Monday, November 19, 2007

More Thoughts on Phthalate Phobia

My last post about the potential ban on phthalates has generated lots of discussion, and more posts. This is a good thing. The more we share our knowledge, experience and insight, the better off we will all be in the end.

This issue goes way beyond polymer clay. PVC's, and phthalates in other materials, are woven into our lives in more ways than we can possibly be aware. My husband related a story to me about issues his company is having with a partner company and their demands that PVC be removed from the product. PVC is incorporated in some small way in nearly every, if not all, the products they produce. Finding an adequate substitute is not simple.

Phthalates are in medical equipment (tubes, fluid bags, etc.). They are in nail polish, the scented candle, and the moisturizer from a company known for being "natural". This should not make us more paranoid. If anything it should give us perspective to realize that if phthalates were as awful as some would like to portray them, then they would have caused lots of problems already.

What if we were to eliminate plastics completely from our lives. Are we going to go back to metal pipes for plumbing, and glass bottles for holding liquids? Do we have the capacity in our system to do that? What about the effects of the added weight of these other materials in transport. Not only will it cost more, but it will consume more energy to move them, adding to global warming.

Do you know that one of the benefits of eliminating glass for packaging liquids was not only weight, but safety? Glass breaks more easily that plastic, and it also cuts more easily than plastic. How do we factor people injured by glass bottles into the equation of plastic versus glass?

Nothing sounds more natural and earthy than felted wools, and other natural fibers. But what about the dyes that are used to color them? And how are the dyes disposed? Unless vegetable dyes are being used, with no chemical fixatives, you are working with toxic materials. Concentrated toxins.

Plastic resins used to make jewelry. Phthalates, along with many other toxic chemicals.

Glazes, paints, thinners, enamel powders and more. Toxins galore.

When we look at a ceramic pot, or a beautiful woven scarf, or that fun piece of resin jewelry, the last thing we are thinking about is the materials used to create them, and the potential harm that they pose for the environment.

I am not suggesting we look the other way, and pretend that there is no problem with any of these things. Rather, that we educate and inform ourselves. If you use materials that are potentially hazardous, be responsible in the way you use them, and dispose of any remaining material. If safer alternatives exist that are equally effective, explore those. But don't react to every scare story you are told. And if you hear someone spreading fear that is inappropriate, do your best to educate them. In the age of the internet, misinformation can spread just as rapidly as information.

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