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A job for Plasticman. DDT, dioxin, PCBs, and CFCs. Pool cleaners and Hello Kitty backpacks. What do these have in common? They’re all members of a chemical community known as organochlorines, which are decidedly bad for your health, according to biologist Joe Thornton. In Pandora’s Box (MIT Press, 2000), Thornton observes that researchers have linked almost every organochlorine they have studied to some sort of environmental or human damage. Echoing Theo Colborn and other chroniclers of endocrine disruption, he urges a "chlorine sunset," a gradual and careful phasing out of chlorine-based products. <><><> The Hartford Courant of August 24 reports that scientists at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have discovered the presence of a generally overlooked family of toxic chemicals in human tissue at "levels we are concerned about." Phthalates, which are added to hundreds of plastic and cosmetic products to make them soft, are so closely linked to birth defects and hormone disruption that they’ve already been banned in teething rings and baby rattles. It turns out that adults have something to worry about as well. Earl Gray, an EPA research chemist and phthalate expert, says the issue is, "What are we exposing people to that we don't know about?" The corporation-funded American Council on Science and Health insists the chemicals are safe.

Now you see it, now you don’t. It’s hard to believe that San Francisco has let New York City beat it out in matters of cool. While Babbittown by the Bay minions scurried out to Golden Gate Park to remove a surreptitiously placed statue of Jerry Garcia, Big Applers were ensconcing an image of Jackie Gleason in front of the bus terminal with all appropriate fanfare. No matter. Deadheads know his time coming, anyday. <><><> It’s hard to keep track of Prop L without a scorecard. First it looks like the grass-roots slow-growth initiative won’t make it to the November ballot. Then the city attorney rereads the charter and gives the go-ahead signal. Then a lawsuit to remove the initiative is cobbled together, with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The clinker: the 300-page voter handbook has to go to the printer, and the Election Department can’t wait until then for a decision. In the unlikely event that Judge Ronald Quidachay knocks the daughter of Proposition M from its place on the ballot, it’ll still be listed — with all the arguments pro and con — in the official election guide. Can’t you imagine frustrated voters mounting a write-in campaign?

Sufferin’ SUVs. MoJo Wire is doing its best to keep us apprised of developments in the sport ute world. For the uninitiated, the latest add-on is a bull bar or grille guard, invented in Australia, where it was known for obvious reasons as a "roo bar." Like the cowcatcher on an old locomotive, this contraption comes handy if you run into a steer. But it doesn’t treat human obstructions so kindly. MoJo notes, "When a pedestrian is hit by the flat, rigid front of an SUV, the body is punched away from, then under the vehicle." <><><> Elsewhere, MoJo adds that, according to a recent Sierra Club study, "the 31-mile-per-gallon VW Beetle is safer than the 21-mile-per-gallon Jeep Grand Cherokee in crash tests." In another story, MoJo columnist Jack Hitt comments on GMC’s decision to name one of its models Denali after the mountain in Alaska: "Even though most buyers ‘will never venture into territory any less trampled than the local country club parking lot,’ wrote Ward’s Auto World, ‘the important goal of the Denali marketing hype is to plant the image in customers’ minds that they can conquer rugged terrain.’" Ford is also preparing to go back to nature, announcing that henceforth every advertisement will have an environmental theme. Imagine an Explorer driving off into the sunset in a cloud of beautiful lavender fumes. The Union of Concerned Scientists ranks Ford among the top three polluters.