The Dirty Dozen: Toxic Chemicals and the Earth's Future

The Dirty Dozen: Toxic Chemicals and the Earth's Future

The Dirty Dozen: Toxic Chemicals and the Earth's Future

The Dirty Dozen: Toxic Chemicals and the Earth's Future

Synopsis

"This study examines the history, industrial uses, and harmful effects of the twelve most commonly used organochloride chemicals. All have been fully or partially banned by the Stockholm Protocol, an international treaty signed by about 120 countries in December 2000. Among the twelve are the dioxins (the active ingredient in Agent Orange) and polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs), which are toxic in minute quantities. Johansen pays special attention to the Inuit of the Arctic, where these chemicals have been bio-accumulating to dangerous levels, moving up the food chain to a degree of toxicity that some Inuit mothers are no longer able to safely breast-feed their infants." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

I was introduced to the human and natural toll of persistent organic pollutants in a scholarly way via e-mailed descriptions of a press conference held in New York City with, among others, the eminent ecologist Barry Commoner, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, October 3, 2000 (Commoner 1966, 1971, 1990).

Watt-Cloutier herself had become a major driving force behind the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention that will eventually ban the most widely used and dangerous organochlorines. Her testimony about the toll of persistent organic pollutants on the Inuit and Arctic animals haunted me as I plunged deeper into the subject during ensuing months. Ten months later, we met on Baffin Island, at Iqaluit, to discuss the toll of persistent organic pollutants, as well as global warming, on her people.

Commoner's study included precise identification of dioxin sources across North America that were poisoning the Inuit, and Watt-Cloutier warned that the toxicity that befalls the Inuit today could afflict all humankind a few generations hence if the production of dioxins, polyvinyl chloride (PCBs), and other bioaccumulating organochlorines is not stopped. Some of the sources that the study identified were only a few miles from my home in Omaha, Nebraska, where my concern about organochlorines had been stirred informally and anecdotally for many years by the levels of agricultural pesticide and herbicide runoff in our municipal water. Levels were high enough to prompt my wife to order bottled water when we had infants in the house.

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