Monday, March 1, 2010

Pen Meets Paper Mar.1'10

Opinion by Helge Nome
Is there a terrorist lurking under Main Street in every older urban community in North America? More savage and ruthless than Osama Bin Laden and one million times more effective?
This possibility came to mind when I examined a slide presentation made in the little Village of Caroline by a group of community planners last week. One of the slides shows the aging water mains system in the village and identifies the water main running under Main Street as a priority item for replacement. Some notes along the left margin of the slide, with red bullets beside them are rather significant: “ Water Mains, 45+ years old, Primarily Asbestos Cement Pipe”. This is the very pipe that burst, making water bubble up in the middle of Main Stream in Caroline, not so long ago.
What else has it done over a service life of some 50 years? It has delivered water containing tiny strands of asbestos fiber to every household in the village. Just as some 400,000 kilometers of similar pipe has done across North America.
This is of course not the first time this issue has been raised in public. Some alarm bells went off when Barbara Robson, a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, wrote an investigative report in 1987. I have published this report on Since then, a number of investigations have been made by many agencies with the expected variability in outcomes for such a contentious issue. A comprehensive contemporary source of information is
No one has managed to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the various kinds of cancers are linked to specific single causes in the environment. This difficulty in pinpointing specific causes speaks to the probability of ubiquitous underlying conditions that have emerged in modern society, one of which could be our water distribution system. There is a lot of evidence linking cancers to a host of known carcinogens, including asbestos, which is a naturally occurring mineral that does not readily break down in the environment.

The troubling part about the crumbling asbestos cement pipes under our feet is that the fibers coming loose as the cement deteriorates, carried by water under pressure flowing through the pipes, can readily find their way into our stomachs and beyond via both drinking water and food. Clothes washed in this water will also rub against our skin, enabling the sharp tiny asbestos fibers to find their way into our bodies. While asbestos is a naturally occurring compound in the environment, its use in our water system greatly increases out exposure to this known carcinogen. This is not rocket science. It is just bad news. Remember the Romans and their drinking vessels made from lead?
Is Osama Bin Laden just a scarecrow, put out there to divert our attention from the real issues?

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