The toxic century refers a history of events in how mankind has polluted the environment and even our own bodies. This was done using harmful chemicals and toxins through a variety of military and industrial practices. Even now if we eat healthy, exercise and live the most innocent lives, you can come under attack from this invisible enemy, simply by existing on this planet.
What caused this? Of the 200 organic chemicals known to cause breast cancer in animals 203 are manmade and 9 are natural. This stat shows us that we created a toxic environment. Wilhelm Hueper who we learned about in class said The majority of human cancers are traceable to environmental exposures and therefore potentially preventable” “Why did we do this to ourselves? After each World War, numerous military plus industrial practices and technologies have introduced a series of new chemicals into our bodies and damaged the environment we call home.
This led to many diseases such as cancer or •Itai itai byō •(ouch ouch sickness) the toxic century is a by-product of rapid industrialization due to war. Sandra Steingraber wrote the book living downstream about her experiences with cancer and chemicals. In it she details the wars in playing an active role in the toxic century and in her words” changed chemistry and physics forever.” After each world war the need for each country trying to rapidly industrialize in order to beat other countries was so important that common sense was not present. Countries decided to forgo safety checks in order to make sure their products were more effective. As a result, many chemicals such as chorine, DDT (used as an insect repellant in the war) and PCB’s were released in society for commercial use. DDT in particular was linked to cancer and hurt wildlife in the areas it was released.
Chorine was used in the war as a biological weapon was very effective and fatal against enemies. After the war, chorine was released in cleaning products, medicines and agriculture. They used propaganda and the ignorance of the people in order to sell the products. It was a time where western society was obsessed with cleanliness, they would give up anything to have it in their homes. First it was health issue & economic industry, soon it became a desirable convenience & cultural norm.
The cold war was created as a by-product of the two world wars. After World War 2, countries have found a new untested technology known as nuclear bombs. This led to the invention nuclear power where countries started generating power from nuclear sources. The problem of this is nuclear accidents. At least 6 of the biggest nuclear accidents have been recorded. Chalk river in Canada being one and the most recent one in Fukushima, Japan. Nuclear fallout results in cancerous carcinogens being released into the environment. The effects of which are not felt until years and years later. This is not allof the negative effects, more importantly, a state of fear was created in society.
An example was given in lecture about a town that was near a nuclear plant. When an explosion occurred in the plant, the people fled thousands of miles away. The mayor only recommend a few people leave and just a few miles away. This shows you the state of mind, these people were in after hearing about other nuclear meltdowns. On the positive side, it shows that people understand the dangers of the toxic century and things like this will not be endorsed by the people in the future. Sandra Steingrabber advised at the end of her book that we should use the precautionary principal in our daily lives.
That we should act to prevent and not the other way around. One can only imagine what would have happened if we testing chemicals before using them commercially or simply not using them at all. One could argue that we gained so much as a society thanks to the inventions that came along because of these chemicals but can we truly weigh human lives against that? Only in learning about the toxic century like any other piece of history, can we prevent future situations similar to the one we are in.
Courtney from Study Moose
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