Monday, March 10, 2008

-- reading "Environmental Disasters"


(I see a theme here... relaxing things to do before bedtime...)

So I've got this 200 page text on environmental disasters and open it up to read about the event pictured on the cover, where a huge cloud of dioxin (the toxic ingredient in Agent Orange) poured out over the countryside in Seveso, Italy.

On July 10, 1976, a chemical plant malfunctioned and released about 4.5 lbs of dioxin. (Dioxin is so toxic that less than a billionth of a gram is fatal to guinea pigs. A billionth!)

Locals were accustomed to the chemical smells frequently arising from the plant and didn't think anything of the increased odor on this particular day, and the plant didn't say anything.

Then animals began dropping dead and little kids playing outside developed angry blisters and skin eruptions. This got worse and worse until finally the company had to admit that something terrible had happened.

They began an emergency evacuation for locals and advised those outside the danger zone not to eat local food (um, too late!).

Initially, it was thought that only 1500 people were thought to be affected but this figure grew to almost 100,000 as the effects of this disaster were revealed.

Dead animals everywhere, people sick with internal ailments, liver disease, chloracne, pregnant women advised by doctors to abort their fetuses (even while the Vatican vehemently disagreed)... an absolute mess.

I'm trying to imagine waking up one day and discovering all the produce I've eaten in the past week from my own garden was toxic. Of finding dead animals littering the region -- I get upset enough when I see even one highway casualty.

I can't imagine what it was like for these people. Truly awful.

Environmental Disasters: A Chronicle of Individual, Industrial, and Governmental Carelessness, by Lee Davis.

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