Saturday, July 31, 2010

Help Dr. Susan Shaw and MERI

Even though it isn't technically part of my usual consumer product safety focus, I can't get Dr. Shaw's speech out of my head. The dangerous toxins in our ocean and the terrifying impact that the oil spill will have on our already chemical-drenched environment are enough to give anyone nightmares. It is too easy to feel powerless and immobilized by the enormity of it all.

Short of moving to Maine and volunteering for the Institute on a daily basis, there are some things that we can do to help.  I found a wishlist on the MERI Center for Marine Studies/Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) website.

While some items are a bit specific (liquid nitrogen portable container, stainless steel sink, oars...), there are a few simple items on the list that could be shipped fairly easily - I'm going to start with children's books and fish food.  For more information, contact Sarah Curts at 207-374-2135 or

Dr. Shaw and her site are inspiring.  Visit MERI online when you need to be reassured that someone is working around the clock to make a positive difference in this unthinkable situation.

Wish List
MERI needs the following items:
For Education Programs:
  • Microscopes
  • Test Kits for pH, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients
  • Dissection tools
  • Macro lens camera
  • Aquarium Supplies
  • Tanks (90 gal. or more)
  • Canister filters
  • UV sterilizers
  • Chillers
  • Aquarium stands
  • Tank hoods
  • Lighting
  • Aerators
  • Substrate
  • Sea salt/marine mix
  • Fish food
Library Resources
  • Science text books
  • Children’s books
  • Nautical charts
  • Natural science VHS tapes and DVDs
  • 36” or larger TV
Education Volunteer Needs
  • Librarian to re-organize our substantial collection and catalogue it.
  • Aquarium maintenance.
  • Ocean Video Night assistant (every Friday from January 10 through March 28).
  • Reader for children’s program (Fridays from 10-11).
For The Resource Center:
  • Small table / writing desk
  • Comfortable chairs for library
  • Sturdy folding tables
  • File cabinets
  • Floor lamps
  • Video camera
For Eco-Trips:
  • Mini Van
  • 16' long flat-bottom work skiff with aluminum or fiberglass bottom
  • Oars
  • New Global Positioning System (GPS) Plotter
  • Bushnell 7x35 AOS Binoculars (2 pairs)
  • Sediment sieves
  • Plankton nets
  • Multiparameter water sampling system
For Research:
  • Refrigerator
  • Microscope
  • Double or triple stainless steel sink
  • Cell counter
  • Liquid nitrogen portable container
  • Industrial freezer
  • Centrifuge
  • Flat bed truck

Need Help with your Donation?
Contact Sarah Curts, who will be happy to help you out. She can be reached at 207-374-2135 or

Donating and Tax Deductions
Your contribution to MERI is tax-deductible. After donating, you will receive a receipt by e-mail. Please print and keep this receipt for your records.

House Members, Witnesses Clash Over Chemicals Regulation

Things are heating up. The following excerpts are taken from the full article that was posted on the EWG site by Nils Bruzelius in Featured Articles, House status, Legislation on July 30, 2010.

"At a packed hearing before a key House subcommittee, Environmental Working Group President and co-founder Ken Cook called on Congress yesterday (July 29) to pass tough new legislation to repair a “broken toxic chemicals policy” that is currently so weak “the American public has lost confidence that the products they are using, the chemicals they are being exposed to, are safe.”

Reps. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), the subcommittee chairman, and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the parent Committee on Energy and Commerce, co-sponsored the pending bill along with three other House members.

“Americans are exposed to a staggering number and variety of chemicals – even before birth,” Waxman said in his opening remarks, “yet consumers lack even basic information about these chemical exposures. And the federal government is no less in the dark.”

Ranking Republican member Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) set the contrary theme voiced by a number of Republicans, scoring the bill with words including “cumbersome,” “unworkable,” “ineffective,” and “overly broad.”

Perhaps the most unexpected testimony of the day came from Howard Williams, vice-president and general manager of the Pennsylvania Division of Construction Specialties, Inc., a maker of building products for commercial construction. Williams described his firm’s difficulties in obtaining detailed information about the chemicals in the materials it buys, focusing particular on PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals) and carcinogens.

“Environmentally preferable and green building standards reward those whose materials have high amounts of recycled content,” Williams noted, but if the original materials contain long-lasting PBT chemicals, this has the unintended effect of recycling these toxic materials “from one generation to another.”

Describing himself as a Republican from a conservative area of Pennsylvania, Williams said:

“Given the economic and population multipliers, coupled with America’s global reach, H.R. 5820 becomes one of the more beneficially impactful pieces of legislation of our generation.”

Thank you, Environmental Working Group!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Susan Shaw, Marine Toxicologist

Check out this amazing talk by Dr. Susan Shaw that addresses the dangerous levels of toxicity already in our bloodstreams, as well as the added threat posed by the chemical dispersants being used to 'solve' the oil spill in the gulf.

"We are not regulating chemicals properly in this country. We are hardly regulating them at all," says Shaw. "'Big Chemical' is what we are dealing with here. They're allowed to keep trade secrets so they don't even give the ingredients out, plus they don't give out health and safety data. So consequently they cannot be regulated before they go to market. So it's a case of innocent until guilty. The burden of proof is not on the producer."

It is on us, the consumers.

Partnered with companies that include the Marine Environmental Research Institute, The Wadsworth Center/NY State Department of Health, Mission Blue, CIESIN/Columbia University, the Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and Google Earth, Dr. Shaw is trying to get information to the public at large and find a solution to the environmental impact of the oil spill. Together, they are launching an independent study that will counter "the kind of crime scene secrecy that is going on in the Gulf now" to assess toxic impacts on our future health.

"My wish for the Gulf project is that we have the truth. Whatever it is, please let us have the truth - and to get there we need to do the assessment."

She is my new hero.

Thank you so much for sharing this with me, Bridget!