Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Life's a Beach*

On February 22, 1983, in an unprecedented move, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the United States Government would buy the entire town of Times Beach, Missouri. The EPA decided that the action was necessary after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released completed analyses of extensive soil sampling in the area and warned that the hazard posed by dioxin contamination was "a continuing threat to the health of citizens of the community." [1] An examination of the Times Beach incident, however, shows that the action resulted from a more complex sequence of events of which dioxin was but a part. The presence of dioxin at Times Beach though, points out problems our scientific and regulatory system have in handling the undefined hazards of potentially dangerous substances like dioxin.
[1] Environmental Protection Agency, Press Release, 22 Feb. 1983, R30.

* I dedicate this and the subsequent multi part continuations to the generation of men and women chemists who lost their jobs or never had jobs, in part to overzealous and fear based tactics. I originally wrote this series as a single unpublished piece of journalism. I consider the story well sourced and it was vetted by a University professor at the time. I don't have electronic links to many of the original sources, but they are there, if need be.


  1. Knee jerk reactions such as this - and the 'global warming specter' - without the hard science and confirmed independent results always lead to trouble.

  2. It gets better LL. I'd dole it all out at once but it's be too long.

    Oh, and I can post to my own blog from home but not from work.

    Bad sign.