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Toxic pesticides within stream sediments and in aquatic organisms are persistent and significant to ecosystem and human health. DDT and other organo-chlorine pesticides are still commonly found more than 25 years after their use in agriculture was prohibited! Stream sediments and aquatic organisms are the two compartments of the hydrologic system where these toxic chemicals are likely to reach their highest levels. Many watersheds cannot escape the legacy of these toxic compounds and their continued potential to affect the development, reproduction and behavior of fish wildlife and humans. Toxics tend to accumulate in river and lake sediments.

Toxic substances are chemicals or compounds whose manufacture, processing, distribution, use or disposal may be an unreasonable risk or injury to health or to the environment. Toxics can produce an adverse biologic effect and damage in a living organism. Toxic chemicals have the capability to enter the body by absorption through the skin. If toxic chemicals fall, drain or seep into our water supply, we drink, bathe and breathe them into our bodies. At high risk are farm workers using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Farmers suffer high rates of cancer according to a study by the National Cancer Institute, as a result of exposure to pesticides. Cancers such as Hodgkins disease, multiple myeloma, melanoma and cancers of the lip, stomach and prostate are common amongst handlers of toxic substances.

Toxic Chemicals Affect Humans In Three Ways

  1. Carcinogen is any substance causing cells to become abnormal. Cancer cells reproduce faster than normal cells. The federal government says there is no safe level for carcinogens in the human body.
  2. Mutagens are substances that cause an inheritable change in the genetic material of a cell, resulting in physical changes in humans passed on from one generation to another.
  3. Teratogen is a substance that changes the embryo as it develops in the womb during pregnancy and causes children to be born with birth defects.

Chemical Compound Toxicants and their Acronyms

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – Fish and marine mammals concentrate PCBs in their bodies and eating them causes brain, liver and skin disorders, cancers and reproductive disorders in humans.

Dioxin/furans cause cancer, immunotoxicity and reproductive disorders in humans even at low levels of toxicity. They are endocrine disrupters that damage the liver, cause miscarriages, birth deformities and weakening of the immune system. They concentrate in breast tissue affecting nursing infants. EPA says they are 300,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT.

Glycol ethers are toxic to the human reproductive system.

Pentachlorphenol (PCP) occurs in petroleum used in wood treatment and causes cancer and reproductive difficulties.

Chlordane (DDT) was absorbed by lettuce, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, spinach and beets until 34 years ago when it was banned in 1972 as a carcinogen. Chlordane can accumulate in the human body, can lead to digestive and nervous system disorders and can cause cancer.

Lead tetra ethyl (TTL) used to be an additive to gasoline to increase power and stop engine knock. TTL causes heart disease, brain and nerve damage, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. TTL was banned in the USA a number of years ago, but it was as long ago as 1887 when U.S. Medical authorities diagnosed childhood lead poisoning due to lead based paint.

Mercury causes brain, lung and kidney damage and death in humans. Mercury's organic form is methyl mercury and gets into humans by eating fish and shellfish. Young children and pregnant women are most at risk fromautism and Alzheimer's. Health officials in 40 states restrict eating of fish caught in lakes. Mercury is so toxic that it is banned from household items such as thermometers. It impacts the brain and nervous system and children are particularly vulnerable to cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Mercury builds up in fish which are then consumed by humans and it accumulates in the body. Mercury is contained within the ore body in heavy metal mining and is released in large quantities from gold mining operations. Massive amounts of mercury are released into the air by coal fired power plants. Mercury readily moves between air, water and land. Mercury air emissions wash into streams, lakes and ponds, contaminating fish and waterfowl.

Tetrachlorethene (PCE) and Dichlorethene (DCE) are used by dry cleaners and damage kidneys and immune systems.

Trichloroethene (TCE) is a toxic compound that weakens the immune system.

Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) damages immune systems. It is seeping up from the ground around the Lockwood refinery.

Asbestos causes lung cancer.

Endocrine Disrupters – Dioxin/Furans
Endocrine glands produce hormones that have effects on the development of the human body, including the brain, reproductive organs, personality, nervous system, immune system and ability to meet stress. Toxic substances have the ability to disrupt the normal production of endocrine gland hormones, resulting in: dwarfism and gigantism in children, diabetes, lack of or abnormal sex development, inflammation of the stomach lining, lack of brain development, liver and skin disorders, resorption of calcium from skeletal bones, lung and kidney damage, cancer, changes in the human embryo as it develops in the womb, resulting in birth defects; nerve damage, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Contaminants From Leaking Gasoline

  • Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE)
  • Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene, Xylenes, residual hydrocarbon masses (BTEX)
  • Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid plume (LNAPL)
  • Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE)

Children Reacting To Certain Toxins

  • Acute lymphocynic leukemia, asthma, cancer cluster, benzene from jet fuel.
  • Cancer is the leading killer of children.
  • Developmental disabilities from lead and mercury.
  • Physical malformations, cleft palate, limbs deformed,
    adduct – where the chemical is hooked on DNA.
  • Fetus does not have the mature immune system.
  • Change conditions from chemically loaded environment.
  • Lead has no function in the body.
  • Arsenic leaking from treated wood.

End Product From Wastewater Treatment Plant

The left-over, dough-like end product from human waste treatment in wastewater treatment plants is a nutrient-rich, but highly toxic blend of pathogens, germs, viruses, heavy metals and chemicals. This sludge is disposed of in three ways:

  1. Bury it in landfills, leaching into waterways
  2. Burn it – toxic fumes
  3. Use it as fertilizers – runoff into public waterways and drinking water supplies. EPA banned the disposal of sludge into oceans and waterways.

Superfund Sites

A. Montana has 9 federally designated Superfund sites:

1. Bozeman: Idaho Pole Plant, penta leaks into soils and ground water

2. Butte/Anaconda: mining waste from 150 years of mining reaching to Milltown Dam.

3. Butte: Montana Pole & Treatment Plant

4. Anaconda: smelter site and mine waste settling ponds

5. Milltown: toxic waste seeping into water wells from Milltown Dam near Missoula

6. Sommers: Burlington Northern Rail Road treatment plant at north end Flathead Lake

7. Libby: Champion International Mill on the Kootenai River

8. Columbus: Mouat mine and chromium pollution

9. East Helena: ASARCO American Smelting and Refining Co. on Prickly Pear Creek

B. There are 211 Montana State recognized Superfund sites:

These are polluted sites that did not make federal designation...

  • Railroad fueling facilities
  • Old oil refining plants
  • Post and pole treatment plants
  • Toxic spill sites
  • Unauthorized toxic waste disposal sites
  • Bozeman solvent site: dichloroethene, tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethane (TCE), all dry cleaning solvents

Also see: Toxic Substances in the Environment
Impaired Waters Map

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