Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Chemical spill?

“Chemicals overlooked in depot event, doctor says,” is the headline on section B of the Tri-City Herald.

The reporter claims that chemical agents (WMDs to most people) weren’t considered as a possibility in an incident, several years ago during construction, that made several people sick. Sick enough that at least one of them is claiming full permanent disability. I’m betting that the Army did consider it, but discounted it quickly since the most noticeable and immediate symptom did not seem to have occurred. Miosis, pinpoint pupils. Never seen it myself, though I’m told it is very distinctive, not something you could possibly miss.

The gist of the article is that the Army, the clinic and everyone else neglected to look for miosis. No one seems to remember any miosis. Since no one looked for it, it must have been missed. The thrust is that the workers were exposed to sarin and this proves it. Now at the bottom of the article the reporter does point out that it would have affected people between the storage bunkers and those who got sick, but that no one knows if anyone was there.

Here’s the thing, I got to talk to one of the people who was in the building at the time. He walked out and just then people “came pouring out of the building sick.” He confirms that no one looked for pinpoint pupils, but he also confirmed that he didn’t notice any either. We’re not talking about walking into bright sunlight pupils either, we’re talking about the eye looking like it is all iris with no pupil. It’s freaky looking.

The Army did not check cholinesterate levels, but it wouldn’t have mattered much since there was never a baseline made either.

So here’s the gist of the article and the lawsuit (yes, they’re suing the Army for exposing them to Sarin), Sarin leaked out of a bunker unnoticed, wafted towards the plant ignoring anyone who happened to be there. It drifted into the building selectively hitting some and ignoring a bunch of others.

Sarin is nasty stuff, but the amount that would have had to be sitting in a pool next to one of the bunkers to have been effective at making people sick hundreds of yards away, in a building, is a LOT. Consider that sarin needs to be distributed properly to be effective. In Japan, a sarin attack on a crowded subway killed 2 people (at least in the account I’m reading right now) despite having been delivered by puncturing containers left on the ground (hundreds got sick). Agent has been detected outside the bunkers once, but no one standing outside the plant got sick. Here it is being alleged that an amount toxic to a lot of people managed to leak out of the bunkers with no one noticing.

It’s about the money, but the newspaper has no business promoting the plaintiff’s propaganda. It should be trying to report both sides, and pointing to logical fallacies and factual errors on both sides.


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