A View From the Cheap Seats

May 28, 2008

Panic Peddlers


By Rich Trzupek

As a chemist, I am legally required to roll my eyes at least three times per day over some of the ridiculous reports that are published by so-called public interest groups, purporting to be science. I’ve developed a thick skin about this stuff, so it’s not often that a particular study can actually make my blood boil, but Greenpeace has managed to trip whatever subconscious switch in my psyche makes me flip out. So, this week, we’re saying to hell with subtle, clever sarcasm. This week, the gloves are off.

What could possibly make your mild-mannered (and humble) correspondent so angry? Just this: a Greenpeace (of crap) report entitled “Playing Dirty”, that warns people about hazardous chemicals in popular game consoles. Sony’s PS-3, Micorsoft’s X-Box and Nintendo’s Wii tested positive for (parents, you may want to ask your children to leave the room): polyvinyl chloride (or “PVC’), beryllium, bromine and phthalates.

“Whether game consoles are classified as toys or not, they can still contain hazardous chemicals and materials that could harm humans,” Dr. Kevin Brigden of Greenpeace said in a press release.

In one sense, Dr. Brigden is correct, and I would love to have the opportunity to prove it. For, if I could beat him over the head repeatedly with an X-Box, I would then concede that the device “could harm humans”.

Absent that, I fail to see any plausible mechanism through which any human being could be harmed by the “hazardous chemicals” in these entertainment devices.

The Greenpeace report is so flawed that it represents a danger to society in and of itself: legitimate scientists are at risk of dying of laughter while reading it.

Take bromine, for example. Yes, if your X-Box were delivered with a vial of liquid bromine contained inside, that would be a bit of a concern. However, like most elements, it’s the form that the bromine takes (and the amount) that determines whether it presents a plausible risk or not.

More to the point, bromine is a part of many chemicals that play an important role is making our lives better and safer. Bromine-based chemicals are used to kill harmful bacteria in water, to make fire-retardant chemicals and are used in many important medicines.

It is worse that stupid – it is irresponsible – to warn people about the supposed “danger” of bromine in a game console without explaining exactly what the actual chemical is, what it’s used for, how much there is, and what the actual risk of significant exposure is.

When you do that kind of detailed analysis with any of Greenpeace’s claims – and by that I mean when you do the actual science – you find that their claims have no more validity than that of a drunk driver trying to talk his way out of a ticket. Both are, and will continue to be, congenital, hapless liars.

Not that they care. Greenpeace long ago ceased to have anything to do with science, or the environment for that matter. It’s an organization dominated by political and public relations agendas. In today’s world, they can pack up dog turds and, so long as they’re wrapped in “green” ribbon, people will flock to buy them. “Fight global warming – buy your dog doo here!” It’s coming folks.

Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, left the organization years ago, in part because the powers-that-be at Greenpeace ignored science and called for a worldwide ban on chlorine – one of the most useful chemicals we have, one that saves and protects millions of lives every year, in a variety of disinfectants, medicines and pesticides.

In the April 22 Wall Street Journal, Moore took his former colleagues to task. He noted, among other things, their ridiculous positions on PVC and phthalates. He said (rather poignantly I think): “Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas.”

You got that right Mr. Moore.

This isn’t a group that’s about environmental stewardship any more. These is a group of finger-wagging hucksters, determined to make you feel guilty for daring inhabit a planet that was unspoiled until that first damn human had the gall to dare to walk upright. Greenpeace’s ideal world is not, as they claim, one in which nature and man live in harmony. It’s a world in which the last, desolate human being huddles in a cave with a granola bar (wrapped in biodegradable packaging, of course) waiting to be eaten by a passing grizzly bear, because that’s nature’s way after all.


Since we, the X-Box playing, carbon-dioxide exhaling, SUV-driving public have done such an awful job of taking care of the earth that they purport to protect, I have a suggestion for Greenpeace:

Find yourself another planet you frauds. You’ve outlived your welcome – and your usefulness – on this one.



  1. Rich,

    Greenpiece may be on to something here, but I think I have discovered something way more ominous than bromine in plastic. After all, I drink bromide when I get anxious over the news from these dweebs. What they have overlooked my trusty propellerhead is this… There is hydrogen in water! Lots of it and they use hydrogen to make bombs!!! We should all stop drinking water this instant and stick to beer. Ahhh beer.


    Comment by John Adams — May 28, 2008 @ 9:54 am | Reply

  2. Is bromine synthesized by mankind?
    How about asbestos?
    Nickel, Silver…
    Or are these part of the planet since long before Greenpeices?

    All I know is, since I put a game console in my house, all of my babies have been born stark naked!

    Comment by Thomas Jefferson — May 29, 2008 @ 11:07 am | Reply

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