The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

"... The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution": Taking Action in a Landmark Case Against the Lead-Paint Industry

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Final Meeting and Some New Thoughts

Our mentor has gone abroad for this final month, but Helen and I got a chance to meet with Doctor Rosner and one of his colleagues one last time before his departure for France. We traveled to his office on 168th street last Friday and got a chance to see our historian in his element; his office was full of amazing books and historical artifacts from his research. He let us feel a hunk of pure lead and reminded us to wash our hands and to not touch our mouths. More than once I forgot and almost consumed some lead myself which brings me to wonder how you can expect an infant whose walls and toys were literally covered in lead not put their fingers in their mouths when I, a 21 year old adult can barely manage?

Rosner was impressed with the work that we have been doing on cosmetics and the Food and Drug Act. His interest and energy have really inspired me to continue searching deeper into the threads that are emerging from the lead based paint research. The year that the Food and Drug Act was revised, 1938, is significant because at the same time lead companies were becoming aware of the need to warn consumers of the dangers of their product, Rosner said. He also said our work has been very useful to him and we have uncovered certain things that he believes will help him in his next project. We also had the privilege to see some of the documents that he compiled for the case, including little coloring books from lead paint companies that urged kids to “chase away Mr. Gloom” through colorful lead paint. He also showed us the ratios of lead in the paint and trust me, the stuff going on these walls in the 20s and 30s was almost pure lead.

One of the excerpts from our reading for today entitled “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World” struck me as significant to our project and really got me thinking about the larger issues at hand. The authors write, “Issues only matter to the extent that they are positioned in ways linking them to proposals carrying with them a set of core beliefs, principles, or values.” The “bottom line” – what we are doing or have done in the past is not enough. This leads to another conversation we had with Rosner, and that is the idea of threshold amounts of poisons in the foods we eat and the products we use. Until very recently and still today, small amounts of poisons are allowed in so many of the things we use in our everyday lives. They are regulated and even accepted as long as there are warnings on the packages and instructions for proper use. But these toxins are out there, being released into our bodies and our children’s bodies. They get into our groundwater and into our lives without a second thought. Take the lead paint issue; where were people’s priorities when children were becoming mentally handicapped, convulsing, or dying? Clearly their lives were not being valued. Then what was? Money? Jobs? More than anything, I feel that life should be our number one priority. Our future. There are still debates over how much lead should be allowed in candy, and you would be surprised at how widespread this poison still is. See as an example. Why are we still questioning how much poison these little bodies can take? The idea of threshold levels is ridiculous; lead builds up in bodies and never goes away. We do need a re-evaluation of what is important in order to start making some changes. Until next time, thanks for reading and have a great day.

Upon Request: Some individuals inquired about natural makeup products. Here are a few interesting links.
For Earth Month, 2006, Aveda is offering ways to fix this problem, including a petition to protect endangered plants. For more information, go to “Plants provide the air we breathe, food, medicine and shelter. In fact, 1/4 of all prescriptions written in the U.S. are derived from wild plant species.† Yet right now, 29% of U.S. plant species are at risk of extinction, 1 plant in 8 is at risk worldwide.†† It's our turn to provide for them.” -Aveda
Burts Bees also offers a line of natural cosmetics and products. See


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