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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to Recycle Your Used Electronics

How to Recycle Your Used Electronics

From Apple iPhones to HP ink-jet printer cartridges, recycling e-waste is easy.

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By Brian Clark Howard

Most people love getting new gadgets for the holidays, whether they are tech-savvy professionals or folks who never figured out how to program their VCRs or set up a Facebook page.
But the burgeoning market of electronics and accelerating pace of technology have meant increased environmental impact. This is perhaps never more true than after the holidays, when people clean out their old gear in favor of the new shiny toys and appliances they have just received, or purchased through gifts, bonuses or seasonal sales. With the 2009 change in TV transmissions around the corner, even more e-waste is being generated. Plus, consider that the average cell phone user changes handsets every 18 months.
The good news is awareness of the potential ecological impact is also rising, and there are ways to make a difference, especially at the end of your product's life.
It's no small step, considering that 20 to 50 million tons of electronics waste (often called e-waste) is discarded globally every year, according to Greenpeace. If all that e-rubbish were put into containers on a train it would go once around the world! E-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream, and currently makes up five percent of all municipal solid waste.
In the past, no one thought of recycling computers and other electronics. The only option was tossing them on the curb. But these days engineers have taken notice that electronics usually contain a wealth of valuable materials. Plus, recycling almost always means lower net carbon emissions, which is something everyone is now paying closer attention to because of global warming. Finally, electronics are made with a sizable amount of lead, cadmium, brominated fire retardants and plastics that can leach toxic breakdown products — that's stuff no one wants in their water supply!
The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents electronics manufacturers, encourages people to recycle their e-waste, and has set up a handy Website to make the process simple. Log on to, where you can search for local recycling drop-off points by zip code and product category. You'll also find tips and info on electronics recycling, and a cool energy calculator that will show you how much juice each product uses.
How to Recycle E-Waste, by Brand

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Drink the Water At Your Own Risk

31 cities’ tap water has cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, study says

By Brett Michael Dykes
The Environmental Working Group released a report Monday indicating that millions of Americans are regularly drinking hexavalent chromium, made famous in the film "Erin Brockovich" as a carcinogen, through their tap water.
The group -- whose study was first reported in a story Sunday by the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton -- tested water from 35 U.S. cities and found that samples from 31 cities contained hexavalent chromium. The highest concentrations were found in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif. The substance had been a widely used industrial chemical for decades and has evidently leached into the groundwater in many areas.
The EWG report states:
"Despite mounting evidence of the contaminant's toxic effects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water and does not require water utilities to test for it. Hexavalent chromium is commonly discharged from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities. It can also pollute water through erosion of natural deposits.
"The authoritative National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said that chromium-6 in drinking water shows 'clear evidence of carcinogenic activity' in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. Just last October, a draft review by the EPA similarly found that ingesting the chemical in tap water is 'likely to be carcinogenic to humans.' Other health risks associated with exposure include liver and kidney damage, anemia and ulcers."
Drinking-water supplies all over the country are increasingly tainted by chemicals used in natural gas drilling. And Erin Brockovich, for her part, told the EWG that she's rather astonished to find that hexavalent chromium is still a prospective health threat in so many communities.
"It is sometimes difficult to understand why I still have to warn the public about the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water 23 years after my colleagues and I first sounded the alarm," Brockovich told the EWG. "This report underscores, in fairly stark terms, the health risks that millions of Americans still face because of water contamination."
The list of cities found to have hexavalent chromium in the municipal water supplies are as follows:
• Honolulu, HI
• Bend, OR
• Sacramento, CA
• San Jose, CA
• Los Angeles, CA
• Riverside, CA
• Las Vegas, NV
• Salt Lake City, UT
• Scottsdale, AZ
• Phoenix, AZ
• Albuquerque, NM
• Norman, OK
• Omaha, NE
• Madison, WI
• Milwaukee, WI
• Chicago, IL
• Ann Arbor, MI
• Louisville, KY
• Cincinnati, OH
• Buffalo, NY
• Syracuse, NY
• Pittsburgh, PA
• Villanova, PA
• Boston, MA
• New Haven, CT
• New York, NY
• Bethesda, MD
• Washington, DC
• Atlanta, GA
• Tallahassee, FL
• Miami, FL
(Photo: AP/Bob Child)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chemicals in Butter?

Before you become too alarmed (no pun intended here), read the entire article.  Yes, we do have something to be worried about when we see that there is a flame retardant in our food but without more information, we really need to research.  

My first thought about this article was, "OMG, now I have to worry about one more thing that I eat!"  Well, that is true that I should always be conscience about what ingredients are in my food but also to read the entire article before making rash judgements.  Yes, the flame retardant in the paper could seep into our food, but it's not in all packaging, that we know of, and it's not an ingredient.  

Lesson learned, read to the end and keep shopping organic and local as much as possible.  That way, at least, I know where my food is packaged so that if there is a problem, I can go to the source.  Also, big corporations are going to take the least expensive route so I'm sticking with my tried and true local dairy!   

Pants On Fire? Put Them Out With...Butter?

butterThe next time you're looking to fireproof something forget trekking down to the hardware store, instead check the fridge and grab a stick of butter. Researchers have found varied amounts of flame retardant in sticks of butter.
Polybrominated dphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are a class of chemicals commonly used in furniture and electronic manufacturing as flame-retardants. When digested these chemicals have been known to stop hormone function and increase cancer risk. "Flame retardants were not made to be eaten," said Arnold Schecter, one of the researchers. "They're made to slow down the smoke in fires. They're not a food component. They don't belong there." Just in case that was unclear. They have also been associated with reproductive, developmental and neurological problems. This is the first documented case of PBDEs being found in food in the US.
U.S. researchers tested a selection of ten kinds of butter sourced from Dallas grocery stores. Nine of the samples showed small amounts of the contaminant, which is consistent with the results of previous studies as PBDEs can enter foods through soil, water and air. But one sample had levels of PBDEs that were 135 times that of the others. The source of the contaminants was traced to the wrapper. Though Shecter will not release the name of the company whose butter contained such high levels of the chemicals, he believes that the issue could be due to an electrical incident. If there was a fire in one of the machines or overheating, the chemicals could have leaked into the paper and then later into the butter.
Currently, there are no federal agencies tracking levels of chemicals like PBDEs in food so there is no way to know how widespread this sort of contamination is. The newly Senate-approved Food Modernization Safety Act would not be able to help as it focuses on bacteria rather than chemicals. Though it is unlikely that the sample with high levels of PBDEs is the only contaminated stick out there, it is also unlikely that there is a large quantity of the sticks. (If you feel like doing a little detective work to find out the exact brand of butter, Schecter says that the company's headquarters are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area). These types of chemicals are also nothing new to our systems. "We basically have all of these chemicals in our bodies just from being in an indoor environment and from eating," Schecter said. "You're certainly not going to be able to control that by being careful about what kind of butter you buy." Schecter and the other researchers believe that their research emphasizes the need for a government-regulated program to test foods for contaminants like PBDEs.
How do you feel about these findings? Are you going to switch to Country Crock? Or will you throw caution into the wind and continue to give yourself a little pat of butter?
Photo Credits: jessicafm / flickr, jessicafm / flickr

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