Do you want more dioxin in your food and arsenic in your water or would you like less?

12 April 2001

By Jock Gill for


Want some whiskey in your water? Sugar in your tea? How about arsenic in your water or dioxin in your food? How about a side of mercury with your fish?

When we burn plastics and medical waste containing chlorine – as we have been doing for decades – dioxin is an inevitable by-product. When it is created in our garbage incinerators this very deadly poison has only one place to go: up the stacks, into the air and then onto the grass and other plants that animals eat. From there it is not too many steps to the food case in the supermarket. So we are all already getting dioxin as an added extra in too many food products we buy – and have been for a very long time.

Now if this were cocaine being knowingly added into our national food supply, you just know the Bush administration would have a zero tolerance policy. But it is only dioxin, which like arsenic, seems to be one of the condiments of choice of the current Bush administration. George Bush the 1st did not like his broccoli, which is good for you. Here is the question: Does George Bush the 2nd like arsenic and dioxin, which are bad for you? What's your bet?

Today we learn from the Washington Post that the businesses involved in the chemicals-to-plastics-to-dioxin to food chain do not even want us to know about the problem. They want to delay, if not suppress, a very troubling EPA study on dioxin and cancer. The EPA, by the way, has been working on this issue for ten years.

But we all know what they do not want us to know – that dioxin in our food supply and arsenic in our water are much, much worse than mad cow disease and the hoof and mouth virus.

All of which leads to the problem of short term profits versus asking about long term benefits and impacts. Again and again we see where environmental degradation in the name of short term profits for the few lead to long term harm and greater costs for the many. Today we see short term profit thinkers, principally in the extractive, chemical, pharmecultural industries, and related businesses, running amok in the Bush Administration they funded and appear to have purchased lock stock and barrel.

The short term profiteers in the Bush Administration will undoubtedly leave this world with more money in the bank. They will just as surely leave the rest of us with a degraded and more highly polluted planet. We will inherit the heavy burden of cleaning up their messes – if we can. Is there any possible justification for short term profits over long term benefits?

Another prime example of the hard conflict between short term profiteers and long term stewards can be seen daily in the approaches to our national energy challenges. The profiteers want to extract and burn more. The stewards want to kick our addiction to carbon-based fuels, coal and oil. The stewards can see the advantages in the freedom and independence promised by renewable energy and an economy powered by hydrogen fuels.

Time for a fish story. Just where does that side of mercury with your fish quite possibly come from? You guessed it. From the mercury naturally found in locked up in coal – locked up, that is, until the coal is burned in power plants, which then sends the released mercury out into the world, where it gets into the food chain of at least a dozen fish, who, in turn, are in our food chain...

Is the George Bush administration going to be known in the history books as “Dioxin and the Heavy Metals”?

If we are to be effective 21st Century Democrats we have to stand up and demand a zero tolerance policy for known poisons in our water and our food supplies.

If we are to be effective 21st Century Democrats we have to demand long term benefits and clear thinking about environmental action. When will we naturally ask how this will improve life in the 7th generation, not just in the next 90 days?

As 21st Century Democrats we must declare that governing is about maximizing opportunity, benefits, and security for the greatest number. Being a 21st century Republican on the other hand is pretty much the same as being a 19th century robber barron -- short term profits for the very few and the very rich and environmental pollution for everyone else.

The 21st Democrats must learn to be stewards working together for a better tomorrow. Together we must begin to work for poison free foods, water and energy. From this small step many things will follow.