DDT’s Tragic Legacy

RobinThe following is the text for my semi-weekly radio program for Red Sky Stage Radio, which airs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:45, 12:45, 5:45, and 8:45.

DTT’s Tragic Legacy

Today on Red Sky Stage Radio’s Planet Michigan…DDT’s Tragic Legacy…music for this program, as always, by the incomparable Kevin MacLeod……so, a little more than a week ago, I’m on my way to Ontario’s Lake Superior Provincial Park, where my brother, nephew and I canoe camp for a week every year or so…the reason that last week’s segments were repeats of earlier shows)…and just before leaving Sault Michigan, we stop to fill up for gas…and my nephew Tory wants a Detroit Free, we get that day’s edition…and on the cover page is this story about Robins and other ground-feeding birds that are still dying in St Louis, Michigan…40 years after the chemical plant…Velsicol…not sure if it’s pronounced Vels-e-cole, or Vel-cycle, but I’ll say Velsicol…since that’s what I seem to remember it being called when I was growing up…yes, this was a major story, not just in communities near the mid-Michigan town near where I lived as a child…but in all of Michigan, not to mention, the entire Midwest, as well……

St Louis2A little history–Velsicol, and before that–Michigan Chemical–operated a chemical production plant along the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan…among the fairly unregulated products they produced…DDT and PBB-related chemicals…DDT has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most wicked of chemicals ever devised by industry, especially since it was distributed freely, widely and without prejudice as an insecticide for crops, mosquito control, and wherever we thought controlling insects was a good and practical thing…we were dead wrong…as wrong, I will add briefly…as those who would dare to allow its use today…claiming it wasn’t quite as bad as the scare tactics suggested……well, let me state here and now, without qualification…that anyone who thinks an insecticide that keeps on killing 40 years after it’s been in the ground is harmless simply isn’t fit to walk around loose…chemical industry people, politicians…I don’t care who you are…if you share this opinion, or the opinion that regulating and banning such deadly toxins isn’t within the jurisdiction of Government Agencies we create as a democracy…well, you’re just crazy…or stupid…..

St LouisAnyway, back to the history–Velsicol produced DDT, as well as PBB, (polybrominated Biphenyl) a flame retardant used in manufacturing certain household products, mainly in plastics, or wood, making them more resistant to fire…well, if you listen regularly to this show, you’ll know I am a strong fan of the EPA, and that I advocate strengthening its regulatory and enforcement power, where some popular politicians…some representing our district–state and US–want to lessen it…make it easier for industry to poison us..especially if you can’t see it happening underground, or in the water…all so they can save a few bucks in manufacturing costs, and us, ostensibly, in purchasing their tainted, or carelessly-produced products……I say this because DDT was finally banned from use, but only after a long, bitter, and public battle, waged against environmentalists, such as Rachel Carson, whom the industry publicly and unforgivably vilified, slandered, and crucified with a vengeance few have been subject to…stopping at nothing to destroy a woman standing up to merely ask that we stop letting them poison our world…but PBBs continued to be produced, because harmful health effects weren’t as easy to detect…and then came an incident, in 1973, when the Velsicol plant managed, through a completely avoidable mistake…mixed this flame retardant with a livestock feed supplement…that’s AVOIDABLE…and you’ll see why I emphasize the word on Thursday’s show…because, yes, I am running out of time today, and I want, not only to stay on this subject of birds falling out of the sky 40 years after contamination had ended, but I want you to see how it happened…and more importantly…to understand just how easily it could happen again, if certain of our legislators ever got their way…and why our long-term health and safety, and the continued well-being of our natural resources and the environment–our air, water, and land–is less important than their short-term election prospects…this is Jeff Lange for Red Sky Stage Radio’s…Planet Michigan.


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