Toledo water ban exposes toxic nature of side effects

by Sharon Abercrombie

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We are awash in toxins. Think about the GMOs, the fracking chemicals, pesticides, coal and oil spills -- they just won’t go away. The Toledo area’s poisoned water emergency situation the weekend of Aug. 2 set my inner panic button to screeching.

Nearly a half million people throughout northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan were forced to rely on bottled water for two days after a local treatment plant showed elevated readings for microcystin bacteria in Lake Erie.

Microcystin grows from algae nourished by chemical fertilizer phosphorus runoff from factory farms, other agricultural operations leaky septic systems and lawn fertilizers. The phosphorus-fed algae blooms turn the water a pea-green color. Drinking it can cause diarrhea, vomiting and liver-function problems, and has been found deadly to dogs and other small animals.

On Monday the Toledo Blade reported that months before the area’s algae crisis, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency had considered a take-over of the 73-year old Collins Water Treatment Plant because of its years-long failure to tackle major maintenance repairs, including leaky valves at key raw water sites.

A week earlier, the Blade editorial staff called for a legislative crackdown on those who refuse to take responsibility for the messes they have created. That same day, Food and Water Watch, a Washington-based consumer group, revealed that legislation around a fertilizer certification program by Ohio lawmakers exempts manure, and “includes a voluntary, not mandatory, nutrient management plan program” to address the problem.

The New York Times also reported that water reform efforts at the national level had stalled in Congress, “largely from Republicans who see it as infringing upon private rights and a threat to farmers.”

The Blade predicted that without strong laws, Toledo residents eventually would need to depend upon lifetime supplies of bottled water. So what happens when similar pollution takes over the world, and we run out of clean water to send to the bottling plants?

For much of my life, a never-ending stream of toxins has been fouling the environment.  Remember Ronald Reagan’s television commercial from years ago, “Better Living through Chemistry?” What a bitter irony.

As the poisons have multiplied, so have the incidents of cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2008 study.

Of course, corporations continue to deny any connection between these serious illnesses and their products. They just don’t seem to understand that everything is interconnected, do they? They don’t seem to grasp that our outer ecology always moves inward.

What scares me is how the “better living through chemistry” mindset has affected our physical well-being, through the medical profession and drug industry.

While many drugs have certainly saved lives, their blessings can be mixed; some come with terrible side effects. I’ve begun connecting the dots in my own illnesses, and the resulting picture is not pretty.

There have been too many antibiotics over the years whose “possible side effects” have latched onto this hapless victim with a gleeful vengeance. In 2002 an ongoing prescription regime triggered cancer, and the resulting radiation treatments caused a nearly life-long chronic condition to worsen.

The fallout means I now suffer from an emotional side effect called “prescription paranoia.” My relentless questioning and refusal to take my meds like a good, compliant patient drives the physicians and pharmacists crazy.

Several friends have similar stories. They have stopped taking their high-powered meds, changed their diets, and sought out holistic physicians, usually at great expense, since most insurance doesn’t cover the costs.

Each of us has a different ailment but we share a commonality: No more will we play the role of canaries in the chemical coalmines. The same should go for our water sources and the land.

So now here I am, the proverbial old lady in tennis shoes, with one desperately plaintive question. What will it take for us to have clean water, breathable air, pure food and access to medicines that heal without the risk of frightening side effects?

Jesus said something about this in Luke 11.  If your son asks for an egg, do you give him a scorpion? 

Cynically speaking, the 21st century answer is “yes.” Forget the egg. The powers and principalities are much too busy breeding their chemical scorpions.

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