Normal Limits

"Chance is the very guide of life"

"In practical medicine the facts are far too few for them to enter into the calculus of probabilities... in applied medicine we are always concerned with the individual" -- S. D. Poisson

November 24, 2005

AP - Toxic slick flows into major Chinese city

According to the Medical Management Guidelines (MMGs) for benzene published by ASTDR.CDC, benzene is only slightly soluble in water and floats on the water surface. Ingestion of benzene can cause both acute benzene toxicity--CNS depression, light-headedness, headache, euphoria, respiratory depression, apnea, coma, and death--and
a burning sensation of the oral mucous membranes, esophagus, and stomach may occur after ingestion. Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain may also result from oral ingestion.

ASTDR's online case study on benzene toxicity, designed for PCPs (CME credits!).

Out of curiosity I queried ToxMap for industrial sources of benzene around Ann Arbor--not surprisingly there's a cluster of 4 sources in Wayne County.

According to Toxics Release Inventory, these 4 sources are:

  1. MARATHON OIL CO (EPA #48174RMLSR28000): 445 lb/year

  2. EQ RESOURCE RECOVERY INC (EPA #48174MCHGN36345): 250 lb/year

  3. FORD MOTOR CO TRUCK PLANT (EPA #48184FRDMT38303): 132 lb/year

  4. FORD MOTOR CO WAYNE ASSEMBLY (EPA #48184FRDMT37625): 60 lb/year

[update: BBC reports that the leak was 100 tonnes, "equivalent of 10 tanker-loads of toxic chemicals." 10 tonnes is about 220,000 lb, or about 250 times the environmental release of benzene in Wayne County, MI per year.]

People in China do not enjoy this kind of government oversight...
Protests have erupted in rural areas throughout China over complaints that pollution is ruining water supplies and damaging crops. Protesters often accuse officials of failing to enforce environmental rules either in exchange for bribes or for fear of hurting local business.
�This is the tip of the iceberg,� said Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and author of the 2004 book �The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China�s Future.� �We�ve seen over the past six months or so a number of factory-related protests ... because factories don�t live up to or don�t enforce China�s own environmental regulations and laws,� she said. �So if, in fact, this is a case of that happening, then this is part of a much broader, systemic problem.�

Dr. Elizabeth Economy, a Wolverine, is Director for Asia Studies at Council for Foreign Relations.
China's environmental crisis is evident everywhere. The country's air quality is among the worst in the world: According to the World Bank, 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are on the mainland, and acid rain affects one-third of China's agricultural land. The country is already one-quarter desert, and that desert is advancing at a rate of 1,300 square miles per year.
The most serious environmental challenge, however, is providing clean water to the Chinese people: 60 million people have difficulty getting enough water to meet their daily needs and 10 times that many drink contaminated water on a daily basis.

A recent study published in Science found that benzene may have adverse health risks even at levels below currently accepted safety standards. Review pending.

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1 comment:

bubbalop said...

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