Posts Tagged ‘environmental pollution’

Day 6 of Daily Footprint Project. The day to get my roots done.


This is an image of ‘Roots’, a piece I did while I was an artist a few years ago (silver embroidered photo on fabric).

I am rather frugal in the personal care department. Over the years, I have pared down to the bare essentials. Lubriderm cream for body and face, Clinique foundation, Clinique blush, Chapstick for my lips, Neutrogena cleanser, Johnson baby wash, Dove shampoo and conditioner, O.P.I nail strengthener, Tom’s toothpaste, Tom’s deodorant. The one vanity I won’t give up is getting my hair dyed once a month. My hair turned grey in my twenties, and I just can’t fancy myself in any other color than my original brown. For all my talks about avoiding chemicals, I have been willing to venture into unknown toxic land, for the sake of restoring my mane to its original brown splendor, for years.

This time is different. In the name of the Daily Footprint experiment, I decided to investigate further. After a bit of googling, I came across the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The hair dye turned out to be safe. These other products I have been using, however, that’s another story. I am still mad from what I found out (all products rated on 0-10 hazard scale, with scores of 7 and above considered as high risk): Lubriderm Daily Moisture with SPF 15 (7), Johnson Baby wash (4), Tom’s toothpaste (2), Neutrogena Cleanser (6), O.P.I nail strengthener (7), Tom’s Deodorant (2), Dove Shampoo and conditioner (5), Cherry Chaptstick (8), Clinique Super Balanced Makeup (NA), Clinique Blush (NA)

Lubriderm promotes itself as ‘developed by dermatologists for healthier skin’. Based on that claim, and a recommendation from a girlfriend who had been told by her doctor that Lubriderm was the best, I have been using Lubriderm as my all purpose body and face cream, for years. Now, I am finding out that seemingly harmless stuff is way up there in terms of environmental hazard for my health. Detailed report from the Skin Deep database indicates that ingredients in this product are linked to: cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), enhanced skin absorption, contamination concerns, biochemical or cellular level changes.

I feel deceived.

And I came up with something else, in the course of my investigation. Back to the hair dye, I looked up the MSDS sheet. It says:

‘Environmental Precautions: 1) do not flush into surface water or sanitary sewer system, 2) avoid subsoil penetration ‘.

As far as I can tell, all that rinse off water with the hair dye that was used to color my hair yesterday: down the drain.

I’d like to end by asking you to look up the Action Center page on the Environmental Working Group website. There are a lot you can do by just writing to you congressman and senator. Enviroblog is also a great resource.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #6


flush toilet 1
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 2
two showers at the gym
rinse dishes 


electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all day
hair dryer at hair salon
cook cream of wheat on stove


oatmeal with organic milk
organic orange
organic rasberries
takeout sushi
small odwalla juice
three pastries from Whole Foods
organic oranges
cheese omelet with organic eggs


toilet paper
veggies/fruit peels
three newspaper wrappers
plastics (we take to recycling center now)


drive to hair salon 4 miles
drive to gym 6 miles
drive to dinner out 5 miles

Non food shopping

hair dye

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Tonight was the official presentation of ‘The Digital Dump’ at the UNAFF documentary film festival, at Stanford University. I had invited Ted Smith, from Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to join. As it turns out, Ted is an old friend of Jim Puckett, the director of the film, who was also present. Jim had just come back from the E-Scrap 2007 North American Electronics Recycling Conference, where he had the occasion to meet people from the industry, 80% are recyclers only by name. Dumpers would be a more accurate description, since all they do is ship the ‘recyclable’ goods abroad, without checking first that these goods are indeed recyclable, and not simply destined to waste. A big part of the problem is the fact that the United States, unlike Europe, has not signed the Basel Convention, under which member countries commit to strict controls for their e-scrap exports. Ted Smith mentioned the astronomical number of chemicals involved in the production of computers, over a thousand, and the need to also clean up production processes, not just recycling.

The abuses take place in other countries as well, not just Africa. I found this video from the Asia Society, ‘E-Waste: Dumping on the Poor’. Just as horrifying as ‘The Digital Dump’, only this time it takes place in China.

What to do? Here are two most important responsibilities as a consumer:

  1. Buy green computers
  2. Dispose green

You can also become an activist and lobby your congressman and senator, to pass a bill in support of the Basel Convention. Last night, was one more time when I felt ashamed to be an American. Thank God, I have my French side to redeem me.

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Drastic Plastic‘, the article I wrote for Environmental Graffiti this week, has made a strong impression on me. Now, I cannot throw away a plastic bag without thinking about all the birds and fishes dying of a slow death because of me. Yesterday’s trip to Whole Foods gave me plenty of opportunities to cringe. Fruit and vegetable section: plastic bags. Bulk section: plastic bags. Fish and seafood section: plastic bags. Checkout counter: plastic bags. I go home, and Prad tells me the city does not recycle plastic bags.

Now I try to minimize the problem by putting the fruit and vegetables directly into my green bag (when I remember to bring it). That’s not enough. There is still the issue of the bulk and the seafood. I am thinking of bringing empty yogurt containers, next time. At least, I will have done my share. Still. it does not solve the bigger problem. I asked the Customer Service man about Whole Foods intentions. They are ‘thinking’ about all these issues. When will they do something about it?

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