Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot...

‘what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.’ 

Perfluoro-octonoic acid, known in the industry as PFOA, is an extremely useful chemical compound. It is used in Teflon (TM) and a wide array of other material coatings. It is used to coat your pots and pans, it is used on microwave popcorn bags, and it is present in your bloodstream right now at a concentration greater than zero. If you can survive without it, you should probably quit eating microwave popcorn. There are several other perfluoro-acids that have similar properties and are used in similar industrial operations. These chemical compounds are not on the federal Priority Pollutant list, nor are they regulated or tested for in public water sources. It is unclear whether they pose a significant risk to health and wellness because no formal study has been conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on them. In 2016, a health advisory was posted by the EPA stating that the health advisory levels for PFOA are 70 parts per trillion, which is very low, indicating a high level of toxicity. For reference, benzene is an extremely toxic compound found in gasoline and has a Maximum Contaminant Level of 5 parts per billion. The difference between a health advisory level and a Maximum Contaminant Level is that no one cares about a ‘health advisory’, it is not enforced as far as industry or public health is concerned. There are 126 chemicals on the Priority Pollutant list that have a wide range of negative health effects; there are thousands of chemicals used in industry today that have never been studied and will never appear on the list. [1]

‘the area dividing the brain and the soul
is affected in many ways by
experience--
some lose all mind and become soul:
insane.
some lose all soul and become mind:
intellectual.
some lose both and become: 
accepted.’

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. Leading up to this legislation, a growing concern had evolved from the obvious fact that swimming or eating fish from the Hudson River was a bold move. Not just the Hudson, but virtually every river and industrial wasteland in America was a seething plume of contamination and many people were being exposed both in their industrial zoned housing developments and at their workplaces. In the 1920’s and in an effort to compete with the blossoming Model T sales, the Cadillac company employed an old German trick to limit the unpopular knocking in their engines. The product developed was called tetra-ethyl lead and it was added to gasoline to quiet the knocking. A DuPont factory in Deepwater, NJ produced the chemical and workers in their factories were exposed to a wild amount of heavy metal contamination in their blood. One of the original factories was nicknamed the ‘house of butterflies’, which was a clever construct of the times based on the mass hallucinations that occurred among employees who worked among the giant vats of boiling lead and inhaled the vapors. An infirmary was present on company property to treat the affected employees until the butterflies stopped appearing at which point they would typically go back to work following their (sometimes) temporary insanity. Spending years working in this factory typically ended in a sluggish voice, an absent and blank visual appearance, and a high rate of mortality, insanity, or brain damage. [2, read this article, seriously] Eating lead paint chips leads to an acute swelling of the brain and repeated exposure causes immediate brain damage in children. In the last 50 years, the neurological effects of lead in the bloodstream have been studied many times over and little argument remains as to the toxicity level of lead. Lead has since been outlawed in car exhaust and paint but even now, subsequent to the enactment of the Clean Water Act, entire cities like Flint, MI have lead levels as high as 100 parts per billion because of careless industrialization and poor water quality monitoring. [3] The MCL for lead is 15 parts per billion. However, the goal is zero since the EPA says that based on the best available science, there is no safe exposure level for lead. [1]

‘all people start to
come apart finally
and there it is:  
just empty ashtrays in a room
or wisps of hair on a comb
in the dissolving moonlight

it is all ash
and dry leaves
and grief gone
like an ocean liner

when the shoes fill with blood
you know
that the shoes are dead

true revolution
comes from true revulsion;
when things get bad enough
the kitten will kill the lion

the statues in the church of my childhood
and the candles that burn at their feet
if I could only take these
and open their eyes
and feel their legs
and hear their clay mouths
say the true
clay
words.’

A giant in the petroleum industry has been chosen to lead the EPA’s crusade against industry’s lack of moral obligation.  A bill is on the floor in congress to abolish the EPA entirely, which will put us firmly back on track in our pursuit of China’s delectable flammable rivers, or perhaps the Hudson River that my grandfather knew. [4] There are places along the Yangtze that you can literally light the surface of the river on fire at times. It seems appropriate that the Affordable Care ACT will be repealed as well. Prior to the ACA, it was permissible for an insurance company to drop your coverage just for contracting cancer and with your new uninsured status, you’d find yourself with a preexisting condition which would preclude your future insurability forever. Even if you had been paying into a policy your whole life, they could just stop paying if you and your pesky cancer became a liability. I grew up thinking that the purpose of congress was to pass laws that improved on the previous order but I’ve had to call my congressman twice to urge support for my tax dollars being allocated to more than just missiles. I sure hope the EPA bill gets no traction and I sure hope I don’t get dropped from insurance for getting sick. Corporations have no conscience and they cannot make an unbiased decision in the same way that an individual can. Apparently, neither can congress as it seems just an extension of the corporate drive. Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People should be required reading in high school. I don’t think my phone calls or my petitions were enough to make a difference. Call your congresswoman and get your water tested if you live near a gas station, a dry cleaner, or a tetraethyl lead factory. If you live in a city and you drink the tap water, you should know that a lead sample only costs about 20 bucks and you can sample it yourself.  

‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, 
nothing is going to get better. 
It’s not’   
 

-Roger R, Test Prep Advisor & Instructor

 

Sources:
[1] http://epa.gov
[2] http://pittmed.health.pitt.edu/jan_2001/butterflies.pdf  (read this, seriously)
[3] http://flintwaterstudy.org/information-for-flint-residents/results-for-citizen-testing-for-lead-300-kits/
[4] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/meet-4-republican-lawmakers-who-want-abolish-epa-n717061
Poetry by Charles Bukowski and Dr. Seuss