Thursday, April 8, 2010

Plastics, other common chemicals could be ruining health

Timeliness, importance and locality are crucial factors for many news stories. Together they encourage audiences to stop and read the story. I was impressed by Time's “Perils of Plastics” because it contained all three factors. The environmental story was timely because it’s printed one month before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and it warns readers about harmful chemicals that affect bodies and babies. The chemicals may be linked to commons conditions like autism, cancers and male reproductive disorders, further driving locality.

The story is packed with information and different chemical names, but the reader can easily read and comprehend the story because the author explains chemicals, where they are found and possible side effects. For instance, Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in an array of plastics like baby bottles and plastic containers. Once broken down, through washing or microwaving, the chemical leaches into food and then bodies.

The story is from a magazine so it's lengthy. Time hyperlinks different topics like the top 2008 scientific findings, the most polluted places and information on common household chemicals. This is thoughtful because it allows the reader to seek more information which helps reduce text. However, hyperlinks were not needed after every paragraph, and some did not fit the topic. I would have preferred only relevant information. Also, I would place hyperlinks at the end of pages, not paragraphs. Finally, a picture or other media would complement the story and divert attention from text.

Textually, the story was informative and easy to comprehend. It also covers different angles like a brief history of chemical environmentalism and DDT. I also like that numbers were put in perspective. For instance the author says, “But as biomonitoring improved — we can now detect human exposure levels as small as one part per trillion, or about one-twentieth of a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool — scientists realized that people were carrying far more chemicals than we'd thought.” This sentence helps the reader comprehend that extremely small amounts of chemicals are in as well as harmful to the body.

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