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Dreaming of a Toxic-Free Disney

Center for Health, Environment & Justice

By Mike Schade

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, calling for a toxic-free Disney. Photo: Gary Du of the Epoch Times

Last Saturday, I stood outside of Disney’s iconic flagship store in Times Square, calling on them to make our dreams come true, by getting poisonous phthalates and vinyl plastic out of children’s school supplies.

I organized the action with Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, a mother of two young children (who also came along for the fun), and director of the fantastic new environmental health documentary, Toxic Baby.

With me and Penelope and other concerned NYC residents were the voices and dreams of more than 65,000 parents and Disney customers, who had signed petitions calling on the company to do what’s right for our children’s health.

Hidden Hazards in Disney School Supplies

It all started with our recent report on toxic school supplies, that I researched and authored this past summer. Our investigation found Disney branded school supplies, like Disney Princess lunchboxes and Spiderman backpacks, loaded with hormone disrupting phthalates, toxic chemicals linked to asthma and early puberty that are getting into our children’s bodies.

The levels of Disney school supplies were off the charts, up to thirty times higher than what’s legal for toys. We couldn’t believe it!

The report led to massive press coverage across the country and inspired Lori Alper, a mother of three school-aged boys from Bedford, Massachusetts, to launch a petition on Change.org calling on Disney to eliminate these harmful chemicals. MomsRising.org joined in the campaign and also posted the petition on their site.

Since launching the petition, Change.org and MomsRising.org together have mobilized more than 65,000 parents to call on Disney to make our dreams come true and get these dangerous substances out of our lunchboxes and backpacks once and for all.

Unfortunately, Disney has ignored these protests and calls, so we knew we had to ramp up the pressure.

Dreaming of a toxic-free Disney in Times Square

So last Saturday, braving the cold NYC weather, we bundled up with our box full of petitions to deliver them to Disney’s flagship store in NYC's Times Square.

We passed out flyers to customers walking in and out of the store, as well as tourists that were strolling by. Many were shocked to discover Disney sells school supplies laced with chemicals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects and ADHD.

We held signs that read, “Disney: Make Our Dreams Come True—Dump Your Toxic Lunchboxes.” After educating hundreds of tourists and customers, we walked into the store, asked to speak to the store manager, and attempted to deliver our box full of petitions, along with this letter. The store manager unfortunately refused our petitions, directing us to talk to the corporate headquarters, but that was OK. We knew our message had been delivered.

As we were delivering our petitions in NYC, hundreds of miles away, Lori Alper and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow were doing the very same at a Disney store outside of Boston, which you can read about in this great post by Lori.

In conjunction with these actions, we and our allies at MomsRising.org also launched a social media campaign calling on Disney to address our concerns. The response to this has been amazing. Within only a few days of launching this campaign, it’s been shared by more than 1,600 people across the country.

Help us keep up the momentum!

Today is of course “Cyber Monday”—so join us online in calling on Disney to make our dreams come true—by sharing this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter today.

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This post originally appeared on CHEJ’s Backyard Talk blog.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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