Ethanol might make your kids stupid

A science journal details an indirect connection between phosphate-based fertilizers and lead poisoning


Andrew Leonard
August 7, 2008 1:04AM (UTC)

The annals of phosphate fertilizer doom, continued:

A reader points us today to an article published in Environmental Science and Technology which features a photograph of a delighted little girl standing with her mouth wide open in front of a water fountain. The subtext: If standards of living in China and India keep rising, and demand for ethanol in the U.S. keeps surging, that little girl is in danger of lead poisoning.

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How the World Works lives to chronicle unexpected connections between disparate phenomena, but I gotta say, I didn't see this one coming. Phosphate chemicals turn out to be a key ingredient in corrosion-inhibiting products used by a majority of U.S. medium-to-large sized water companies to prevent lead pipes from contaminating drinking water supplies. But, as noted here many times previously, phosphate supplies are limited; there is no way, as yet, to artificially synthesize phosphate chemicals; and as demand has risen, so has price.

Rebecca Renner reports:

Now, rampant agricultural demand from emerging economies overseas and ethanol production in the U.S. threatens supplies for this component of public-health protection...

Companies that manufacture phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the raw materials, says Paul Carus, chief executive officer of Carus Corp., a major supplier....

Water companies increasingly report that suppliers have voided and renegotiated contracts for phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors. And the price of phosphate has increased 10 times in just under 2 years, according to Gary Albarelli with the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, a state agency.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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