Monday, November 26, 2007

A good dinner spoiled -- dioxin in fish

My dad always brought home his full share of walleye. His annual trip to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, meant amazing fish dinners year round. It was the early 1970s. We never worried that the fish might not be good for our health. In fact, it always seemed to bring a distant purity to our suburban dinner table. This was righteous, natural food, the prize of a hard-working man taking some peace away from his cares, which were many.

Today, if you are smart, you pay attention to fish consumption advisories. Every state issues them. Some states are direct about it; some bury the information layers deep on departmental or agency websites. No matter where you live, you are a fool not to check the advisories.

Michigan's Department of Community Health (MDCH) is issuing an Interim Fish Consumption Advisory for the Saginaw River. "This action extends the advisory currently in effect for the Tittabawassee River to the entire length of the Saginaw River. " (source) The level of dioxin found is believed to be the highest ever -- 1.6 million parts of dioxin per trillion of water. This is about 20 times higher than any other known dioxin contamination.

What have we done? Most likely the dioxins in question are from the productivity of Dow Chemical Company. Industry makes our lives "better." That was the idea for decades. But short-lived conveniences give way to generations-long environmental destruction. In the United States, we know better than to trade short term economic gain for environmental harm and still we get it wrong. We roll back laws protecting the environment and in Michigan, take away the citizen's right to sue to protect the environment we hold in common.

The developing world is learning on its own what we continue to discover with every new patch of toxic waste. In particular, China is sacrificing environmental quality for production.

Read about China:
China’s Environmental Crisis Catalyzes New Democracy Movement

Then say a prayer for the Saginaw River and her people. And say one more for China.