By Alan Caruba
In the 1970s, as a public relations consultant, I helped introduce a new pesticide to the American market. More specifically, to the pest control industry as it was not available for use by the public. It was called “Ficam” and, after having undergone the costly Environmental Protection Agency registration process, it was quickly and widely used by pest control professionals, not just for its capacity to eliminate cockroaches and a variety of other pest insects, but because it was applied with nothing more toxic than water.
For two decades this pesticide thrived. I wrote case histories of where it was used in hotels, casinos, restaurants, and theme parks, as well as in homes and apartments. The pest control profession embraced it and there never was a single case of it causing any hazard to those who applied it or benefited from it.
I never found out why, but for some reason the EPA demanded that the manufacturer re-register the product and the decision was made that would be withdrawn instead. It was just too costly to prove what everyone already knew. It worked wonders protecting people against the diseases and property damage a wide variety of insect pest species cause on a daily basis.
The EPA did a similar number on a pesticide called “Dursban.” This excellent pesticide had been around for decades and was widely used because it was a component in more than 80 products that the public could purchase off the shelf of the supermarket or garden supplies store. The EPA proceeded to restrict its consumer use against insect pests. If it posed such a health hazard, why wasn’t there evidence of countless people being affected? Who benefited from its loss? The insects.
Some may remember the “Alar” crisis that impacted the apple growers, particularly in the northwest. Millions of dollars were lost until it became clear that there was no threat whatever to the public from its use. People are still safely eating apples, just as they were before an environmental group perpetrated the manufactured crisis.
The reason cited for these actions is called “the precautionary principle” that says that, if anything poses a possible risk, no matter how small, a chemical cannot be used. Proof of its effective use, in the case of pesticides, in protecting the public against the vast range of diseases pest insects or rodents routinely spread, was not to be considered.
What any chemist or pharmacist will tell you is “the poison is in the dose.” It is the amount of exposure that determines the level of hazard and we routinely eat, drink, and use things that have chemicals as part of their structure in such minute quantities as to constitute no threat. As just one example, potatoes contain trace amounts of arsenic, a deadly poison, but no one is ever going to consume enough potatoes at a single sitting.
I was reminded of this when I recently read of still more fear mongering against a plastic ingredient called bisphenol-A, otherwise known as BPA. The food packaging industry has used BPA in the linings of metal cans since as far back as the 1950s. It is also used to make hard plastic as well as lacquers for bottle tops, water pipes, and even dental sealants and tooth coatings.
The Environmental Working Group, a self-anointed “watchdog” organization rolled out the usual scare campaign in early March, claiming that BPA “may be poisoning pregnant women and infants” according to a study by the Group. Typically, these “studies” involve force-feeding huge amounts of the chemical to laboratory rats until a correlation can be made that it poses a threat to humans, but correlation is not the same as causation.
I can assure you that the cost of the canned foods identified and probably all others is about to rise. Indeed, the cost of everything that uses chemicals in the course of its manufacture is going to rise.
The reason for this is a program initiated by the European Union that has passed sweeping new chemical regulations that will go into effect in June. Based on that idiotic precautionary principle, the EU has instituted a program intended to rid the world of chemicals they deem to have an impact on the environment and human health. It is called “Green chemistry” and it has more to do with eliminating the use of beneficial chemicals than in offering any protection to Mother Earth and human beings.
The U.S. Commerce Department is putting on “roadshows” for U.S. businesses to bring them in line with the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (“REACH”) regulations.
As Kathleen Morson of Stratfor, a private intelligence group that advises U.S. corporations, says, “The REACH regulation represents a shift from the Western regulatory world’s reliance on risk assessment to something more precaution-based. Significantly, it shifts the regulatory burden from government agencies to the producers themselves to demonstrate that their chemicals are safe.”
No chemical is safe if it is ingested in an amount wherein the dose becomes injurious. This includes the chemical we commonly call water.
Because American manufacturers commonly export their products all over the world and Europe represents a major market for them, they will have no choice but to submit to this EU plan to restrict chemicals, some of which have been safely in use for decades and longer. A little group of Green gnomes in Helsinki will decide the fate of every chemical in use today.
This is what I predict. At some point in the future, after most of the world’s pesticides and herbicides, after chemicals used to clean water, after various chemicals used in the ways plastic is a part of our lives have been restricted, a huge plague will make its way across the world. It will be spread as the famed Black Plague was, by insect and rodent pests, and it will kill countless millions of people.
A new Dark Age will follow. It will, in fact, have been in place since the imposition of the European Union’s draconian anti-chemical program was imposed. What is REACH really about? It’s about killing you.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, http://www.anxietycenter.com/. His book, “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy”, is published by Merril Press.
© Alan Caruba, March 2007