jueves, 31 de enero de 2013


By Salvatore Scimino
January 31, 2013

Children enjoying a toad (Rhinella marina, formerly Bufo marinus). Photo: Milagros S. Trullén


Humans are naturally curious about their surroundings. As children they easily become fascinated by animals and are drawn towards them like magnets attract irong filings. 

We are born wired not only for culture, defined as "learnt behaviour", but also for a lively interaction with the universe. 

With the right guidance as children, we have a wonderful potential. But crooked economic interests dominated by greedy and selfish evil people soon get in our way and push and shape us as consuming machines. 

They throw us into a vast sea of stupid desires and we wander without a compass, along the way many get drowned, sickened or die filled with emptiness in their hearts. How sad!!

More than ever we need to nurture and quicken the flame of Biophilia in our hearts. And we learn the first lessons at home. How lucky were those who had wise, patient and loving parents when they were children (Video 1)!!

                                                         Video 1. A child plays with a cat.

The image of a child playing with a cat will make some people squimish, scream or complain that it is not good for any child´s health to come into contact with cats or by that matter with any animals. 

And as a matter of fact, nowadays there many parents who overprotect their kids so much that their parenting behaviour could be very easily classified as some  sort of child abuse. In some cases this overprotection parenting is actually a form of child terrorism.

There is nothing wrong for a child to play with a cat, unless the feline is unhealthy. The infant has more to gain than lose, she/he learns to love animals, learns the importance to connect with nature.

What we should be really worried about it is our exposure to toxic organic substances that are found in every piece of composite furniture and foams we have and use at home (Fig. 1). Children´s products are stuffed with harmful chemicals (Table 1). Our modern homes are really mountains of dangerous chemicals to our health. As someone said: "We live in a toxic chemical stew".

Figure 1. Child´s exposure to fire retardants.Source: PR Watch

TCEP and TDCPP (chlorinated Tris). Source: BebePURE

A great variety of toxic chemical substances are added to plastic products, textiles, wires and cables, electronics, home insulation, and polyurethane foams during manufacture as flame retardants in case there is a fire in our homes. 

Amongst these chemicals we have the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), which are added to plastics (5-30%). There different types of PBDEs, this depends upon the number of bromine atoms each carries. Around 40.000 tonnes of PBDEs are produced annualy (Darnerud et al., 2001).

The wear and tear of the furniture and other products with PBDEs in their composition produce particulate matter that contaminate the indoor air (Fig. 2), our food and drinks. Pets suffer from exposure to these toxic substances, causing thyroid disorder and cancer.

Figure 2. Flame retardant (PBDEs) concentration in household dust. Source: Green Science Policy Institute.

PBDEs are also released into the environment polluting water, soil and the atmosphere. These chemicals are genotoxic and teratogenic and can affect the thyroid gland of humans and animals. They can cause cancer as well.

Our favourite sofas and couches also have halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) which are very harmful for our health and our pets (Fig. 3). 

Figure 3. Halogenated flame reatrdant chemicals. Source: Green Scence Policy Institute.

HFRs, a category to which belong PBDEs as well, contain chlorine or bromine atoms bonded to carbons. These substances bio-accumulate in our bodies, found even in mother´s milk, and have been shown to cause endocrine, thyroid, neurological reproductive and developmental disorders including birth defects, learning disorders, hyperactivity and decreased fertility in animal studies.  

Our squandering way of living via the tonnes of garbage we dump in the landfills has introduced these toxic chemicals into the food chain, aquatic and soil ecosystems. HFRs are also present in wildlife. They always turn up in blood analyses and have been linked to fertility and hormonal disorders in humans. Children exposed to HFRs show learning disability and perform poorly in IQ tests.
Thus, it does not make sense that we worry about our children coming into contact with animals because of our fear that they might get sick and at the same time we deprive them of establishing connection with Nature when we do not even bother about all of the substances that they are exposed everyday at home simply by sitting on a sofa which contains harmful chemicals such as halogenated flame retardants.

Happy are indeed the children who had parents who allowed them to grew up in close contact with animals and plants, in other words the children´s Biophilia was estimulated at a very early age (Fig. 3)!

Figure 3. Happy children with an armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)Photo: Milagros S. Trullén

We have just started walking on the 21st century and we continue trampling Mother Nature with not much concern for the future. Of course there is a lot of talk about the environment. But it just empty talk

It is obvious that we have to change our course or Nature will force us to change it. We should all pay attention to what Henry David Thoreau said: "Simplify, simplify". We live too high. We must learn to be instead of having. We need a new paradigm: Little is beautiful.

Homo sapiens brags a lot about being an intelligent species but in the long run he really is an insapiens creature when it comes to ecological intelligence.  By the same token, what right does he have to call himself sapiens when he behaves quite insapiens?

Earth is sick because man has a sick way of approaching Nature. He considers it an object to be exploited, contaminated and destroyed up just for profits (Video 2). This is quite stupid!

                                                  Video 2. Man the destroyer!

Now is the time to teach and truly connect our children with Mother Nature. We must teach our children to be Biophilic with the whole Biosphere. We must learn to love and respect spaceship Earth now. Tomorrow may be too late!


Darnerud O., Eriksen G. S., Johannesson T., Larsen P. B. & Viluksela M. (2001). Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers: Occurrence, Dietary Exposure, and Toxicology. Environ. Health Perspect., 109 (Suppl.1): 49-68.

Dufton P. (2003). Flame retardants for Plastics. Market Report. Rapra Technology Limited, Shropshire, UK. 440 p.

EFRA (2009). Flame retardants for Changing Society. Cefic, Brussels, Belgium. 42 p.

Friends of the Earth (2008). Killer Couches: Protecting Infants & Children from Toxic Exposure. 16 p.

Weil E. D. & Levchik S. V. (2009). Flame Retardants for Plastics and Textiles. Practical Applications. Hanser Publishers, Munich, Germany. 359 p.

Wilson E. O. (1984). Biophilia. The human bond with other species. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. 160 p. 

1 comentario:

  1. Straight to the point and full of sense :)