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Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power Hardcover – September 16, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Americans' confidence in their government-sanctioned environmental and consumer protections receives another blow in investigative reporter Schapiro's exposé, which explores such discomforting information as the 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control tests that found 148 toxic chemicals "in the bodies of 'Americans of all ages.'" The U.S.'s unique tendency to take no action against businesses and their products until a disaster occurs keeps them tied to 1970s standards-"exposed to substances from which increasing numbers of people around the world are being protected"-while "the principle of preventing harm before it happens, even in the face of imperfect scientific certainty," guides an increasing number of countries; by "creating legal and financial incentives," governments in Europe and Japan have kept citizens relatively safe from what contributes to the deaths "of at least 5 million people a year," according to the World Health Organization. Schapiro (co-author, with David Weir, of Circle of Poison: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World) discovers toxins in personal care products, toys, electronics and foods which are, in some cases, manufactured solely for U.S. consumption, and traces them to the people and events responsible. Though a look at growing support for change in the U.S. provides some hope, a guide to action would have been an appropriate addition to Schapiro's prescient muckraking.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Listen up, American business, and save yourselves while you still can. Time and again in his career, journalist Mark Schapiro has been years ahead of the pack in unveiling stories that reveal the emerging global future. This time, Schapiro shows that Europe, by taking the environmental high road, is cleaning America's economic clock (not to mention exposing its people to much less pollution). The markets of the future are green. America will lose them if it doesn't get smart, soon."
-Mark Hertsgaard, author of Earth Odyssey and The Eagle's Shadow
"A compelling wake-up call from deep inside the trenches. Europe is overtaking us in environmental health and safety regulations, while Americans are being sold out by their own government. This story desperately needs to be told, and Mark Schapiro is just the one to tell it."
-David Wirth, Professor of Law and Director of International Programs, Boston College Law School
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So what do we get instead of word from either scientists or ordinary people? Endless quotes from envirocrats - regulatory officials on one side, chamber-of-commerce types on the other, plus consultants and lobbyists and lawyers for both sides. The author's only concern, pounded into us over and over and over and over and over again, is that the US is *losing its policy leadership* to the EU. The human toll hardly gets a nod; it's the economic and geopolitical implications that get this author's dander up. Even as economics, though, the book fails. There are a few vague numbers tossed around, but no properly-sourced charts or graphs to illustrate the magnitude of the economic effects involved. A picture would have been worth ten thousand of these words.
This book could have been the Fast Food Nation of its topic area. Instead it is itself fast food - cheap mental calories, soon forgotten. What a shame.
And they're entirely unnecessary. There are other nontoxic additives to make plastic pliable.
Oh, and one more thing: while perfectly legal in the U.S., phthalates are illegal in the European Union. In fact, as author Schapiro points out, a whole cesspool of toxic additives that are perfectly acceptable in the U.S. have been outlawed in the EU for a long time now. Chinese factories that try to sell phthalate-riddled plastic toys in Europe get their commodities rejected at the borders. Guess where they eventually wind up? Under your kid's Christmas tree. As Schapiro says (p. 189), the U.S. is becoming "a dumping ground or goods not wanted elsewhere in the world."
That the FDA and other governmental agencies are doing a crappy job protecting us from harmful and unnecessary toxins in everyday commodities probably doesn't come as much of a shock to anyone. But Schapiro's speculation about why the EU does such a better job watchdogging its citizens is worth heeding. Health care in the EU is nationalized. The government, using in part taxpayer monies, picks up the tab for taking care of sick and dying people. In this kind of health care environment, you better believe that preventive medicine is a high governmental priority, because neglect today costs more tomorrow. So it's in the interest of the individual EU states, as well as their tax-paying citizens, to make sure that toxins stay out of their countries.
Something to think long and hard about if you live in a country like the U.S. big on deregulation, privatized health care, and plastic stuff.
Clearly we have fallen behind the environmental curve and, while only citing the GOP / Bush power structure in passing, the burden of responsibility clearly falls on the Republican Party and all those who support it.
It would be nice to say "politics aside" - but that is not an option. The issue is the politics of self-destruction in the name of short term profit and the right to poison as many people as possible.
In that context, there is a Mindsay blog site on the web (shreckenangst) where the actions of politicians are judged against their enforcement of a doctrine labeled "The Most Harm to the Most People" - "Exposed" exposes in very readable terms the policies of governments which support, or refute, the Most Harm doctrine. Sadly, it is the United States which seems to bend over backwards to supports it; and the European Union which refutes it. The author describes these contrasting policies in terms of America insisting that third parties establish absolute proof of harm, while the EU relies on science indicating the potential for harm.
Under EU policies, if it can cause cancer, birth defects, infertility or any other problem - it is to be banned. The result is, companies which do business in both America and the EU set up factories accordingly - healthy ones for the EU, and poisonous ones for America. China has adopted the EU policies for itself and is now dumping toxins in America - while American companies, because they cannot meet the EU or Chinese environmental standards, cannot trade products with those nations. Example: American Cars fail Chinese EPA standards and so our auto industry is blocked from the worlds largest single population of potential buyers.
Read this book.
1. It is clearly a MUST READ for anyone who is not suicidal, and/or would prefer to see their children and grandchildren healthy - or at least as healthy as those in Europe.
2. It is clearly a MUST READ for anyone who remembers the time when America was the world's economic engine and leader - and would like to know why we are rapidly becomming a third world nation.