The home page of the finishing industry ®


This is one of a series. We welcome news or editorial content from our readers, and will revise this page each afternoon that we receive input.

August 2, 2001

Who Are The Extremists?

by Ted Mooney

In any political season, each party paints the other as extremists. For many years we in the finishing industry have tried to paint environmentalists as extremists; I can't count the times I've heard the derogatory phrase "tree huggers" at meetings of plating industry people.

This month's Finishers Management is interesting:

1). Harry DeSoi asks how long he must endure fellow plating industry people considering him the "bad guy" for giving in and installing a zero-discharge wastewater treatment system years ago rather than fighting ever-tightening discharge standards.

2). Bert Sherwood asks our industry to be vigilant in public relations, and to "fight back", as he lambastes California state senator Sheila Kuehl for her proposal that users of hexavalent chromium pay a tax for hexavalent chromium cleanups.

Mr. Sherwood, a contributor to our Hotline letters pages here, is surely not a "bad guy" either. But Ms. Kuehl's fellow state senator, Martha Escutia, just received the coveted "Ten Best Women in Government" award for her related work regarding chromium contamination. Not from an extremist group like 'Earth First!', but from Good Housekeeping magazine:

'When students at a local school near a chrome-plating plant fell ill in 1996, Escutia became determined to raise air quality standards in her state. Her goal: Base standards not on levels that are risky to the typical 180-pound male, as they were previously set, but to children, who are far more vulnerable to contaminants than adults. It was a long fight, with business groups opposing the change, but finally in 1999, the Children's Environmental Health Act became law in California. "It's the most important work I've done," says a satisfied Escutia.'

Nor is it just Good Housekeeping honoring her for this: it's also the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California League of Conservation Voters, the Center for American Women in Politics, The Sierra Club, White Memorial Medical Center . . . and the list of middle-of-the-road organizations goes on.

Our industry's environmental problems are not a matter of perception; it's not that our public relations efforts are inadequate. Rather, WE are the extremists if we continue to mindlessly rail against an environmental movement which has been respectfully embraced by the overwhelming majority of people in the developed world.

Do you feel that the MP&M Standards are not realistic, and should be adjusted or discarded? That's A-OK fine! However, if we are also railing against the ergonomic standards, the hexavalent chromium tax, the hex chrome MACT standards, the worker exposure to hex chromium standards, the cadmium restrictions, the testing of nickel for carcinogeneity, the switch from hexavalent chromates to trivalent chromates, CFC restrictions, nickel-free jewelry, hazardous waste storage rules, and reporting requirements, too, an environmentally aware world simply cannot regard us as credible middle-of-the-roaders.


Frequently, as I do a web search, I end up following an interesting link that tells me there are so many cool things our industry and our organizations could be working on. In following the Martha Escutia links, I landed on a page where Consumer Reports tested replacement automobile fenders specified by insurance companies as crash replacement parts, and found that they performed miserably corrosion-wise and showed red rust quickly because they were just plain steel lacking any galvanization/galvannealing.

We rightly complain how tight the market is, how thin the margins are, and that business is going offshore--yet we are silent as the insurance companies play us as the pawns to an angry public, while cutting metal finishing out of the loop. Why is the world of metal finishing not screaming "Oh no you don't! Replacement fenders need to be galvanized, insurers are going to pay for it, and our industry is taking a public position against this attempt to trick an unsuspecting public!" That's the kind of win-win that increases business, educates the public to appreciate the value of metal finishing, and puts us on their side. But the silence is deafening.

And here at we have dozens upon dozens of complaints from consumers about rhodium plated white gold wedding rings and jewelry. Yet our industry says absolutely nothing while jewelers make electroplating the bad guy in this scam they are perpetrating upon hundreds of thousands of people. They take any color gold they wish, put about a millionth of an inch of rhodium on it, and then tell consumers that plating is an inferior technology that is to blame for their heartbreak when their engagement ring doesn't last the betrothal period. Think of the good publicity our industry would gain if we took a public position and fixed this major and highly emotional problem. But silence again.

Instead, here we stand, bellowing that today's air and water quality are good enough. And while people roll their eyes, we foolishly demand that they listen as we try to paint the rest of the world as extremists. Our industry is suffering a bunker mentality, an alienation from reality that is hurting us; it's long past time to wake up, get off this anti-environment crusade, and take up issues that will bring us business, profits, and public favor.

Dear Reader: please choose what you want to do--
I want to reply to or follow-up on this subject.
I want to start a new news item or editorial thread on a different subject.
I want to view the previous editorials and news items.


Back to Home Page