The Good Old Days

Cornelius O’Leary, his wife and three children, are dying, in Cincinnati, from the effects of lead poison by eating canned mackerel.  Source:  Boston Herald September 13, 1881

I’m sure the cannery went out of business shortly thereafter, due to reputation loss.

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32 thoughts on “The Good Old Days

  1. Was it the lead soldering? Surely in 1881 there wasn’t enough pollution to contaminate the food chain.

    Thank god the FDA is now here to protect us from this abomination! With them, we’ve nothing to worry about.

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    • My thoughts as well.

      We don’t have people dying of lead poisoning,mercury poisoning and our rivers don’t catch on fire any more.

      Thank God for the FDA and EPA.

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      • I wonder if the coal miners that lost their jobs are thanking god? While the EPA has done many good things,i doubt its founders envisioned its current use to wipe out the coal industry.

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          • Cars kill people every day but i have yet to hear liberals talk about banning the manfacturing of cars. You can lower coal fired power plant emissions without doing it so drastically that it makes it uneconomical to build them. The epa knew the standards would kill them and choose to go through with it.

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              • It’s a lot more complicated than that, and both of you know it — or darned well ought to. The natural gas glut has had little effect on prices in the West, but LA still made its decision to be coal-free. Cheap NG has a big impact on existing boiler-based plants that are dual-fuel; new plant considerations have been driven by the much lower capital cost for NG-fired turbines, even turbines designed for base load, compared to a coal-fired boiler system. Most of the regulatory fight has been driven by several blue coastal states repeatedly suing — they’re well out in front of the federal EPA.

                Concerns over NG dependence are showing up. The reliability organization for the New England power grid puts over-dependence on NG as its #1 concern, as there is limited pipeline capacity and huge local opposition to pipeline expansion. People are starting to pay attention to the depletion problem. The overall depletion rate from existing NG wells is 25% per year and increasing — in effect, we have to drill enough new wells to replace 25% of production every year. This Red Queen problem matters, probably sooner than expected.

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                • Michael,
                  Sure, the redqueen problem matters.
                  But we’re talking about the coal plants being shut down, and as far as I know, those are the ones in Ohio/PA that got grandfathered through 30 years of EPA regulations. They’re in direct competition with local natural gas. (We just had a city plant convert over to natural gas — I don’t think it was dual-use before)

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            • In the good old days, cars did kill many many more people than they do today.
              But liberals campaigned to introduce seat belts, then shoulder harnesses, safety glass, crumple zones and airbags.

              Today, auto fatalities are much more rare.

              So yeah, I amend my comment. Thank God for the FDA, EPA and NHTSA.

              And the liberals who created them.

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              • And yet people still die in car crashes. So just to make sure I understand your position, it is acceptable to kill people in order to preserve jobs. Did I get that right?

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                • I was going to let this pass as a random inanity, but two times is the charm. This is a very silly analogy, relying on a category error.

                  Transportation is a necessary function. It cannot be made completely safe, but the dangers can be minimized. Liberals, as LWA points out, have been pushing to increase safety for decades.

                  Energy production also is a necessary function. Any particular method of energy production, such as burning coal, however, is not. We can pick and choose among the various methods of energy production, eliminating the most dangerous and favoring the safest.

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                  • Transportation also is a necessary function. Any particular method of transportation, such as cars, however, is not. We can pick and choose among the various methods of transportation, eliminating the most dangerous and favoring the safest.

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                    • Sure. We could, for example, adopt commuter rail: a much safer option than individual automobiles. And which faction is it that advocates for commuter rail? Hint: it isn’t the right.

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                      • Just as long as my logic isnt wrong. Asking who opposes what is changing the subject. We can eliminate car deathes by eliminating cars just as we can eliminate coal deathes by eliminating coal. However, each one is silly.

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                        • Because we like people dying of black lung! it’s fun, and quick, and cheaper for you, the lawyer. And we all know how much lawyers like it cheap…
                          /ducks

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                            • I think the two are definitely analogous. Both are good things that we need that cost us something in terms of safety and environmental impact.

                              But let’s get this straight: Are you claiming they’re analogous or that they’re equivalent? Because it seems to me that if we had to eliminate coal in favor of alternatives in 10 years or eliminate cars in favor of alternatives in 10 years, the expert consensus probably wouldn’t be, “Meh. Choose either one. They’re both equally easy to replace.”

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        • Considering that coal miners started to live longer once safety and health regulations were in place, I’m sure that many are happier now than they were in the 1915.

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    • Lot of people had lead water pipes. The farm I grew up on, previously owned by my father’s uncle and his wife (they had no children,) had lead water pipes that we had to replace before we could move there in 1969.

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        • Food safety became a big deal in the 1880s because of the stuff we were adding to it to preserve it. Most of what you’re calling ‘pollution’ was intentional; steps striving for longer shelf life and to control pests.

          The fourth chemist for the FDA, H. W. Wiley, wrote a book, Influence of food preservatives and artificial colors on digestion and health. I. Boric acid and borax which was based on research of having volunteers digest and record various food additives in use. This resulted in passage of the first food safety laws; and followed his predecessors own investigations of food contamination and failed attempts at passing food safety laws.

          The FDA has a timeline of significant events here. It took nearly as long to pass food safety laws as it took to pass the health-care reform law we call Obamacare; and like health care, the pressure to pass reform laws happened because of decades of problems.

          So the presumption that food was safe from industrial pollutants is illogical in many ways; they were being added to food, and not only introduced as accidental by products; and they harmed a lot of people. Furthermore, a lot of the problems linger today, as an example, soils in apple orchards are often highly contaminated with arsenic, which was used to prevent apple worms.

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      • Exactly. All hail the EPA, etc. They’ve certainly made things safer in certain instances..and made things worse for other people. There IS a cost to regulation which a lot of times goes ignored. People should be aware of that.

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        • They should be aware of that.

          But the answer ‘get rid of regulation because some is burdensome’ doesn’t work too well as a blanket response; it encourages all sorts of rent seeking and abuse. The answer is better regulation review and getting rid of regulations that are unnecessarily burdensome.

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