Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Raising the Progressive Torch: Start with Pollution 101

It’s election day and I hope you are all out voting.

I often harp on toxic chemicals in the environment. Today let's start with the mercury that caused the National Seashore to put up warning signs about eating the fish that swim in our ponds. The mercury originated far, far away. This is the problem with pollution these days. It’s gone global. I thought Wellfleet’s ponds had been polluted by acid rain from American coal plants, but apparently not completely. Here's a Cape Cod Times article by Doug Fraser informing us most of the mercury comes from China. Incredible!

Pollution is not something we study in schools. Forward-thinking institutions may offer courses on the environment, but there’s no required course yet, a Pollution 101, that would bring knowledge of toxic chemicals into the cerebral baggage we carry with us through life. (I learned a lot from Slow Death by Rubber Duck. I also recommend Our Stolen Future, which has an excellent chapter about the travels of a hypothetical PCB molecule, created in Alabama and now lodged in a polar bear in the Arctic.)

If you are not sure what PCB stands for, never fear. I wasn't either. Only recently have I begun to master the acronyms for chemicals. Sometimes I think chemical names are part of the ruse, that the industry would prefer we not retain the l-o-o-ng chemical names, or even the acronyms, for that matter.

PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls. Here’s Theo Colborn:

“The story of PCBs and how they have spread throughout the planet and into the body fat of almost every living creature is one of the most fascinating and instructive chapters in the history of the era of synthetic chemicals. Of the 51 synthetic chemicals that have now been identified as hormone disruptors, at least half, including PCBs, are ‘persistent’ products in that they resist natural processes of decay that render them harmless. These long-lived chemicals will be a legacy and a continuing hazard to the unborn for years, decades, or, in the case of some PCBs, several centuries.”

And, you’ve got them in your house. Oh, yes. Your Wellfleet rental cottage, your Manhattan condo, your Newton colonial. Think furniture, mattresses, electronic equipment. Read all about it in this excellent Time Magazine article: Chemical Safety Scientists Come Out Against Chemical Flame Retardants in Ordinary Products.

Yesterday I received a lovely comment from Tim and wanted to share part of it with you: “I'm writing …to say what you are doing regarding informing your fellow citizens - Wellfleetians and beyond - about the dangers of chemicals in our shared environment is nothing short of what I call ‘necessary heroism’. With the vile political climate unfolding and the expected horrendous results for progressives in tomorrow's elections, it is imperative that more people such as yourself continue to speak up about the utter arrogance and uncaring ways of companies that perpetrate the use of chemicals upon us. With our national government in such ruins, local communities such as Wellfleet and individual states - and citizens - will have to carry the progressive torch.”

Thank you, Tim. Everyone, join me. Raise the progressive torch. Educate yourself, so that sharing knowledge with legislators is an option. They are just like us. They had no Pollution 101 course in college. Democrats and Republicans both need to realize the depth of this problem. Endocrine disruptors are destroying the world as we know it and must be stopped.