Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dioxin Contaminated Irish Pork: An Al-Qaeda Attack?

No terrorist organization had claimed responsibility yet, but pork products seem like a very inviting “soft” target for a terrorist attack. Will there be a “Happy Christmas” for this year?

By: Vanessa Uy

If – hypothetically speaking – I was an al-Qaeda operative, attacking one of the most “holy” symbols of Christendom and Christmas, like pork and pork products, could probably produce the most “psychologically paralyzing” damage to the West. Though the current dioxin-contaminated Irish pork is yet to be linked to an attack by an established terrorist group, the incident is by no means still “relegateable” to every major newspaper’s “page 23” spot. Especially when / if the “alleged” attack happens this time of year.

Back in the days when “Ike” was still the President of the United States, Santa Claus was often portrayed unabashedly feasting on a piece of ham intended for a dozen people by himself. Often with strips of bacon on the side, a symbol often hijacked by meat / pork producers portraying Santa’s “corpulence” as being healthy, often to usher in the Christmas / Holiday Season. So, other than the Nativity Scene, Santa Claus, and the Christmas Tree, ham and other pork products are not only post WWII symbols of the Christmas Season, but also – if you will – of post 9 / 11 Christendom.

Dioxin is a carcinogenic and a teratogenic (can affect developing human fetuses) chemical that can be created in our contemporary urban lifestyle via burning unsorted garbage, especially if those garbage / municipal waste is a heterogeneous mix of paper and an organic halide-based plastic like polyvinyl chloride. This method of “making” dioxin is the number one reason of how groundwater tables near major metropolitan areas are contaminated by dioxin via mismanaged municipal waste landfills.

The other one where dioxin can be “accidentally” produced is by faulty and hasty industrial processing of crude oil sourced products. Like the Agent Orange defoliants used in Operation Ranch Hand during the Vietnam War. Or in today’s Irish pork scare, the dioxin-contaminated lubricant used in the machinery that grinds up swine feed. Even some pork samples produced in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland test positive for PCB s.

The dioxin levels found on suspect Irish pork products contain on average 80 to 200 times above the minimum safe limit established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and its EU counterparts. Given that when it comes to the risk assessment of absolute minimum levels of dioxin in food products deemed fit for human consumption can readily become a “political” issue since there are still no binding limits set on “absolutely” save dioxin levels. But everyone of us alredy knows by now that threat assessment / risk assessment studies have already become a political issue in our post 9 / 11 world.

Given that the coming Holiday Season is very dependent on pork and pork products. The worldwide supermarket recall of Irish pork products manufactured during the month of September this year and onwards spells disaster. Not only for pork aficionados, but also for Irish pig farmers as well. Vegetarianism or being vegan might be good for one’s body and for planet Earth’s environment. But an overwhelmingly large number of us won’t be having a joyous Christmas Season without pork.


Sherry Rashad said...

...and al-Zawahiri-wee-wee-wee all the way to Gitmo. But I do agree that laws legislated to protect our environment by lobbyists in Washington are more politically-driven rather than based on hard science. Remember back in 1986 were academic articles sporting titles like "The Perils of Prudence: How Conservative Risk Estimates Distort Regulation" only reinforces my own perception that when it comes to risk assessment, the US Government since the Nixon Administration were promoting an ideology - rather than good science - to protect our environment. Or consider Justice Breyer's apocryphal anecdote about the "nonexistent-dirt-eating-children" of New Hampshire. Safety, health and environmental legislation should be based on good science - rather than demagoguery.

Vanessa said...

Ayman al-Zawahiri was inexplicably silent when it comes to the dioxin / PCB contaminated Irish pork products a few days ago despite calling President-elect Obama a "House-Boy" after winning the 2008 US Presidential Elections.
I assume that you must be talking about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Before he became a US Supreme Court judge, Stephen Breyer published a book back in 1993 titled "Breaking the Vicious Circle" in which he argued that the public irrationally desires / wants to fear the worst and that risk assessors that fear. Stephen Breyer then concluded that a lot of the risk the government deems large enough to regulate are actually laughably small. In one passage of his book, Breyer told the story of a New Hampshire company that had been ordered, as a result of an US Environmental Protection Agency action to pay 9 million US dollars extra to clean up a dump site so that kids could safely eat dirt there 245 days a year - even though the site was a swamp.
I too hold a view that environmental lobbyists in Washington are too pretensious when it comes to promoting "good science" when in reality they are for all intents and purposes promoting an ideology - an ideology that says less regulation is always better than more. This is why government legislated "acceptable legal limits" of harmful chemicals - like dioxin and PCBs on food products - are always in quantities far higher than hard science deems safe. And to think the Bush Administration's "War on Terror" managed to last this long.

Tallulah said...

Isn't outgoing US president George W. Bush the worst US president in the last 50 years? after all, his one serious oversight is his insistence that American-style democracy will be widely accepted in the Arab world. There's just one thing Mr. Bush overlooks - Pork Barrel of american politics.