Thursday, February 25, 2010

Books, Not Catching on Fire, and the Blues

Good Morning!

I'm reading the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things written by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie. It was released last year and gives a really good history of the past 50 years of how communities and health advocates have been trying to eliminate toxic chemicals, but if you aren't a chemical reform history buff (yes, i just wrote that) then you might find the scientific experiments that these authors and other advocates perform on themselves more interesting. 

I read this last night while curled up in my bed (aka smallest bed on the planet). Seriously Dutch people are the tallest in the world (or so they say) and the fucking beds are made for little people and really really skinny people. My bed isn't even bigger than my college dorm room bunk bed I had my freshman year.

I read this piece about how flame retardants were discovered. It's interesting! It is!

We humans have been trying to master the chemistry of fire prevention for quite a while now. In ancient Egypt and China, vinegar and alum were painted on wood to increase their fire resistance During the siege of Piraeus by Sulla in 86 B.C.E., alum-soaked wood survived the fires of battle. In 17th century Paris, flame-retardant treatments were pioneered for canvas, and in 1820 French King Louis XVIII commissioned the chemist Gay-Lussac to find better ways of protecting fabrics used in the theatre. Gay-Lussac is generally credited with being the first person to figure out the scientific basis of fire retardancy with his concoction of ammonium salts of sulphuric, hydrochloric and phosphoric acid. At about the same time, bromine was discovered in a French saltwater marsh, and our species' fire fighting was transformed forever.
Bromine -- along with its pros and cons - is what we're really talking about. An element related to chlorine, fluorine and iodine (together called the "halogen" elements), it's a smelly, brownish liquid obtained from saltwater brine deposits. . . The largest bromine reserve in the United States is located in Columbia and Union counties in Arkansas. China's bromine reserves are located in Shandong Province, and Israel's bromine reserves are contained in the waters of the Dead Sea. That's pretty much it for the world's current sources of bromine.
I had no idea!

Here's another interesting bit of info about how brominated flame retardants came to be:
When leaded gasoline began to be phased out in the U.S. in the 1960's, bromine companies needed to dream up new applications for their product, and fast. Great Lakes Chemical Corporation - then the largest supplier of bromine products - decided to us EDB (ethylene dibromide) domestically as a pesticide. This plan ran aground, however, when in 1983 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an "emergency suspension" of all gricultural uses of EDB - the most restrictive measure the EPA can take under the law - because of evidence that EDB was a carcinogen and  a mutagen and was contaminating groundwater supplies in a number of states. . . .
But another  use for bromine grew in the twilight of leaded gasoline: It began to be produced and marketed as a flame retardant. Great Lakes Chemical Corporation built several new flame-retardant plants in the early 1970's and production of BFRs has been increasing ever since. At present more bromine goes into BFR's than any other application - about 40 per cent of global production. . .
It then goes on to talk about the story of getting Tris-BP, a type of highly toxic brominated flame retardant, out of children's pajamas in the mid-1970s. But what I find most interesting is how the chemical industry has continued to defend toxic chemicals in products for children by telling everyone that they are overreacting. Essentially saying that they are the industry and we should just trust them and stop asking so many questions. As I get older this final piece is what makes me the most angry.

I'm a good southern girl. Even as rebellious and independent as I have always been in my life, I for the most part trust people in authority, at least my first reaction is not to disregard what they have to say. They are in that position for a reason, right? They have experience, they are educated, they make a lot of money, they speak like they know what they are talking about. All things that are easy to not question. But as you read through the history of toxic pollution, you start to see the same patterns over and over again. And it's extremely maddening! Because they know that people trust people in authority especially companies we have connections to and the governmental agencies that are set up to protect us.

They say nothing is the matter. They start to blame the people who are asking questions, calling them hysterical, especially if you are a woman. They say it's just a little bit of pollution and there is nothing to worry about. They get angry at you and spread untruths. They admit there is something to be concerned about and they are working on finding a solution. They pull the product off the market. Process starts over with the next chemical. We are in an abusive relationship with polluting companies.

But in Good Things in the World, have you ever heard of Music Maker Relief Foundation? It's an organization dedicated to recording and publishing blues in the deep south. They are amazing! The basis is that the blues are slipping away and we should all pitch in to help preserve this important piece of our country. So they drive around the deep south recording blues musicians, give them 10 cd's of their songs to sell, sell the cd's on their website, and help generate income for these musicians. I try to buy cds or new books for gifts when they come out.

They just released a new documentary following four older blues musicians. You can download it from their website.


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