American Ingenuity Offers Solution to Industrial Health Crisis

Comet SkateboardsITHACA, N.Y. - When Comet Skateboards started out in 1997, firm president Jason Salfi was determined to find a way to manufacture their product without the use of harmful chemicals, particularly benzine. That petroleum derivative, which has been widely used as an industrial solvent, has been shown to cause cancer and other short- and long-term health problems.

Now, according to Salfi, Comet has perfected a water-based painting process, and is known around the world for the vivid graphics and durable coating on its boards.

"We just took two more benign chemicals and used them for something that other companies and other competitors assumed that they needed to use the most toxic alternative out there (for), because the specs said it was the best," Salfi said.

Comet Skateboards now is working with a large skateboard manufacturer to help it adopt Comet's toxic-free process.

In the U.S., factories are required to offer additional protection to their employees who use benzine, but that's not the case in other parts of the world, according to Heather White, who has been extensively researching the health effects of benzine.

"When they get to Asia, it seems as though all bets are off and workers are using plastic gloves that disintegrate when they come into contact with the strong chemicals that they're asked to use in production," White said.

She said it will take consumer demand to encourage companies to follow in Comet Skateboards' footsteps to eliminate such toxic chemicals as benzine.

"We have to, as consumers, call the companies," she said. "They've got email addresses now; they do pay attention to the supply-chain issues."

White spent 15 years documenting the use and effects of benzine in foreign factories. Her film on the issue will be released this September. The working title is "The Places Where Dreams End."

This story was created by Soundbite Services.

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