Chapter 8 Environment Links to Health
The Petrochemical Industry: Links to Health
The petrochemical industry manufactures products largely using raw materials, such as crude oil
(petroleum) and gas.
Rachel Carson argued that carcinogens are produced from these industries in such great amounts that
their effects are health throughout our environment.
The Industry’s Effect on the Air We Breathe
The source of smog is from ground level ozone, which is formed through a chemical reaction of
pollutants from industrial plants and vehicle emissions combined with sunlight and stagnant air.
There are four known health effects from smog: respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, allergies and
In the late 1970s, the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer was linked to a chemical called
There has been a dramatic drop in the use of ozone depleting substances, however, scientist continue to
be concerned for three primary reasons; 1) there is uncertainty whether the ozone layer can be return to
its original thickness; 2) in recent years. The production and use of CFCs has recently increased; 3)
there is a decreasing sense of urgency to this problem as there is a popular misperception that ozone
depletion has resolved itself.
The Industry’s Effect on the Land that Feeds Us
The effect of the petrochemical industry is specifically note worthy with regard to the manufacturing of
pesticide for use in modern agriculture.
In 1939, a Swiss chemist by the name of Paul Muller developed a compound called
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane more commonly known as DDT.
Many advantages to pesticide use were offered, including the following: pesticides greatly increase crop
production without rotating crops; they are highly cost effective and one farmer is able to work a large
piece of land efficiently; there is decreased soil loss; and produce is picture perfect, which consumers
have grown to demand.
DDT belongs to a group of chemicals in the environmental movement commonly referred to as
persistent organic pollutants, betters known as POP.
POPs have been linked to cancer, to nervous system and reproductive disorders, and to birth defects.
As well, they are known to be endocrine disruptors – they mimic natural hormones circulating in the
body, either enhancing or blocking the production of these hormones.
POPs have been found throughout the world, often thousands of miles from the source of it use.
The Industry’s Effect on Farming
Pesticide use since WWII had changed the face of farming.
Farming had become more intensive, with each acre of land producing higher yields
Even though the number of arms has steadily declined since 1961, crop production has increased where
‘the real value of production has tripled.’
PEI Potato Farming: A Case Study Linda Van Til, an epidemiologist for the PEI Department of Health, believed that cancer trends in Pei
are no different than those in the rest of Canada.
However, Dr Matsusaki, who worked in numerous emergency rooms across Canada and the United
States disagrees that cancer is not a problem in PEI.
According to Steingraber, farmers experience such cancers as prostate, melanoma, and multiple
myeloma at much higher rates than the rest of the population.
Carson, in the early 1960s, identified three forms of silence that ultimately serve industry, not people.
Two forms of silence continue to be relevant today: 1) environmental debates occur and stay behind
closed doors of government offices; and 2) ‘the hushed complicity of many individuals scientists who
were aware of – if not directly involved in documenting – the hazards created by chemical assaults on
the natural world.’
How Agribusiness Control Food, the Environment, and Our Health
Farming today is part of an integrated larger system t