Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Great Gift for Artists!

Do you have any painters on your holiday list this season? Consider wrapping up an air purifier. It's an original and practical gift that will keep them creating for years to come!

Many artists are aware of the dangers of breathing in paint and solvent fumes, but do nothing to protect themselves.

Check out this article: "The Hidden Life of Art Supplies" in the Sierra Club's magazine.

Creative Stuff & Daughter of an Artist

Monday, November 21, 2005

Air Purifiers and the Cold and Flu Season

Another miserable cold and flu season is upon us once again and the magic question on everyone's lips is, "What can I do to avoid getting sick?"

As a company that deals in clean air, we wanted to share our perspective on this issue.

While we know there is certainly no guarantee that an air cleaner will offer 100% protection, we believe that it can form an important part of your prevention arsenal.

According to Penn State's airborne pathogens database , bacteria and viruses can range in size from 0.018 microns to well over 1 micron.

True HEPA filtration, like that in AllerAir air purifiers, can capture many of these respirable particles, in fact removing 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.

It's also worth mentioning that HEPA technology is used in hospitals world-wide as part of their routine hygiene procedures.

After all, if a fellow staffer is sneezing away in the next cubicle wouldn't you want there to be an air purifier between you???

From my cubicle to yours -- good luck for a sneeze-free winter....

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Former DuPont Top Expert: Company Knew, Covered Up Pollution of Americans' Blood for 18 Years

The following is a press released issued by the Environmental Working Group; a team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers who examine government data, legal documents, scientific studies and conduct laboratory tests to expose threats to public health and the environment. In 2005 the EWG was named one of Washington's ten most effective watchdog organizations by “The Hill”, a publication for and about the U.S. Congress.

Documents: Company Couldn't Find Safe Level of Exposure in 1973 to Chemical that Never Breaks Down, Clings to Human Blood
Study Results Show Company Found Safer Ways to Coat Food Packaging But Shelved Them to Save Money

WASHINGTON — Glenn Evers was a DuPont employee of 22 years, one of the company's top technical experts and the chairman of an invitation-only committee of its 40 best scientists and technical experts. He holds six patents, and his work has, to date, made the company an estimated $250 million in after-tax profits. Evers was, by his description, a dedicated "company man."

He was also the company's top chemical engineer involved with designing and developing new uses of grease-resistant, or perfluorinated, chemical-based coating for paper food packaging.
Breakdown chemicals from these coatings and related sources are now in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has spent the last several years trying to determine how they get there.

DuPont has claimed that it does not know how the chemicals got there — and that are not aware that their product is responsible.

"If we had any reason to believe that [there] was a safety issue for fluorinated telomers-based product, we wouldn't have commercialized them," DuPont Director of Planning and Technology Robert Ritchie told the Wilmington News Journal (11/23/03).

Today, however, Glenn Evers told in detail how his former employer hid for decades that it was polluting Americans' blood with a hyper-persistent chemical associated with the grease-resistant coatings on paper food packaging.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has obtained and today made public a set of internal company documents that support Evers' story.

Combined, the Evers story and EWG's documents present a startling chronology of DuPont's actions:

Evers describes how, in the mid-1960s, the company negotiated with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a weak standard for how much of the paper chemical coating, which is applied to give packaging grease or liquid resistance, could contaminate food. The FDA at the time normally required a two-year study for chemicals it wasn't familiar with, but agreed to base DuPont's approval on a 90-day test with a 1,000-fold safety factor added.

Evers explains how that standard, which remains in effect today, was based on the premise that the chemical would leave the body quickly. He explained that as a company expert, he saw that the company knew, at least by 1981, that another class of perfluorinated chemicals, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), accumulates in people. It is unclear whether or not the company ever provided the FDA this information, but Evers explained how the company continued to worry about this information throughout the 1990s.

A company document shows that DuPont conducted a toxicological study in 1973 in which it was unable to find a safe level of exposure in lab animals, and that the chemicals were toxic to the kidneys, liver and blood.

A 1984 internal company memorandum raises the question of which of these crucial findings, if any, from the 1973 study were provided to the FDA.

A key document shows that in 1987, DuPont's Dr. Richard Goldbaum found that the company's marquee paper packaging coating chemical, Zonyl RP, could contaminate food at over three times the federal safety standard, while two effective alternatives contaminated food at half the federal maximum level.

Evers describes how he and others copied on the results of that study knew they were "devastating." Evers approached Goldbaum, and then Goldbaum's superior, Gerald Culling, telling each of them that the results were an enormous problem and that it would be unethical to continue selling the product. Both men told Evers not to worry, and that they were "taking care of it."

Evers realized with time that the company had not ordered a standard, internal process hazards review to find out why the chemical was above FDA approved levels. The company did not provide the information to customers, federal health officials and the public. DuPont did not recall the faulty product, did not stop its production, shelved the safer alternatives, and continued to make Zonyl RP — effectively producing for another 18 years the chemicals that would lead to the contamination of consumers' blood.

Evers says that one of the reasons the company stuck with the problematic Zonyl RP was that it had adopted the practice of blending substandard batches in with better batches — and selling the blended versions to its industrial customers.

Evers describes how DuPont's "Document Retention Program" required researchers to label all hard copy files to time their destruction. Company managers could audit employees to ensure compliance, and other staff went through employees' hard copy files to ensure documents were destroyed. A master computer program at the company deleted files from company hard drives after a certain period of time.

Evers tells of how 3M, DuPont's competitor, rapidly abandoned the $150 million per year business using perfluorinated chemicals on paper food packaging when it realized in 2000 that the chemicals were producing byproducts accumulating in human blood and that those chemicals were harmful to developing lab animals. Despite what it knew from the 1987 results by Dr. Goldbaum and the persistence and toxicity of its own chemicals, DuPont moved quickly to sell its similar chemistry to 3M's former customers.

EWG today sent the documents to the FDA's acting commissioner, as well as the inspector general of its parent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), requesting the officials act on the new information. The group is also referring documents to relevant EPA officials.
"These documents indicate a failure to disclose critical public health information about a toxic chemical that never breaks down, that gets into our bodies and stays there," said EWG Senior Scientist Tim Kropp. "If we ever needed a reason to reform the nation's toxic chemical laws, every American now has one, courtesy of DuPont."

Evers' appearance and EWG's document release comes just a week before a potentially significant date in the civil suit the Bush administration's EPA has pursued against the company for suppressing health studies on PFOA, which is used in the production of Teflon pan coatings. Bush EPA political appointees could seek the maximum possible fine of $314 million, but they have shown little appetite for pursuing such a penalty. The next court date for the civil suit was negotiated to fall on Wednesday, November 23, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday and the busiest travel day of the year.

"DuPont thinks it has the right to pollute your blood with chemicals, but it doesn't," said Evers. "Someone could get a fine for dumping trash if he threw a used tire into the creek behind my house. This company continues to pollute the blood of the American public with a toxic chemical — what is it going to end up paying?"

For documents related to this story visit the EWG site Scroll to the bottom of the page for related documents.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Increased suicide rate with possible link to nearby industry chemicals in second N.C. community

CHAPEL HILL -- Sustained elevation of the suicide rate in a North Carolina county may be linked to releases of hydrogen sulfide and other airborne chemicals from a nearby paper mill and possibly other industrial sites, a new study led by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychiatrist indicates. The findings are being presented today (Nov. 7) to the 18th Annual U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in Las Vegas.

This is the second study to propose a possible link between increased suicide rates in a North Carolina community and chemical exposures from nearby industry. Many of the same authors of the new research previously presented a study suggesting a possible link between an increased suicide rate in a community in Salisbury and chronic low-level exposure to hydrogen sulfide and other potential neurotoxins released from nearby asphalt plants and petroleum remediation sites.

From 1994 through 2003, the suicide rate in two Salisbury neighborhoods was found to be 38.4 per 100,000 individuals a year, roughly three times the statewide average. That study was presented to the 17th Annual U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in 2004 and at the National Institute of Mental Health New Clinical Drug Evaluation Unit meeting in June 2005.
Pointing to their recent analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current study's authors said the suicide rate in another N.C. area – rural Haywood County – nearly doubled from an age-adjusted rate of 11.8 per 100,000 residents for 1990-1996 to about 21.1 per 100,000 residents for 1997-2002.

The county's age-adjusted suicide rate has now remained elevated since 1997, peaking at 29.7 per 100,000 in 2000. In contrast, the average age-adjusted suicide rate for North Carolina for 1997-2001 was about 11.4 per 100,000 residents per year. Haywood ranked 46th out of North Carolina's 100 counties for average age-adjusted suicide rate for 1979-1996, but the county was ranked third for 1999-2002, according to CDC data.

The study's lead author is Dr. Richard H. Weisler, adjunct professor of psychiatry at UNC's School of Medicine, adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and volunteer with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, or BREDL.

"We clearly know there have been increases in suicides during this time period when there were also operational changes at the paper mill," said Weisler. "The 1997 spike in suicides in Haywood County corresponded to a switch to Bleach Filtrate Recycle in late 1996. Whether there is a connection between the increased suicides and operational changes has yet to be determined."
The Haywood County mill uses Bleach Filtrate Recycle, or BFR, to help remove chlorine and other toxins from the waste discharged into the Pigeon River. But Weisler and co-authors said they questioned whether or not a cleaner river comes at the cost of dirtier air.

"The burning of chlorinated compounds that BFR potentially entails, as well as a possible increase in plant volume, may have led to increased releases of dioxins and other harmful compounds into the air," Weisler said. "The switch to BFR, which involves burning of black liquor, may have resulted in an increase in air quality problems."

"Black liquor" is chemical and wood waste produced when turning wood into paper pulp. Some paper mills, including the Haywood County mill, burn black liquor to produce electricity.
The Haywood County mill has reported releases of many chemicals, including more than 93,000 pounds of hydrogen sulfide in 2003. Studies of industries such as asphalt plants, paper mills and sewage treatment plants have shown that exposure to occupational levels of hydrogen sulfide (10 parts per million for a 10-minute ceiling) can result in nervousness, mania, dementia and violence, Weisler said.

It is unknown whether levels lower than those to which nearby residents are exposed also would influence brain chemistry. "I think it has to be explored," Weisler added.
In animal studies, hydrogen sulfide has been shown to be a neurotoxin, altering levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, aspartate, GABA and glutamate, the authors reported. "We speculate that hydrogen sulfide may serve as a marker for other potentially neurotoxic compounds being released in this mountain valley," Weisler said.
Other chemical releases reported by the paper mill include carbon disulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfide and methyl mercaptan.

Haywood County is situated in a series of mountainous valleys that experience frequent temperature inversions, in which colder, dense air is trapped in the valley, potentially preventing pollutants from dispersing, and increasing air quality problems, the authors said. As the authors saw in their Salisbury study, many Haywood County residents complained of odor and air quality problems.

Formal studies are needed to model the flow of air pollution from the plant and to monitor the exact levels of particular chemicals released by the mill, the authors said.
"We hope there will be relevant and sensitive air monitoring, as well as a whole reassessment of whether or not burning the black liquor and using Bleach Filtrate Recycle is really the best approach to clean up the Pigeon River," Weisler said.

Co-author Dr. Jonathan R.T. Davidson, professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, said that the most important point for people to remember is that effective treatments exist for suicidal depression.

"Given that suicide can be a tragic consequence to depression, people who are experiencing persistent symptoms of depression should contact their health-care provider for a professional evaluation," he said. "The findings of this study may suggest another potential risk factor for suicide, but this needs to be confirmed in future studies."