A Swamp of Ignorance
The head of the Department of Public Health in Michigan said years later,
“We were mired in a swamp of ignorance.”
It took a long time to cipher out the health effects of polybrominated biphenyl, or PBB.
In 1973, PBB was sold under the trade name FireMaster as a flame retardant by the Michigan Chemical Company. That same company also produced NutriMaster, magnesium oxide as an additive for animal feed. A shortage of preprinted bags in the plant led to disaster. PBB was inadvertently put into containers labeled as NutriMaster. Those mislabeled bags were sent to a feed mill, and then the chemical was eventually passed on as feed to over 500 Michigan farmers. The farmers fed the toxin to their livestock. They, in turn, passed on that chemical to thousands of people through milk and other dairy products, beef, pork, sheep, chickens, and eggs.
A continuing follow-up of the affected Michigan residents links PBB exposure to an increased risk of breast cancer, digestive system cancers, and lymphoma. Increased rates of disease of the nervous system, immune system, skin, and musculoskeletal system have also been noted in the cohort.
And in their offspring, sexual development often begins early. Here’s a recent intriguing article about early puberty and environmental toxins like PBB and its cousins that’s well done and worth a read.
After 30 years, PBB was finally banned in 2003, but now there are plenty of other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) contaminating our world. Each one of them may come with toxic effects, and like PBB, whose half-life in the body is more than a decade, they aren’t easily biodegraded. They get trapped inside our bodies for way too long. Meat and dairy are the conduits for 90% of the POPs in humans. It’s a great reason, beyond all the other positive health effects, to stick with Yoga’s vegetarian diet, to restrict milk and cheese consumption to an occasional treat rather than a 3-times daily event, and to choose no-fat or low-fat dairy products.
We’re still living in a swamp of ignorance. There’s so much we don’t yet know.
For more information, here’s a few articles about the Michigan fiasco: