…are mimes and Greenpeace activists. Here is an appalling combination of the two: Greenpeace members in Chile “dramatize the possible effects on humans of PCBs, a chemical used in manufacturing that is harmful to human health and the environment in front of the Santiago subway office. Greenpeace targeted its protest against the Santiago subway operator, which it says uses large amounts of PCBs in transformers located in some of its stations.”
This is one of the great untold stories of the environmental movement. PCBs have been one of the principal targets of environmental regulation; they were at one time thought to be carcinogenic and mutagenic. They are, in fact, very bad for mink and certain other species, but have little health impact on humans. Workers at the General Electric plant in Schenectady, N.Y. who produced PCBs have been studied over an entire generation, and there is no increase in cancer, birth defects, or anything else. The only thing that PCBs have been shown to cause is a skin rash, which goes away if you stop washing your hands in them. PCBs were used to insulate transformers; because the chemical is so inert, it is a tremendously effective insulator. In that capacity, PCBs prevented countless fires in transformers and other electrical equipment.
We’ll never know how many people were saved from burning to death by PCBs, but, of course, that would be of no interest to Greenpeace. When people burn to death in a fire, it’s not an environmental hazard.
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