One of the things I may do from time to time is share some of my assignments. Some entertain me more than others. This English assignment made the mistake of asking that I write an argumentative essay to advocate for something… And so I did. Please enjoy and feel free to giggle! Sadly, this went over the heads of most of my classmates. Some laughed, some needed an explanation. Not unlike whippits. Just ask Dennis Leary.
Dihydrogen Oxide Dangers
While great attention has been given to issues such as the harmful effects of pesticides in our food supply, PCB toxicity, and the dangers of the unregulated use of other chemicals and toxins in our environment; little public attention has been directed at the dangers of dihydrogen oxide. Unlike many other chemicals, dihydrogen oxide’s dangerous and sometimes deadly effects are directly measured quite easily, not just inferred. Therefore it is important that an effort be made to ban, or at least heavily regulate, this chemical to minimize the impact it has on humans and the environment each year.
It is quite likely that the lack of attention received by this issue it largely due to powerful national and business interests. Like oil, while it is seemingly abundant, it is speculated that in time we will see more limited supplies that wars may very well be fought over (Anderson). The problem of future scarcity, like so many other issues related to access to resources, is one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Dihydrogen oxide is used in the manufacture of many other chemicals and is known as a “universal solvent” (Marieb and Hoehn). The LD50 number of a chemical is a measure of the lethal dose of that substance. In rats, the LD50 number of dihydrogen oxide is 90ml/kg. It is a corrosive substance that many things must be protected against. No less an authority than the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO), has identified it as a global “public health problem” that requires “engineering methods which help remove the hazard, legislation to enforce prevention and assure decreased exposure,” and “education for individuals and communities to build awareness of risk…” (World Health Organization). The WHO estimates annual global deaths from direct dihydrogen oxide exposure to be over 380,000 (World Health Organization). The WHO states that it is the “3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury related deaths” (World Health Organization). Unsurprisingly, exposure is a greater problem in the developing world. In the Unites States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has only reported approximately 41,000 direct exposure deaths over the last ten years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Perhaps it will also come as no surprise that minorities and children are disproportionately endangered. Native Americans and African Americans have suffered noticeably higher proportional death rates than other groups (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Those are just deaths from direct exposure. Indeed, if dihydrogen oxide is not handled or processed properly, it can quickly become contaminated with other toxins and biological agents that can become a tremendous additional risk. In fact in 2008, just one of these diseases that resulted from contaminated dihydrogen oxide, killed over 800,000 people worldwide (World Health Organization , Data repository). Thus it is not only direct exposure that should be considered, but secondary vectors resulting from improper handling and storage.
There are those who would assert that it is a necessary chemical, vital to our existence and national interest (Keirstead). Proponents might point out that the chemical is vital to manufacturing. Indeed, it could be argued that it is a beneficial chemical, within certain doses. There are many agricultural and manufacturing interests who would argue that any restriction or regulation would hurt their industries and the economy. They might even assert that underutilization would result in public health issues as well.
Unfortunately, unlike oil and energy issues, dihydrogen oxide remains so inexpensive that no real effort has been made to develop alternatives. The WHO itself recommends legislation and enforcement. Clearly, given the danger and number of worldwide fatalities each year the case for regulation is clear, even if a complete ban is impractical at this time. Aside from saving lives, proper regulation would also have the benefit of driving up the cost of dihydrogen oxide to the point of encouraging research into alternatives; using government regulation and subsequent market forces to do what common sense and a sense of social responsibility have yet to accomplish. The numbers don’t lie. We must make every effort to put an end to so many unnecessary and preventable deaths with common sense legislation, regulation, and awareness efforts. The time to act is now.
Anderson, Faye. “War and Water.” Water: Science and Issues. Ed. E. Julius Dasch. Vol. 4. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. 206-209. Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC WONDER Online Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2008 Series 20 No. 2N, 2011.” 1999-2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File. Web. 21 February 2012
Keirstead, Ralph E. “Water, a Basic Natural Resource.” Journal of Chemical Education. 32 (1955): 99. Journal.
Marieb, Elaine N. and Katja Hoehn. Human Anatomy & Physiology. 8th ed. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings,2010. 38. Print.
World Health Organization. “WHO | Drowning.” November 2010. WHO Website. Web. 21 February 2012.
—. “WHO | Global Health Observatory Data Repository.” 2008. WHO Website. Web. 21 February 2012.
And yes, in case there is any question in your mind, this was pure satire from start to finish.