Postwar pollution in Kosovo - not all NATO's fault Chris Walker's opinion article on the potential for environmental damage in Yugoslavia exaggerates the seriousness of the environmental damage caused by NATO ("Another victim of Milosevic - the environment", July 21). The truth is that many of the chemical plants in the area were using old technology. Their US counterparts retired that technology in the 1940s-60s. There was little or no pollution control, and no thought given to pollution control or the environment, the Danube River, the Black Sea, or anything but making a profit for the plant. That includes the health and safety of the workers in the chemical plants, and the health of their families.
I have done work in a number of Eastern European countries in the chemical industry and what I have seen has made my hair stand on end.
For example, in a country near Yugoslavia, the chemical industry was discharging so much toxic mercury into the environment that the river downstream of the plant was sterile. Another plant had massive quantities of pesticides discharging through its inoperable treatment works.
Many of the workers in these plants failed to utilize the simplest safety precautions, and many had direct side-effects from chemical exposure.
To say that NATO's bombing alone caused significant environmental damage is to overstate the case. Being bombed by NATO is the best thing that could have happened to a number of these plants. This at least will force many of them to modernize and install cleaner and more efficient technologies, rather than utilize their older, energy inefficient technologies, which also happen to be major polluters.
The reported release of the vinyl chloride smoke and mercury from Yugoslav chemical and petroleum refineries may be a partial contributor to acute and some chronic health problems for some residents, and it could cause some acute and chronic environmental problems - but it does not qualify as the type of environmental disaster scenario that many chemically ignorant journalists are proclaiming.
The real story will be written in several months after the assessment of chemical contamination has been completed.
Dave Russell Lilburn, Ga.
Global Environmental Operations Inc.
The media: news breakers or makers?
The front page article "America's new celebrity culture" (July 14) couldn't have been more prescient of recent events. The current media frenzy over John Kennedy's plane crash is a perfect example. The media have shown a powerful, almost frightening ability to mold public opinion. They can generate widespread grief and sympathy for a family and situation that are at best remotely related to most people's daily lives.
The same media can fan negative feelings for those such as Newt Gingrich or Clarence Thomas. Modern communication technology allows those who control it to orchestrate the culture.
The ordinary citizen is the loser in this culture because journalists in the media centers have such a loud "voice" compared to John Q. Public. At the same time, the traditional role of reporters to report the news has been replaced by a taste for making the news.
Kate Koch Grand Rapids, Mich.
One large step for womankind
Regarding "Going where no woman has gone before" (July 19): My hat's off to the Monitor on a job well done. It's great to see someone like Lt. Col. Eileen Collins achieve her dreams despite the years of opposition and adversity.
Dan Carnesciali Ballwin, Mo.
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