Poisoning Continues, Now with Government Approval

Twenty years ago, as a young(er) toxics campaigner, I and many others worked to limit the effects of the industrial uses of chlorine.  Short version: when we put chlorine in the front end, we get a host of pollutants out the back end that persist in the environment and cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive disorders.

Dioxin was the poster child for this class of toxicants.  (The phrase “poster child” was derived from the practice of charities raising funds by printing posters with photos cute children who are afflicted with a disease.  Perhaps dioxin is better termed “poster child enabler.”)

In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency undertook a three-year reassessment of dioxin’s toxicity.  In typical fashion, the first results of that reassessment were released last week, 21 years later (and late on a Friday before a holiday weekend).

The EPA concluded, “current exposure to dioxins does not pose a significant health risk.”  I’m used to my government agencies putting a polluter’s spin on science, but that’s not spin, that’s an out and out lie.  I guess EPA was waiting for all its real scientists to retire or die, so the political hacks that replaced them could shovel this load of manure out the front door.

The EPA says dioxins “naturally exist in the environment.”  There is no evidence of this.  Industrial processes create dioxins; most of those present in our environment have been created since the close of the Second World War.

Dioxin is created whenever chlorine is liberated (which requires substantial energy) in the presence of organic (i.e., carbon containing) chemicals.  Many industrial processes contribute to dioxin formation, but according to EPA last week, “The largest remaining source of dioxin emissions is backyard burning of household trash.”

Huh?  For one, I think that’s extraordinarily unlikely, as I think it’s unlikely many chlorinated compounds go into back yard burn barrels and two, how can such a dispersed and unreported phenomenon be measured with anything approaching accuracy?  EPA’s dissembling is nearly as bad as its science.

Then there’s Dow Chemical, which is probably responsible for more dioxin production than any other single entity in history – and now has a petition before Department of Agriculture (no more politically courageous than EPA) to approve a genetically-engineered variety of corn that can withstand repeated doses of 2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid).

That might be alphabet soup to the under-40 crowd, but 2,4-D was one half of Agent Orange, the defoliant sprayed over Vietnam during our war there and left generations of Vietnamese and American veterans with crippling disabilities and birth defects.

Agent Orange and 2,4-D manufacture and use were also famous as sources of – you guessed it – dioxin.  Stick that in your burn barrel.  The heinous bastards at Dow Chemical want to soak the cornfields of the Earth with chemical weapons.

They’re evilly smart, I’ll grant them that.  They know if there was even a tiny chance spineless Democrats would do anything to stop them, they won’t do it in a presidential election year.

Thanks, Barry.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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