for 'killer' chemicals
WATCH | Bharati Chaturvedi
March 22, 2005
What do baby oil and
vultures have in common? It's an easy one if you've been reading the
papers. Both contain, literally, chemicals that were not tested for
their wider effects.
Look at it this way. Baby oil, it turns out, has paraffin — which is
not a product specially recommended for babies.
Vultures, says a
study by Lindsay Oaks from the Washington State University, have
declined by over 95 per cent in Pakistan, India and Nepal. And 85
per cent of the 259 vultures tested suffered from visceral gout and
renal failure, caused by diclofenac — a chemical used in cattle to
handle pain. The three-year study shows that the Oriental White
Backed, Long Billed and Slender Billed Vultures have been the most
severely impacted. But really, that's not the point. The point is
much more basic.
Why are there so
many untested chemicals lurking around us? Since World War II, of
the almost 100,000 chemicals produced, less than 5,000 have been
tested. Of these, not all have been tested adequately.
For instance, it
would take up more resources than the government has to test one
lakh chemicals. And besides, why should the state be always
responsibile? It would be way more sensible if the onus were on the
manufacturer to prove to the government and the public that the
chemicals being used are not toxic.
Some people bear the brunt of environmental contamination more than
others. In Delhi, for example, residents have more DDT in their fat
than in any other part of the country.
In the Arctic,
indigenous people are livid that their environment has been tested
for high levels of
an organo-chlorine pesticide. One of the reasons for this is that
travels and accumulates in the eco-system — including in food like
salmon and whale meat, the staple diet there. A significant
contribution could be from the rest of the US, where
is used for agricultural purposes.
One of the
arguments people in the region put forth is that lindane-rich meat
is not simply a question of poor food quality. It is actually
a threat to an entire culture, linked with the resources
traditionally available in a cold and harsh climate.