How Toxic Waste Affects Our Natural Environment


Canada and all of the developed countries in the world
produce some kind of toxic waste(s). It doesn't matter
whether it's a chocolate bar wrapper or a canister of
highly radioactive plutonium, they're potentially dangerous
to us and/or our natural environment unless properly
disposed of.
Toxic waste is defined as any waste that is hazardous to
human health or to our natural environment. According to
the Institute of Chemical Waste Management, about 15% of
our garbage is classified as toxic, and only 85%
(approximately) of that is disposed of properly. The rest
is either illegally dumped or accidentally mixed up with
non-toxic garbage. That 15% may not seem like a lot, but
when you consider the millions of tons of toxic waste that
we produce every year, that 15% is enormous. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that we
produce one ton of toxic wastes for every single person
living in Canada every year. That means that the 15%
represents about 4.2 million tons of toxic waste.
Toxic wastes which are dumped in improper sites can seep
into underground water supplies and contaminate huge areas.
If the land that is intoxicated supports plant life, most
of the plants and trees will die off. If the area is lived
on by humans, it could cause serious illness or death. For
example, an area by Niagara Falls (US side) was used during
the 1930s by a chemical company to dump it's wastes. Most
of them were hazardous, and the containers that held the
chemicals later (after the company had gone out of
business) began to leak. The chemicals spread for miles
killing off plants and causing cancers and deadly diseases
in humans. Included in these wastes was a chemical called
dioxin... one ounce of it used under the right
circumstances was enough to kill off everyone in living in
One of the most popular places to dump toxic wastes is in
the oceans. People figured that the oceans were so huge
that garbage would just "disappear", and sink to the
bottom. Well, they were wrong. Chemicals have turned up in
dead whale bodies and dead fish in high enough
concentrations to kill people. Medical wastes such as used
needles and vials of blood (some carrying the AIDS virus)
have washed up along the Atlantic coast and in one of the
Great Lakes. Mutated and disfigured fish as well as other
water animals have washed up dead or been caught by
fishermen. The list of stories goes on, and it's still
Canada and the USA have created laws and regulations to try
to stop the illegal dumping of toxic wastes and the
destruction of our environment. The US has created a
multi-billion dollar fund called "SuperFund" to try and
clean up areas that have been contaminated. Canada is also
working along those lines. The government has made a
prioritized list of recognised hazardous dump sites, and is
forcing the company that owns the land to pay for the
clean-up of the area. If the company no longer exists, or
the exact origin of the waste is unknown, the government
will pay for the clean-up.
Some toxic wastes can actually been turned into something
useful, or in other words 'recycled'. For example, several
kinds of metals can be recycled. Lead and silver (both are
heavy metals, which are classified as toxic wastes) are
both recycled and used again. About 1/2 of the lead used in
the country is recycled, and about 1/4 of the silver is
Other toxic wastes can be chemically 'transformed' into new
products. This is done by adding chemicals to the waste,
which causes it to change into something new. Philadelphia
and Chicago transform sewage sludge into fertilizer, which
is put to use on farms.
A huge pile of toxic waste looms over Canada. This waste is
not the product of some Natural disaster like a tidal wave
or a hurricane. It is a man-made pile of deadly garbage
that threatens our very existance. Who is responsible for
this pile? The answer, is 'us'. We are the people who buy
the cheap food which was grown with the help of chemical
pestisides. We are the people who demand the electricity
created by the nuclear power plants. We are our own worst
enemies. Pogo, a comic strip character who I learned about
last year in english once said... "We have met the enemy,
and he is us." 


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