KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Ross: Living defensively has its limits when facing ‘forever chemicals’

May 23, 2024, 6:33 AM

forever chemicals living defensively...

A picture taken on June 15, 2021, shows the 3M factory in Zwijndrecht, Antwerp LO. (Photo by David Pintens, Getty Images)

(Photo by David Pintens, Getty Images)

I heard Angela’s commentary yesterday about pedestrians and how they tend to think of a crosswalk as having a protective force field because the law says it’s the driver’s responsibility to stop.

Angela Poe Russell’s commentary: A PSA all pedestrians need to hear

Her point? The law may well be on your side, but the law won’t hit the brakes if the driver doesn’t see you. There’s a bigger lesson here though. On the football field of life, the key to staying alive is a good defense.

I know this by instinct because I grew up as the small person who was picked last in gym class. In playground fights, I believe my record is 0-2 … so I have learned to avoid any physical conflict. Therefore, right of way or not, I don’t step into the crosswalk unless the road is empty.

The trouble is that this “live defensively” strategy has its limits – as we heard in today’s interview with Shannon Lerner of ProPublica. Her latest article describes how 3M lost control of its “forever chemicals” to the point that those chemicals show up in the blood not just of its plant workers, but people who’ve never been near a 3M plant.

“These chemicals accumulate in your bodies,” Lerner said. “According to the CDC, virtually everyone has some level of a forever chemical — at least one, but probably several — in their blood.”

So we’re not necessarily doomed. But how do you defend against that? A fine? The company’s already paid a fine.

“They were square with the law, but basically it was too late because the chemical seeped out of their products and basically into all of us,” Lerner added.

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At some point, even my patience runs out and I can no longer play defense. You have to go on offense and say, “I don’t care how great your chemical is, I don’t want it trespassing in my body.” Which is why the 3M employee who saw those blood tests blew the whistle on her company.

Whether it’s giant factories churning out untested chemicals, or the ten thousand pounds of carbon that the average car pumps out of the tailpipe in a year, it’s all like peeing in the pool. Which is why I never open my mouth underwater.

And that’s today’s life lesson: Keep your eyes open in the crosswalk, your mouth closed in the pool and your whistle handy when you go to work.

Listen to “Seattle’s Morning News” with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Living defensively has its limits when facing ‘forever chemicals’