Monday, October 31, 2005

Bless This Mess

Nerve gases are paradoxical weapons. They're so dangerous that their alleged presence in Iraq was said to be valid grounds for a war of aggression, and yet so safe that their storage, transport, and disposal on American soil couldn't possibly alarm anyone but hysterics and simpletons.

I've complained elsewhere about alkaline hydrolysis of VX nerve gas, which generates a huge volume of caustic liquid that may actually contain significant trace amounts of VX, as well as byproducts that are only a little less toxic. (The EPA notes that the detection levels for VX and its byproducts are based "solely on the protection of humans from a drinking water source and may not be protective of aquatic organisms through ingestion or dermal exposure.")

If some Iranian guy were arrested with so much as a test tube full of VX hydrolysate, it'd be considered an international incident. But our own agencies can spill gallons of it repeatedly, without exciting very much concern:

Army contractors halted operations Saturday at a Western Indiana complex built to destroy a deadly nerve agent after nearly 500 gallons of a caustic wastewater created by the chemical weapon's destruction spilled inside a contained area.
This wasn't the first hydrolysate spill at this facility; it probably won't be the last. And for the grand finale, roughly 4 million gallons of hydrolysate will be shipped to New Jersey and dumped in the Delaware River.

Who but a Chicken Little would object? And who but a Communist would've complained back when we were squandering taxpayer dollars to manufacture this useless weapon by the ton? After all, we have a sacred duty to this country that God has so abundantly blessed: we must ensure that no one poisons its soil and water and air but us.

And maybe Canada.


Cervantes said...

Yes indeedy. These chemicals are related to the organophosphate insecticides, which are "useful" (at least in some people's view) precisely because they are far more toxic to insects than they are to humans. They are also just as toxic to annelids and all the other creatures that lack the cytochrome p-450 oxygenase systems in the vertebrate liver, such as mollusks including your own favorite critters.

However, even concerning us crowns of creation, there is plenty of good evidence that chronic sub-clinical exposure causes long-term neurological damage in humans. This is nasty shit that shouldn't exist. We may be getting rid of the nerve gas, but we're still manufacturing the insecticide versions and spraying them around.

Phila said...


You're right, of course. That's a whole other issue.

I wrote another post on this issue, if you're interested.

Agi said...

Oh, the irony!

Cervantes said...

Gee Phila, how can you find your year-old posts so quickly? Does blogger have some easy indexing function, or do you keep track somehow? (We should have a blogging forum, there are so many things I don't know how to do. . .)

Phila said...


Well, I do tend to remember the vague outlines of my earlier posts. From there, it's just a matter of going into the list of posts, and searching for some keyword ("organophosphate," in this case).

I used to be able to find old posts via the search function at the top of the site, but Blogger "improved" them and it doesn't work anymore. So searching within posts, while signed in, is the only way I can manage it.

Typepad lets you group posts by subject...kind of an attractive idea, especially when you jump around from topic to topic as much as I do. But I'm too lazy to switch.