Science and industry succeed in making many useful products and substances. Which should yield a profit. Often there is hardly taken into account waste, residues, or what happens after using the stuff. Eventually everything comes usually unintentional and gradually, in our environment and on our plates. Occasionally this is done through a short path, and with a lot of media attention. And then suddenly there is a scandal or disaster.

poisonA poison is a substance, usually a chemical compound that has a detrimental effect on an organism.
Virtually any substance in excess can be harmful, even water.
A fraction below the threshold (minimum quantity or incentive to provide a measuring or noticeable reaction) has no effect. In low dose many poisons are even used as medicines. Or as a pesticide against plant diseases and pests.

Each poison is employed by the disruption of a chemical process in the body.
Some animals use poison to paralyze or kill prey. They often have bright, warning colors. Plants use it to defend themselves against predation.
Theobromine, which is in chocolate, does not bother us, but can be deadly for a dog, which only breaks it down very slowly.

By bioaccumulation, where one form of life the other eats, toxins can accumulate in feeders up into the food chain, including to humans. We often do this with heavy metal pollution, but also chlorinated carbon compounds such as DDT. Even in breastfeeding are found pesticides.

DDT, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, is an organic chemical insecticide that is sparingly soluble in the common organic solvents.
The insecticidal activity was only discovered in 1939. It has a toxic effect on lice, bedbugs, fleas, mosquitoes and many other insects that became also resistant on long term.

In the food it accumulates in the body to harmful concentrations.
It was found after a few years in the fat of Antarctic penguins, and in many countries in human milk.
Due to the poor degradability, the harm to humans and animals DDT is now banned in the western world. India and China still produce it. In the '50s and '60s 110,000 tonnes per year were made in the U.S. ​​. In the developing world it is still used to fight malaria (mosquitoes, which were already resistant to other insecticides).

This is one example of a useful product but that is toxic (poisonous). But of which thousands of tonnes are scattered in the meantime. We do this today still with gigantic mountains fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, solvents, detergents...

Transformer Oil that ended up in other fats contaminated in January 1999 in the fat melting Verkest animal feed and was delivered to various feed companies. Belgium had a dioxin crisis.

Dioxins are compounds, some highly toxic, which can occur unwanted during combustion of materials containing chlorine (chlorinated hydrocarbons) as by-products. Dioxin is also found in nature, at forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but especially in waste incineration, home and business fire.

Dioxins are fat soluble and can therefore accumulate in vegetable and animal fats.
It accumulates in the food chain through fish, meat and dairy products. People store dioxin in their body, where it slowly disappears.
They have a harmful effect on the (development of) the brains of humans and animals, even when taken through breast milk.

This 'life cycle' also applies to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that because of its chemical stability, non-flammability and electrical insulating properties was widely used mainly in high voltage transformers, as hydraulic fluid, coolant, lubricant, etc.
Production and use of PCBs has been completely banned since 1985. But a transformer lasts easily forty years. There are currently 10.000ths in use.
Also, PCBs are persistent and accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals.
Poisoning can be so severe that dead animals should be treated as chemical waste.
PCBs disrupt the endocrine balance, fertility, liver functions and are carcinogenic.

Seveso is a town in northern Italy, known for a chemical disaster in July 1976. There fell by the dioxin released no fatalities, but a large part of the population was severely maimed by poison gas. The European Community made ​​a law to protect humans and their environment better against industrial accidents and their consequences.
The Seveso Directive sets the threshold of the quantities of hazardous substances above which a company is subject to European regulations.

In the Indian city of Bhopal ​​a pesticide plant of Union Carbide made methyl isocyanate (MIC). Although it is toxic and potentially carcinogenic, the substance is used in insecticides. As Carbaryl it is illegal in several countries.
By an exothermic reaction and the malfunctioning or not-, or lack of security mechanisms came shortly after midnight on December 3, 1984 forty tonnes MIC free.

The toxic cloud cost in a short time more than 2,000 lifes and affected the health of 150,000 to 600,000 others, of which 6,000 would die there later to the effects of exposure.
In November 2004, a survey by the BBC showed that the pollution still causes damage.

On October 4, 2010 the Hungarian village Kolontar was flooded with low toxic orange sludge, waste from a nearby aluminum plant. An analysis by Greenpeace shows that the toxic red sludge also contains a high concentration of arsenic. It is (partly) flowed into the Danube. But that was probably already dead...

Phthalates are among others used in the production of printing inks, adhesives, toiletries, hair sprays, perfumes, lubricants, at the finish of wood and as plasticizers for plastics, such as PVC. Each year a small five hundred million kilograms of phthalates are produced to make plastics weak and flexible.
They are ultra small and move in all directions, including the 'surface' of the product. Thus disappears over time some part of the phthalates in the environment.

Research (May 2005) indicates that plasticizers cause genital abnormalities in boys.
Three phthalates are toxic for reproduction: they have harmful effects on development and reproduction. Phthalates would also play a role in ADHD symptoms.

Plastic is poisoning oceans

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste float around in the oceans. It was believed that plastic does not degrade in the environment. They do, while large amounts of toxic substances are set free.
Styrofoam breaks down quickly even at the relatively low temperatures at the surface.

The chemical industry uses 250,000 tonnes of BPA Bisphenol as raw material for the production of polycarbonate and epoxy for CDs, helmets, water bottles and food packaging.
Epoxy is much like paint and resin used in composite materials, including the hulls of small sailboats.
BPA disrupts the hormonal balance of humans and animals and can cause infertility and possibly certain cancers.
Plastic waste work in the food chain as a female hormone, by which only female offspring are born in certain circumstances.
See also <Water pollution drained>

Transportation, heating and combustion produce tonnes of hazardous fine dust.
Industry pollutes the air. Some Chinese regions show yellow and black of the smog.
Our traffic scatters annual tonnes of rubber and salt over and along the roads.
Agriculture uses tonnes of poison.
We still do not know how and why cancers are caused.

The IPAT formula gives the Impact of our Population of people on the environment. Affuence (wealth is measured in GFP (gross foreign product)), and Technology in the number of patents declared:
I = P x A x T is our pressure on our environment and is thus disastrous exponentially increasing.
Paul Crutzen calls our age the Anthropocene, the period in which the face of the earth is determined by man.

We may by the millions of tonnes of nature strange products that we manufacture and distribute already have sentenced to death our grandchildren.
Mother Nature will all be back to clean up? Ever.
This may (with or) without us...

There may still be a scoop oil spill on top. The Amoco Cadiz was a supertanker that ran aground on March 16, 1978, three miles off the coast of Brittany flowed 200,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea.
The Exxon Valdez aground in 1989 off the coast of Alaska. Between 41 and 132 million liters (42,000 m³) of crude oil came into the sea.
But it can always be better. When the oil spill on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico gushed 6.4 to possibly 16 million liters per day from the seabed.

Despite all the pollution we diligently do our best also to get the last fish from sea and ocean on our plate.

Poison, substance that prevails in air, water, earth and the spirit of man. (Eduardo Galeano)
The more hidden the poison, the more dangerous. (Margareta of Navarra)
Environmental pollution: suicide on the installment plan. (Renaat Casteur)