Letters: Clarifications on PBDE flame retardants - Environmental

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Letters▼ Clarifications on PBDE flame retardants The Bromine Scientific and Environmental Forum (BSEF), a global industry forum that aims to further the scientific understanding of Brominated Flame Retardants, read the recent news story “Why do people’s PBDE levels vary widely?” (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2003, 37, 164A–165A) with interest and appreciation. We wish to offer two clarifications: The author refers to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as a family of substances, when most of the studies and characterizations seem to refer to one specific substance of PBDEs, namely penta-BDE. This is an important distinction as each substance has very different chemical properties. Indeed, the generalization of PBDEs could directly and adversely impact decaBDE’s usage. The author refers to PBDEs as being the “new POPs [persistant organic pollutants]”, a common misconception. None of the PBDEs are listed or categorized as POPs by the Stockholm Convention. If you were to refer to possible future classification, then only penta-BDE would fulfill the criteria. K. ROTHENBACHER BSEF Science Programme Brussels, Belgium

Editorial repeats current environmental dogma Jerald Schnoor’s comment, “An Environmental Challenge” (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2003, 37, 119A), is so typical of current environmentalist dogma that it is a bit tiring. For example, “We [comprise] 4.5% of the world’s population, but we consume 25% of the planet’s energy resources …” is the mantra of every antigrowth, antibusiness group in the United States. What Schnoor misses, along with these groups, is that the United States also

generates at least 25%, if not more, of the economic activity in the world. They also miss that this energy consumption is only a reflection of the free society that creates the environment—no pun intended—that allows Americans to create their wealth as a nation. It is easy to look at this wealth as “getting and spending, getting and spending”. However, it is the aforementioned freedom that gives the creativity to develop—and it is the wealth that gives the capability to afford—the technology to increase energy efficiency, reduce air and water pollution, develop life-saving medical advances, and so on. It is also this wealth that is the source of our generosity to other countries. I take issue with the statement that we need to “become the most generous nation in the world again”. Charitable giving by U.S. citizens is exceeded by no other nation. More important, the fact that this is voluntary giving is significant, because it belies Schnoor’s position that “a great portion of [needed] change must come from the heart”. I submit that, akin to the statement that you cannot legislate morality, you cannot successfully legislate generosity. Many of Schnoor’s recommendations will require massive government intervention in the marketplace. He should recall that forcing people to give up freedom to satisfy the vision of central planners, even those with the greatest of altruistic motives, is the essence of socialism. I do, however, agree that we must begin to make the transition from a purely fossil-fuel-based energy system. But I believe we must allow free market forces to play a major role in this transition. Like democracy, the market “ain’t always pretty”, but in the long run it provides the most efficient path, and it is also the path that is the most free. JULIAN JONES Cary, NC


© 2003 American Chemical Society