For the past 30 years, scientists have collected a considerable amount of convincing information demonstrating that air pollutants can be deposited on land and water, sometimes at great distances from their original sources, and can be an important contributor to declining water quality. These air pollutants can have undesirable health and environmental impacts, such as contaminated fish, harmful algal blooms, and unsafe drinking water.
Researchers had found the sources of these air pollutants. They have worked diligently to improve the environment. For this reason, the government delegates the 'big brothers' to watch over the polluters. These 'big brothers' are the government agencies such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and MDEQ (State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.)
The EPA is an agency that deals with the protection of human health and safe guard of the natural environment, air, water, and land, which are important element for life to depend on. The agency's principle is to protect all Americans from significant risks to human and environment where they live, learn and work. It tries to reduce environmental risk nationally. Its federal laws are enforced fairly and effectively to protect human and environment. Environmental policy is based upon the concern for natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade. All parts of the society are involved. The EPA is responsible in making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive. Overall, the United States plays a leadership role locally and globally.
With its policies, the EPA establishes programs to promote water pollution prevention. This was regenerated from the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. It declares the national policy of the United States that pollution should be intervening at the sources when possible. If it is not preventable then it should be recycled in an environmentally safe manner. If it is not preventable or recyclable then it should be treated in an environmentally safe manner. As a last resort, it can be disposed or released into the environment in an environmentally safe manner7.
When releasing this pollution into the environment, it is regulated tightly by the agency. It is regulated under permission only. There are three types of NPDES permits to be issued'individual permits, general permits and 'permit-by-rule'. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the DEQ Surface Water Quality Division to determine the type of permit to be used for the discharge.
An individual NPDES permit is site specific. Its limitations and requirements are based on the permittee's discharge type, amount, facility operations, and receiving stream characteristics.
A general NPDES permit covers permittees with similar operations and/or types of discharge. It contains effluent limitation protective of most surface waters statewide. Locations of more stringent requirements require an individual permit. Facilities that are eligible for a general permit receive a Certificate of Coverage (COC.)
'Permit-by-rule' requirements are formally promulgated administrative rule. A facility requiring this coverage submit a form called a Notice of Coverage (NOC.)
The principle of the DEQ is to drive improvement in the environmental quality for the protection of public health and natural resources for current and future generations' benefit.
Besides the governmental agencies, there is a movement called Riverkeepers at the local level. It is an environmental 'neighborhood watch' program, a citizens' patrol to protect the nation's water. Robert Boyle, who wrote a book about Hudson River, founded it. He relies on a network of local fishermen, environmental experts and legal system to stop corporations from polluting the Hudson. The Clean water Act (CWA) in 1972 gave the public the right to enforce, and inform of any suspicious activity on the river. Riverkeepers are able to collect evidence and file lawsuits against polluters.
It is important to understand the waste, sewage, and chemical that man put out into the environment will find their way through the soil and then into the water. Although, certain chemicals that were once known to be helpful in the agriculture community, namely the insecticides, now are being classified as the chemical of concern.
Toxaphene and Mirex are insecticides. They both are listed as bioaccumulative chemicals of concern (BCC) by the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiation (GLI). They do not break down easily in our environment and become more concentrated as they move up the food chain to humans and other animals.
Toxaphene is a dangerous, ubiquitous and persistent bioaccumulative pollutant in the global environment. Toxaphene is a man-made mixture containing more than 670 chemicals10. It is a yellow-to-amber, waxy solid or gas that smells like turpentine. It does not burn and readily change to vapor when in solution. Toxaphene in soil will vaporize to air or stick to soil particles. It was primarily used in the southern United States on cotton crops. Toxaphene was banned in 1982 due to its harmful effects in humans; However, it is still commonly used to control insects on banana and pineapple crops in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Toxaphene does not dissolve easily in water, therefore, concentrations in surface water and groundwater are very low. An analysis of Toxaphene was conducted on two samples each from lakes Michigan and Ontario (Table 1). Data suggests that the apparent particulate concentration represented less than about 10 % of the total water concentration8. However, toxaphene in surface water will vaporize to air or settle to sediments in the bottoms of lakes or streams.
Table 1. Toxaphene Concentrations in Great Lakes Water Particles - Spring, 1992*
(Swackhamer et al., unpublished data)
LAKE [TOX]part, ng/L TSM, mg/L
Michigan 0.017 1.61
Michigan 0.0054 0.66
Ontario 0.0072 1.16
Ontario 0.0075 6.95
* Apparent particulate concentrations
Mirex occurs as white, odorless solid crystals. It also does not burn easily. When it does breakdown, it turns into photomirex, which also can have harmful health effects. It was formerly used widely for fire ant control.
These insecticides need to be monitored because they are bioaccumulative. Levels may be high in some predatory fish and mammals because toxaphene accumulates in the bodies of those exposed to it. Toxaphene-like substances have been found in the Great Lakes ecosystem. It is also noticed that mirex is still found in our environment after being banned because of the accumulation. Mirex is not broken down in the body and is stored in our fat.
In comparison, while they both may have different chemical structures, the harmful effects of these insecticides can be lethal. For instance; toxaphene can injure the kidneys and liver, damage the immune system, harm the adrenal gland, cause changes in the development of unborn children, cause cancer, damage the lungs and damage the nervous system. The EPA states that mirex (Decholorane) can cause cancer in humans, harm stomach and intestines, damage the liver and kidneys, harm the eyes and thyroid gland, cause damage to the nervous system and the reproductive system, and may be the cause of increased miscarriages.
Acute toxicity of toxaphene is manifested as generalized convulsions proceeded by cyanosis. Also reported is sudden exertional dyspnea (labored breathing), tachycardia (rapid heart rate), weakness and low blood pressure. Lethal doses of toxaphene cause respiratory failure. Hypersalivation, leg and back muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, hyperexcitability, tremors, shivering, clonic convulsions, and tetanic muscular contractions of all skeletal muscles have also been reported6.
There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of toxaphene and mirex in experimental animals11. When administered in the diet, technical-grade toxaphene increased the incidences of hepatocellular carcinomas and thyroid follicular cell adnomas in rats and mirex increased the incidence of hepatomas in mice.
Overall, it is important to know when we are exposed to these insecticides and where they can be found to prevent their harmful effects. We are exposed to Toxaphene and Mirex by eating contaminated fish and shellfish, ...
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