Tag Archives: toxic

What’s in Pepper Spray?

What’s in Pepper Spray?

In California, the toxin TCE

By Michael Collins

Pike aimed a large can of First Defense aerosolized Oleoresin Capsicum at two-dozen occupiers, including student David Buscho and his girlfriend.

“The police officer came up to us and said, ‘If you guys don’t move, we’re going to shoot you,’ so we turned around,” Buscho said to a crowd of several hundred occupiers three days later in the same quad where he was sprayed.

“Then it happened,” Buscho continued as the angry crowd listened transfixed. “At that point I entered a world of pain. It felt like hot glass was entering my eyes. I couldn’t see anything. I wanted to open my eyes, but every time I did the pain got worse.”

But in one way, Buscho got off easy. Police in California generally do not use pepper spray that contains as its main ingredients the mainstays of several popular pepper sprays sold in Los Angeles and California retail outlets — the dry cleaning solvent and toxin tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, and its distillate, the once-common degreaser and toxin trichloroethylene, or TCE.

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65, requires that the governor publish an annual list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity or cancer. Both PCE and TCE made the list in April 1988 as chemicals that cause cancer.

Yet no law is on the books in California to prevent PCE’s or TCE’s use in products meant to be sprayed directly into somebody’s face.

“California has banned other uses of TCE in consumer products, including spray paints and other aerosols,” says Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that significant exposures are occurring in the vicinity of pepper spray fumes.”

TCE-based pepper spray is being sold in California through the Internet by Fox Labs International and Personal Safety Corporation, according to the companies’ websites. And two of Personal Safety Corporation’s Pepper Defense products with PCE but without Proposition 65 warnings were being sold at True Value and Do It Best stores that L.A. Weekly visited earlier this month in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Eagle Rock, Florence-Graham, Hollywood, Venice and North Hollywood.

Seven Fox Labs International pepper spray products are sold locally through Galls, a large police and public safety equipment and apparel company, with local stores in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange and Riverside. On the stores’ websites, No Proposition 65 warnings are indicated on these items.

“PCE and TCE are known carcinogens on California’s Proposition 65 list, which means products containing them should by law carry the Proposition 65 warning label,” says Ana Mascareñas, policy coordinator for Physicians for Social Responsibility–Los Angeles, a public health and environmental group.

“It is almost inconceivable that these pepper sprays are being sold in California without labels warning consumers of the cancer risks,” she adds.

Ed Ferguson, president of Michigan-based Fox Labs International, boasts: “First Defense has been described as ketchup to my Tabasco. You won’t find anyone hit with … Fox that wouldn’t rather be hit with a Taser.”

Fox Lab’s pepper spray is, by weight, 98 percent “volatiles” — meaning a liquid that is easily vaporized. And that volatile is TCE.

Ferguson takes umbrage at California regulators calling TCE a carcinogen.

“California’s the only people that say it,” Ferguson says. “Why is that? California don’t have their shit together and yet they’re saying a lot of stuff for a lot of people that puts them into bankruptcy.”

At Personal Safety Corporation, the producer of pepper spray containing PCE, president and founder Dick Olson tells the Weekly, “California probably has some of the most stringent interpretations of what’s carcinogenic and at what levels.”

Olson says Pepper Enforcement is made with TCE but that the “amount of that chemical is so minute as to not cause harm to humans. It’s a very minute amount.”

But publicly available Material Safety Data Sheets reveal a different story.

Material Safety Data Sheets contain data regarding the official known properties of a specific substance. The figures on the sheets regarding Personal Safety Corporation pepper sprays sold at True Value stores in California show that two of them come in formulas with PCE (volatiles) levels at 95 percent by weight.

Do It Best was quick to defend its California handling of Personal Safety Corporation products.

Do It Best communications director Randy Rusk says in an email, “Do it Best Corp. takes safety and compliance issues seriously, and we are looking into the labeling situation to affirm the products we carry and that our vendors are in compliance with state law.”

“True Value is a cooperative,” says True Value spokeswoman Marsha Burton. “That means our members created us. We can’t tell a member what they can and can’t sell. A lot of members could have bought [the Personal Safety Corporation pepper spray] from Do It Best.”

Burton subsequently supplied the Weekly with Material Safety Data Sheets showing that True Value does sell Personal Safety Corporation pepper sprays with 95 percent PCE.

Mascareñas fumes upon hearing the retailers’ remarks.

“It’s a public-health outrage if this kind of pepper spray contains 95 percent PCE or 98 percent TCE by [weight],” Mascareñas says. “Consumers have a right to know what toxic chemicals are in pepper spray and decide if they want to take the everyday risk of being exposed to another known carcinogen.”

But trichloroethylene is up to 5,000 times cheaper than the safe 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane, or HFA, which is used as the base inert ingredient in TCE-free pepper sprays. HFA costs about $500 a pound, while the same amount of TCE can be had for a dime.

Lenny Siegel of the Mountain View–based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, who last year was named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its Superfund “Citizen of the Year,” says, “Leakage from spray cans may pose a continuing hazard to those who carry them.”

While you can get it on many retail store shelves, several police agencies the Weekly contacted do not use pepper spray containing PCE or TCE.

The Santa Monica and Simi Valley police departments said they carry Sabre Red brand 10 percent capsaicin pepper spray. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also uses Sabre Red, while the Los Angeles Police Department’s website indicates that it uses First Defense.

But who will protect consumers who are urged to buy pepper spray available on store shelves for personal safety but may be getting something more dangerous than they ever imagined?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says PCE is a potential human carcinogen and causes “depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose and throat irritation.”

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research reported in a February 2010 study that PCE increases the risk of Parkinson’s by a multiple of nine. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 30, 2011, found TCE causes liver and kidney cancer, lymphoma and other illnesses.

“There is a perception that a cancer-causing substance doesn’t belong in such a product, even if its intent is to irritate and/or disable,” Siegel says of TCE in pepper spray.


Must Be 21 To Drink……Coca-Cola

Scientists say sugar is as toxic as alcohol – and there should be a drinking age for soda

Sure, sugar’s bad for you. But should we establish a drinking age for sugary sodas? According to UC San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, the answer is emphatically yes. He says that added sweeteners have health effects comparable to alcohol and tobacco, and should be regulated accordingly. In a comment piece for the journal Nature, Lustig and his colleagues argue that the state should selectively block access to sugar, using some pretty stiff rules.

For years, Lustig has advocated against added sugar, specifically sweeteners that include fructose. In the recent opinion piece, Lustig and his colleagues Laura A. Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis point out that fructose and other sugars can cause liver toxicity, among other chronic diseases. They write:

A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly. If international bodies are truly concerned about public health, they must consider limiting fructose – and its main delivery vehicles, the added sugars HFCS and sucrose – which pose dangers to individuals and to society as a whole.

To restrict sugar, the researchers start with ideas drawn from existing alcohol and tobacco restrictions. They suggest establishing taxes on “sweetened fizzy drinks (soda), other sugar-sweetened beverages (for example, juice, sports drinks and chocolate milk) and sugared cereal.” In addition, they advocate that we reduce the availability of sugar, particularly to children. This restriction would make it more difficult for vending machines to sell sweet drinks and sugary snacks in schools and in workplaces, building on already existing regulations that have removed sodas from some schools.

But there are even bigger steps to be taken in limiting the availability of added sugars. Lustig et. al. write:

States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast-food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Another option would be to limit sales during school operation, or to designate an age limit (such as 17) for the purchase of drinks with added sugar, particularly soda. Indeed, parents in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recently took this upon themselves by lining up outside convenience stores and blocking children from entering them after school. Why couldn’t a public-health directive do the same?

Refusing to allow fast food restaurants in certain areas? Banning children from convenience stores? I just can’t see anyone accepting changes this radical. Do the researchers really think that people will sit back and let the government take away pastries, candy, and soda? Over our pudgy dead bodies. Surprisingly, the researchers don’t see sugar cravings as their biggest obstacle.

They write:

Regulating sugar will not be easy – particularly in the ‘emerging markets’ of developing countries where soft drinks are often cheaper than potable water or milk. We recognize that societal intervention to reduce the supply and demand for sugar faces an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby, and will require active engagement from all stakeholders.

So the scientists think the biggest problem with regulating sugar is the sugar lobby*. But even without the lobbyists, would people ever cede their right to eat sweets?

Though sugar undoubtedly causes disease, I have a hard time accepting that we’ll see the establishment of sugar regulations. And it’s not just because the populace would rise up in protest.

One impetus for tobacco and alcohol regulations is protecting others. Tobacco can cause cancer in the smoker and those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Alcohol is not only an addictive substance that can poison the body in large enough quantities, but also impairs judgment to the point where a drinker might, say, get into a car and plow into another vehicle or a pedestrian. The government doesn’t regulate these substances just to protect the smokers and drinkers, it does so to protect others from the smokers and drinkers. Unless we discover that sugar hurts the people who watch us eat it, strict restrictions may be a long time coming.

Via Nature

*Not to be confused with a candy-filled receiving room, the sugar lobby is actually very powerful. Even if it’s hard to take seriously when you picture the lobbyists working out of gingerbread offices.


Ten Reasons Why the Keystone Pipeline Can’t Be Stopped

Ten Reasons Why the Keystone Pipeline Will Be Built

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Obama can’t afford to oppose this commonsense measure.

Over the past two weeks or so, several hundred protesters assembled outside the White House to oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to transport bitumen produced from oil sands in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. During the protest, actor Daryl Hannah, climate scientist James Hansen, and author and activist Bill McKibben were among some 1,200 people who were arrested.

The protesters are hoping that President Obama will block the $7 billion pipeline. Their rationale: The pipeline will result in major increases in carbon-dioxide emissions, and therefore it must be stopped or catastrophic climate change will ensue. Protest as they might, a State Department report found that the pipeline will not have a major environmental impact.

Here are ten reasons why the Keystone pipeline will be built.

1. Canada’s oil production is rising, Mexico’s is falling. For many years, the U.S. has relied most heavily on crude imports from Mexico and Canada. Over the past ten years, Canadian crude production has risen by 600,000 barrels per day while Mexico’s has fallen by about that same amount. I’d rather have a reliable, long-term supply of crude from Canada than rely on overseas suppliers, whether they are part of OPEC or not. How long can we rely on the Canadian oil sands? Probably for decades. The resources there are estimated at over 100 billion barrels.

2. U.S. oil production is rising, but we will still need to import oil, and lots of it. Thanks to the shale revolution, domestic oil production could rise by as much as 2 million barrels per day over the next few years. That’s great news. But that increased production will not cover all of America’s needs. The more oil we can get from North America, the better.

3. Some of the oil moving through the Keystone XL will likely be exported, but that’s no reason to stop it. Critics of the pipeline, including Oil Change International, say that much of the oil in the line will “never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.” That may be true. But U.S. oil exports are not new. American refineries are now exporting about 2.3 million barrels of refined products per day. Why? U.S. refiners are among the best in the world. They are importing lots of lower-grade crude oil and turning it into diesel and other fuels the world demands. Indeed, over the past six years, U.S. oil exports have more than doubled.

4. The pipeline will help America’s balance of trade. Refining is manufacturing. The U.S. is importing unfinished goods (in the form of Canadian crude), finishing them, and exporting them. That’s a good thing.

5. U.S. oil demand may be relatively flat, but it’s not going away. Opponents of the pipeline claim that there’s no need to build the Keystone XL, because U.S. oil demand is sluggish. That’s true, but the U.S. will continue to need lots of oil for decades to come. Here’s the latest prediction from EIA: “U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035.”

6. Like it or not, oil is here to stay. U.S. oil consumption — as a percentage of its total primary energy consumption — now stands at about 37 percent. That’s the exact same percentage as in 1949. Given the amount of money that has been spent over the past six decades on reducing our dependence on oil, the hard fact is that petroleum is a miraculous substance. Nothing else comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, flexibility, convenience, cost, or scale.

7. We should be getting as much oil as we can from as close to home as we can. But we can no longer rely on Mexico. Pemex, the country’s national oil company, is not investing enough money in new drilling projects even though its most important field, Cantarell, is declining rapidly. Nor can Pemex count on getting more money from the Mexican government, which is spending heavily on its war against the drug cartels. Indeed, Mexico may already be a failed state. The cartels are under siege by the federal police and federal soldiers, but the slaughter just a few weeks ago of more than 50 people at a casino in Monterey shows that the narcos are still running wild. Canada, meanwhile, has an ultra-stable government. And given its enormous oil deposits, it’s apparent that Canada can be an essential player in America’s effort to secure reliable energy supplies.

8. The claims about the pipeline being the pivotal project with regard to carbon dioxide are not true. McKibben has claimed that if the Canadian oil sands are developed, “it is essentially game over for the climate.” Think what you like about carbon dioxide. The reality is that the global issue of carbon dioxide is no longer about the United States. Over the past decade, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions fell by 1.7 percent. During that same time, period global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by a stunning 28.5 percent. Recall that over the past decade, Al Gore and his allies dominated the news media and much of the political discussion both in the U.S. and around the world. And yet during that same time frame, the countries of the world increased their use of energy by about 53 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Why? Because hundreds of millions of people all around the world are desperate to improve their lives by using more energy. And the cheapest, most abundant, most reliable source of energy is hydrocarbons.

The result: Carbon-dioxide emissions are soaring. The Kyoto agreement failed. Copenhagen failed. Cancun failed. The upcoming climate meeting to be held in Durban in December will fail, too. Why? The developing countries of the world need energy, and lots of it.

9. Demonize oil all you want, but coal is the real issue when it comes to carbon-dioxide emissions. Again, look at the numbers: Over the past decade, global coal use increased by 47 percent to about 71.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. During that same time period, oil use increased by 13 percent to about 87.3 million barrels per day. If Hansen, McKibben, and their allies want to protest projects that result in lots of carbon-dioxide emissions, they should be looking for coal mines and coal-fired generators, not oil pipelines. But protesting against coal means protesting against electricity generation, because most coal is used for that purpose. Over the past decade, electricity demand in Asia jumped by a whopping 85 percent. All over the world, people are turning on lights in their homes for the very first time. That trend will continue.

10. Obama can’t afford to hand a major campaign issue to his Republican opponent. Earlier this month, Obama backed down on a proposed rules that would have dramatically tightened standards on ground-level ozone. He will approve the Keystone pipeline. Doing otherwise will hurt his chances of staying in the White House for another four years. And while he knows that some environmentalists won’t be happy, he also knows that few, if any, of them will abandon him for a candidate like Rick Perry.

— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book is Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.