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Throughout the whole term of this class we have been talking about pollution and toxins that we come in contact with everyday or just the harmful chemicals that are out there in the world. Well on Thursday I got to witness the effects of toxins in my own life. And it was completely my fault. My cat had fleas and so on Monday I put flea medication on her. By Tuesday, the spot where I had put the medication was completely bare. Her hair had fallen out and there was a skin lesion on the site of application. I washed her to get the flea medication off, getting the advice from the instructions if there were any allergic reactions to the medication. I hoped everything was going to be okay. Then on Thursday morning, I watched as my cat scratched away a huge patch of fur under her chin, where another, even worse skin lesion was. This time, I took her to the vet. There I was informed that there are two different types of flea medications. One type is a pesticide, while the other is an insecticide. The difference between the two has to do with the animal’s blood-brain barrier. The difference between the pesticide and the insecticide is the size of the molecules of the active chemicals. The pesticide flea medication’s molecules are small enough to get through the blood-brain barrier where they can cause skin lesions, drooling, brain injuries, seizures, and even death. The insecticide’s molecules are too large to get through that blood-brain barrier and so they don’t have those severe side effects. The flea medication that my cat got was the pesticide kind. Her reaction to the medication could have been a lot worse; the vet said that she got off with the mildest of symptoms. What really bothered me most about this experience is that the companies that produce the pesticide flea medication know that their product isn’t healthy and that it has those kinds of symptoms associated with its use. Nobody is monitoring what kinds of “medications” they put out on the market, even though people’s pets are consistently dying from them. Shouldn’t there be some kind of warning about how dangerous the product really is or an end to the product all together because the makers of it know exactly how bad it is? This experience has showed that even with good intentions, I was woefully uneducated about everyday products that I thought were relatively safe. It took my cat getting sick, a trip to the vet, and $180 later to fully realize just how bad chemical standards are. If these medications that cause death in pets are allowed on the market, then what other things am I completely unaware about as well?

the mildest symptom

This video shows some of the harmful effects of pesticide when it comes into contact with people. In the video the woman describes a block of her town that has been ravaged by a pesticide that drifted over the town. All in all, on just a single street in her neighborhood, 6-7 people died of various forms of cancer, including all three of her uncles.  This is an obscene amount of death to be caused by a pesticide, and in my opinion it reflects back to relaxed testing standards for chemicals. I mean, of all things, shouldn’t pesticides be thoroughly tested? They’re being sprayed onto our food and are often times being blown by the wind onto people having sometimes devastating, yet relatively invisible effects. The media downplays or doesn’t even bother to cover the incidents and the government denies any major events and considers them rare accidents. How many innocent lives does it take to realize that the usage of toxic chemicals is not a good thing? To what extent do migrant workers and other people in the communities have to suffer the health effects of pesticide drift before the government will actually acknowledge that this is a larger problem than they are framing it to be? The girl in the video has had to watch as people in her neighborhood have gotten sick and died from the chemicals that have drifted away from the crops that they were intended for. I can be realistic and know that the government is not going to stop producing and using chemicals, but something has to be done to rectify this situation. Just because there are undocumented farmers that are facing the brunt of the chemical toxicity doesn’t mean that they should be scared to ask for basic human rights. They can’t go to the doctor because they one, don’t have enough money, and two, they can’t bring attention to themselves without the threat of deportation from the government. I don’t really know how we can fix this situation, but we should start by holding our government accountable. They are the ones who have to approve the pesticides that go into our environment. If the government is elected for the people, by the people in order to protect the people, then why is it that the government is no longer protecting us? Why is it more convenient for them to ignore the issue of pesticide drift and its harmful effects and let people suffer and die then to confront the problem and offer solutions?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTtc9iHnL5g&feature=related

Though the B.P. Oil conflict is by and large out of the media that definitely doesn’t mean that the conflict is actually over; in fact I believe that the true tragedy of the entire thing is just about to begin. The dispersants that were used to help break the oil apart has caused much of the oil to turn into tiny droplets that are now finding their way into our food chain. Orange globs of the dispersed oil have already been found on crab eggs and it is only a matter of time before sea food becomes more of a hazard to eat than it already is. The video link attached is the news report that is showing what is going on. If I had to make a prediction as to the future of the B.P. Oil crisis I would say that both the people involved in the cleanup of the spill and eventually people who live near areas that were affected by the oil spill will show a higher than normal rate of cancer or some other disease, and even though we can all but prove that it was B.P. Oil’s fault they will still refuse to take responsibility and deny that any of the problems are their fault. I think that the oil spill was a ridiculous mistake, and I believe that the oil entering our food chain is just the beginning of one of many cascade effects that this crisis is going to have on us. They thought that the dispersants would take care of the oil and make it magically poof right out of the ocean. Instead, it looks like it might have an even worse effect than leaving the oil alone would have been. What did they really expect harmful chemicals to do? Somehow cancel out the mistake they made? Yet they just made the problem worse by adding another possibly unsolvable problem that has disastrous effects that we are just now becoming aware of. Tiny droplets of oil are getting into crabs and with the bio accumulation that is sure to take place in the ocean, we could be eating fish and seafood with oil and chemicals in them that will have adverse effects on our health. I can’t wait to see how the people in charge are going to have to handle this issue when it gets so prevalent that they aren’t able to ignore it any further.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/opinion/09browning.html?_r=3&hp

BPA has been used in plastic water bottles, baby bottles, and other products that we come into contact with almost (if not) every day. Only recently have scientists studied the effects of BPA to conclude that the chemical is an endocrine disruptor. They never tested the long term effects before putting it into mass production and into our lives. Now that consumers know the truth about BPA the market has produced BPA-free baby bottles and water bottles. So we’re safe once again, right? Wrong. The article I have attached describes the new chemical that is being pushed into our lives called PES which contains BPS. BPS is in the same family as BPA and carries the same familial traits; it is also an endocrine disruptor. Companies are taking BPA out of their plastics but replacing them with worse chemicals like BPB and BPF, which are more potent. The only reason we know that is from tests that other countries are doing. The US is producing these items for use (baby bottles=babies coming in contact with the chemicals at a susceptible age) and they haven’t even researched the long term effects. In class we discussed the risk of BPA and a question was posed asking why would we purposefully introduce harmful chemicals into the products we consume and use. One answer is that it made everything more convenient. My guess is that they didn’t really study the long term effects of the chemicals they were using and so BPA was introduced to the public. Only when symptoms started to be correlated to the chemical did scientists study the health effects. As soon as they found out it wasn’t good the companies came up with another solution (BPS, BPB, and BPF) without testing the long term effects before integrating it into the market. Once health concerns are connected to these chemicals there will finally be thorough studies done and then they will replace them with other chemicals that they haven’t fully tested yet. It’s a terrible cycle that is not contained only to plastics. Agent Orange, DDT, PCB, and others are all chemicals that were thrown into our world and lives without being tested for their effects first, which we are still feeling the consequences of today.  This quote from the article summarizes what I believe the problem is and the potential solutions if we could get our regulatory systems and manufacturers to step up and give a shit about what the chemicals in their products do to us.

“By the time we know what those new chemicals do to us, entire generations are affected. We are the guinea pigs. The system is broken. We must reverse the process: test first. And we should allow only chemicals proven to be safe into the marketplace.”

Captain Planet to the Rescue!

                For anyone who doesn’t really know about the popular kid’s show Captain Planet I’ll give you the low down on it: It’s a cartoon from the 90’s that featured five teens (the planeteers) that have been granted with the powers of earth, fire, water, wind and heart from the Spirit of Earth and have been charged with the task of protecting the Earth from things like pollution and environmental terrorism. The teens are also able to combine their powers to form the ultra cool namesake of the show, Captain Planet. He has green hair, wears a tight form fitting outfit, and flies around protecting the planet from harm. This show was mainly geared towards a younger audience and sought to both entertain and inform the youth about the perilous state of affairs that our planet is in. The first episode of the series featured a would-be oil tycoon’s machine drilling into the oceanic crust to collect and spew oil all over the coastline while harming all of the wild life – wait a second, that sounds kind of familiar… Oh yeah, it’s almost exactly like what BP oil did last year, only they managed to do it on an even more massive scale than what happened on the Captain Planet TV show almost twenty years prior to the actual incident. Too bad Captain Planet couldn’t create a funnel to put all of the oil back into the ground, leaving the ocean pristine. The show makes it look plausible for kids to actually make an impact on environmental problems, and when things get too rough for them they can always call Captain Planet to save the day. Watching the first episode of the TV gives me a little hope though, because it showed that at least some people cared enough about the environment to try and teach young kids about what is happening to the planet.  They even went a step further and there is a Captain Planet Foundation that facilitates awareness of environmental issues that kids can get involved with at http://captainplanetfoundation.org/

Here are the two parts to the first episode of Captain Planet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB8CkYtP1rc&playnext=1&list=PL2066307FE0CAF31D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVc1o2FvMUM&playnext=1&list=PL2066307FE0CAF31D