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August 06, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2007-08-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday August 6, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Poisonous plastics

A major problem

As the summer chugs on, each
day is a battle to consume
those infamous eight glasses
of water. As
such, what Your Nalgene
we drink has water bottle,
been on my
mind a lot the silent killer.
lately. After
doing a little Googling one day, how-
ever, I became concerned.
In elementary school, I was con-
stantly taught to "Reduce, Reuse
and Recycle." When I was first
introduced to the idea of a Nalgene
bottle that wasn't only reusable but
also virtually indestructible I was,
of course, thrilled. Little did I know
that 10 years later my first foray into
environmentalism would spiral into
a mass of guilt, confusion and worry.
Nalgenes are a campus staple,
appealing not only to the rugged
outdoor types (or those wishing to
appear to be rugged outdoor types)
but anyone who can afford the bot-
tle's relatively modest cost and wish-
es to do a part for the environment
by reusing water bottles. Yet these
seemingly innocent containers have
been a source of great controversy
over the past few years.
Most hard Nalgenes - including
the popular multi-colored bottles -
are made of Lexan. This material is
a No. 7 polycarbonate plastic. It has
been found that increasingly over
time this type of plastic begins to
seep chemicals, mainly bisphenol A.
Bisphenol A has been linked to
a host of health problems in stud-
ies with rats. The chemical mimics
estrogen and impacts the endocrine
system. Other problems include chro-
mosomal disorders, tumor develop-
ment and decreased sperm count.
FurthermoreNo. 7plastics (being,
of course, indestructible) do not eas-
ily break down in landfills. They can
also be hard to recycle, since local
recycling plants must accept this

specific grade of plastic or you must
take itnto a location that does.
However, don't chuck those bottles
out the window just yet; after all,
they won't biodegrade. There is some
good (or at least less bad) news. The
effect of bisphenol A on humans has
yet to be shown conclusively. Also,
the amount of exposure necessary
to induce negative health effects is
up for debate. The issue remains a
source of controversy and research
within the scientific community.
But there are other options: Nalgene
makes alternative bottles out of No. 2
plastics that have not been shown to
seep bisphenol A (though, sadly, not
in a myriad of colors).
The point of writing all this is not
to harvest unnecessary fear (some-
thing we hardly need more of). I
still use my Nalgenes - though if I
buy any more, they'll be No. 2s to be
on the safe side. I only suggest that
we all rethink the things we buy, or
rather think before we buy at all.
Take time to research where that
apple you are eating came from or
how far your T-shirt had to travel.
Research the companies from which
you buy. Every dollar you spend is
a vote for the kind of technologies
(such as plastics) or business prac-
tices you want to support.
I'm not saying you have to sell all
your worldly possessions and only
eat wild plants you scavenge from
the Arb. (Though if this column com-
pels you to do so, please let me know;
it would be a great follow-up piece.)
Nor is it realistic to ask that you sit
down for a week straight and docu-
ment the source of every item you
own. But choose one product you use
regularly each week and start there.
It's not about being a non-con-
sumer; it's about being a conscien-
tious one.
Kate Truesdell can be reached
at ketrueumichedu.

W ith student loans,
credit card bills and
unpaid internships,
college kids are chronicallyshort
on cash. There are many ways to
try to save money, like buying
used text-
books andT
cutting These days,
down on you need
extrane- Consumers
ous pur- Digest just to
chases, p
but now pi a major.
factor is complicating students'
finances. Declaring a major is
no longer just an indicator of a
student's life path; it may affect
their pocketbooks as well.
Due to an increase in costs for
teachers and equipment result-
ing from cuts in state funding,
some public universities are
charging more money for cer-
tain majors to help ease their
financial situations. Starting
this fall, undergraduate busi-
ness school students at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin will pay
$500 more per semester than
their classmates. Likewise, Ari-
zona State University will begin
charging upperclassmen in the
journalism school $250 more
per semester.
This practice, however, isn't
a new phenomenon. Rutgers
University has used this kind of
pricing for years, with in-state
undergraduates in the School of
Arts and Sciences paying $8,541
while engineering and pharmacy
students foot $9,484.80 bills.
It's disgraceful that state gov-
ernments have been so
lacking in funds to higher
education that universi-
ties have to resort to this
kind of major-specific
pricing. Some schools even

acknowledge that this isn't the
right way to bring in money
because it may have serious con-
The primary concern is the
effect this system will have on
students who come from a lower
economic status. Public uni-
versities are supposed to be an
equalizer, giving students who
can't afford to go to private insti-
tutions the same education at a
lower price. Unfortunately, this
pricing strategy goes against giv-
ing equal opportunities to poor-
er students by putting greater
restrictions on the scope of their
Economically disadvantaged
students may find themselves
with a more limited choice of
majors than others. A few hun-
dred or even a thousand dol-
lars is hardly chump change.
A student with a passion and
knack for business should
not have to settle for another
degree because of economic
constraints. College should
be " a place where students can
explore their interests and not
have to settle for what interest
is cheapest.
In this light, it's tempting to
say that this situation amounts
to the rich getting richer with
business and engineering
degrees, and the poor getting
poorer with English and art his-
tory degrees. This is the second
subtle yet dangerous outcome
that major-specific pricing
brings about, which doesn't just
affect a certain subgroup of stu-
dents but dampens the mood of

the college experience in gen-
More and more frequently,
kids and adults are looking at
the college experience in terms
of job training and future mar-
ketability. Adults pressure their
kids to study business, finance
or engineering because those
are the jobs that people perceive
as leading to better and richer
futures. Students who choose
to study English, history or psy-
chology often come up against
confused stares and the ques-
tion, "so what are you planning
to do with that?"
College is not a job training
service or placement agency.
It's a place to become a well-
rounded individual, pursue
your interests and expand your
horizons. Yes, some majors lead
to clearer job paths than oth-
ers, but that should not be what
determines the worth of a major
or the potential of its students.
Students can be successful no
matter what they choose to pur-
sue, and the world prospers from
having a variety of thinkers on
multiple topics.
Hopefully, state governments
will get their act together and
start appropriating more money
to higher education before
major-specific pricing becomes
a nationwide trend. Until then,
maybe state representatives
can pencil in some time to take
another political science, eco-
nomics or sociology course.
Rachel Wagner can be reached
at rachwag@umich.edu.


Libraries denied
To the Daily:
proposed to allocate a whopping
$2 billion to Michigan's prisons
in 2008, they also want to cut aid
to public libraries by 50 percent,
bringing library funding to a lit-

tle more than $6 million. That's
less than a dollar per resident.
Last year alone more than 46
million people visited Michigan's
public libraries. In contrast, last
year the Michigan Department
of Corrections managed about
150,000 offenders.
Public libraries are not dino-
saur institutions that have out-
lived their usefulness. If our state

is losing revenue, why is Lansing
spending more money on prisons
and less on libraries?
Lawmakers need to increase
fundinguntilitreaches the nation-
al average of$3perresident.That's
not an unreasonable request.
Moira Maus
The letter writer is a library director in
Curtis Township

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