San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants

November 24, 2010

A group of nearly 150 scientists has signed a statement about brominated and chlorinated flame retardants (BFRs and CFRs), essentially asking for some serious thought to be given about whether we really need to be using them the way we are.

BFRs and CFRs have been used in a wide range of products due to their fire retardant properties, including furniture, carpets, automobiles, electrical equipment, insulation, adhesives, appliances, construction materials, paints, and more. Unfortunately they are also highly persistent in the environment, and several of them have been found to be highly toxic. Several of these compounds have been banned; however, these have generally been replaced with other BFRs and CFRs.

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Lead in reusable shopping bags

November 16, 2010

A couple of days ago the Tampa Tribune published a story about tests they had done on reusable shopping bags, showing high levels of lead in some bags; the story has since been picked up by other news outlets. The study claimed that some of the lead levels were as high as 194 parts per million (ppm), which is higher than the amount normally allowed in toys (90 ppm), and in fact may theoretically require further testing before landfill disposal in the US. Should we be worried?

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Libel laws and science

November 11, 2010

free debate

As I discussed a while back, there has been a disturbing trend among quacks and scam artists of launching libel suits against scientists who expose them. Even though the scientists are correct, defending against even a frivolous libel suit is extremely costly and time-consuming, so often this tactic has the result of suppressing the truth. To make matters worse, libel laws in the UK are essentially “guilty until proven innocent”, and lawsuits can be launched in the UK regardless of where the scientist lives or works (internet blogs in particular can be sued in basically any jurisdiction). Today, several science bloggers have been posting messages calling for libel reform, I believe to celebrate the first anniversary of the publication of “Free Speech is Not for Sale”.

A few examples:


DC’s Improbable Science


I would encourage everyone to go to the Libel Reform Campaign website and sign their petition.


Perfluorinated chemical exposure from food wrappers

November 11, 2010
Perfluorinated chemicals, which are organic molecules with several fluoride atoms attached to the carbon chain, have had a fair amount of attention from environmental scientists over the past several years, primarily due to their long persistence in the environment. They’ve been used in a large number of consumer products – probably best known for non-stick coatings such as Teflon, but also used in fabric protectors, paper coatings, lubricants, inks, varnishes, cosmetics and more. Due to concerns about their environmental persistence and transport in the environment (they’re now found in the environment worldwide, including in blood and breast milk samples), the major producers began phasing out production of perfluorooctyl materials (perfluorinated chemicals with 8 carbon atoms), which were the most commonly used perfluorinated compounds. Read the rest of this entry »

Biotechnology debate

November 9, 2010

There’s an online debate at the Economist right now on the use of biotechnology in agriculture. Right now the “against” side are winning the vote (apparently not realizing that we’ve been using biotechnology for around 20,000 years and just about everything we eat is a product of biotechnology).

I’ll be back soon with a more substantive post of my own – hopefully tonight or failing that within the next couple of days.