If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

William Caldicott on bioremediation of industrial toxins


Will Caldicott

William Caldicott

This week, Dr. Caldicott explores the issue of industrial contaminants in the environment with her son William Caldicott, Director of Business Development for ISOTEC,
a company that treats organic contaminants in soils and groundwater. William was also an environmental consul-tant at Geomatrix Consultants, Inc., Oakland, CA. He has
a Masters degree in Environmental Science from Yale University in the U.S. and also was graduated from Southern Cross University in Australia. Near the beginning of the program,
Dr. Caldicott mentions a report released in May 2010 by the President’s Cancer Panel in the U.S., Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now. She says the public is not aware of how ubiquitious toxic chemicals are. When asked what spurred his concern about environmental toxins, William describes his realization as a college student that in order to help save the environment, one would have to work with polluting firms. These entities, he says, are the ones poisoning the earth but also the companies that must take responsibility for cleaning up the pollution. William says that in his education and in his present consulting work, he has acquired a better understanding of how chemicals in flame retardants, phtalates and cookware affect human and animal life. He describes his work treating polluted soils and groundwater in order to remediate toxic pollution.
Dr. Caldicott asks how William’s firm is able to determine what compounds are found in a heavily contaminated area. She mentions the book A Civil Action about a toxic contamination case in Massachusetts. William talks about the polluting firm featured in the book, a company which made both leather tanning products and degreasers with trichloroethylene (TCE). The cancer clusters induced by water supplies tainted by TCE and other chemicals inspired a grass-roots movement.

Clean-up crews use bacteria (inset) to decontaminate soil polluted by oil spills. (biologybiozine.com)

Clean-up crews use bacteria (inset) to decontaminate soil polluted by oil spills. (biologybiozine.com)

William next describes in detail how a hypothetical toxic waste site would be decontaminated by his firm. He distinguishes the three major treatments that are used to remove the contam-inants. Dr. Caldicott mentions bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico that were ingesting oil plume from the 2010 spill. Listen to an NPR program (or read the show’s transcript) about these bacteria. Dr. Caldicott asks William about leakage at gas station sites in the U.S. He gives an overview of how soil is contaminated at the filling stations. Dr. Caldicott then turns to the numerous new and untested chemicals introduced each year, noting the irony that firms like William’s are still remediating chemical pollution from past decades. William brings up the issue of pharmaceuticals in the water supply, and how the effects of such pollution are only beginning to be understood, including hormone disruption in humans, birds and marine life. Dr. Caldicott inquires about phtalates and BPA in plastic bottles which are hormone mimickers. William mentions that extremely low concentrations of these chemicals are causing hormone disruption. He notes that thermal receipts handed to consumers in stores have troublesome amounts of BPA. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with green chemistry expert John Warner which touches on the receipt problem. Also listen to her interview with researcher Maricel Maffini about BPA and hormone-disrupting chemicals. William mentions the Teflon found in Americans’ blood. He explains how frying pans are only one source of this chemical.

Toward the end of the conservation, Dr. Caldicott asks William how he is reducing toxic exposures at home, where he and his wife raise two young children. For more information, read the October 28 article Largest US Polluters Want EPA to Keep Their Emissions Secret from Public, the August 25 EarthJustice press release, EPA Policy Restoring Public Right to Know About Chemical Hazards Wins Strong Support from Health, Labor and Environmental Advocates and the April 21 press release Physicians for Social Responsibility Supports Newly Introduced Safe Chemicals Act, Seeks Improvement Before Enactment.

One Response to “William Caldicott on bioremediation of industrial toxins”

  1. Sonja Reagle Says:

    Are you familiar of the case of “Toxic School” - - cancer cluster at Southside Highschool in Elmira, New York? It is about a new highschool that was built on an old industrial site. Part of the original Remington Rand Building remains on one end of the property and stands like ghostly reminder of what went on there. I’ve looked long and hard to find historical information on that site and wondered if there could have been nuclear contamination. Why is the building deserted and still standing?

    During theClinton Administration DOE released what was called a list of FUSRAP sites that were to be cleaned up by the Federal Government. There was one facility in Elmira on that list but nobody could tell me where it was or what industry was involved in it. As I searched more about the Remington Rand I found that it was taken over during WWII for military production though records from that period were far and few between.

    Then came the Blockbuster — sometime after President Eisenhower released Manhattan Project Manager, General Leslie Groves, Groves became CEO for the typewriter company, Remington Rand. Question is — did Groves finally decide, “yes, the pen is mightier than the sword”? I doubt it.

    I have been following this case for many years and still there is no real answer as to why all those kids came down with testicular cancer.