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
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.
Sensitive cultures 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
lindane, an organo-chlorine pesticide. One of the reasons for this is that
lindane 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 lindane is used for agricultural
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