that might well destroy it. When Stuff was an American monopoly, it was hard to see the threat it posed.  But now the heretofore “undeveloped” world has begun to Stuff itself, gearing up to consume in force.  And when they do, not only will materials disappear or inflate in cost, but millions more tons of carbon will be added to the atmosphere, compounding our planetary climate dilemmas, perhaps beyond relief.

And finally, our addiction to Stuff has promoted values that fall far short of what the situation requires.  Implicit in making consumption a national commandment has been the nurturing of materialism and obsession—attributes of our lesser selves.  If we are to rise to our better selves, as the approaching transformation requires, our reliance on Stuff will be an anchor tied to our feet. We need to value making more out of less, not making less and less out of more and more.


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Posted via email from eWaste Disposal and Recycling

Monday, December 20, 2010

Going With the Grain – Surfer’s Path Article

The folks at Grain Surfboards are involved in an ecosystem of thought and action.
by Hef Martin (reprinted with permission of Surfer’s Path)

The metallic brown commuter jet began her descent to the New England coastline. Below, thick black river water twisted liberally and without intent amidst dense forests of peeling birch, Adirondack pine, curly white cedar, and crimson oak. Few towns, houses, or barns dare encroach on these northernmost stretches of the Appalachian Mountain range along which we now skidded. I folded an old Stephen King novel under the tuck of my peacoat pocket, slugged down the soupy dregs of my Irish coffee, and made to set heel to tarmac.

Portland International Jetport hosts 10 gates and stretches for maybe, generously, 150 yards. As a faded red windsock danced listlessly against a hemlock backdrop, half a dozen passengers and I embraced the bewildering smell of ocean and the unnatural silence on the runway. The most obtrusive element was the thick fog licking in off the Atlantic. Seagulls squakwed overhead; I could hear them crisply now without the engine growl and customary annoying sounds of an ‘international jetport’.

But the silence gave me vertigo. I felt off-balance. I went wall-eyed from confusion. Was this a dream? A different dimension? Was I back on that grass runway swath cut into the Bolivian Amazonian basin? I glanced back at the plane to see if it was a South American military envoy. No. I checked my pockets for remnants of coca and scribbled antics on cigarette rolling papers. None. Is this really America? How come I don’t feel a bleak and repressive malaise? Where are the fat people?

As I pondered my new place of being on this planet I watched an older gentleman welcome his family back to the Northeast. He wore a straw barbershop-quartet hat with a gray-and-navy Sunday suit, all highlighted with a bowlined red tie. The family seemed to be a father, uncle, and son. All groomed their facial hair in the same style as Kevin Costner, and when they noticed my neckbeard, they all grimaced like they were sniffing cheesy feet. All four of us forced smiles.

Portland proper is the focal burg of Southern Maine, but there didn’t seem to be any structures taller than four stories. The place is boatyards and lighthouses, connected with cobblestone and sloped antique brick single-lane motorways. Colonial architecture and interesting rooflines of cedar shake blend in with abandoned naval bases in blue blood tradition down the coast, as license plates whisper italically, “Vacationland…”

The smell of cedar
spread a smile wide
upon my face. I cackled
hideously, slurped at
some fire-roasted beans
and swilled moonshine
brew out of a glass jar,
thinking out loud, “This
place is f*cking perfect.

One hour south, I found the Grain Surfboards barn, a shaping, glassing, and boutique wooden surfboards operation situated in the foothills of smoky blue mountains, idyllic pastures of hobby farms, and pacifist communes turned artisan produce markets. The barn is not 20 minutes from a number of decent beachbreaks that swamp the coves, chasms, and open coastline all the way down to the Outer banks of the Carolinas.

I set up camp in the dark, loading resilient tree branches with mini-lanterns, pitching my tent under the starlight with the large north wall of the Grain barn beside me. Tall grass scratched the side of my canvassed domicile, which lay in a graveyard of mechanical skeletons. Trailer chassis and snowmobile hoods grew thick with weeds, cows lowed approvingly from beyond, and the moon shimmered without border, spreading a vagueness cloaked opaquely by wet mist and dewy foreground. The smell of cedar spread a smile wide upon my face. I cackled hideously and slurped at some fire-roasted beans, pausing to swill moonshine brew out of a glass jar, thinking out loud, “This place is fucking perfect.”

Peeling my eyes from my book and donning my flannel jacket, curiosity revealed itself to me. Would I be here right now if Clark foam hadn’t closed its doors and effectively changed the surfing industry on December 5, 2005? Would the general niceties and hopeful vagaries of surfing culture exist without companies like Grain? I doubt I would find this lasting peacefulness outside of a pop-out factory in Malaysia. Excited to meet the people beyond the name of the company, I clicked off my headlamp to get some sleep.

Above: Brad Anderson and Mike LaVecchia roll home after a Northeastern Seaboard tour with their custom boards.
The grumble and growl of an open throttle startled me awake. It was 7a.m., already hot, and sunny, I was sweating and wanted to barf. I hung my stinky head out of the tent and was greeted by two hoodlums on black motorcycles – a snaggle-toothed man grinning wildly on a hog and a large brute manhandling a decrepit World War II-era military bike and sidecar parked, on the grass adjacent to some unimpressed heffers. They were Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. They were butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the Argentinian altiplano. They had six surfboards strapped to their machinery and had driven through the night from an east Coast demo tour. They were Mike LaVecchia and Brad Anderson, owners and operators of Grain, and immediately I knew we would get along in splendid perversion.

I was still early for the course. Myself and five others were slated for attendance at Grain’s third weeklong surfboard-shaping workshop. The first had been done in collaboration with the Wooden Boatbuilding School of Brooklin, Maine; the second was held at their shop, just as ours would be. Neither Mike nor Brad showed any sort of hesitation in welcoming me to the barn and allowing me to put my hands to work. I was chomping at the bit to wrap my knuckles around machinery and make a surfboard. Japanese saw or a jack plane, I came to mow wood. After a few hours Mike, friends, and I went out to test some different products and prototypes at Long Sands beach.

I am already a devout participant and chronicler of riding the wood variety of surfboards. I don’t think I could ever go back to foam, carbon fiber, epoxy-skinned, or kevlar boards. Squishy fun, they belong in Air Mall catalogs, right in between laser-guided electronic dog leashes and solar-paneled home-theatre cotton-candy dispensers – tacky, misguided relics that only made mass production and the overcrowding of surf lineups possible.

On the other hand, there are many talented riders and shapers out there who helped the sport progress through innovation due to the mass availability, forgiveness, and easy workability of foam. Many feel that they are right to lament the mysterious closure of Clark foam. But when examined in critical light, those blanks were soft, disposable, nonbiodegradable, overgrown boogie boards. Foam toys.

Wood has been used as the central tenet of surfboard construction for thousands of years. It is one of the basic proteins of our sport. So it is quite natural that some of Grain’s experimental projects have been focused on the recreation of ancient Hawaiian designs. In fact, Grain’s entire line is constructed using the same basic logic that waterman and surfboard visionary Tom Blake employed when he began building hollow wooden boards in Hawaii in the 1920s. Correspondingly, each product I was privy to rode with the grace and royalty of its ancestors. Long glide and infallible craftsmanship.

As they explained during our third day together, Brad and Mike both came to this job earnestly. LaVecchia was heavily involved with Burton Snowboards for a dozen years, when it was going through its ‘hoo-ha’ era as a change agent for the wintersports industry. He moved on to his predominant passion shortly thereafter, testing to become a US Coast Guard licensed captain, while operating and captaining the construction of large wooden sailing vessels. His collective knowledge shines through as a problem-solver, carpenter, designer, and benevolent owner.

Grain has managed to create, without external financial backing, a forum
for innovation, where people, ideas, and talents collide with dangerous
implications … an ecosystem of thought and action.

Brad has been a keen waterman for decades, sailing the globe and working in marine construction and carpentry since his teens. He and his lens-jockey girlfriend, Alex, have been winter caretakers of two islands – totally off the grid and off the New Hampshire coast – for the past 11 years. Brad has worked in numerous nonprofits; he says he nearly expatriated when Bush was re-elected. He had moved back from Scotland with a plan for real, definable positive change when LaVecchia and him were introduced.

Brad and Mike move with uncanny deliberation and reverent knowledge through woodshop or sea. Generous, hilarious, and full of terrific stories, they and their crew connect with the people around them. They openly share a personal, political, social, and environmental ethos that is transmitted throughout all aspects of the Grain operation.

I have a dossier of observations that would make any farmer John Canadian rightfully proud of this American company, but I’ll spare you the onslaught of a litany on their products, because it is peripheral to what amazed me most about their operation (and you’ve read it before): limiting electricity, using hand tools, eliminating waste, planting cedars, using low-VOC epoxy, using local and sustainable-yield wood sources.

Before I continue on in worship from a seemingly totally biased perspective, let me announce that I personally sell wood boards for a different company and consider Grain something of a lead competitor. So when I tell you that they seem like the kind of people to cut down their trees with axes and drag them out of the forest by oxen, I mean that they literally are the Paul fucking Bunyon of the surf industry. And they hold the affirmative power to let the cleancut, cold face of enterprise grow a big, ginger beard.

Grain’s greatest asset (and what impressed me the most) were the people making it work so naturally: John, the tobacco-spitting Colorado native and his two young skateboarding boys; Molly and her phenomenal vegetarian dishes; operations experts Sarah and Josh, Jill and Jack of all trades. Everyone had a symbiotic place in the embryonic consortium.

Grain has managed to create, without external financial backing, a forum for innovation, where people, ideas, and talents collide with dangerous implications. They are successfully bringing cedar-strip, canoe-style hand-crafted surfboards to the forefront of our industry. The people of Grain Surfboards are involved in an ecosystem of thought and action. The term is used too often (but not often enough correctly), but what Grain is set out to do is wholly ‘organic’ in design.

On our last evening we enjoyed a starlit and wine-soaked lobster dinner, as former employees and friends and families and farmers all came out in support of the Grain crew and of us, for our support of them. This is an experience I can’t recommend highly enough.

And so, rooted deeply in northeastern maritime heritage, I have taken one sapling away with me. I’ll feed her reeling pointbreak after pointbreak, spreading the seed of cedar, adventure, and knowledge for decades to come.

When I’m a gruff old man with a smile that smells of aluminum and gin, gliding on a wave at Jordan river on a wood board I built four decades earlier, I will proudly think that I was there that summer in 2008, in that movement that pulled the surf industry out of its narrow focus on destructible, polluting, and foul foam thrusters.

Jeff (aka Hef) Martin is a 24-year-old carpenter and freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada. He would like to thank his friends and family for helping to send him to the Grain workshop, saying,
“It was the most thoughtful thing that anyone has ever done for someone in the history of the planet.”
Original Surfer’s Path article

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Electronics are Recycled

So you’ve just returned from an electronic waste recycling event after unloading your old computers, cell phones and televisions. But what happens next to ensure that these products avoid the landfill?

While some products, such as aluminum cans, do not require sorting or separation, e-waste is not composed of just one material. Electronic devices are constructed with many different materials, so recycling e-waste is a more complex process.

Recycling E-Waste
To understand the e-waste recycling process, it’s important to understand that e-waste recyclers are interested in both saving these devices from landfills as well as getting the most value out of these materials. Electronics such as computers and televisions are made with some valuable metals, including copper and gold, which can be sold and then reused in alternative capacities.

From an environmental standpoint, the fact that these items are reused is far more important than any monetary benefits of recovering these valuable materials. However, e-waste recyclers are also recycling and reusing materials that aren’t nearly as valuable.

In general, as much as 99 percent of all materials from electronics are reused in a different capacity or sold. The vast majority of these materials are used for new electronic items because some of the material, such as the plastic, is already the right grade for electronic devices.

The material from electronics can be used for other products, such as plastic components that are used in the manufacturing of lighters or wood composites.

Putting the Waste in E-Waste
If 99 percent of the material is recycled, that still leaves a small percentage that will end up in the landfill because it has no reuse value. So what materials fall into this category?

One example of this waste is wood paneling, such as on some of the older models of television sets. If you are looking to recycle an item like this, recycling is still a great option, as 1 percent of waste is better than 100 percent. Today, many of the televisions and other electronics in circulation do not have wood paneling on the front. In fact, wood paneling is not even listed on Panasonic’s page on the components of a television.

Hazardous Waste Disposal
The other big issue regarding e-waste recycling is the end result for its hazardous materials, including mercury. While e-waste only accounts for two percent of the U.S.’ garbage in landfills, it accounts for 70 percent of overall toxic garbage.

For e-waste recyclers, removing toxic materials is just as important as removing the most valuable materials, like gold and copper. For example, to remove the lead in computer monitor glass, the glass is placed in a furnace where the lead can be taken out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cancun delegates reach climate change deal


Cancun, Mexico (CNN) -- Delegates at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, approved an agreement early Saturday morning despite objections from Bolivia, whose government claimed rich nations "bullied and cajoled" other countries into accepting a deal on their terms.

Protesting the overrule of its country's vote, Bolivia's Foreign Ministry called the Cancun text "hollow" and ineffective in a written statement.

"Its cost will be measured in human lives. History will judge harshly," the statement said, adding that developing nations will face the worst consequences of climate change.

The agreement includes plans to create a $100 billion fund to help developing nations deal with global warming and increase efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon hailed the deal -- the culmination of an overnight marathon session at the end of two weeks of talks.

"It begins a new era of cooperation in climate change. They are the first steps in this long and renewed campaign," he said.

Christiana Figueres, the UN's chief negotiator at the conference, said the results had "reignited" hope in climate change talks.

"Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all," she said in a statement.

But Bolivia said Saturday's agreement did not go far enough.

A key sticking point was the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and sets greenhouse gas emissions targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union.

"For us, this is not a step forward. It is a step back, because what is being done here is postponing without limit the discussion on the Kyoto Protocol," Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon told delegates early Saturday.

The agreement does not specify what will happen once the Kyoto Protocol expires, postponing the debate until the next scheduled climate talks in South Africa in 2011.

But despite Bolivia's objections, Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who chaired the summit, said a decision had been reached and swiftly banged her gavel, saying the text had been approved.

"It is less than what is needed, but it represents a significant step in the right direction," Calderon told delegates.

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet and Mario Gonzalez contributed to this report

Posted via email from eWaste Disposal and Recycling

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sperm Whales Full of Pollutants

By Jennifer Viegas
  • Pacific Ocean sperm whales carry evidence of exposure to several man-made pollutants.
  • Evidence for the highest pollutant exposure was detected in sperm whales from the Galapagos Islands area.
  • Sperm whales may be important sentinels of ocean health, including specific ocean regions.
sperm whale

A sperm whale underwater. Research shows these mammals carry high levels of man-made pollutants in their bodies. Click to enlarge this image.
Chris Johnson, Ocean Alliance

Sperm whales throughout the Pacific Ocean carry evidence within their bodies of exposure to multiple man-made pollutants, according to a new Environmental Health Perspectives study.

In a surprising finding, researchers found that whales living near the Galapagos Islands appear to have higher levels of pollutants than those in other areas of the Pacific. The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO-protected site and had been considered pristine.

The pollutants include the pesticide DDT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's, which can also have natural sources, such as volcanoes), hexachlorobenzene, and 30 types of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's).

"Ingestion is the main route of exposure for whales, via contaminants present in their diet," study co-author Celine Godard-Codding said, adding that absorption through skin, such as after an oil spill, is another significant route of exposure.

She and her colleagues biopsied skin and blubber from 234 male and female sperm whales in five locations across the Pacific: the Gulf of California, Mexico; the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Pacific waters between the Galapagos Islands and Kiribati (Pacific Crossing); Kiribati; and Papua New Guinea.

The scientists analyzed the tissue samples for expression of CYP1A1, an enzyme that metabolizes certain aromatic hydrocarbons. According to the researchers, the more a whale has been exposed to the pollutants mentioned in the study, the more it will express this enzyme.

CYP1A1 presence was highest in whales from the Galapagos Islands, second highest in those from the Gulf of California, and lowest in whales from waters farthest from the continents (Kiribati and Pacific Crossing.)


"We were surprised by the highest levels of the CYP1A1 biomarker seen in the Galapagos," Godard-Codding told Discovery News. "Whether this actually reflects higher levels of pollutants in the Galapagos waters, or in the food chain in these waters, remains unknown."

She explained that the studied pollutants "are mainly man-made" and "end up in the oceans upon release into the environment."

"The oceans are considered the final sink for most persistent environmental contaminants," she said. "It's a global pollution issue with pollutants potentially distributed worldwide by atmospheric or oceanic currents."

Godard-Codding and her team were not able to do a detailed study on the health of the biopsied whales, since the whales were in the wild. Prior research on laboratory animals, including captive aquatic carnivorous mammals, has shown that the pollutants "can cause deleterious effects," she said.

For years, scientists have suspected that sperm whales are likely to accumulate fat-soluble pollutants because the whales are massive -- weighing up to 50 tons -- and can live up to 70 years. This makes them potentially more susceptible to chronic toxic exposure.

Given the present findings, it's now thought that sperm whales may be important sentinels of ocean health, revealing what organic pollutants persist in the marine environment. They may also provide information on specific regions of the Pacific, especially because females and juveniles tend to stay within a 621-mile range.

Sierra Rayne of the University of Victoria and colleagues conducted earlier research on free-ranging orcas, also known as killer whales, and found evidence that they too retain pollutants. In this case, chemical markers for flame retardant compounds were detected in killer whale blubber biopsy samples.

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Nontoxic Nanotech Uses Cinnamon


A dash of spice makes everything nice, including nanotechnology. Scientists at the University of Missouri have a way to make gold nanoparticles using cinnamon instead of toxic chemicals.

Nanotech has all kinds of potential, including as a tool to fight cancer. Small particles -- ones that are much, much smaller than a human cell -- can do what chemicals can't. Gold, in combination with active chemicals, turns out to be ideal for targeted cancer treatment and detection. The problem is that making gold nanoparticles involves toxic chemicals.

A University of Missouri team led by radiology and physics professor Kattesh Katti developed a greener alternative. The researchers took cinnamon, mixed it with gold salts in water and successfully produced gold nanoparticles. Sounds kind of like alchemy at first glance, but the scientists found that cinnamon and other kinds of plants contain naturally occurring chemical compounds called phytochemicals.

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Here I was thinking the spice was great for mulled wine, when it turns out to be great at converting metals into nanoparticles. Katti told the university that their ecologically benign nanoparticles "are biologically active against cancer cells."

To study the cinnamon process, the team tested the nanoparticles on mice. They found that cancerous cells took up significant amounts of the nanoparticles, which were then detected with photoacoustic signals. The scientists published their findings in the journal Pharmaceutical Research (abstract) this fall, concluding that their nanoparticles "may provide a novel approach toward tumor detection through nanopharmaceuticals."

I've been as excited about nanotechnology as I have been wary of its potential detrimental effect on the environment. My concern is that we'll be creating more problems in the process of addressing the ones we already have. If Katti and his team can develop their plant-based nanoparticles into a viable option for cancer treatment and detection, they deserve a celebratory cake. A spicy one.

Photo: Cinnamon is the key ingredient for making gold nanoparticles nontoxically. Credit: S. Diddy.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Fake Recyclers Profit Off E-Waste

Recycling your electronic waste is a noble idea, but here's the dirty little secret: even if you drop off your old electronics for recycling, it may never get recycled.

As OSNews' Howard Fosdick describes some people fall victim to a scam called "fake recycling," and just describing it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Fake recyclers are organizations that approach well-meaning community groups like the Boy Scouts or the Make-a-Wish Foundation to help run a local "Recycling Day." The idea is that people from the community will bring in their old electronics to the legitimate organization's Recycling Day event. The fake recycler will then haul that e-waste away, and export it to another country with lax environmental regulations.

What's in it for them? According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, "Recyclers can make more money by exporting than they can by actually responsibly recycling. This is particularly true for recyclers who are collecting televisions, because it costs money to properly recycle old televisions. But they can get paid for exporting them."

This story from the Basel Action Network details how Cartoosa, OK-based company, EarthEcycle allegedly conned the Humane Society and several other groups into running a "Recycle Day" Event, and then exported the goods to Hong Kong and South Africa. Last year, the EPA filed charges (download EarthECycle complaint) against the company for violating at least seven federal hazardous waste management regulation.

The EPA found other companies located in the state of Washington and Texas as well as in New Jersey illegally disposing of electronic waste.

Most people have never heard of a fake recycling organization like EarthEcycle, but plenty of people know all about the Boy Scouts or the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And that's exactly why fake recycler organizations need the help of legitimate groups, which lend the good name and publicity to the event.

The crazy thing is that none of this is illegal, but it's definitely destroying the environment. Here are a few tips from Electronics Takeback Coalition to keep a lookout for fake recyclers to make sure that you (or a group you represent) don't get scammed.

First off, remember that responsibly recycling an item is not free, especially when it comes to electronics. If it's not you forking over the cash to recycle an old computer, find out who is. Some electronics companies now take your old electronics back when you buy a new one, as are some state and local governments.

If you really want to do right by the environment, seek out an e-waste recycler on your own. You can find plenty of them on e-Stewards. There are also eclectic groups like FreeGeek Chicago that refurbish your old computers for people who can't afford their own.

Both of those options sound a lot better than letting your old computer sink into a landfill.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Josh found Egg Nogg! After 35 years

The Story of Electronics’ By The Story of Stuff Project

The Story of Stuff Project has released a new animated movie, The Story of Electronics. Hosted by Annie Leonard, the creator of the hit viral video The Story of Stuff, the film takes on the electronics industry and e-Waste. The movie champions product take back to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products.

The movie is co-produced with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition – a national partnership of over 30 environmental and public health organizations—and Free Range Studios.

Last year, the Story of Cap and Trade, from the makers of “The Story of Stuff,” got mixed reviews from the media.

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‘The Story of Electronics’ By The Story of Stuff Project

The Story of Stuff Project has released a new animated movie, The Story of Electronics. Hosted by Annie Leonard, the creator of the hit viral video The Story of Stuff, the film takes on the electronics industry and e-Waste. The movie champions product take back to spur companies to make less toxic, more easily recyclable and longer lasting products.

The movie is co-produced with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition – a national partnership of over 30 environmental and public health organizations—and Free Range Studios.

Last year, the Story of Cap and Trade, from the makers of “The Story of Stuff,” got mixed reviews from the media.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Green Ideas That Made Millions

As more and more Americans go green, environmentally sustainable innovations are translating into big bucks for entrepreneurs.

Sure, going green feels great, but these five eco trailblazers are living proof that green business can also mean money in the bank, not to mention a lighter footprint for all.

Green moving with Spencer Brown

Five years ago, product designer Spencer Brown was stunned after spending more than $800 on cardboard boxes and packing material to move his home office. After the move was finished, he was stuck with nothing but a pile of trash.

After being turned away from a recycling center because there was too much packing tape on his boxes, Brown was forced to drive to the landfill and toss his moving waste onto one of the many 40-foot piles of cardboard.

Through this shocking experience came Rent-a-Green Box, a zero-waste pack and move solution that is taking the nation by storm.

Brown’s ‘green’ boxes, called RecoPacks, are made of 100 percent post-consumer plastics and can be reused up to 400 times.

Rent-a-Green Box also distributes several other post-consumer moving necessities, including zip-ties made from bottle-caps and dollies made from aluminum cans.

Rent-a-Green Box rents, delivers and picks up the RecoPacks, which are now available in three sizes and four colors, and the company that once employed only Brown has gained international distribution and has recently begun franchising.

“If someone told me five years ago that I was going to own a franchise training facility, I would have laughed,” Brown says. “No one thought the idea of renting a green box would work, but I knew that people would love a convenient, cheaper and better way to move their stuff.”

Lyndon and Peter Rive bring solar to the city

SolarCity makes solar power accessible to everyone by eliminating up-front cost through a leasing system. Photo: SolarCity

South Africa-born brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive knew they wanted to get into green business, but they wanted to choose the application that would make the greatest impact. Once they zoned in on solar power, there was no turning back.

They launched SolarCity in 2006, and immediately set out on their mission to make solar power accessible to everyone by eliminating up-front cost through a leasing system.

The Foster City, Calif. company has made a huge splash, expanding to five states and installing more than 8,000 systems in four years. To put that in perspective, only 75,000 systems have been deployed in the entire United States over the past 30 years, the brothers say.

With so many solar panels already installed, it’s time for a break, right? No way. The Rive brothers hope to install more than a million solar systems and have plans to expand SolarCity to the East Coast by 2011.

“At the current rate of adoption we’re not going to move the environmental needle,” says Lyndon Rive. “If we want to make an environmental impact, we have to do this fast. So, we want to keep expanding and bringing affordable solar power to even more people.”

Kyle Berner and his all-natural ‘feel good’ flip-flops

After returning to the states from a one-year backpacking adventure in Thailand, recent college grad Kyle Berner knew he wanted to stay connected to the country. While he was visiting Bangkok for a wedding in 2007, fate stepped in – literally.

Feelgoodz operates its business through the triple bottom-line model of People, Planet, Profit. Photo: Kyle Berner

As Berner was crossing a busy Bangkok market, the strap of his flip-flop broke. His search for a new pair brought him to a vendor with a rubber tree display and a curiously comfortable flip-flop.

“When the vendor told me they were made from rubber trees, I was amazed, and I immediately tracked down the manufacturer and set up a meeting with them,” Berner remembers. “The next thing you know, I secured the exclusive distribution agreements for these flip-flops to be sold in America.”

Rights secured, Berner returned to his hometown of New Orleans, La. and started Feelgoodz in 2008 out of a shed in his parents’ back yard.

The company has since moved out of mom and dad’s house and has grown exponentially, selling more than 50,000 pairs of flip-flops in more than 200 retail locations in its first year.

The cradle-to-cradle business model of Feelgoodz ensures that the Thai rubber farmers harvesting the flip-flop’s natural material are paid fair wages and that disposal is sustainable through a grassroots recycling program that recycles any brand of flip-flop.

Feelgoodz also hopes to expand its recycling program in partnership with Soles 4 Souls and plans to launch a new sub-brand of boutique items made by Kenyan craftsmen from recycled foot-ware.

“There’s no end to this flip-flop,” says Berner. “We’re just going to keep running with it.”

Margarita McClure turns diapers into dollars

New mom Margarita McClure hardly had visions of grandeur when she began sewing cloth diapers for her son in 2005. When her husband suggested she turn her diaper designs into a business, McClure decided to give it a try.

Margarita McClure is out to clean up the mess the 27.4 billion disposable diapers leave behind annually. Photo: Margarita McClure

She sewed about a dozen diapers and put them up on eBay to gauge interest. When the first diaper sold for $26, McClure realized she had found something special.

After launching a website and finding an American sewing contractor, Swaddlebees was born.

“At first I thought I could sell a few hundred diapers per month and justify staying home with my son,” says McClure. “In the first month, we sold 2,000 diapers.”

The Knoxville, Tenn. company now sells its nontoxic and reusable diapers in more than 100 retailers, and although McClure has been approached by big-name retailers such as Walmart and Target, she prefers to sell her diapers in stores and baby boutiques owned by entrepreneurial moms like her.

“Over the years, I realized that we’re not just selling diapers,” McClure says. “We’re actually helping other women create revenues for themselves, and we’re helping other moms stay home to watch their babies by selling diapers.”

With Swaddlebees booming, McClure has also launched Blueberry Diapers, a fun and funky diaper line sure to please even the chicest eco-baby, and Pink Daisy, a premium line of reusable feminine hygiene products.

Eric Hudson’s passion for toothbrushes

Eric Hudson had an idea to redesign the toothbrush since he was a teenager, and when he coupled it with a desire to make a quality product out of recycled materials, there was no stopping him.

Preserve products are made from 100 percent recycled plastics and 100 percent post-consumer paper. By using recycled materials, saving energy, preserving natural resources and creating an incentive for communities to recycle. Photo: Eric Hudson

Hudson left his job as a management consultant to launch Preserve (aka Recycline) and take it straight to retail stores.

Preserve has since expanded to a full line of razors, kitchenware and food storage, all made from 100 percent recycled material.

Through Preserve’s take-back program customers can return Preserve toothbrushes and razors, which are reused to make park benches or porch decks through its Plastic Lumber program.

The company also recycles more than 100,000 pounds of plastics #5 every year through its Gimme 5 program and turns the plastic waste into kitchenware.

The total waste Preserve converts into personal care products and kitchenware each year is almost 10 times that, and Hudson partners with about five companies to secure the 1 million pounds of pre and post-consumer recycled plastic he needs annually to produce Preserve products.

Since launching in 1996, Preserve has seen a steady growth of about 50 percent per year, on average. Not too shabby for a company with a former staff of one.

“Ultimately we think we can be a global brand,” says Hudson. “It’s exciting to be where we are now, and it’s a real testament that people out there have an interest in products that reduce human impact on the earth.”

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Cadmium, lead found in drinking glasses

LOS ANGELES – Drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" exceed federal limits for lead in children's products by up to 1,000 times, according to laboratory testing commissioned by The Associated Press.

The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets — made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank — contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children's products is 0.03 percent.

The same glasses also contained relatively high levels of the even-more-dangerous cadmium, though there are no federal limits on that toxic metal in design surfaces.

In separate testing to recreate regular handling, other glasses shed small but notable amounts of lead or cadmium from their decorations. Federal regulators have worried that toxic metals rubbing onto children's hands can get into their mouths. Among the brands on those glasses: Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Burger King and McDonald's.

The Coca-Cola Co., which had been given AP's test results last week, announced Sunday evening that after retesting it was voluntarily recalling 88,000 glasses over concerns regarding the mainly red glass in a four-glass set.

The AP testing was part of the news organization's ongoing investigation into dangerous metals in children's products and was conducted in response to a recall by McDonald's of 12 million glasses this summer because cadmium escaped from designs depicting four characters in the latest "Shrek" movie.

The New Jersey manufacturer of those glasses said in June that the products were made according to standard industry practices, which includes the routine use of cadmium to create red and similar colors. That same company, French-owned Arc International, made the glasses that Coca-Cola said it was pulling.

To assess potential problems with glass collectibles beyond the "Shrek" set, AP bought and analyzed new glasses off the shelf, and old ones from online auctions, thrift shops and a flea market. The buys were random.

The fact it was so easy to find glasses that appeal to kids and appear to violate the federal lead law suggests that contamination in glassware is wider than one McDonald's promotion.

The irony of the latest findings is that AP's original investigation in January revealed that some Chinese manufacturers were substituting cadmium for banned lead in children's jewelry; that finding eventually led to the McDonald's-Shrek recall; now, because of the new testing primarily for cadmium in other glassware, lead is back in the spotlight as well.

AP's testing, conducted by ToyTestingLab of Rhode Island, found that the enamel used to color the Tin Man had the highest lead levels, at 1,006 times the federal limit for children's products. Every Oz and superhero glass tested exceeded the government limit: The Lion by 827 times and Dorothy by 770 times; Wonder Woman by 533 times, Superman by 617 times, Batman by 750 times and the Green Lantern by 677 times.

Federal regulators will decide whether the superhero and Oz glasses are "children's products" and thus subject to strict lead limits; if U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission staffers conclude the glasses to fall outside that definition, the lead levels would be legal.

Judging by the agency's own analysis, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act, the Oz and superhero glasses appeal to kids.

"Licensed characters based on action superhero themes or friendship themes are very popular" with children ages 6 to 8, CPSC staff wrote when explaining why the "Shrek" glasses, which featured the cartoon ogre and his friends, would end up in children's hands.

Warner Brothers said, "It is generally understood that the primary consumer for these products is an adult, usually a collector."

However, on Warner Brothers' website, the superhero glasses are sold alongside kids' T-shirts with similar images and a school lunch box. An online retailer,, describes the 10-ounce glasses as "a perfect way to serve cold drinks to your children or guests."

The importer, Utah-based Vandor LLC, said it "markets its products to adult collectors." The company said less than 10,000 of each set had been sold and that the products were made under contract in China.

The company said that superhero and "Oz" glasses both passed testing done for Vandor by a CPSC-accredited lab, including the same lead content test that ToyTestingLab did for AP — a test only required of children's products. Spokeswoman Meryl Rader did not answer when asked why a test specific to children's products would be performed on glasses the company said were not intended for kids.

"The results were well within the legal limits" of 0.03 percent lead, Rader wrote in an e-mail. The company would not share those results.

Informed in general terms of AP's results, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said that the agency would pursue action against any high-lead glasses determined to be children's products. The agency has authority to enforce lead levels for glasses going back decades, he said.

AP's testing showed Vandor's Chinese manufacturer also relied on cadmium. That toxic metal comprised up to 2.5 percent of the decorative surface of the Oz and superhero glasses, nearly double the levels found in the recalled "Shrek" glasses. But the CPSC only limits how much cadmium escapes from the designs, not how much cadmium the designs contain. Even that regulation is new: The CPSC used the "Shrek" glasses to establish a standard for how much cadmium coming out of children's glassware creates a health hazard.

Five of the glasses that AP tested, including one ordered from the online Coca-Cola store, shed at least as much cadmium as the CPSC found on the "Shrek" glasses. While those five could have been deemed a health hazard under the CPSC guidelines used for the recall, recent revisions tripled the allowable amount of cadmium and the agency may no longer consider them a problem. The agency has said its upward revision means the "Shrek" glasses did not need to be recalled.


The all-red Coke glass shed three times more cadmium than the Puss in Boots "Shrek" glass that worried federal regulators the most last summer. Coke Zero and Diet Coke glasses from the same set did not exhibit the same problem in AP tests.

In announcing that it was voluntarily recalling 22,000, four-glass sets "for quality reasons," the company said the glass designed to look like a red can of Coca-Cola "did not meet our quality expectations. While recent tests indicated some cadmium in the decoration on the outside of the glass, the low levels detected do not pose a safety hazard or health threat." It said the three other designs in the set — Coke Zero, Diet Coke and Sprite — did not cause concern.

"The Coca-Cola Company has an unwavering commitment to quality, and at times we may withdraw products from the market for quality reasons, even if there is no safety concern or legal requirement to do so," the company said. "We apologize to our consumers for the inconvenience."

The company said consumers who purchased the glasses from Coke's online store will receive an automatic credit; customers who bought the glasses in retail stores will be instructed on what to do starting Nov. 30.

The glasses were "designed for the general adult population," were manufactured in the United States and have been on the market since March, the company said. Last week, Coke said previous testing showed the glasses "complied with all relevant regulations, including with respect to cadmium."

In all, AP scrutinized 13 new glasses and 22 old ones, including glasses sold during McDonald's promotion for a 2007 "Shrek" movie. The used glasses date from the late 1960s to 2007, mostly from promotions at major fast-food restaurants. Thousands of such collectibles are available at online auction sites; countless others are kept in American kitchen cabinets, and used regularly by children and adults.

First, AP screened them using a state-of-the-art Olympus Innov-X gun that shoots X-rays into a glass and delivers an estimate of how much lead, cadmium or various other elements are present.

The glasses were then sent to ToyTestingLab, which is accepted by the CPSC as an accredited laboratory for a range of procedures.

The glasses were tested according to the procedure that the safety commission used in the "Shrek" recall. The decorated surface of each glass was stroked 30 times with water-soaked wipes, with each stroke representing a hand touch. The wipes were then analyzed for how many micrograms of lead, cadmium or other elements they collected.

Finally, for seven of the superhero and Oz glasses the lab extracted samples of the decorations. That colored enamel was analyzed for its total lead content.

"I was extremely surprised at the levels," said Paul Perrotti, ToyTestingLab's director, of the total content test. He said his lab has seen glasses that fail to meet government standards, "But not 30 percent lead."

Despite what Perrotti described as "grossly high" levels, the wipe testing picked up very little lead coming out from these seven glasses. His staff had to use a diamond-tipped grinder to remove the colors, suggesting the enamel was strongly bonded to the glass.

Perrotti and glass engineers interviewed by AP said the surface of the glasses AP tested could break down with repeated use, scouring and trips to the dishwasher, making the metals more accessible.

Following a cascade of problems with products manufactured in China, Congress in 2008 passed strict new limits that effectively ban lead in any children's product. The underlying materials in these products — including the baked-in enamel — cannot be more 0.03 percent lead.

Lead has long been known to reduce IQ in kids; recent research suggests cadmium also can damage young brains. Cadmium also is a carcinogen that can harm kidneys and bones, especially if it accumulates over time.

Cadmium, however, also happens to be an indispensable pigment for an important part of the color palette — without it there is no "fire engine red" (think Superman's cape and Dorothy's slippers). Lead on the other hand is not essential.

A lot of a toxic metal in a glass does not necessarily mean a health hazard. Most of the 35 lab-tested glasses were safe under normal conditions — their decorations shed very low or no detectable amounts of lead or cadmium. Among those that did release higher levels in the wipe test, none gave off nearly enough to make someone immediately sick, according to AP's analysis of the results.

Instead, the concern is low levels of exposure over weeks or months, whether kids also are eating a sandwich or licking their fingers.

In addition to the seven contaminated Oz and superhero glasses, 10 others raised concern over longer-term contact — two for both lead and cadmium, five for lead only and three for cadmium only. According to widely used computer modeling, the contamination that came off three of the glasses could measurably increase a child's blood lead level.

If half of what gets onto a child's hand enters their mouth, as the CPSC calculates, seven of the glasses would require fewer than 20 hand touches for kids age 6 and under to exceed U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for the maximum amount of lead they should ingest in a day.

Most of the 10 additional glasses were released before 2000, including a Disney "Goofy" glass distributed by McDonald's that shed lead and cadmium, and three "Return of the Jedi" glasses from 1983 released by Burger King. One of the "Jedi" glasses hit the FDA lead level for 6-year-olds after just eight touches.

Both fast food chains said in statements that their glasses met applicable safety standards at the time they were manufactured. Disney, which ran several promotions with McDonald's for glassware AP tested, had no comment.

Using computer modeling, nationally recognized toxicologist Dr. Paul Mushak, who has advised government agencies including the CPSC and now operates a consulting practice in North Carolina, concluded that if half of what came off the glasses was ingested, it could raise a 5- to 6-year-old's blood lead level by 11 percent on the high end and 4 percent on average.

The blood level changes didn't alarm Mushak, but he expressed concern because lead from the glasses would be absorbed into the bones, only to be released much later in life, for example in menopausal women.

Mushak suggested that the safety commission's wipe test could underestimate real-world exposure, because it uses water on the wipes, a very mild approach. AP's testing showed that when glasses were subjected to a wipe wetted with artificial sweat, the amounts of lead or cadmium that came off were up to four times higher than water wipes.

Members of the association representing the U.S. glassware industry say the glasses are safe and strongly protest that the wipe test does not accurately reflect how much lead or cadmium escapes in the real world.

Myra Warne, executive director of the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorated Products, said she is frustrated that the CPSC used it, rather than a more commonly used method developed by the FDA.

"As we are aware, government agencies don't always (or perhaps often) share their insight and knowledge with one another which is likely why CPSC and others are fixated on improper test protocol for our products," she wrote in an e-mail.


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll finds

California's Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

"Latinos and Asians are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than whites, and Democrats hold these views more closely," said Peyton Craighill, who supervised the poll.

Beyond that, their feelings reflect a fact of life in California: "Environmental hazards are a part of the everyday lives of Asian American and Latino voters who are disproportionately represented in locations with high levels of pollution and contaminants," said Jane Junn, a professor of political science at USC and research director of the poll.

"While these results may at first seem surprising, this survey by the L.A. Times and USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences allowed voters to answer questions in their native languages — Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean," she added. "And a large number of Asian American and Latino voters were interviewed in order to increase the reliability of the findings."

California has one of the nation's largest concentrations of minorities living near hazardous chemical wastes and air pollution produced by refineries, port operations, freeway traffic and railroads. An analysis of census data by researchers at four universities for the United Church of Christ showed that 1.2 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, 91% of them minorities, live less than two miles from facilities handling hazardous materials such as chrome-plating businesses and battery recycling centers.

Latinos make up 37% of the state's population, Asians are 12.5%, whites are 41.5% and African Americans are 5.8%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African Americans were included in the survey, but the number of people questioned was too low to analyze reliably.

The survey's findings are no surprise to environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the California League of Conservation Voters. The groups' own surveys have shown that Latinos and Asians — two of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the state — share serious concerns about the environment.

These organizations have historically relied mostly on white constituencies for donations and influence in crafting and promoting legislation aimed at protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution.

Now they are aggressively reaching out to ethnically diverse communities to gain financial support and inspire a new generation of environmental stewards. Because these communities are more directly affected by pollution, the strategy makes sense, the groups say.

"We spend the vast majority of our resources in districts that are dominated by, or have substantial, Latino and Asian populations," said David Smallwood, Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters. "Their concerns will help us build broader support for aggressively dealing with global warming."

Dan Taylor, director of public policy for California Audubon, agreed.

"The poll's findings are a clear expression of the direct threat environmental carelessness presents to the health of these families and their communities," he said. "If we are going to get anywhere with an environmental or wildlife-focused agenda we have to partner with the Latino leadership in the Legislature, or we're not going to win. It's that simple."

State Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) suggested that Latinos and Asians are also concerned about environmental issues because "they either came from countries such as Mexico or China where there are serious pollution issues, or they have relatives who did. They don't want neighborhoods in our country to be like the ones they left back home."

Poll respondents who agreed in advance to be interviewed generally supported Mendoza's basic argument.

"It's getting bad out there when it comes to pollution, global warming and clean water," said Elizabeth Olivares, 24, of Stockton. "We are destroying our world little by little. I have a little brother and two nephews and worry about their future."

About 69% of Latino voters and 49% of Asian voters polled said they personally worry a great deal about having enough water to meet future needs, compared with 40% of white voters, the poll found.

Jason Padilla, 26, of Riverside said he was certain that minorities would become increasingly engaged in environmental issues.

"We're stepping up and saying, 'Hey, we live, hike, camp, fish and play here too,' " Padilla said. "We're getting involved to help make changes that are morally and ethically right and benefit everybody."

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HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles