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Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products [Hardcover]

Mark Schapiro
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power 4.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2007
Mark Schapiro's The Directive does to huge swaths of the consumer landscape what Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation did to the assembly line version of a burger and fries. The results of his work are unsettling.

The Directive should be required reading for anyone concerned about their health. It is one of the most important books on consumer safety you will ever read. Mark Schapiro's revelations will spark a sea change in the way American consumers think about everyday products, as well as the future of environmentalism and the roles we can all play in protecting ourselves from a variety of hidden dangers.

Exploring the changes in the European Union--where stricter consumer safety standards have forced multinationals into manufacturing safer products--Schapiro's exposi shows that, short of strong government intervention, America will lose whatever claim it had to commercial supremacy. Increasingly, its products are equated with serious health hazards, the same hazards that the European Parliament is legislating out of existence in its powerful trading block.

Increasingly, the world looks to Europe for solutions to the most pressing issues of our time, from new energy development, to the environment, to basic human rights like universal health care and a decent standard of living. The United States is in decline. Even China, the world's largest consumer market, now argues that the only way to avoid an environmental meltdown is to follow the path forged by the Europeans.

In The Directive Schapiro takes the reader inside this power shift, which has gone almost wholly unreported in the United States. He shines a light on Europe's evolving search for higher standards that has allowed Brussels, and not Washington, to emerge as the center for global markets innovation in the 21st century. Schapiro's revelations will anger some readers, and inspire still others to action.


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From Publishers Weekly

Americans' confidence in their government-sanctioned environmental and consumer protections receives another blow in investigative reporter Schapiro's exposé, which explores such discomforting information as the 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control tests that found 148 toxic chemicals "in the bodies of 'Americans of all ages.'" The U.S.'s unique tendency to take no action against businesses and their products until a disaster occurs keeps them tied to 1970s standards-"exposed to substances from which increasing numbers of people around the world are being protected"-while "the principle of preventing harm before it happens, even in the face of imperfect scientific certainty," guides an increasing number of countries; by "creating legal and financial incentives," governments in Europe and Japan have kept citizens relatively safe from what contributes to the deaths "of at least 5 million people a year," according to the World Health Organization. Schapiro (co-author, with David Weir, of Circle of Poison: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World) discovers toxins in personal care products, toys, electronics and foods which are, in some cases, manufactured solely for U.S. consumption, and traces them to the people and events responsible. Though a look at growing support for change in the U.S. provides some hope, a guide to action would have been an appropriate addition to Schapiro's prescient muckraking.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so proud of the US/FDA/EPA now! Sept. 10 2007
By Linda Erday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I pulled this book out of the library in Urbana, Illinois while visiting a friend and didn't put it down until I was done. Now I find myself ordering my own copy so my daughter can read it as well. Bottom line: this book reveals how the people of the USA are not as well protected by our government as we might think we are. The recent lead-paint-in-toys recall and this year's pet-food-debacle, while not addressed, become more understandable for those of us who might have thought, "now how could *that* happen?" It happens because the US standards are not as tight as they should be!
The book addresses the thousands of chemicals all around us -- those in our appliances, our cosmetics and toiletries, even our food, and shows how very little testing is done on these chemicals before we are subjected to them. It also covers the political and economic aspects of the topic, including how there is contamination of "normal" crops due to cross pollination with Genetically Modified crops, and how the US crops could be losing their global appeal.
Forget about going to see a thriller at the Cinema 13 tonight -- just read this book to get yourself good and frightened!
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Story - and Maybe Offers Hope Oct. 19 2007
By Amazon Bob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had not realized till I read this book that Europe seems more interested in health than corporate profits, as evidenced by how closely they watch modern products. The US used to be a leader in this regard, but now govt agencies are tools of big business. It's sad, but the hope is that the standards that the Europeans set (and by osmosis, Japan and China) will gradually improve the safety of products in the US. No company likes having two versions of a product.

Sadly, we cannot depend of the FDA, USDA, and other agencies to safeguard our health. Better to know than not so we can act accordingly. Better get the book.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knowing your poison - and how to avoid it! Oct. 27 2007
By Simon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Over the years I have witnessed representatives of America's chemical industry seeking to weaken proposed new health and environmental standards in Brussels and generally decrying the European approach as 'non-sensical'. This book shows how and why such efforts were misplaced, ultimately self-defeating and inimical to the US consumer.
My attention was brought to this book by an article in The Economist ('Brussels rules OK', Sep 20th 2007). The article generally concerned the European regulatory approach and how it was influencing not just developments in its own markets, but also abroad, as other countries used the EU standards as benchmarks for their own regulation. Even the US industry seemed to have sat up and noticed at last.
Concerning "Exposed", The Economist wrote: 'A gripping new book by an American, Mark Schapiro, captures the change. When he began his research, he found firms resisting the notion that the American market would follow EU standards for items like cosmetics, insisting that their American products were already safe. But as the book neared completion, firm after firm gave in and began applying EU standards worldwide, as third countries copied European rules on things like suspected carcinogens in lipstick. Even China is leaning to the European approach, one Procter & Gamble executive tells Mr Schapiro, adding wistfully: "And that's a pretty big country."
The book records similar American reactions to the spread of EU directives insisting that cars must be recycled, or banning toxins such as lead and mercury from electrical gadgets. Obey EU rules or watch your markets "evaporating", a computer industry lobbyist tells Mr Schapiro. "We've been hit by a tsunami," says a big wheel from General Motors. American multinationals that spend money adjusting to European rules may lose their taste for lighter domestic regulations that may serve only to offer a competitive advantage to rivals that do not export. Mr Schapiro is a campaigner for tougher regulation of American business. Yet you do not have to share his taste for banning chemicals to agree with his prediction that American industry will want stricter standards to create a level playing-field at home.'
At times I found the anecdotal style a little irritating, wishing it were counterbalanced by a more formal, factual presentation. However, the book grabs ones attention and tells its story well. If one wishes to follow up specific issues, the chapter notes and index at the end are useful.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should know about this. Nov. 4 2007
By B Crannell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This was a great book, and everyone should know about the toxics that we deal with in everyday life. The book is very well referenced, which was great considering the magnitude of the toxic impact that this book points out in our everyday life. I wish every politician in the U.S. would read this book, as it reavals a very subtle, yet very powerful tide-change, that is occurring in the world today, leaving the U.S. behind because we refuse to acknowledge the truth right in front of us.
This book is perfect for everyone interested in the environment, health, and politics.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Cost of Privatized Health Insurance Dec 16 2007
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There probably isn't a single person in the United States whose health hasn't been affected by phthalates (pronounced tha-lates). These guys are plastic softeners. You'll find them in shower curtains, shampoo bottles, raincoats, perfumes, rubber duckies, teething rings, car dashboards--you name it. They're linked with endocrine ailments. They make your hormones crazy. They lower sperm counts, may be linked to prostate and breast cancers, and sexual disfunction. They can cause genetic mutations.

And they're entirely unnecessary. There are other nontoxic additives to make plastic pliable.

Oh, and one more thing: while perfectly legal in the U.S., phthalates are illegal in the European Union. In fact, as author Schapiro points out, a whole cesspool of toxic additives that are perfectly acceptable in the U.S. have been outlawed in the EU for a long time now. Chinese factories that try to sell phthalate-riddled plastic toys in Europe get their commodities rejected at the borders. Guess where they eventually wind up? Under your kid's Christmas tree. As Schapiro says (p. 189), the U.S. is becoming "a dumping ground or goods not wanted elsewhere in the world."

That the FDA and other governmental agencies are doing a crappy job protecting us from harmful and unnecessary toxins in everyday commodities probably doesn't come as much of a shock to anyone. But Schapiro's speculation about why the EU does such a better job watchdogging its citizens is worth heeding. Health care in the EU is nationalized. The government, using in part taxpayer monies, picks up the tab for taking care of sick and dying people. In this kind of health care environment, you better believe that preventive medicine is a high governmental priority, because neglect today costs more tomorrow. So it's in the interest of the individual EU states, as well as their tax-paying citizens, to make sure that toxins stay out of their countries.

Something to think long and hard about if you live in a country like the U.S. big on deregulation, privatized health care, and plastic stuff.
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