I’m not an apologist for the chemical industry. Chemical industry has a checkered past in many ways. The pesticide, petrochemicals, and mining industries have left a deep and abiding foul taste in the mouths of many communities. In a previous era, heavy industry has fouled rivers, lakes, air, and ground water. It has lead to illness, death, and loss of livelihood to many people.

But in the modern era much of this wanton issuance of hazardous industrial material into the air and waters has been halted or greatly diminished. At least for the US, Canada, and the EU. And it is not because industry suddenly found religion. The “regulatory environment” became so compelling a liability cost factor that industry set its mind to engineering plants into compliance. 

I would make the observation that today, the major chemical health issues before us are not quite as much about bulk environmental pollution by waste products. Rather, I would offer that the most important matter may have to do with the chronic exposure of consumers to various levels of manufactured products. High energy density foods, particularly, high fructose corn sweeteners; veterinary antibiotic residues, endocrine disrupters, smoking, highly potent pharmaceuticals, and volatiles from polymers and adhesives to name just a few.

Modern life has come to require the consumption of many things.  A modern nation must have a thriving chemical industry to sustain its need for manufactured materials. It is quite difficult and isolating to live a life free of paint and plastics or diesel and drugs. Choosing paper over plastic at the supermarket requires a difficult calculation of comparative environmental insults. Pulp manufacture vs polymer manufacture- which is the least evil? I don’t know.

Our lives have transitioned from convenience to wretched excess. Our industry has given us an irresistable selection of facile ways to accomplish excess consumption. Individualized portions meter out aliquots of tasty morsels that our cortisol-stressed brains cry out for. These same portions are conveniently dispensed in petroleum- or natural gas-derived packages within packages within packages. These resource depleting disposable nested packages are delivered to our local market in diesel burning behemoths because some pencil-necked cube monkey decided that rotund Americans needed yet one more permutation of high fructose corn syrup saturated, palm oil softened, sodium salt crusted, azo dye pigmented, extruded grain product on Wal-Mart shelves.

Enough already.

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