How ironic and sad that in an article on “The New Right-Wing Smear Machine” [Nov. 12] as well as on your cover, you use the innocent, maligned bat to suggest creepy evil. It goes to show that even the most well-intentioned sometimes inadvertently make use of coded, emotionally charged stereotypes, considered culturally acceptable until we are alerted to their insidious nature. I think you owe it to bats and to the balance of nature dependent on their voracious insectivorous behavior (at least for the species you depict) to issue an apology.
HEATHER BERMAN CANTINO
THE DESIGN TEAM REPLIES
New York City
We never intended to smear the humble bat any more than we would have maligned pumpkins had we put a jack-o’-lantern on our Halloween-inspired cover instead. Nevertheless, we apologize to all bats whose feelings were hurt by our depiction of them.
Frank W. Lewis errs in Puzzle No. 3103 [Nov. 19]. The clue for 27 Down mentions eating eucalyptus, and the answer is “panda.” Wrong. Pandas eat bamboo. Koalas eat eucalyptus. Very upsetting.
…& DUCKIES POISONED
New York City
Mark Schapiro’s “Toxic Toys” [Nov. 5] did a terrific job of laying out the dangers of phthalates in children’s toys. More than 90 percent of all phthalates are used to soften PVC plastic, the worst plastic from a health perspective. If we’re going to talk about toxic toys, we must examine the plastic used to make those toys, which causes health and environmental problems from production to disposal.
Highly toxic chemicals, including dioxins and furans, vinyl chloride, lead, mercury and phthalates, are used or released in the PVC life cycle. Studies have documented links between PVC and the increased likelihood of developing diseases, including a rare form of liver cancer. PVC is chlorine-based, making it a major dioxin source during production and especially in disposal. A highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in the food chain and in our bodies, they can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. Dioxins are so toxic they have been targeted for a global phaseout by an international treaty. That’s why Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Nike, Apple and others are phasing out this poison plastic.
Sure, getting the phthalates out of toys is critically important, but it’s essential that we also address the life-cycle toxicity of the “rubber” duckies and other toys our kids are playing with.
Center for Health, Environment and Justice