March 05, 2005

Agent Orange and Other Poisons

Over at the Next Hurrah, a post on how victims of the Agent Orange drops in Vietnam are suing the chemical manufacturers who knew the stuff was toxic for ongoing biotoxic effects including third generation birth defects. Down in the comments, a visitor talked about a source of similar poisons in neighborhoods across the US:

...The companies' arrogance isn't surprising. As MB points out, they're responsible for a string of domestic atrocities, which has given them a lot of practice at being aggressive and callous.

We all carry these chemicals in our body fat, including the lipid faction of our blood. Recent studies have shown that dioxin exposure can cause endometriosis in MEN. In its 1994 reassessment of dioxin-like compounds, the EPA found that dioxin causes endometriosis and behavioral abnormalities (inability to deal with stress, for example) at concentrations close to background levels among the general population. This means that more sensitive people, and more heavily exposed people, are suffering from these effects right now.

But the companies don't give a shit because they know they don't have to. They continue to poison us with dioxin. For example, a ubiquitous source of TCDD (and other PCDDs and furans) is in every American neighborhood, leaking from virtually every telephone pole. These poles are treated with pentachlorophenol which, like 2,4,5 T, is highly contaminated with dioxins and furans. Most phone poles are treated with penta dissolved into heavy oil, which is what gives the poles their brown color. This mixture is 5% penta and the smallest amount of the brown goo that oozes from the poles contains extremely high levels of dioxins and furans.

The community uses these poles without any idea they ooze chemicals that can make little boys develop uterine tissues in their abdomens. Look around your neighborhood. You'll see kids playing around the poles. My friends and I used to use them as bases for kickball. People use them as community billboards to post "roomate wanted" and lost pet posters. And the toxic brown ooze washes off the poles into streams where it enters the food chain.

To recap: Each of us carries a body burden of dioxin that the EPA says is close to the level that causes endometriosis in women and a host of other developmental abnormalities. And companies are allowed to put more of it right into our neighborhoods without even telling us. In one sense, it's a measure of just how weak our product liability system is (and how sick our society has become) that a chemical like penta -- highly contaminated with dioxin -- can continue to be used where kids play.

These companies have spent a lot of money and worked long and hard to exempt themselves from liability. They thumb their noses at Americans who try to sue them for injuries suffered right here. It's no wonder they sneer at Vietnamese who seek justice for what was done thirty years ago nine thousand miles away. ...

And yet, we know more about Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, and Paris Hilton than about the abundant health threats in our environment. Speaks volumes about where our collective head is stuck.

Speaking of heads, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will be a career EPA employee and an actual scientist. Which sounds like good news because even if the administration doesn't listen to such people, hey, at least he isn't a former timber company CEO. Then you get farther down the NY Times article:

...The most sensitive decisions Mr. Johnson has dealt with in recent years have been on regulating pesticides under a 1996 law to ensure the safety of the food supply. More recently, he has been involved in determining whether, and under what circumstances, the agency should weigh pesticide testing on humans when deciding which pesticides can be used and in what amounts.

Unlike Carol M. Browner, the administrator under President Bill Clinton, Mr. Johnson said he would not automatically prevent the consideration of such testing. In a 2001 interview with The Washington Post, he said: "We want to look at what makes sound public policy. We are willing to consider that such studies can be useful." ...

The rest of the article goes on to portray Johnson as someone willing to be tough with industry. Though considering that Bush appointed him, and that he's willing to entertain the possibility of testing known endocrine toxins on human subjects, things don't look good.

Posted by natasha at March 5, 2005 12:59 AM | Environment | Technorati links |


They do have plans to do pesticide testing on poor children this spring. I think Grist covered it Maybe October of last year.

I wrote about it so maybe I can find the links for you. They plan to pay the parents some cash and allow them to keep the camcorder if they stay with the program for 2(?) years.

Posted by: grannyinsanity at March 6, 2005 01:46 AM