Speaking of BFRs, this second, Register Hardware-inspired round of Greenpeace scepticism follows a statement put out by the Bromine Science and Environment Forum (BSEF), a bromine chemical industry trade body. It essentially accuses Greenpeace of poor testing and scaremongering, though it has a vested interest in maintaining the use of BFRs.
For instance, it says Greenpeace doesn't know which BFRs are present the iPhone because it only tested for the presence to bromine, and without that knowledge all the NGO can do is "raise an alarm without any basis for doing so".
However, even the BSEF has to admit there are BFRs in the iPhone - it doesn't know which ones, either - so it can't really claim the NGO is wrong in this regard. The BSEF also speculates - a fault it's quick to accuse Greenpeace of - that the BFRs are "reactive" and thus bonded within a plastic at manufacture, a process that prevents the BFRs from escaping into the environment. But, again, it doesn't know this. At least Greenpeace did base its own report on lab findings.
Europe's WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations enforce the removal of BFRs from products like the iPhone when they're disposed of properly, though it can do nothing about old kit that's dumped by its former user or, as Greenpeace points out, equipment that's dismantled by hand.
That's one reason why Europe's Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations ban the use of three BFRs - Penta-BDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers), Octa-BDEs and PBBs (Polybrominated Biphenyls) - in all new kit sold over here from 1 July 2006. Apple maintains its products, wherever in the world they are sold, are within RoHS limits.
But not all BFRs are convered by RoHS, and its these others include as Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), a compound used primarily to protect circuit boards from fires. If Apple's makes good its pledge, Macs, iPods, iPhones etc will not contain even these substances from 1 January 2009.
Even the BSEF admits there are alternative flame-retardant products to BFRs, though it's quick to suggest these are somehow unknown quantities: "None are as well known or as well tested."
Well, there's a major business opportunity if there ever was one: get testing these BFR-alternatives with a view to bringing them to market in time for Apple's end-of-2008 deadline. Register Hardware will expect a cut from anyone who pursues this idea.
A difficult balance
I remember recently walking down the street from work and being stopped by two Greenpeace recruiters/fundraisers. They told me all about the horrible things that happen at our (Canada's) nuclear plants. They told me how they were polluting the lakes with radioactive waste, and that the legal limit was set ridiculously and dangerously high.
"Oh? How high?" I asked.
"7000 Bqs per liter of poisonous and radioactive Tritium!!!!!" She responded, filled with outrage.
"And what does Bq stand for?"
"........ Umm, it's a measurement of radiation."
"Sort of," I replied. "It stands for 'Becquerel', now let's do a little math..."
To sum it up, I calculated for them that a person would have to drink about 20000 liters of contaminated lake water to get one percent of a dangerous dose. Assuming you follow the "eight glasses a day" rule, you'd end up consuming about 800 liters a year. (What's the Register Unit for liquid measurement? I couldn't find one. Should I just use volume?)
The problem I have with their arguments and their practices, is that someone who doesn't know any better would have absolutely no defense against these people, and would walk away from the encounter convinced that the world was ending, when in fact they were getting more radiation just from being outside in the sun. Sure, there is no real "safe" level of radiation, but these people are masters of FUD. However, I can't help but wonder how much of the human population *needs* to be scared shitless to do something, because if there is one thing we as humans excel at, it's ignoring a problem until it's too late.
If I may close with a quote...
"On the one hand we a scientists are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. Which means we must include all the doubts, caveats, if, ands, and buts.
On the other hand we are also human beings as well and as such, would like to see the world a better place. To do that we need to get broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. To do that entails getting lots of media coverage, so we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have.
This ethical double-bind we frequently find ourselves in cannot be resolved by any formula. Each of us must determine what the right balance is between being honest and being effective." - Stephen Schneider
The lead NAZIs strike again
Just to grab headlines! They will be the first ones to conplain when the iPhone they are using grows tin whiskers and stops working while their silly boat is swamped. As mentioned before, Greenpiece ought to concentrate on getting Di-hydrogen Mono-Oxide (aka DHMO) banned for all uses.
Why not have nuclear power. It works quite well, and after the plant is built, the cost is the cheapest per unit (kWh). Oh, by the way it doesn't have too much carbon emissions to gripe about (if they do anything).
What is wrong with global warming? Without it, we would be in the ice age still, with snow covering most of the hemisphere!!
Greenpeace are hypocrites
Groups such as Greenpeace (the same people who campaign against building new recycling facilities on the basis that to do so will encourage people to throw more away) have never given so much as a flying f**k about the environment. In fact, the absolute worst thing that could happen as far as Greenpeace &c. are concerned would be the development of a cheap, plentiful and innocuous energy source capable of replacing fossil fuels altogether. They would be joining forces with the fossil fuel industry to get it buried. Why? Because if we could have all the energy we wanted without pollution, Greenpeace &c. would no longer have a stick to beat us all with.
Greenpeace were the ones who complained when we cut down trees, despite private ownership of land making it suicidally uneconomical not to replant new ones. As soon as we we found a better substance -- unplasticised PVC, i.e. the hard form of polyvinyl chloride without nasty phthalate plasticisers -- to make window frames out of, they still complained, even managing to flesh out their PVC hate list (between items relating to phthalate plasticisers -- what does that "u" stand for again?) with "it's not biodegradable". Which used to be considered a positive *advantage* in a building material.
It's clear from the way Greenpeace behave that don't care about protecting the environment; all they care about is making people feel guilty and increasing their membership. Anyone who actually understands science to O-level or better must cringe with embarrassment every time a Greenpeace spokesperson opens their mouth.
For the flutter-loving types among you: It's probably worth sticking a few quid on Greenpeace having a pop at Iodine (the next member of Group VIIb in the periodic table; they've already vilified Chlorine and are now trying to do a similar hatchet-job on Bromine) sometime in the future, if you can get reasonable odds.