HAVANA TIMES, Jan 25 — Two days ago I received by forwarded e-mail a message that read:
“VERY IMPORTANT! Health care professionals recommend that consumers beware of anything that is “Made in China,” especially products containing yellow, red or orange dye. This includes toys, soaps, gels, deodorants, clothing, etc.”
This warning was accompanied by some disturbing photos of epidermal damage caused by a certain make of beach sandals on the market that appear to be knock offs of the famous Hawaiian sandals made by China.
The terrible thing about this matter is that it’s not clear where the responsibility lies – whether it involved a mistake in the use of raw materials or if it was a deliberate action, one which will generate more than a few law suits against the company for the thousands or more injuries that might be caused by their product.
The message failed to say whether the sandals are being taken off market. What’s problematic is that these sandals contain toxic resins and elastomers that leached into them from plastic containers that were previously used to store pesticides; however, in addition to that blunder, the dyes in the sandals contain dangerously elevated levels of lead – with all of this constituting a formula for disaster.
As you can see, we’re all exposed to such dangers. China, in its capacity as a mega-manufacturer, exports almost all of its products at affordable prices, with the injuries that can be caused by some of these goods truly being serious.
The implementation of basic concepts of environmentalism and sustainability though campaigns around the proper use and recycling of biodegradable materials seems insufficient to change people’s consciousness.
There’s a lot of talk in the media about “renewable raw materials,” which are nothing more than biological materials used as resources similar to those produced in the petrochemical industry.
There are also those that can regenerate themselves, which is of course useful to humanity. Their benefits are experienced in reducing polluting emissions (CO2, NOx, SO2) that are spewed out into the atmosphere and by contributing to sustainability (meaning the ability to maintain development and our quality of life without compromising those of our descendants).
Cuba, for its part, does a good job in this regard and respects and complies with the “12 Principles of Green Chemistry.”
The 12 principles are:
- It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.
- Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
- Wherever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
- Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.
- The use of auxiliary substances (e.g. solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
- Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.
- A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting wherever technically and economically practicable.
- Reduce derivatives – Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification) should be avoided whenever possible.
- Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
- Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products.
- Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
- Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.
Let’s just hope our government hasn’t bought a batch of those hazardous sandals.