Item description for Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro...
Winner of the 2008 NAUTILUS SILVER AWARD in the category of Ecology/Environment/Sustainability and Conscious Media/Journalism
New evidence seems to arrive daily---from stories about tainted pet food to toxic toys---of the dangerous consequences that lax environmental policies are having on the consumer products that we, and our children, use every day thanks to lobbying efforts by the U.S. chemical industry.
Meanwhile, the European Union is forcing these global corporate giants to chart a new path that, by requiring safe products, is revamping how businesses can create safe products and make money.
In Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power investigative journalist Mark Schapiro takes the reader inside the corridors of global power where tectonic battles are occurring that will impact the health of ourselves and the planet.
Schapiro's expos shows how laws adopted by the European Union---where stricter consumer-safety standards are in place---have forced multinationals into manufacturing safer products. And, short of such strong government action the United States will lose its claim of economic and environmental supremacy.
Increasingly, products developed and sold in the United States are equated with serious health hazards, and many of those products are soon to be banned from Europe and other parts of the world.
Schapiro's revelations in this thought-provoking work will change the way American consumers think about everyday products---from plastic softeners that can contribute to sexual malformations to lipstick additives that are potential toxins to the brain, liver, kidneys, and immune system. And it will stir them into forcing our government to take the lead of others, including the European Union, China, and countries in Central and South America.
Exposed is a revealing and fascinating look at global markets, everyday products, and the toxic chemicals that bind them. It will shock, inform, and warn American businesses and government leaders about the risks of being left behind in the international marketplace.
Schapiro's book shines a light on Europe's evolving search for higher standards that places Brussels, not Washington, at the center of global market innovation.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.1" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.9" Weight: 1 lbs.
Release Date Sep 16, 2007
Publisher Chelsea Green Publishing
ISBN 1933392150 ISBN13 9781933392158
Availability 0 units.
More About Mark Schapiro
Mark Schapiro is editorial director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco. He has written extensively on foreign affairs and his work has appeared in "Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine" and other publications, and he has reported stories for Frontline, NOW with Bill Moyers, and public radio's Marketplace. Schapiro lives in San Francisco, California.
Reviews - What do customers think about Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power?
A little something for most everyone Feb 25, 2008
I just finished this book chemicals in our food, electronics, and other products, and how regulation addresses them.And how that regulation affects markets.
It has a neat little store of information on the current European initiatives to protect their consumers ( REACH program ) and relates American govt and businesses responses to it. (It may or may not surprise you that the Bush administration sent lobbyists (even including Colin Powell!) to push against raising standards.
Below, a handful of highlights, and if you're interested, you can check the other reviews (which are quite good in their coverage.)
- We're either ignoring or not adopting REACH standards for the most part. It's still perceived as too expensive. (EU experience has shows otherwise in cases.) I suspect that, for the transnational corporations, this'll change quickly, and they'll adopt.
- Our goods across a wide swath from food to cosmetics will be blocked at the border and returned if they don't comply with REACH.(And GMO standards, etc.)
- Not only the EU, but a large number of major traders are adopting these standards. Brazil, Mexico, and yes, China.
- REACH does two things our EPA and FDA don't: it measures risk by citing chemicals with known bad effects (e.g. teflon), and not by the more common Monte Carlo and human/behavior models used here, and it considers ALL chemicals up for review, and unlike the EPA, it does not grandfather in tens of thousands of chemicals without testing. For these reasons, it is much stricter.
-There a few interesting stories about how some nations in the EU wanted stricter standards (for, e.g. GMOs) but were bent back to the mean by the EU/Brussels.Austria being one example.
- The information on GMOs in one chapter is very well presented. It gave a fascinating synthetic and integrated look at GMO across market, lobbying, technical, and regulatory considerations. I learned a lot in a few pages.
EXPSOED gave me enough background to understand why we're increasingly talking about "toys with lead paint" here in the States but why many other countries no longer worry about this. The USA will become a dumping ground for potentially dangerous products refused by other major nations.
It also, going back to GMO food, made it clear why ethanol is being pushed so hard by the Bush administration: the EU has *very* strict rules against GMOs, and most of our corn is now GMO, and largely unacceptable to the EU. The story from France about their anti-GMO crop destroying vigilante group was especially interesting!
In any case, this book is highly recommended (it's a flash to read) by social theorists who want to see their theories played out in practice, by political hacks and business lobbyiests, by "green" types, by anti/pro globalizers, and by free-market wackos (that'd be me).
Oh, and there's an interesting quote in their by Stiglitz, about how market capitalism is not good, because of the information asymmetry between the consumer and the producer. It made me think of Sy Syms (if you're an older NY'er, you'll remember old Sy) who always said "An educated consumer is our best customer". Amen, Sy.
( I would have given the book five stars -- it is well-referenced and thought out -- but the omission of any commentary whatsoever on Codex Alimentarius, and its sotto voce slant toward "only the State will protect us" took the edge of this otherwise very appealing book by Schapiro.
Buy this book before you vote in 2008!!! Feb 22, 2008
I heard him on NPR and immediately bought his book! I found out that the European Union has rules about safety for toys, makeup, etc. which our corporate-lobbyist-paid-off government lead by the Republican Administration refuses to incorporate into law protecting us. Why won't they protect American children? Because they say it is 'bad for business.' Simply stated this means parents of children in Slovenia and all other EU countries don't have to worry about lead in toys, because of the EU's strong inforcement of these laws, but American parents DO have to worry. So in short -- China DOES make toys which are safe, and they sell them to EU countries. Things the EU refuses to allow on their shelves gets sent back to China and ends up in America. Also Shapiro let's us know cosmetic companies make products without lead and other cancer causing chemicals to sell in the EU due to the EU's strict laws protecting their citizens, but those same companies continue to make products with these banned chemicals and sell them eagerly in America. What the heck is up with that?!! Obviously we mere citizens cannot expect businesses to DO THE RIGHT THING because they do it only when forced to by the EU, but won't follow those standards unless our government forces them to provide safe products for American consumers. My opinion: If congress and the government agencies who are supposed to protect us can't get it together -- let's follow all the EU restrictions and say -- "We'll have what they are having!" Thanks for putting this issue out there in such a clear manner, Mr. Shapiro. My fellow Americans, buy this book and throw out the bums in 2008!!!!!
Great idea, poor execution Feb 3, 2008
I really wanted to like this book. It's an interesting and important subject, a perfect fit for the kind of thing I usually like to read. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to its tag line. "Toxic chemistry"? There's *no* chemistry at all here. I don't expect a book like this to read like a scientific journal, but it would have been nice if there had been just a little description of exactly what effect these chemicals have on our bodies. Similarly, a few anecdotes about people whose lives were directly affected by exposure to these awful chemicals would have done a lot to strengthen the message. I know the effects are diffuse, but a professional writer should be able to find *one case* to illustrate his point.
So what do we get instead of word from either scientists or ordinary people? Endless quotes from envirocrats - regulatory officials on one side, chamber-of-commerce types on the other, plus consultants and lobbyists and lawyers for both sides. The author's only concern, pounded into us over and over and over and over and over again, is that the US is *losing its policy leadership* to the EU. The human toll hardly gets a nod; it's the economic and geopolitical implications that get this author's dander up. Even as economics, though, the book fails. There are a few vague numbers tossed around, but no properly-sourced charts or graphs to illustrate the magnitude of the economic effects involved. A picture would have been worth ten thousand of these words.
This book could have been the Fast Food Nation of its topic area. Instead it is itself fast food - cheap mental calories, soon forgotten. What a shame.
Increased Power of Corporations Leaves U.S. Consumers at Risk -- Will Europe Save Us? Jan 22, 2008
I encourage everyone who lives in or plans to visit the United States to read this book so you can appreciate how dangerous the products are that companies deliver here . . . even though many provide much safer versions in Europe and other parts of the world. Why? Governments outside the U.S. respond more to citizen concerns about safety than they do to pressure from product suppliers to reduce regulation.
While some will see this as a Bush-bashing book, it seemed to me from reading Exposed that the prior Clinton administration didn't seem to do much better in safeguarding citizens from various toxic risks.
What's the story line? It's convoluted . . . which is why I graded the book down one star. Let me see if I can encapsulate the key points in a brief list:
1. Industry lobbyists have succeeded in persuading the U.S. government for a long time to not test many suspect items for toxicity, presuming that if it's in use . . . it's okay.
2. Independent scientists report that most of these items aren't okay.
3. The new European government is heeding citizen concerns about harmful substances and is requiring that they be eliminated from products and landfills. This means reformulating products if you are a global company and recycling hazardous materials.
4. Because the European economy is larger than the U.S., most global companies are complying in Europe. Some are choosing to make all products to the European standard, but many leading U.S. companies still make and sell toxic versions for the U.S. Some Chinese manufacturers are doing the same.
5. Many governments are about to adopt the European standards so that almost any other country will be a safer place to avoid toxins than the U.S.
6. The U.S. government is lobbying like crazy in Europe and elsewhere for its views, and annoying foreign governments even more than before.
7. The U.S. has little or no influence on world standards for product and environmental safety as a result.
The book suggests that the well documented problems of falling fertility in the U.S. are probably tied in some way to these unregulated toxins.
Are free markets always good for us? This article suggests otherwise when no one wants to speak up about poisons.
2 books in one Jan 2, 2008
While I enjoyed this book (it reads fluently), it seems that it tries to do 2 separate things. The first is an extended and repetitious treatment of how the U.S. has lost its world position and influence in the world-wide regulation of the chemical industry due to regulatory recalcitrance and inaction. The second relates how the impact of the U.S. policy of waiting for problems to "emerge" or waiting for the legal system to highlight "problems" (which may need regulatory adjustment) vs. the EU policy of "precautionary" regulation has put U.S. citizens "at risk" to numerous potentially hazardous chemicals. The second focus was of more interest to me and I thought there would be a more thorough treatment of these potential hazards.