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A fishy story

Posted 06/09/2011 by KatieJ

A short news story that came across my desk today got me thinking about the problems that the chemical industry faces in terms of explaining itself.

The story involves the spillage of a biodegradable detergent into a US river in south-west Pennsylvania. The amount of chemical involved was some 1000 gal but it was described as non-toxic and used in the manufacture of products for water treatment applications.

The result of the spill was a number of dead fish and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection immediately responded by sending an emergency response team to investigate.

Apart from the biodegradable nature of the chemical, it also did not dissolve in the river water but floated on its surface. The plant manager was reported as saying that only a small number of fish had died – between 15 and 25 – and they appeared to have died due to a clogging of their gills.

So did the chemical, to all intents and purposes harmless, actually kill the fish? Or is it a case of a fishy equivalent to drowning?

To be sure if the amount of chemical that had reached the river, and the number of fish that died, had been larger, the non-toxic biodegradable chemical concerned would have been pilloried with the possibility that there ultimately may have been regulations introduced to control its production, use, disposal and even its applications. What a conundrum, and one involving another of the most hazardous chemicals that is believed to kill more people globally than any other – H20.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    13/03/2012 12:07

    Well, you KNEW I'd have to comment on this one, Crunch! As soonmee who lived without a fridge for over 8 months, I can attest that I didn't spend more money or waste more food than before. It's all about strategy... in terms of cooking larger batches and having leftovers, I still did this; it just meant that I'd have to eat my dinner for lunch the next day rather than waiting another three days to eat it. If you're not dealing with meat, there really isn't much to worry about in terms of bacteria. Milk-wise, I switched to hemp, almond and soy milk, which lasted unrefrigerated for a few days, and I didn't have to buy smaller packs of it or anything. And yes, I'd definitely purchase cheese in smaller quantities, but I'd buy it from my local cheese shop where they were cutting it off a big wheel and I was keeping it in cheesecloth, so there wasn't more packaging involved. Because going without a fridge means cutting back on meat, that's a HUGE environmental savings right there. And yes, living in a city meant that I wasn't driving anywhere to get my groceries.Now, I'm like you -- I've gone back to using my fridge and don't have much eco-guilt because it's energy-efficient and my house is powered by wind and so on. But I do think that if you're strategic about what you buy and realize that, actually, most things DON'T need refrigeration (eggs, vegetables, condiments, juice, etc), unplugging the fridge can be green and quite liberating. It also helps if you live in Canada and have a balcony -- then you get a natural fridge outside for half the year!