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News Section: Environment



Best of 2012: Why Do We Love Our Poisons?

Published Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:05 am

BRADENTON --  Technology has taken us to a place where we quickly dump a music or video player, a computer or appliance, or just about anything that is upgradeable in favor of the next best thing. But not true when it comes to what is actually better for us, even if the alternative threatens our longevity or quality of life. What is it that promotes this Stockholm Syndrome romance we have with harms-way?

 

Mercury, asbestos and lead all have laws governing how and where they can be used. These toxic elements are carcinogens and poison to the body. Rigid restrictions are necessary because the consequences for not recognizing their effects far exceed any gains. The price we now pay for that period of use, may cost us hundreds of times their historic value to get past their legacy. Many of those who have lost loved ones from our culture's intemperate use of toxins, will never get past the aftermath.

 

Adopting changes to distance these substances from our lives didn't come easy, because there were those invested in these products that fought tooth and nail to keep them on the market. Quick to denounce any science that supported the spiraling decline in the health of those handling them, supporters denied any connection to possible hazard, and dismissed the claims as being made by wackos. 

 

That is what many of those who for decades sold hair dryers, toasters, heaters, roof and floor tiles said, and they hailed the use of  asbestos in them as a wonder product. Vermiculite had high levels of asbestos, and it was used in fertilizers and pesticides through out the farming industry. For decades it was use in baby power, cosmetics and even feminine hygiene talc, until the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talc with asbestos as carcinogenic. 

 

Asbestos dates back to ancient Rome, where historians documented respiratory diseases among the slaves that worked in the asbestos mines. In the 20th century, it found its way into thousands of products, and although it remained linked to lung disease (cancer), America couldn't get enough of it for the construction of war ships.

 

Back in 2005, in Missoula Montana, seven W.R. Grace & Co. executives were indicted for not informing workers in their mines of the presents of asbestos, nor protecting the workers from what management knew was highly toxic asbestos contaminated ore. Hundreds died and thousands got sick but the bounty for the owners was plentiful.

 

Today, there are still thousands of products from around the world that contain asbestos and other dangerous substances. Its that way because of the profits for a few. For the rest of us, we pay with our health and or for healthcare. 

 

America spends over two TRILLION dollars annually on healthcare, and a large amount of that can be attributed to the overwhelming amount of toxins that we allow to be put in most of what we consume. We allow it by not reaching for alternatives, changing a few habits or just outright refusing to purchase products that contain poisons.

 

The asbestos story is the same as the story of lead, mercury, arsenic and many others in an endless chain of placebo fixes with devastating consequences. Industry convincingly sold many of these products to us with little more than a promise to cure label. We find ourselves defending products, like they are family, nurturing a love for them without question. To some they are family, as far as they built the family fortune.

 

Fluoride is a prime example of this pattern. Its introduction came in the 20s and 30s from ALCOA and the Mellon family, it was a byproduct from mining bauxite to make aluminum for war planes. It was then, and still is today, a byproduct of the phosphate mines, and if not disposed of into our water, it would have to be disposed of at a toxic waste dump. It comes from the scrubbers when making fertilizers.

 

Fluoride is a known toxin that causes cancer, severe bone fractures and retardation in children. Hundreds of studies have produced scientific evidence supporting the overwhelming consequences for using fluoride. There is not one peer review study demonstrating that ingesting fluoride prevents tooth decay and its use in that capacity is not approved by the FDA. Drinking it to prevent tooth decay is like drinking sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

 

Fluoride was quite successfully used for many decades as rat poison and insecticide. Runoff from phosphate manufacturing plants has carried concentrated fluoride into fields, killing dozens of cattle at a time, and into rivers killing thousands of fish, until the EPA ordered the companies to put scrubbers on their equipment and dispose of it off site. It is now being taken to your local water departments. Here is the manufactures safety data sheet, or if your water department fluoridates the water, they are required to send you one upon request.

 

A major university study conducted over decades compared rates of bone cancer in Northern Ireland, where water is fluoridated, and the South where water is not treated with fluoride. The rates of rare bone cancer (osteosarcoma) were 45% higher in the North. Dr. Robert Carlton, a 20-year career scientist for the EPA, said, "Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century, if not of all time."

 

Many physicians feel as much as half of the Rheumatism arthritis, that plagues young and old, could be directly connected to the residual effects of fluoride use. Reduced testosterone, fertility, low birthrate and a reduction in IQ in children have all been linked to continual use of fluoride, and yet we throw caution to the wind when it comes our habitual uses of what harm us.

 

Many of our bad choices are linked to irrational behavior. We propose to exercise caution for our choices with love, money and friends, but not so much with the substances we allow ourselves to be exposed to. If we were to embrace the precautionary principle as quickly as we do the next iPhone, it could empower our lives more than any product in history.

 

Imagine if we had taken the precautionary principle approach towards derivatives, Chernobyl or the Iraq war. There is no austerity program that could possibly equate to the level of savings we all would have, had our congressional leaders listened to those who warned them of the damage those finical weapons of mass-destruction could do. There is no rational that trumps the loss of the many thousands of our kids gone to that fruitless thoughtless war, and the 50,000 more maimed, not to mention the trillion dollars spent.

 

How many congressman and senators, who voted derivatives into every finical institution in America and gave them the right to leverage their holdings by more that 30 times their value, are standing up and announcing what a good idea that was? Probably the same amount that are eager to explain why we sacrificed our kids to a place that is now worst off then when we went there to fix it.  

 

There is a lot to be said for caution, so why do we take the short trip around it? 

 

John Rehill is a local government reporter and environmental journalist for The Bradenton Times

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