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 Toronto.
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 growing.
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
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 ? of the lead used
in the country is recycled, and about ? of the silver is recycled.
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.”