The anniversary of an environmental hell

October 13th isn’t just the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World, but also the day of a little known event that occurred in Latin America during the early 1990’s. An interesting op-ed was published during 2002 this month in The Washington Times. The column’s author was a gentleman known as Frank Rieff who was responding to a prior opinion piece written by a Rick Hind who then and even today serves as Legislative Director of Greenpeace in which Hind had expressed the official position Greenpeace held at the time of being opposed to water chlorination.

Frank Reiff was an official with the Pan American Health Organization and took the occasion to refute claims by Hind about the necessity of the need for and benefits of water chlorination. The context was about the usage of chlorine for disinfecting water and waste water supplies. In his tract, Mr. Reiff made the case for water chlorination by citing the Latin America cholera epidemic that he personally witnessed. In his article, Reiff states:

The health risk associated with disinfection byproducts (DBPs) had been overblown by the media. As a result, the general public perception was that everyone drinking water with DBPs exceeding the WHO Drinking Water Quality Guidelines would get cancer, even though the scientifically estimated risk was 1 additional case of cancer per 100,000 persons after a lifetime of exposure.

During the initial stages of the epidemic of this classical waterborne disease, I personally witnessed two national public health officials reject recommendations to chlorinate community water supplies, because of their concern for disinfection byproducts (DBPs). At the same time hundreds of new cases of cholera were occurring daily and approximately 1 percent of them were fatal. It took almost two additional months before orders to chlorinate were promulgated. The Latin America cholera epidemic resulted in more than 1 million illnesses and more than 10,000 deaths.

To this day, according to group co-founder Patrick Moore, Greenpeace still advocates against water chlorination despite evidence like Mr. Reiff points out and a cholera outbreak that occurred in the Third World last year. There are no levels of chlorine in water are acceptable as far as Greenpeace is concerned. Frank Reiff goes on to state about the cholera outbreak:

There are multiple pathways for the transmission of cholera but drinking water is usually the most important. In the communities where chlorination of water supplies was adequate and continuous, it was possible to control the cholera epidemic. Where there was no chlorination, the incidence of the disease was alarming and there was suffering and death that could have been prevented.

The cholera epidemic was entirely predictable since there is a certain amount of the water-borne bacteria in water. Thanks to chlorination, the ability of humans to contract cholera from drinking water is nil. It is probably too generous to consider Greenpeace as incredibly dumb since they still advocate policies like this despite real life examples. In Greenpeace’s twisted minds, humans do not enter or are not a part of their environmental equation. Especially people who live in less developed countries.