Sunday, December 16, 2012

Links from Damn Interesting

The Pit of Life and Death
"By 1983, the hill was so exhausted that the Anaconda Mining Company was no longer able to extract minerals in profitable amounts. They packed up all the equipment that they could move, shut down the water pumps, and moved on to more lucrative scraps of Earth. Without the pumps, rain and groundwater gradually began to collect in the pit, leaching out the metals and minerals in the surrounding rock. The water became as acidic as lemon juice, creating a toxic brew of heavy metal poisons including arsenic, lead, and zinc. No fish live there, and no plants line the shores. There aren’t even any insects buzzing about. The Berkeley Pit had become one of the deadliest places on earth, too toxic even for microorganisms. Or so it was thought."

The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth
Extents to which corporate greed can blind people to distort information and screw up our biosphere in order to make profits! 

"Upon learning that automotive fuel was the source of the contamination, Dr. Patterson began to publish materials discussing the toxic metal's ubiquity and its probable ill effects... The Ethyl corporation allegedly offered him lucrative employment in exchange for more favorable research results, but Dr. Patterson declined. For a time thereafter, Patterson found himself ostracized from government and corporate sponsored research projects, including the a National Research Council panel on atmospheric lead contamination. The Ethyl corporation had powerful friends, including a Supreme Court justice, members of the US Public Health Service, and the mighty American Petroleum Institute. Nevertheless, Patterson was unrelenting, and the resulting rise in scientific and public awareness eventually led to the Clean Air Act of 1970, and a staged phaseout of leaded gasoline. Ethyl and Du Pont sued the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that "actual harm" must be demonstrated rather than just "significant risk," an effort which successfully prolonged lead additives' life by another decade."
"In March 1968, the toxin under scrutiny was VX, one of the most potent nerve agents in existence. The original compound was created by Ranajit Ghosh, a chemist working at Imperial Chemical Industries. The liquid proved to be an effective pesticide and it was quickly put on the market under the name Amiton. Not long afterwards, however, it was taken off the market for being too toxic to handle safely. The agent's extreme toxicity drew the attention of government weapons research labs, whose scientists were always on the lookout for more efficient ways to kill people."

In Soviet Russia, Lake Contaminates You
Perils involved in playing with nuclear power!!

"In 1951, after about three years of operations at Chelyabinsk-40, Soviet scientists conducted a survey of the Techa River to determine whether radioactive contamination was becoming a problem. In the village of Metlino, just over four miles downriver from the plutonium plant, investigators and Geiger counters clicked nervously along the river bank. Rather than the typical "background" gamma radiation of about 0.21 Röntgens per year, the edge of the Techa River was emanating 5 Röntgens per hour."

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