We read daily about disastrous environmental conditions with devastating health effects, yet we turn a deaf ear. We often believe that the risks experienced by many will not touch us personally.

But taking it personally might help us become angry and this, in turn, might lead to action. Anger, which is fire energy, transforms. Fire out of control is destructive, but fire contained and directed is powerful, healing and creates change. So get angry!

How many environmentally induced diseases, illnesses, severe disabilities and premature deaths do we need to experience before we realize that our lives and the lives of our children are in danger?

I’m baffled by the defenders of environmental health disasters who say this is what we must deal with to live our modern lives. Because, they conclude, we all want our SUVs, cell phones and electric everything, we must suffer the horrendous consequences.

I don’t buy it. We blame progress for our greed. Companies and manufacturers refuse to make products that are chemically safe or organic because of the added cost. Even when confronted with the truth about their products, many companies still continue unsafe practices.

This should be enough to energize us to get angry: The Columbus Dispatch’s June 17 story “Deadly Little Secret: Unsuspecting Scotts Employees Worked With Lethal Asbestos For Years—Many Still Coping.”

The culprit was asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. Vermiculite, a mined ore product, coated with pesticides and herbicides, is used as a lawn fertilizer besides killing weeds and bugs. The ore coming from a mine in Montana showed signs of asbestos contamination as early as the 1960s. According to the Dispatch report, a Scotts

spokesperson said the company was informed in 1971 that vermiculite, which was being used in many of Scotts’ products, was coming from this mine in Montana and was contaminated with asbestos.

Asbestos causes scarring lung infections called asbestoses. Eventually the lungs fill with fluid; spitting up blood, not being able to breathe and slowly suffocating is the trauma that many Marysville workers at the Scotts plant have had to endure, the Dispatch reported. A form of lung cancer known to rapidly destroy lung tissue is another side effect of high asbestos levels. Add heart disease, because the heart is completely over-burdened by lung disabilities, and you have a three-fold crisis.

Michael Hawthorne, the Dispatch environmental reporter who interviewed many victims of the Scotts plant, suggests that even though the company knew of the problem in 1971, little was done to adequately inform the workers. Not until October 2000, reports Hawthorne, did the federal Mine Health and Safety Administration warn those working in the mine of Scotts’ vermiculite supplier in Virginia that they are being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.

A Scotts spokesperson also told the Dispatch that the company plans to phase out the use of vermiculite. Phase out? How about take out? Isn’t 30 years of health hazards for workers enough?

Greed and a refusal to make safe products because of the added cost is the bottom line in such cases. Vermiculite-based fertilizers moved Scotts to the nation’s biggest producer of lawn care products with annual sales of $1.76 billion in the year 2000, according to the Dispatch. It’s no wonder it has taken them 30 years to phase it out.

Angry enough yet?

We are dealing with serious environmental issues that pose definite health risks to us all. The Environmental Cancer Connection is obvious. Chemicals, plastics, solvents, cleaning agents and reformulated fuels flood our marketplace. Most are unregulated and swept under the carpet until people, like at Scotts, begin to show signs of disease and physical disabilities.

Unfortunately consumers do not take these health safety violations serious enough. Someone is buying the products to keep the doors of these companies open.

Have we become so busy in our lives that we haven’t the time to do something about

our unsafe environment? Maybe listening to our neighbors in Marysville, whose families have suffered unnecessarily because of a “Deadly Little Secret,” might help us find the time.

I am sorry, personally, for being so unaware until recently of the health hazards and diseases that caused Scotts workers in Marysville so much suffering.

The question now is, Do we care enough to stop using the products that cause the problems? Just complaining won’t make the toxic environment go away. Doing something and joining forces with others will help!

Check out your premixed potting soil, fertilizers, pesticides and soil conditioners. Some believe you can be at risk with very little exposure to these products. Nobody is immune from their effects.

The price may be too great to have that perfectly manicured lawn. It was for the Marysville workers.

May the longtime sun shine upon you.