Friday, March 14, 2014

#74 / Sin And Synthetics #3

The picture above graces a story that ran in the Sunday, March 9th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Under the headline "Chemical permeating bay seals," the Chronicle reported that "harbor seals are contaminated with high levels of a man-made chemical that was pulled from production 12 years ago." 

Scientists don't know where the contamination is coming from. They speculate, but have not yet proven, that the chemical contamination is undermining the seals' health. The name of the chemical in question is perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, abbreviated as PFOS. It was once the primary ingredient in Scotchgard. The article reports that this chemical is "virtually indestructible."

Besides providing a good argument for the "Precautionary Principle," this story provides one more illustration of how we overstep the limits when we think that we can manufacture a "better world" than the world that Nature has provided. I have written about "Sin And Synthetics" before, a couple of times. Here's another example and my third advisory!

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1 comment:

  1. "Thresholds for effects from PFOS exposure for other mammals are several orders of magnitude higher than the concentrations observed in this study."

    It's unsound to speculate harm to an animal's health from ppb of a substance shown to cause harm only at concentrations in the ppm.

    Synthetic chemicals should always be studied for their potential for bioaccumulation. This wasn't well enough appreciated in 1949, when 3M began producing PFOS.

    By the way, scientists actually do know where PFOS contamination comes from! Waste from paper manufacturing, rugs, clothing, furniture, flame retardants, and firefighting foam all contain PFOS. At least they did, before it was banned in 2004.

    Your phobia of synthetic chemicals is pretty obvious. As is your fundamentalist Neo-Luddism. Which exactly are these "limits" we must not overstep? Are you arguing that we shouldn't use any synthetic chemicals? What about all the medicines which save million of lives each year? What about the agricultural products without which billions would starve? What about the plastics and metal alloys required for by electronic devices?

    The problem with your nature vs. humans worldview is that you'll never be satisfied, even when the precautionary principle has been. You see "sin" in everything "unnatural". That's called the appeal to nature fallacy, and it's dead wrong.


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