Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Keeping kids’ toys safe

Journalist Mark Schapiro, whose book Exposed was recently the basis for a special feature on PBS’ NOW program that focused on phthalates—a hard-to-pronounce but damaging group of chemicals found in many children’s toys—is taking on the chemical industry’s apologists.

Elizabeth Whalen took him to task earlier this year on The Huffington Post, calling him an “activist,” which to journalists is about as slanderous as it gets. Schapiro took up Whalen’s outing and used what all journalists use when they write stories—facts—to show that his book and his reporting are on firm ground, not simply based on alarmist claims.

Check out Whalen’s post here and Schapiro’s riposte.

And, in case you were wondering phthalates make plastics soft and pliable and chewy for kids—the reason why a rubber ducky is so darn inviting.

Here’s a sample of the back-and-forth:

Whalen:

Contrast the activist scare about phthalates with the scientific reality: there is no evidence whatsoever—not even a hint—of health problems from phthalates in any consumer products used by children or adults. That is the conclusion of esteemed scientists from the Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and universities around the world — and a blue ribbon panel on phthalates and health chaired by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. The issue has been addressed and studied extensively.

Schapiro:

Dozens of studies of rodents and, increasingly, of humans have demonstrated precisely that: the evidence suggests strongly that phthalates disrupt the developing endocrine system of infant boys (at this stage, most of the research does focus on boys because phthalates affect production of the male sexual hormone, testosterone). A study published last week in the journal Pediatrics found evidence of phthalates in every one of the 163 infants under thirteen months that a team of scientists tested for the synthetic substance. Why does this matter? Studies in Denmark concluded in 2006 that high levels of phthalates in mother’s breast milk contributed to lower levels of testosterone production in their male offspring in the first three months of life.

After challenging Whalen’s claims, Schapiro has found a new foe in Trevor Butterworth, who offers a counter-argument Schapiro’s counter-argument here. Here’s a snippet:

But there’s a problem: if you are going to muckrake with science, you need to be able to refute scientific evidence which doesn’t agree with your hypothesis. That’s how science works. Posit a theory, find evidence (or find data and posit a theory), test that evidence and theory against everything else out there.

This, Shapiro doesn’t do. He takes only the evidence that supports his position and avoids addressing the problems with it, even though these problems are substantial.

OK, Mark, the squishy phthalate-soaked ball is in your court.


A Dictionary to Survive the Future

When British economist David Fleming died unexpectedly in 2010, he left behind his great unpublished work, a masterpiece more than thirty years in the making—an intellectually evocative and inspiring dictionary, Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It. In it, Fleming examined the consequences of an economy that destroys the very foundations—ecological, […] Read More

Overshoot, Collapse, and Creating a Better Future

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day happened on August 8—the day when we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources for the year, and are essentially borrowing from future years to maintain our existence today.Perhaps you celebrated this day with a counter-solution: a vegetarian meal, telecommuted, or turned off the air conditioning. There’s a lot more you could be […] Read More

The Future Is Hopeless, So Give it Your All

The never-ending national election in the United States, the “surprise” pro-Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, climate change … the list goes on and on about how easy it can be to lose hope in the future.Like many of life’s frustrations, or overwhelmingly large topics, most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the […] Read More

Climate Change & the End of Stationarity

Just as predicting the rise of Donald Trump as a leading presidential candidate stumped even the best of political analysts (looking at you Nate “FiveThirtyEight” Silver), the advent of the Sixth Great Extinction due to climate change and an increasingly potent mix of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has completely upended how we predict the […] Read More

Use Simple Games to Better Understand Climate Change

How is it that emissions keep growing despite rising concern about the climate change they cause? It is possible to identify several reasons for the paradox, most of which lie outside the scope of The Climate Change Playbook. But one important reason is relevant here: people do not understand the behaviors of the climate system.And […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com