July 1, 2009
- San Fernando Valley Sierra Club newsletter, May-June, 2006 & July 2009
So You Like that “New Car Smell?” Think again.
(#10 of the Plastic Plague Series)
by Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D.
Your car’s interior is a major source of exposure to two classes of toxic chemicals, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Titled Toxic At Any Speed, the study measured levels of PBDEs (flame retardants) and phthalates (used to soften plastics) in both interior car dust and windshield film samples from cars made by 11 leading auto manufacturers.
These chemicals exude from seat covers, instrument panels, floor coverings and other plastic parts. Studies in lab animals have linked exposure to a variety of health effects, Read the rest of this entry »
February 18, 2009
Surfing might seem like an earth-friendly sport, but a closer look reveals that the environmental impact may be more than you realize. Photo c1967 at Old Man’s Beach, San Clemente, California.
- Orange Coast Voice, Dec. 18, 2009
- Santa Monica Daily Press, May 15, 2009
- Orange Coast Voice blog, April 24, 2009
A Wave of Green Hits Surfing Industry
by Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D.
At first glance, surfing might seem like an inherently earth-friendly sport. Surfers paddle out and catch waves by sheer force of will and muscle. No need for fossil fuel-burning speed boats to get around. And, surfers have a reputation for caring about ocean pollution.
But a closer look reveals that, like most human activities, the environmental impact is far from nil and, consequently, there’s a nascent movement within the surfing industry to clean up it its act.
The bare necessities of surfing are surfboard, wetsuit, good waves and wheels to and fro. The waves are courtesy of Mother Nature, but the choices surfers make to otherwise outfit themselves determine the toll on the environment.
Read the rest of this entry »
June 1, 2008
- Orange Coast Voice, June 2008, page 15
- Southern Sierran, June 2009 as ‘Thinking Outside the Dump: Zero Waste’
- Fullerton Observer, Oct. 2009, page 11, as ‘Zero Waste: Thinking Outside the Dump’
Let’s Get Out of This Dump
by Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D .
Our throw-away habits are making a dump out of our world.
A fond memory from my childhood is of visiting the neighborhood “dump” with my dad to drop off whatever refuse, like old tires, we could not burn in our backyard incinerator.
Nowadays, the local dump has been supplanted by centralized landfills, and major restrictions have been placed on backyard incineration. Our waste stream has been transformed also since the introduction of petroleum-based plastics, single-use disposables, and packaging excess. Too, products once designed for durability and repair have been replaced with flimsier versions intended to be tossed and replaced.
In short, we have become a throw away society. Read the rest of this entry »
May 1, 2008
This article updated August 2009
Appeared in Orange Coast Voice newspaper May 2008, page 11.
Potted Plants Ease Indoor Air Pollution
by Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D.
Australian researchers heeded by Margaret Burchett at the University of Technology have revealed fascinating twists on the potted plant story. Photo courtesy Orange County Voice.
It is a widespread misconception that staying indoors avoids exposure to air pollutants.
Indoor air quality, in fact, is generally worse because contaminants that arise from a vast assortment of consumer products add to the pollution that drifts in from the outside. Given that urban dwellers pass 90% of their time inside, strategies to improve indoor air quality are of interest to nearly everyone.
Indoor Air Chemistry
The chief forms of pollutants generated indoors are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that off-gas primarily from common petroleum-based products. They are impossible to avoid since the sources are nearly endless: furniture, carpeting, paints, varnishes, paint strippers, synthetic building materials, air fresheners, cleaning solutions, toilet bowl deodorizers, personal care products, tobacco smoke, pesticides, and solvents in inks and adhesives.
The number of VOCs is also long – the U.S. EPA indicated that more than 900 had been identified in indoor air in a 1989 Report of Congress. While some pose no known danger to health, others are Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2008
- Southern Sierran as Firefighters Back Ban on Flame Retardants, July 2008, page 2
- Orange Coast Voice as Toxic Flame Retardants: Ubiquitious but toxic BFRs are everywhere, even the Artic, April 2008, page 11
Firefighters Back Banning Controversial Flame Retardant
Sarah S. Mosko, Ph.D.
BFRs are so ubiquitous that they are found in remote areas of the Artic and throughout the food chain, from zooplankton to dolphins and polar bears.
Your TV, mattress, couch and computer could be sources of man-made toxic chemicals building up in human tissues, including breast milk. Sounds crazy, but it’s not.
Many consumer products are imbued with a class of flame retardants considered by many to be bad news since they accumulate in fatty tissues, resist breakdown in the environment, and disrupt normal development in lab animals. They are called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or just brominated flame retardants (BFRs).
Introduced in the 1970’s, BFRs have become commonplace in upholstery foam, textiles and electronics because synthetic materials, like petroleum-based plastics, are generally more flammable. BFRs impede the spread of fire bycreating a layer of bromine gas around a heated product, keeping oxygen at bay. They comprise up to 30% of an item’s weight and migrate out over time into air, dust, and soil. Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2008
Appeared in Orange Coast Voice newspaper February 2008, page 11
The Polystyrene Ban Wagon
Laguna Beach will require biodegradable eating utensils
by Sarah S. Mosko Ph.D.
Foam cups and other food containers made from polystyrene are outlawed in Laguna, a first in Orange County.
“To-go” orders in Laguna Beach soon will have a new look because of a city ordinance passed last month prohibiting restaurants from using any polystyrene (PS) for food service cups and containers . . . an Orange County first.
Polystyrene (PS) is most recognizable in its foamed form (expanded polystyrene or EPS) as hot cups, food clamshells or packaging materials, although non-expanded PS is also made into clear plastic food containers. Restaurants have until July to come up with replacements, e.g. paperboard or a plastic that is biodegradable or easier to recycle.
The Laguna Beach regulation follows on the heels of similar bans enacted recently in Santa Monica, Calabasas, and Malibu and applies to private food vendors as well as city-sponsored events and Read the rest of this entry »