Protesters Target Pvc

  • Activists want Target to stop carrying PVC plastic products because of potential links with toxins. (photo by Lester Graham)

Polyvinyl chloride and the chemicals used to make it are thought to be
linked to birth defects and cancers. So activists are urging companies
to stop using the plastic. America’s 6th largest retailer Target was
recently handed 10,000 signatures at its annual shareholders
meeting. The petition urges the company to phase out the use of PVC
plastic in the products it sells. Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports:


Polyvinyl chloride and the chemicals used
to make it are thought by some to be linked to
birth defects and cancers. The petition was
delivered to the annual shareholders meeting.
Lisa Ann Pinkerton has more:

In white hazmat suits and dust masks, about 30 protesters chant on the street in front of the new Target store.
It’s the site of this year’s shareholder meeting
and one of those protesters is Brad Melzer, a biology professor at Lake Erie
College in Ohio. But Melzer’s not shaking a protest sign right now. Instead, he’s trying to keep his infant
son shaded and cool in the noon-day sun. As little Winston lounges in a stroller, sucking on a bottle, Melzer says he’s
here today because he’s read about PVC plastic and its possible toxicity to

“To be honest, I don’t even know if this nipple has PVC in it. He could already be
ingesting these things.”

Protests like this one are happening simultaneously in 200 locations across the country,
but in Cleveland, protesters have turned in a petition with 10,000 signatures urging Target
to stop stocking its shelvesproducts containing polyvinyl chloride, or PVC.

Not too far away from the Melzers, is Doctor Cynthia Bearer of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, and she chats with a
woman holding a protest sign reading “Way off Target with Toxic Toys.”

Bearer’s main concern is chemicals called pthalates, which help soften PVC plastic. The
most common is known as DEHP. Bearer says the chemicals may leach from teething
rings, shower curtains and packaging, and put young children at risk:

“Pthalates are known to be endocrine disrupters. They interact with the thyroid

And they can cause abnormalities in infants, she says, including reproductive

“So we can actually measure health effects, particularly on male infants in terms of their
sexual development at the time of birth from exposure to pthalates.”

Like Dr. Bearer and Brad Melzer, some of the protesters are science professionals.
Some are just concerned parents and others are advocates for children. Maureen Swanson is with the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She says the development of children’s brains might be impaired by exposure
to chemicals in PVC. She says even if science can’t pinpoint right now why 1 in 6
children suffer from learning disabilities, something needs to be done. She says the burden on America’s schools is growing:

“The percentage of school funding that has to go to help these kids who have learning
and developmental disabilities, then that impacts the school’s ability to fund other
educational needs.”

Some precautions have been made to reduce exposure to some of the PVC-related chemicals.
The US Food and Drug Administration has advised against using DEHP in medical
devices, and the Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as a probable carcinogen,
but the government doesn’t bar the use of DEHP in any product.

Even without the ban on the chemicals, 53 companies, including Target’s largest competitor, Wal-Mart, have begun phasing
out the products that contain PVC. Target Spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter says her company has some options it’s working on,
but it’s reluctant to set a time table for phasing out PVC. But she says that doesn’t mean that Target isn’t taking the
issue seriously:

“We’re talking to out buyers, we’re talking to our venders and we’re asking them to look
into some alternatives that we have.”

If Target doesn’t move on the PVC issue, new dad Brian Melzer
says he’ll be left with a difficult shopping dilemma:

“I don’t like shopping at Wal-Mart at all. But… if Target continues its practices of not phasing
out PVCs. Yeah, then definitely I would choose one of their competitors, and if it had to
be Wal-Mart, I guess it would have to be Wal-Mart.”

However, at this point, Target Spokeswoman Brookter doesn’t think the company will
lose business on this single issue.

For the Environment Report, I’m Lisa Ann Pinkerton.

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Roots of the Great Lakes Fishery

  • Planting fish in the Elk Creek in the late 1800's. Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan Archives.

Head to almost any body of water and chances are you’ll find someone there fishing. We take it for granted that lakes and streams have fish in them. But most waterways can’t produce enough fish to keep up with demand. For more than 100 years states around the nation have been stocking the water with fish. Tamar Charney reports:


Head to almost any body of water and chances are you’ll find someone there fishing. We take it for granted that lakes and streams have fish in them. But most waterways can’t produce enough fish to keep up with demand. For over 100 years states around the nation have been stocking the water with fish. Tamar Charney reports:

(Sounds of water in a stream)

When you stand at the side of the Boyne River in northern Michigan, you can smell the balsam fir that line the banks.

“There go a couple of salmon, right at our feet you can see.”

Tim Tebeau is standing under some branches casting his line into the river.

“We’re fishing for steelhead trout today. They are most likely just lying there waiting for something to come their way.”

The lakes and streams in this part of the state have drawn fishermen for years. Tim Tebeau says that includes writer Ernest Hemingway who set many of his short stories in Northern Michigan.

“As a writer I kind of revere Hemingway, and I spend a lot of time fishing the very same streams he did when he was spending his summers here.”

But if it weren’t for human intervention there wouldn’t have been fish for Hemingway, or for Tim Tebeau to fish for. In the mid to late 1800’s people started noticing that pollution, habitat destruction from dams and logging, and over-fishing were killing off almost all the fish in New England, and in the Great Lakes region.

Gary Whelen is the fish production manager for the state of Michigan. He says people began to squeeze out the eggs from fish, hatch them, and put the small fish back into lakes and streams.

“In 1870 many state agencies were looking at building hatchery systems.”

The hatchery systems rebuilt the populations of many native fish, including the brook trout that Hemingway liked to fish for. But they didn’t just breed local fish. For instance they brought in brown trout from Germany in 1883, and Whelan says the steelhead that Tim Tebeau fishes for came from California in 1877.

“Some of us depict that era as the ‘Johnny Fishseed’ period, where we were moving fish all over the continent, and internationally for that matter, bringing fish in that were considered commercially or economically important.”

Now this was long before there were highways, so if you wanted to move stuff long distances you basically had one choice.

(sound of train whistle)

That’s right, trains.

“This is a re-creation of the last of the 3 fish cars that transported fish around the state of Michigan. So this is a re-creation of the Wolverine.”

Maureen Jacobs is with the Michigan Fishery’s Visitors Center. The train car she’s standing in shows people, complete with train sound effects, how the fish were moved in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What you see is that the fish rode in the lap of luxury.

“They had chandeliers on the old fish cars!”

See, the fish cars were Pullman cars, used ones, but they still had all the trappings, including the mahogany bunks that the guys who cared for the fish slept on. Underneath the bunks were row after row of milk cans full of water and tiny little fish.

“Public citizens called ‘applicants’ would apply for permits to meet the train at different depots around the state of Michigan. From there, they would remove the old fish cans and plant the fingerlings in different lakes, rivers, and streams, so the public would basically stock the fish.”

Things are different today. People no longer pick up cans at the train station. Hatcheries are big modern facilities, the fish are moved by truck, and fisheries’ staff take care of releasing them. But they are still needed to make sure there are enough for people to fish for, because over-fishing and environmental damage are problems that haven’t gone away.

(Sounds of birds and water.)

“I’m going to adjust the depth a little bit here, get it closer to the bottom.”

Unfortunately the dark shapes you can just make out swimming around in the Boyne River aren’t biting Tim Tebeau’s line. But he’s says they’re there.

“If it weren’t for stocking programs like the ones we have, we wouldn’t be fishing for anything today; we’d simply be standing here enjoying the river.”

And perhaps tomorrow he’ll catch one, take a good look at it, and release it back to it’s watery world; an experience that will show up in unexpected ways in his writing, the same way fishing these streams inspired Ernest Hemingway many years ago. Good thing there were fish to fish for, huh?

“Whoa, that might have been a fish.”

For the Environment Report I’m Tamar Charney.

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