Ethanol might make your kids stupid

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

Published August 6, 2008 9:04PM (EDT)

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.

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.

By Andrew Leonard

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

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