Chemicals That Cause Birth Defects, Ozone Layer Depletion, Increase in Farmland Values and More

Learn of the two discovered chemicals that can cause birth defects, how fertilizer is depleting the ozone layer, the value of America's farmland has doubled over the past five years, as well as other news pieces from 1977.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
May/June 1977
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A study found that industrial problems were causing dramatic changes in weather in St. Louis, Missouri. Cloudiness, rainfall and frequency of severe thunderstorms were all effected. 
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/UZI TZUR


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Merril Lynch, Bullish on Agribiz?:
Continental Illinois National Bank and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Smith have announced the formation of a $50 million mutual fund that will purchase and manage farms producing corn, soybeans, wheat, and other grains. Two members of the House Agriculture Committee have urged Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal and Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland to forestall IRS approval of the fund. Representative Fred Richmond (D-N.Y.) is reported as saying: "The coalescing of major banking, investment, and agribusiness interests to purchase and manage large quantities of farmland ... is a threat to every American family farmer and every American consumer."

Weather Changes Noted Near Large Industrial Complex:
A five-year-long, multi-agency study to determine the effects of a large urban-industrial complex on local weather conditions has found dramatic changes in cloudiness (up 10 percent), rainfall (up 30 percent), and the frequency of severe thunderstorms (up 10-to-100 percent) in a 4,000-square-kilometer area downwind of St. Louis, Missouri. Illinois State Water Survey spokesman Stanley A. Changnon Jr. says that because the city-as-a-whole caused the weather changes, there is evidently no controllable way for urban planners to "design out" the problem.

Two of the Most Potent Chemicals that Cause Birth Defects Known to Man:
2, 4-D, and 2,4,5-T are being sprayed daily on forests, rangeland, parkways, and road right-of-ways throughout the U.S., despite the fact that these chemicals were banned from military use in Vietnam as far back as 1970. This is only one of the ongoing "horror stories" you'll read about in Ida Honorof's Report to the Consumer , a bi-monthly newsletter devoted to the dissemination of hard-to-find (often suppressed) information regarding environmental poisons.

Dioxin Found in Mother's Milk:
Scientists at Harvard University have detected trace amounts of dioxin (tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) — an ingredient of the herbicides 2, 4-D and 2,4,5-T — in the milk of nursing mothers from Oregon and Texas, according to a report made public by Citizens Against Toxic Sprays, Inc., of Eugene, Oregon. EPA scientists had noted the presence of dioxin in fish, bird, and rodent samples taken from Oregon's Siuslaw National Forest as long ago as 1971 ... but this is believed to be the first time that dioxin (widely regarded as THE most deadly man-made chemical) has ever been detected at the "apex" of the food chain.

Thyroid Extract Linked to Cancer:
In a study conducted at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit, two doctors have found that the incidence of breast cancer is twice as high among women taking thyroid supplements (sometimes wrongly prescribed for use as "pep pills") as among those not under medication. Because thyroid deficiency — the metabolic ailment which thyroid pills are intended to correct — is so common in the general population, one prominent Chicago endocrinologist has labeled the study's findings "potentially explosive."

Barbara and Ken Kern Take to the Road:
After spending six months completely rewriting the new edition of The Owner-Built Homestead , the Kerns are planning to travel the countryside this spring and summer to gather material for yet another how-to opus: The Homesteaders' Encyclopedia, to be published in two volumes by Charles Scribner's Sons. So, if you have a special interest and/or experience in the use or construction of greenhouses and sun-heated pits, free-form farm and home structures, fireplaces and wood heat, or unusual, little-known plant and animal foods, drop a line to Ken and Barbara Kern at Box 550, Oakhurst, Calif. 93644. They're waiting to hear from you.

Fertilizer Could Be Greater Threat to Ozone Layer Than SST's:
Harold S. Johnston — the Berkeley physical chemist who first proposed that the nitrogen oxides in the exhausts of supersonic transport planes (SST's) might deplete the earth's ozone layer — now claims that the continued massive use of nitrogen fertilizers by agribusiness could (over the next 160 years) do more damage to the earth's protective ozone layer than a fleet of 500 SST's. "Obviously, if the choice is between eating and some long-term risk of cancer," Johnston says, "people are going to choose to eat." The scientist notes, however, that in the meantime it might help if society cut back on other ozone threats ... "more trivial [things], like spray cans and SST's."

The Value of America's Farmland Has Doubled Over the Past Five Years:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the value of America's farmland has doubled over the past five years and increased in value 17 percent in the year ending November 1, 1976. The sharpest land price jumps occurred in the North-Central States, where Illinois led the nation with a 41percent average increase. Lowest increases (less than 7 percent) occurred in the Southeast and Southwest. Average per-acre farmland prices are highest (at $2,852) in New Jersey, least expensive (at $76) in New Mexico.

In Other News:  

  • 30-to-50 Billion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas(more gas than was conserved by closing schools and factories last winter) could be saved every year if a national beverage-container deposit law were in effect, according to Environmental Action lobbyist Pamela Deuel and U.S. Representative James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.)
  • The Urine of One Adult, added to compost, can provide enough nitrogen in a year to fertilize seven acres of corn, say noted gardening authorities William and Helga Olkowski. According to the Olkowskis, the practice of composting human urine poses no threat to health if the "donor" is healthy, since pathogenic micro-organisms are found only in solid wastes
  • Beatrice Foods Co. of Chicago has announced it will market beet Pigments as an alternative to Red Dye Numbers 2, 4 and 40. The latter three food colorants — all coal-tar derivatives — are suspected of causing cancer in humans
  • The Environmental Defense Fund has asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban the sale of children's clothes that have been fireproofed with 2,3-dibromopropylphosphate (or "Tris"). Recent research suggests that Tris is capable of causing genetic aberrations
  • Physiological effects of smog are more marked at high altitude. Tests on blood taken from non-smokers in 17 U.S. cities indicate the presence of unusually high amounts of carbon monoxide in the blood of people living in Denver, Colorado, where — because of the city's mile-high elevation — there is 17 percent less oxygen in the air.

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