Thursday, August 03, 2017

And more memories

Writing them down, to try to exorcise them.

I'm doing the FIFRA/TSCA part of the class this afternoon. So I'm reading a lot about DDT and also PCBs and the like. And I'm remembering stuff from childhood, not just the "bald eagles might go extinct" thing but also stuff from growing up with my dad being a geohydrologist with a side of environmental chemistry, and with having an uncle who was an MD who studied cancer-causing compounds:

- the whole PCBs in the Great Lakes thing. I guess Zilwaukee was one of the areas contaminated? I just remember being told "Don't eat the fish people catch" (not really an issue for me as I did not like fish as a kid) and also my dad not stopping in certain towns for meals or even so we could get a drink because he was concerned their drinking water was contaminated. (Now that I consider this as an adult, I wonder if that was wise of him - I know it added to my vague anxieties as a child to be told, "No, this town's water isn't safe, we'll go an hour on down the road before we get lunch," especially considering it was a maybe once-a-year exposure). Also we didn't really eat hot dogs or other cured meat except VERY rarely because of my uncle's research....And I remember one year my dad insisting on buying the turkey we were to eat (at a relative's house) for Thanksgiving in Ohio and bringing it to Michigan, because of concerns about contamination....

- I also now find myself wondering if some of the, uh - issues - I had in puberty were related to maybe my being exposed to PCB based on where I lived (it's a known endocrine disruptor). And how much of it I have in my tissues from things like ballasts blowing in the schoolrooms when I was a kid (it was used in fluorescent tube ballasts, I'm not sure when its use was stopped, but given how school funding works, I'm SURE they used their old-stock tubes until they ran out)

- unrelated but I also remember him not wanting us to buy milk in the weeks after the Chernobyl disaster. I guess he didn't realize most conventionally-farmed cows then probably never saw the outdoors and surely would not have been eating hay/grass contaminated with fallout, especially in the *weeks* after it happened.

- probably a more realistic concern was having us use bottled water on a few trips to remote parts of the West out of concern that the water was too high in sulfates for our systems to easily tolerate. (You don't want a kid with 'the trots' when you're on a road trip...)

I tend to be a bit more callous about such things as an adult - I mean, I don't smoke and I still don't really eat cured meat (too much salt, and being largely denied it as a child, I didn't really develop a taste for it, other than maybe some of the salami type things, but that only rarely). But I still eat Pacific crab and salmon, even though someone recently asked me, "Aren't you worried that radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster has gotten washed into the water where those animals live? (Frankly, it's probably more likely a problem with crab, which are bottom feeders, but also, crab grow slowly, so it may be MORE of a problem 10-15 years from now). But my response was: "Eh, you probably get more radiation from using a granite countertop*." I have no idea if that's true but given the things in the world likely to kill me, I think a few alpha particles in my salmon are pretty low on my list, especially given how people drive right now.

EDITED TO ADD: Seems I am correct in my assessment. (Oh, there are fringey sites - like Zero Hedge - that say otherwise,  but given my attitude of "what are they tryin' to sell ya?" with most opinion websites, I'm much more inclined to trust NOAA)

(*Not that I have one: I still have the funky old salmon-colored Formica that was in my house when I moved in. It's perfectly functional and has kind of a retro charm, so I'm in no hurry to replace it.)

But yeah. It's remarkable how much of this stuff I'm going to cover is things that were Issues when I was a kid, and stuff I heard about either directly (Love Canal on the news) or through my dad.

And I think it is reawakening old memories/anxieties....last night I dreamed about New York in the 1980s, or at least the New York I saw in tv shows and movies....and yes, a very famous and currently very reviled person, in his 1980s form was there, and other people of that era. The only other thing I remember was finding a $400 bill (?) on the ground. That was what woke me up, I think, because my brain went, "Wait, there does not exist a $400 bill in American currency"

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