Dow Chemical “Contributions” to the Tittabawassee

Dow Chemical “Contributions” to the Tittabawassee

I grew up in mid-Michigan, in a suburb of Saginaw. We had lakes and rivers nearby for fishing, and large wooded areas for seasonal hunting. The climate is much cooler than here in Arizona. In the winter, it was common to cross the Saginaw, Tittabawassee and other regional rivers on snowmobiles. It was also common for vehicles to drive out on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, and drill fishing holes in the ice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, that freezing began to occur less frequently. It became common for the Saginaw River to remain unfrozen during the winter. As a child, I did not recognize it as a change.

More astute adults and scientists noticed this metamorphosis, and began to investigate why. What they found was a significant change in the chemicals dissolved in the water. Many miles up the river from Saginaw is Midland, Michigan: the home of Dow Chemical.

For nearly a century, Dow Chemical had been releasing dioxins from its manufacturing process into the Tittabawassee River and the atmosphere. These dioxins included polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), polychlorinateddibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin equivalents (TEQs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others (Seston, 2011). Dioxins are toxic chemicals so dangerous that they are measured in trillionths of a gram, and these take years to work through the environment and living organisms. These bioaccumulated dioxins pose various health risks from cancer to birth defects.

The pollution became significant enough for EPA to warn people not to eat the fish from the rivers. Additional evaluations of the environment around the Midland Dow Chemical facility showed elevated levels of these dioxins in the soil. This prompted further warnings against the consumption of plants and wild game, such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. Studies by University of Michigan and other scientific leaders found significant accumulation of those dioxins in blue heron, kingfisher, great horned owl, mink, and squirrels.  (Hedgeman, 2009)

A report by Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety studied the accumulation of PCDD/DF and TEQ in the great blue heron. The great blue heron is labeled a receptor species, because it feeds on other fish which increases its concentration of contaminants: bioaccumulation. This breed of fish showed a multifold increase in the TEQs. “PCDD/DFs were normalized to TEQ, and fold differences in the [average daily dose], increased, being 150- to 190-fold greater along the [Tittabawassee River] and 36-fold greater along the [Saginaw River] than they were in the [reference area]” (Seston, 2011).

Studies published in 2008 exposed significant concentrations of lung and breast cancer in areas surrounding the Tittabawassee River. “Results of the study suggest that geographic locations in close proximity to the river are associated with high risk of breast cancer, while the spatial clusters of lung cancer were detected in locations that are in close proximity to point source pollution” (Guajardo, 2008).

Various investigations by state and federal agencies discovered Dow Chemical knew of the effects on the population, wildlife, and environment. The company invested in advertising, campaigning, and falsifying data to conceal its knowledge and actions. Dow Chemical attempted to hide information that demonstrated the dioxin in Agent Orange caused liver damage, nervous disorders, birth defects, and other health problems. Part of Agent Orange was later used in herbicides for food source plants. They were aware of these ill effects as early as 1965, during the Vietnam War, where Agent Orange was used and impacted American servicemen and populations in Vietnam. In the mid 1980s, investigations into environmental impact were conducted by the EPA. It came to light that Dow Chemical had gained access to those EPA reports and modified them prior to submission to public record. (Shabecoff, 1983)

In the late 1990s and more in the 2000s, Dow Chemical has begun cleanup efforts in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, as well as other affected areas, including Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but the rivers show improvement. Saginaw River has begun to freeze in winter. Despite the warnings to avoid consuming the freshwater fish, many Michiganders have begun to indulge in the regionally loved staple.

Works Cited

Guajardo, Olga A. “A critical assessment of geographic clusters of breast and lung cancer incidences among residents living near the Tittabawassee River, Michigan.” Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2008. 1456947. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <;.

Hedgeman, Elizabeth et al. “The University of Michigan Dioxin Exposure Study: Population Survey Results and Serum Concentrations for Polychlorinated Dioxins, Furans, and Biphenyls.” Environmental Health Perspectives 117.5 (2009): 811–817. PMC. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <;.

Seston, Rita, et al. “Dietary exposure of great blue heron (Ardea herodias) to PCDD/DFs in the Tittabawassee River floodplain, MI, USA.” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. March 2011: 74.3; 494-503. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <;.

Shabecoff, Philip. “Schemer says E.P.A. aide let Dow delete dioxin tie in draft report.” New York Times. 16 March 1983. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <;.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 2, 2016 in Class Writing, Entrepreneurship


Boy, Girl, Racial Distinction

Long ago there was this young man, who lived an accepting life. For anonymity, we’ll simply call him Boy. He served in the United States Army, and was honorably discharged as a Spec-4. That was his first true experience surviving on his own. Boy grew up in the Army. One important thing he learned in the military was how GI’s didn’t see themselves as racially divided. He had witnessed racism, occasionally, in his life, but was never strongly confronted by it. In the military, fellow servicemen may be racially different, but that did not make a difference. The Army taught him that skin color meant nothing. Everyone was seen as green.

Boy grew up and became a man (but still known as Boy in this story). It began in early 1990’s. Boy traveled across country pursuing the girl of his dreams, and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. We’ll call her Girl.

One day, Boy and Girl met with one of her old friends. We’ll call him, X. X had recently returned to town, and wanted to stop by his old neighborhood to say Hi to some friends at a local bar, and pick up some party favors. But, being new in town, he needed some help getting around. Girl vouched for him, so Boy agreed to help X get to the bar where his friends frequented. We’ll call the bar, The Bar.

Girl drove Boy and X to The Bar where X’s other friends hung out. Unbeknownst to Boy, The Bar didn’t match his cultural background. Few, if any, of his kind were ever there. They parked a half-block away from the entrance.

When Girl, Boy, and X got out of the car, things became strange. X waved at the other people, then turned and told Girl and Boy to stay near the car. About a dozen people standing at The Bar’s door began heading toward them at a determined pace. The imposing group gestured threateningly toward Boy and Girl. Then X shouted out to the group, “It’s cool. They’re with me. It’s cool.”

X returned his focus to Boy and Girl, and reassured them of their safety. X continued across the street to join the others approaching. They exchanged handshakes and headed back to The Bar with X.

Within a few minutes after X entered The Bar, a police car swiftly approached Boy and Girl. Two police officers got out of the car. The first officer, we’ll call PO, sternly inquired, “what are you two doing here?”

The tone and manners of PO made Boy and Girl feel very nervous. They explained they had just brought a friend. But, PO interrupted them and asked for identification. Boy and Girl provided their IDs. At the same time, X returned from The Bar. X approached PO, and greeted him familiarly, then X told PO that Boy and Girl were with him.

X, Boy, and Girl waited while PO returned to the police car. A few more minutes passed, then PO got out of the car. He came to the three, carrying a camera. To Boy and Girl he said, “You have no warrants. But, you two don’t belong in this neighborhood. When my partner and I got notified you were here, we rushed over to make sure nothing was happened.” PO’s partner, PoPo, stood off to the side, with a peculiar smirk on his face, but remained silent. PO directed Boy and Girl off to the side, “Stand over here, look forward with your hands down at your side. We need to take pictures of you. We’ll keep these on file in case you come back, or if we find out you’re buying drugs. If necessary, we can also use it to identify your bodies.” Talk about putting the fear of being a minority into a Boy or Girl.

X spoke up. He reassured PO that the three of them would leave immediately.

PO addressed X, “You know they shouldn’t be around here.” Then he turned to Boy and Girl, “You two shouldn’t be in this neighborhood. You don’t belong here. You need to get in your car and leave here, immediately. My partner and I are leaving. If you’re still here when we return, we will arrest the three of you.” The police officers returned to their car and drove off.

X asked Boy and Girl to wait just a minute. X walked quickly to The Bar’s door. Even though it was only minutes, Boy and Girl waited anxiously. To their relief, X returned, soon. The three got back in the car and left The Bar, never to return again.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Memories, Politics, Writing


Tags: , ,

Paparazzi At Birth

As unborn baby boy was preparing to enter the world, God called him over to have a final talk.
“This is it; you have a big step ahead of you. You have many challenges coming, and I promise I will be with you throughout them,” God said, reaffirming His love for the unborn child.

“I know, God. We went through that in ‘How To Be Alive’ studies,” said unborn baby boy.

“Yes,” said God. “But there are some things that they didn’t tell you in those classes. For example, after the painful entry into the world,… ”

“Yes, they told us,” interrupted unborn baby boy, exposing his anxiousness and an irritation at God’s repeated warnings. “We would suddenly see bright lights, and some strange human would swat us on the behind until we cried. Got it. Rather intrusive, but not much to worry about.”

“Yes, but there is more, some things they didn’t tell you that come after that.”

Unborn baby boy was suddenly less certain in his progress. And he began to listen more attentively; after all this was God, who knows all, right.

“When you enter the world, you will find these other people who hover over you, constantly. From the moment you are born, they cling to you, they pull at you, they try to kiss you, and smoother you with attention. Those people will give you food and drink, offer free baths even when unneeded, defend you from even the smallest threat. Their intentions are good.” God paused, and took a deep breath.

“That sounds terrific. What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, you see,” said God, “these adorable people try their hardest to make the most of being around you. And that’s where you need to be prepared. They push their way past any others near you. They follow you everywhere – indoors, outdoors, kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom – the don’t respect any limits. They greedily take various things from you. They take everything from old clothes and shoes, to first hair trimmings and teeth. They will take constant photos, in any number of situations; playing, sleeping, eating, everywhere, even bathing. Some publish everything you do, including those photos.”

God sighed, and looked away from little baby boy. “It’s my fault. I intended to help My children begin in the new world, but I may have missed My intention.”

Unborn baby boy was taken aback by the crude and imposing description. “No! How could they? That is so intrusive.” After a brief pause, unborn baby boy asked, “Are they the ones… the ones, you know, that they called paparazzi?”

God replied hesitantly, “Yes, but they call themselves ‘Moms.’”

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Writing


Takeaways from Handling a Panel Interview

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed articles that relate to our studies. For the final week, I read an article about handling panel interviews.

Reading Takeaways

In my career, I have had numerous interviews. They have ranged from interviews with one to three senior staff in an office environment; to one very informal interview, where the interviewer and I met in a cafeteria, dressed in casual attire, and had a light conversation.

However, my most unnerving interview was structured as a panel interview. The panel was comprised of four interviewers, ranging from owner to technology contractor. A record-keeper documented the questions and responses, and ensured a structured process. I did not do well in that interview. Based on that experience, I thought it would be valuable to the class (and me) to share this article about how to handle panel interviews.

Here are some key takeaways from Martin’s article.

  • Take each interviewer and their questions as one-on-one. Make eye contact and comfortably address them professionally and politely by name. Do not ignore the other panel members; make visual contact with the others.
  • Understand each interviewer’s role within the organization. This will allow you to understand the goal of the question.
  • Offer examples from your résumé or portfolio that relate to the question asked. When fitting, include other experiences that relate to the question.
  • Be prepared. Ahead of the interview, practice interviewing, review the organization and position, and carry any relevant material, such as references and résumé, with you.

Document Reviewed

Martin, Carole, and Kathryn Troutman. “Tactics for Handling a Panel Interview.” Web 25 April 2015. <>

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing



Takeaways from Overcoming Writer’s Block

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed various guiding articles. One of the articles discussed in week six dealt with writer’s block.

Reading Takeaways

When I saw this article about Writer’s Block, it reminded me of a paper I wrote in my First Year Composition course. I had been struggling throughout the course to find topics to write about, and came up with the idea of writing about finding something to write about. In my research, I came across the article “written” by Upper; it was a blank page.

In the Overcoming Writer’s Block, the author offers many similar observations and recommendations.

  • Writer’s block comes in all sizes, and it feeds on itself.
  • Writer’s block can be instantiated by a self-imposed perception that all our writing will be enlightening, and not simply another boring collegiate paper.
  • We tend to ignore the simple ideas under a precept that it would not meet our own self-imposed, lofty goals.
  • Defeat these barriers by accepting the simple ideas. Also, be prepared with scratchpad and pen to jot down ideas as they come to mind.

Documents Reviewed

Leiner, B. “Just Another Writer’s Block In The Wall.” N0Dak Bud’s Blog. 27 April 2010. <’s-block-in-the-wall/>

Upper, Dennis. “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment Of Writer’s Block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 7.3 (1974): 497. Accessed 22 April 2015. <>

Overcoming Writer’s Block. Capital Community College Foundation. Web 22 April 2015. <>

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing


Takeaways from Edit for The Web

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed related articles. In this fourth week assignment, I focused on clarity in Web design.

Reading Takeaways

  • Credibility: As described about documentation, a Webpage that has numerous errors suggest a lack of quality. That shortcoming reflects on the company the Webpage represents.
  • Consistent Design and Style: Following what has been taught throughout this course, Lieb emphasizes “coherent, consistent style from page to page” is critical to maintain unity across a document style, or in this case, Website design.
  • Graphics: The webpages should be slim and simple; they should be void of elements that over-indulge and distract the reader. However, these graphics and design needs to catch the readers’ attention.
  • Unique: These webpages should demonstrate some individuality. A designer should start from scratch to assemble the pieces in a way that is symbolic of the company.

Documents Reviewed

Lieb, Thom. “Editing for The Web: Appropriate Design.” Editing for Clear Communication, 2001. Web 8 April 2015. <>

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing


Empathy and Sympathy

Empathy compared to sympathy:
Like comparing driving a car to riding in a car.

Where you come from;
What you see along the way;
How long it takes; and
Where you end up,
May all be the same.

But trust me,
actually sitting in the seat and dealing with what unexpectedly throws itself in front of you,
is not the same as watching it happen and accepting how someone else responds to it.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Memories