July 27, 2005 at 11:05 am | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

No, it’s not a new social networking thing, like FOAF. PFOA is a substance created when fluorotelomers break down:

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is a perfluorinated acid (PFA) that has recently been identified in the liver and blood of polar bears and seals in the Arctic, including some samples from Nunavut. There is concern about the presence of this chemical in the environment as it is highly persistent and seems not to degrade. It can cause cancer, lead to enlarged livers as well as affect the fertility of wildlife. [More…]

PFOA in turn does not break down and stays in the environment indefinitely.

Fluorotelomers are used in microwaveable popcorn bags, in packaging for fast foods like sandwiches, chicken and French fries, as well as in packaging for pizza, bakery items, drinks and candy. They are also found in paper plates. There is currently no way for consumers to tell if packaging contains fluorotelomers. [More…]

The Environmental Protection Agency has been studying PFOA since 1999 and, after review of its findings by an outside science advisory panel, that panel concluded that PFOA is a human carcinogen. EPA in turn wants to tone those conclusions down and call PFOA a “suggestive human carcinogen.” See today’s article in the New York Times, Is There an Extra Ingredient in Nonstick Pans? by Marian Burros. The main focus is on teflon pans, but as the snippet above indicates, the stuff is in packaging all over the place.

The article includes instructions on how to microwave regular popcorn using a plain paper bag, one staple, and a bit of oil and salt.


In completely unrelated matters:

I’m waaayyy behind in projects, including writing something in response to Alex Couros‘s great comment yesterday. Several hours after I commented back, it occured to me that I’m again thinking about these issues in terms of my favourite frame of reference, namely embodiment, and that this trope (embodiment) is linked in my mind to the local. That is, we are locally constituted, we “take things to heart,” we “digest” news, we literally consider our body the local host. Technology has a tendency to dis-integrate the local, sometimes even to threaten it. It’s not that technology is bad, but it literally makes us over — re-constitutes us — in ways that can be alienating or distressing, and that at the very least alter significant things about our constitution. (Once we’ve got our “skin,” we also hate to change: Couros has a blog entry for July 26 about how people “resist” Linux and rely on Windows instead.) We’ve probably known this, intuitively, all along, and known it about all technologies, too, including chiselling runes in rocks, or reading, or books, or photography. We’re also quite adept at accepting how this splitting off of bits of ourselves — re-constituting ourselves in some technological mediation, whether at the production or reception end of things — is a way of creating new individuation. Early adopters are probably risk-takers, people who like drugs and risky behaviour and don’t mind messing around with their own personal boundaries (I include myself here). I bought a book ages ago, when I was still a graduate student (back in the 14th century), which dealt with individualism as a question of di-vidualism, or division. The book is somewhere in the house, and I have to find it — at this point, I can’t even remember the editor’s name, just the colours on the cover…

My thinking was also prompted by thinking about how people resist new technologies — and why do they? Is it because they sense that every new tool has something dis-integrative about it? Is it because what they want in the first instance is to be recognised for what they bring (to the table, to a project), not for what they lack? Doesn’t technology always at first show you a plenitude elsewhere, which informs you of all the things absent in you — and how is this different from what nature offers as a platform for exploring how we are constituted? We don’t yet wield nature over others the way we can wield technology — the latter is an extension of will and power. We’re using technology to dominate nature, and we’ve almost completely succeeded — the ability to alter the germline, etc., represents a real shift. I guess I can’t help going back again to the old wound, the body, the place where all this coming together and breaking apart takes place. It’s where we’re born and where we die, if we’re lucky. If we’re not, we die hooked up to machines. We may be very close to being born through technological-genetic engineering, which would close the gap between technology and nature. But at this point, I don’t know that we even know why we might have needed and will continue to need that gap…

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