From ToxicLeaks

About Land

Land pollution, the deposition of solid or liquid waste materials on land or underground in a manner that can contaminate the soil and groundwater, threaten public health, and cause unsightly conditions and nuisances. The waste materials that cause land pollution are broadly classified as municipal solid waste (MSW, also called municipal refuse), construction and demolition (C&D) waste or debris, and hazardous waste. The permeability of soil formations underlying a waste-disposal site is of great importance with regard to land pollution. The greater the permeability, the greater the risks from land pollution.

Toxic dumps can contaminate groundwater as well as pollute nearby streams and lakes. A highly contaminated liquid called leachate is generated from decomposition of garbage and precipitation that infiltrates and percolates downward through the volume of waste material. When leachate reaches and mixes with groundwater or seeps into nearby bodies of surface water, public health and environmental quality are jeopardized. Methane, a poisonous and explosive gas that easily flows through soil, is an eventual by-product of the anaerobic (in the absence of oxygen) decomposition of putrescible solid waste material. Open dumping of solid waste is no longer allowed in many countries. Nevertheless, leachate and methane from old dumps continue to cause land pollution problems in some areas.

Featured article

Brazil has been hit by a fast increase in microcephaly, a

congenital malformation in which babies are born with an abnormally small head and brain. There had been about 150 reported cases of this condition in 2014, but in 2015, the number reached 3893 and set off a nationwide scare. One of the most severely affected areas of Brazil is the State of Pernambuco where about one third of the cases nationwide have been reported. That is the area where the first cases were established, and then neighbouring states such as Bahia and Paraiba also began reporting cases, and finally it was the whole country, although many cases are still concentrated in the Northeast. These cases are quickly been linked to the outbreak of the Zika virus that also originated in Brazil. However, this view is being more and more questioned, as there is still no scientific proof that the virus is responsible for the microcephaly and as more and more voices point out that the very pesticides used to kill the mosquitoes that transmit the virus may be the source of the malformations or at least a contributing factor.

A strong narrative linking microcephaly to Zika virus

There has indeed been a very strong narrative establishing a link between the Zika virus outbreak and the increase of the Microcephaly cases in Brazil. Actually, there is a lot of information that can cast doubt on this narrative. For instance, the Brazilian Association for Collective Health (ABRASCO) pointed out in a letter that past Zika outbreaks in the Pacific and other current terrains like Colombia, where the virus is active, had no cases of microcephaly, and that there was nothing to explain the difference between the Zika virus cases in Brazil and the cases in the Pacific or in Colombia. Therefore, other factors had to be at play to explain the Microcephaly. Indeed, according to the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), an Argentinian doctors' association, some past outbreaks of Zika have infected up to 75 % of the population of the hit areas, but didn't result in any microcephaly case. It seems really hard to believe that a virus directly responsible for numerous cases of microcephaly in Brazil would cause zero case in other countries. I mean, how anti-Brazilian can a virus be ? The lack of clear causality was clear in Brazil as well, as the New York Times reported on February 3rd : “Of all the cases examined so far, 404 have been confirmed as having microcephaly. Only 17 of them tested positive for the Zika virus”. This is a very small proportion and although it's hard to say for sure that the Zika virus played no part in the microcephaly of these 17 babies, it's safe to say it can't be the only factor and it’s probably not the most significant one. Another meaningful item in this issue it that the World Health Organization has been very careful not to confirm this narrative directly and has merely stated that the Zika virus was a probable explanation for the increase of microcephaly cases but that the causality wasn't proven.

(Brazilian microcephaly not caused by Zika but by pesticides)


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