Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vinyl Morality

Last night I unexpectedly found myself questioning this incredible new hobby of mine. Never did I think that something like collecting toys could actually be very damaging.

It started with a conversation on about Kidrobot and their quality control issues lately. It was argued that quality checks can be difficult due to the factories that make them being in remote locations in China where no one speaks english and the workers are essentially unskilled laborers. I raised the question why there are no factories opened in North America to solve problems such as this. The answer was (besides the obvious cheaper foreign labor issue) that the materials used in production, including both the vinyl and the paints/dyes violate laws set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

So now my concern had moved completely from the quality conversation to "Is my hobby here promoting the destruction of some environment?"

I was told that the softer grades of vinyl used in making these toys we all love contain high levels of PCB's.

PCB's (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are classified as persistent organic pollutants and were banned in the 1970s in the United States.

These pollutants are (from wikipedia) "organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, biomagnify in food chains, and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment."

persistent organic pollutants

These materials are highly toxic in their initial states, and the technology used to produce them is basically obsolete. Apparently Japan is much more polluted than I ever thought. Vinyl is vinyl and no very suitable alternative exists outside hard plastics which would totally change what these toys are. The vinyl has very long molecules which leads to instability, and the molecules constantly are gassed into the air essentially... which is toxic. There are also solvents used in the production to make the vinyl smooth which is also damaging to the environment.

Even the completed vinyl toys let off a gas that could be toxic! That fantastic smell is poison!

Learning all of this has left me at sort of a crossroads. I want to learn more. But can I continue with this hobby with the knowledge that I am adding to this pollution?

Recently i have stopped watching pro wrestling for somewhat related reason.

I have been a pro wrestling fan for over 20 years (through good and bad believe me) but this latest steroid business in the WWE has me turning it off completely. I even wrote a letter to WWE to explain this to them.

I understand it is up to each individual performer in the industry what he does with his body, but I no longer want to support these large companies (WWE, TNA) that evidently do not have a proper wellness program in place to prevent all the drug use. They are perpetuating the horrible lifestyle that is leaving so many of these guys dead before they are 50. I feel guilty providing ratings/revenue for a company that doesnt care about its employees enough.

Just as I now feel a levelof guilt for patronizing an industry that could be damaging.

I am not a militant environmentalist or anything close to it, but I do feel responsibility for things like this, and try to do things to play what little part I can. I take my own reusable shopping bags at the grocery store, I recycle, I buy organic foods. But I drive a normal old gas car... I wear leather... all of that fun stuff.

I have not come to a conclusion about all of this. I want to learn more obviously, and it is hard to dump something that I have really grown to love in a very short amount of time.

I want to thank Frank Kozik for most of this information, as I have plundered many of his words to talk about my own issues with this. Thank you, Frank.

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