Werewolf Fiction after the Fact

I’ve been watching some TV with my grandpa in Taiwan. What I noticed that there are a lot of commercials about the following things:

  1. Cars
  2. Epic fantasy cell phone games
  3. Upcoming TV shows
  4. Dietary supplements/anything health related

Taiwanese TV shows are cheesy, not going to lie. I don’t blame them; production companies there don’t have quite the budget as they do elsewhere, and short of that, their island is so small there aren’t that many places to shoot that aren’t crawling with people. Although something has to be said about spreading a budget over a show that runs for 300+ episodes…

So one such commercial I saw advertised the upcoming premier for some girly drama (we call them idol shows on this little island) called “Prince of Wolf.”

Wolf.jpg
Someone’s gotta tell the producers that the animal is a husky. Plus, for some Tarzan-figure living in the woods, he’s wearing an awful lot of clothing.

Grammatical error aside, I think it’s your typical guilty pleasure drama.I actually kinda want to watch it, considering the commercial contains a pretty hilarious clip where the girl happens on a “boy who’s not wearing clothes” swimming in a waterfall pool.

[Note: This post, however, is not about the show.]

After going on Google and looking up this show, Google in its infinite wisdom corrected my grammatically incorrect search query to “Prince of Wolves.” Instead of a TV show about a werewolf-y dude, I found a YA novel about a werewolf-y dude.

Prince.jpg
Close enough.

Hey, it didn’t sound too bad. I was looking for brainless entertainment, and this YA novel fits the bill well enough. Since we’re well into the dystopia-and-insurgency phase of YA fiction, I knew that this book had probably been out for a while (probably sometime in the wake of Twilight and House of Night). But hey, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I decided to give it a shot.

It was probably a shot too much.

Now, I’m not here to write a scathing book review (I dashed out a quick, polite one on Goodreads), but comment on a realization I had about three chapters into this insipid little piece, summarized below.

I'm an Adult
Exactly how I felt.

I’m nearly twenty-one, and almost done with college. Five, six years ago, I could have read this and found it acceptable. Not anymore. The characterization was cringe-worthy, as well as the dialogue as well as the lame attempt at exoticism by including Romanian, which, by the way, was probably done by Google Translate (the author lives in Arkansas, so go figure). I’ve always been a bit of a grammar Nazi, and for a published work (okay, it was self-published, but still), it had a hell lot more errors and missing commas than it should. While the Goodreads reviewers that gave it a cumulative rating of 4.07 stars may forgive these egregious faults, I cannot!

So am I an adult? Hell yeah! I’ve definitely graduated from reading shit like this. Now I’m going to go back to being a very adult reader and continue reading Thomas Hardy.

Guilty Pleasures: Chick Lit!

As much as I want to call myself a macho and act like a very unfeminine girl, deep in my heart I do have a weakness for chick lit, provided it’s well written.

And yes, I try to write my own chick lit too.

I used to be in denial about my secret desire to write those feel-good stories where girl meets guy and after much tribulation, they end up happily ever after. But dammit, they just make me feel so good.

So good

Another Welcome

Now that I’m done with 99-238 Materials, Energy, and the Environment, I no longer have to post long, tedious mini-essays about Teflon. In fact, now that the class is over, I’ve decided to commandeer this blog (from myself?!), turn it into a real blog and use it to share bits of my crazy little brain (if I have one).

So here I come! I’ll try my best to be interesting, in the off-chance that people besides me actually read this blog.

Conclusions

In light of all the previous blog posts, I would like to draw some final conclusions about the uses and material flow of Teflon in the world and the environment.

As a material, Teflon is a curious commodity; it’s useful in so many ways, and because it occupies so many varied, niche usages, we have learned to take the material for granted in this applications. From Goretex military uniforms to gaskets, cookware to electronics wiring, we don’t really know what to do without this product, even though society has gone for many years without it and some people still prefer to keep using their Teflon-free products. Should Teflon disappear or stop being manufactured, society would be at a loss to find another versatile material to fill these wide range of needs. Given the small percentage of the plastic industry that Teflon constitutes, in theory, we could stop using Teflon entirely and there wouldn’t be too much of an impact seen (except that people will have to be more careful when cooking).

In terms of energy consumption, it is not well known how much energy the Teflon industry uses annually. However, if energy usage were estimated based on volume of Teflon produced as a proportion of overall industry totals, the energy associated with the manufacturing of Teflon is almost minimal compared to the magnitude of energy that goes into other, similar industries. Should the manufacture of Teflon cease, there would likely be no significant impact seen on worldwide energy consumption. Of course, given that global Teflon production still runs in the 240,000 tons per year range, this is a significant amount of energy that can be saved or redirected to other uses. But if we were to compare this “saved energy” to the amount that would required to sustain the growing global population, it is not nearly enough. At the same time, as the global population grows, Teflon demand and production will likely increase as a result. Energy input into Teflon production would increase, as well as the concentrations of toxic byproducts that the process releases into the eco-sphere.

While Teflon has often been considered a bogeyman in the eyes of environmentalists and health fanatics, the material is not as bad as these parties would paint it; likewise, it still pumps substantial amounts of hazardous chemicals into the environment. Enacting a worldwide ban of Teflon would likely cut down emissions of PFOAs and TFAs that is released during its manufacture, which could prove beneficial in the long run (albeit in the scale of decades or centuries). However, convincing society to abandon their Teflon products could prove difficult, since it now occupies hard-to-detect, understated roles in our everyday lives. I would like to argue, though, given that the scope of the impact of Teflon can be felt all the way to polar bears in the Arctic Circle, that Teflon could potentially prove to be more harmful than beneficial in the long term, and it is in our society’s best interest to reduce, if not entirely eliminate, our strange dependence on Teflon products. Whether this can actually occur depends on how willing we are to give up the material for good. I definitely think that we have the capability to do it; it is simply a matter of raising social awareness of the impacts of Teflon (the health fanatics might win on this one once it’s widely known that PFOAs are carcinogenic). Heightened social awareness is the harbinger of social change, and given the ease of information transmittal today, we can get to this point very soon.

Thank you all for reading, and I hope that these blog posts have provided some insight into the impact of Teflon in our current society.

Impacts of Teflon

As far as plastics go, Teflon is a handy novelty. After its accidental discovery in 1938, humans use it in everything from clothing to nuclear waste capsules to cookware. It wasn’t discovered with these current usage goals in mind, yet here they are, used in those applications.

I would like to argue that humans in general don’t actually need Teflon. It just so happens that it sees diverse usage because its qualities make it useful in those applications. Even now, some people still swear by their stainless steel pans and their plain cotton T-shirts; many people still don’t use it. Many people fear it, since it is a fluorinated compound and fluorine is bad for the health.

The two parts of Teflon’s life cycle that have biggest environmental impact is its production and its waste disposal. During its production, PFOAs are released, and these chemicals makes it way into everything, creating a significant health hazard. For disposal, most Teflon products end up in the landfill, where they’re either to sit in the earth for thousand of years, or worse, incinerated, releasing more hazardous chemicals, TFAs.

In terms of the IPAT equation, the overall impact of Teflon is small compared to the bevy of other issues humankind has created for itself. Certainly, as the population grows, there is a chance that demand for Teflon products will grow. Teflon products are wore widespread in affluent societies, who can afford to buy a novelty material for  niche usage. However, as technology improves, there is a chance that society can develop come catch-all, be-all technology to fill the variety of needs that Teflon currently fulfills, while having more desirable qualities of easy recycleability  and less hazardous production emissions.

Should humanity proceed on its current path of growth, Teflon use will likely increase, but it will never reach the levels seen for other plastics such as PET or PP. The biggest concern of such an increase would be the uptick of hazardous fluorinated by-products and predecessors in the atmosphere, as well as an increase in the volume and mass of these products in landfill, which will remain in the earth for millennia to come.

Sources:

Ask EWG: Why Is There Teflon In Clothes? Is It Safe? <http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2007/06/ask-ewg-why-there-teflon-clothes-it-safe&gt;

Energy Flow and Demand

The curious nature of material and energy flow of Teflon stems partly from the fact that only one American company (DuPont Chemical) holds a patent to manufacture Teflon, making them the sole supplier of Teflon in the US. Thus, production data and other information is not readily available to the general public.

That said, approximations can be made based on what is known about the material’s properties, as well as information for other, similar plastics. There are many methods by which plastics are generated (i.e. extrusion, injection molding). Plastic production, which often involves polymerization of small molecules, requires a great deal of heat. What’s our most common sources of heat energy? It comes back to the traditional sources: petroleum, coal, gas, and electricity. An estimated 6% of American industrial energy expenditure goes into plastics, and this figure is for manufacturing alone.

Now consider Teflon, a niche plastic in a wide array of plastics that encompasses the American plastic industry. Recall from previous posts that about 240,000 tons of Teflon are produced a year, versus the 6 million tons of PET produced. Even though the PET number seems staggering, there are still hundreds of other plastics being produced, such as HDPE, LDPE, PVC, among others. The energy used to manufacture Teflon is a tiny, almost imperceptible blip on the 6% energy expenditure of plastic manufacturing; in the grand scheme of energy flow for plastic, it’s practically nothing.

There are many estimates of plastic demand and its corresponding energy usage; one source places average yearly plastic consumption at least 100 kg per person. Almost all of the Teflon in this 100 kg of plastic in this ends up in landfills, since Teflon recycling centers are few and far in between.

Still, from an energy standpoint, landfill consumes less energy than recycling (only because we’re not considering the energy used to melt down and reprocess this plastic). However, this is a significant environmental cost that could prove hazardous in the long run. These energy flows do not consider the energy costs associated with possible remediation or healthcare that results from the chemical pollution (i.e. from TFAs and PFOAs) commonly seen with Teflon.

 

Sources:

Scientific Principles. <http://matse1.matse.illinois.edu/polymers/prin.html&gt;

Reducing Energy Costs for Plastic Manufacturers. <http://www.daveturbide.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/plastic-manufacturers-white-paper.pdf&gt;

Investigation of the Process Energy Demand in Polymer Extrusion: A Brief Review and an Experimental Study. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261914009714&gt;

 

Teflon in the Modern Sphere

While the uses of Teflon are diverse and varied, annual global production of the material is not as high as expected. It is estimated that around 200,000 tons of Teflon are produced per year, of which 50% is used for electronics and wiring in aerospace applications. DuPont Chemical remains the sole producer of Teflon in the US (the company still holds the patent for the material).

Teflon itself it not hazardous; studies have shown that it itself is not a carcinogen. However, one of its predecessor compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is. PFOA is used the process used to produce Teflon; while most of the PFOA used is burned off during manufacturing, some of it still ends up in the finished product. PFOA is found in trace amounts in everyone, even newborn babies. Some has even been found in dolphins and polar bears in the Arctic Circle. Given the range of the spread of PFOA, cleanup of the compound will be extremely difficult, and this dangerous chemical will stay in the environment for many years to come.

In my first post, I mentioned that Teflon is difficult to recycle. Most plastics are melted into a resin that can remolded into new shapes. Because of Teflon’s high melting point, it’s extremely difficult to turn it into a resin. Teflon, when recycled, is typically pelletized. However, because Teflon is a small-volume plastic, most recycling centers do not have facilities to do this, and in most places, Teflon waste ends up in landfills.

Should Teflon be burned, dangerous compounds such as TFAs are released. This can be a problem in places that incinerates its waste–these TFAs are also long-term pollutants whose health and environmental affects are unknown. Even on a micro level, inhalation of burnt Teflon from your kitchen pan will cause polymer fume fever, which causes hemorrhaging of the lungs. While this is a frightening image, this likely will not happen on an international level, since amounts of Teflon manufactured are relatively low. However, because most of the long-term effects of TFAs and PFOAs are not well known, we should still be careful about use and disposal of Teflon products.

Sources:

Teflon is Forever. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2007/05/teflon-forever&gt;

Teflon Coating Dangers. <http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15813/1/Teflon-Coating-Dangers.html&gt;

Teflon. <http://www.madehow.com/Volume-7/Teflon.html&gt;

Teflon and  Perfluorooctanoic Acid. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid–pfoa&gt;