“Find your place on this planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there.” ~ Gary Snyder

hazard symbol

I found a horrifying-slash-cool website this week. Our link to the site as it relates to food initially seems tenuous at best. But, since we are all about supporting local farmers, restoring land, being good caretakers, and loving where we live, I’m going to drag you down the rabbit hole with me anyway. Look it up: www.toxicsites.us

Toxic Sites lists the most toxic and contaminated sites in the United States, as identified for remediation through Superfund. Superfund, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLA) of 1980 is a US Federal Law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. So there is a hazard ranking system, and a national priorities list, and this data is beautifully captured in a visual presentation on this website.

Here’s what I learned after a few minutes of clicking: the closest ‘toxically hazardous site’ to me is South Weymouth Naval Air Station. Remediation seems to be recent or ongoing, with the last event on the site being in 2012. Primarily, the type of contaminants are carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and neurotoxins, the actual chemicals found on site: nickel, vinyl chloride, manganese antimony, dichlorethane, benzofluoranthene, chromium, mercury, zinc, lead, and more. The area covers 1,500 acres and the site has a hazardous ranking score of 50 (28.5 qualifies it for the Superfund National Priority List). It also has an outline of the site’s history.     Want to know what else I learned? There are ‘top ten’ lists – top ten states with the most toxic sites, top ten contaminants, and my personal favorite, top ten responsible parties. Why is it my favorite? Because these are the companies that are on the list with the MOST NUMBER OF OCCURENCES, want to know who they are?

General Electric Company | E. I. Du Pont De Numours And Company | General Motors Corporation | Shell Oil Company | Ford Motor Company | Atlantic Richfield Company | Union Carbide Corporation | Monsanto Company | Ashland Chemical Company | U.S. Airforce

So here’s where it gets really interesting. Du Pont, number two on the list, boasts ‘Animal Nutrition & Disease Prevention, Crop Protection, Seed’ as their major product lines in the agricultural sector. They also work in ‘Food & Personal Care (offering dietary supplements and food ingredients amongst others), High Performance Materials, Industrial Biotechnology, People & Process Safety, and Polymers and Fibers’, according to their website.

The Union Carbide Corporation, seventh on the list, boasts that some of their products go into everyday items, like food containers and toys. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Company, and in addition to products like paints and coatings, personal care soaps, textiles, they also boast an agricultural division.

Eighth on the list needs no introduction, Monsanto. Leader in biotechnology and genetically modified crops, they also offer ‘crop protection products’ and on the front page of their website is a big blue button titled ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ which leads you to a farmer’s market graphic with the byline ‘growing food more sustainably’. I didn’t find anything on their website to indicate that they were responsible for contaminating enough sites with hazardous ranking scores of above 28.5, putting those sites on the national priority list and qualifying Monsanto for position number eight.

Finally, Ashland Chemical Company has products in Agricultural, Food & Beverage, and Personal Care markets, amongst others.

Anybody else horrified that 9 out of the top ten companies on the list are oil companies, or service food, beverage, or most importantly, agricultural markets?

What to know something else? Eight of them are on the Fortune 500 list: (Ashland #371, Monsanto #197, General Motors #6, General Electric #8, DuPont #87, Union Carbide #48, Ford Motors #9) – three of them even made the top ten list again!

Huh. How’s that for ‘food for thought’. Written by Pam Denholm

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