"Some of our leading neurotoxic scientists, as well as studies and documents from medical schools and universities, in addition to other institutions, outline in detail the truly horrific effects that allowing the continued use of this neurotoxin could have on the Canadian people." Jean Chretien

A more recent development concerning MMT is discussed in the section titled "COMMENT ADDED 21-SEP-2005" at the bottom of the present article.
Canadian Guinea Pigs
in an American Experiment

Lubomyr Prytulak


(last modified 25-Feb-2002  09:20)

Should We Be For the Anti-Globalization Demonstrators, or Against Them?

The anti-globalization activists demonstrating against the World Economic Forum in New York reminded me of my recent discovery of how the effects of globalization are impinging on me, and on all Canadians, directly, and dangerously.

Reading a Honda Owner's Manual Leads to Questions

My exposure to one of the consequences of globalization began when I was reading the owner's manual for a Honda CR-V purchased last December.  The following statement caught my attention: "In Canada, some gasolines contain an octane-enhancing additive called MMT.  If you use such gasolines, your emission control system performance may deteriorate and the Malfunction Indicator Lamp on your instrument panel may turn on."

I had never heard of MMT before, and neither had the few people at hand whom I consulted, and I was puzzled that of all the places in which this manual appeared to be distributed (the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), Canada was the only one that appeared to be selling MMT-laden gasoline.

Anxious to avoid clogging up my emission control system, I telephoned my Honda dealer's service department to ask which gasolines it was that contained MMT, and was told that no Canadian gasolines contained MMT, or that if any gasolines did, it might be little-known brands, so that if I stuck with the big-name brands, I would be safe.

Aware of the extent to which misinformation and disinformation circulates in our society, and mindful of the unresolved contradiction between the official statement in the Honda owner's manual and the casual opinion of one employee at a Honda dealership, I next emailed a query to the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), and received the reply that "All gasoline sold in BC contains the additive MMT.  Do not be concerned, it will not cause any problems with your vehicle."

So far, then, my three sources contradicted each other.  The Honda manual said SOME and it's BAD, the Honda dealer said NONE and don't worry, and the BCAA said ALL but it's GOOD.

Next, I visited oil company web sites, but was frustrated to discover first that none mentioned MMT, and second that many failed to provide email access.  I was able to send off a few queries, however, and in the end received two answers the first one from Chevron, and five days later, one from Shell.  Let's dispose of the Shell response first it was evasive, defensive, brief, and while acknowledging that Shell gasolines do contain MMT, at the same time conveys that Shell prefers not to discuss the matter further: "Your question can be answered by calling the different gasoline companies who may confirm their use of MMT or not.  I can only tell you that Shell does use MMT when necessary."  Perhaps my query would have received a more forthcoming reply if it had appeared to come from a consumer seeking MMT gasolines so as to be able to benefit from MMT's wonderful anti-knock benefits, and not from one who might be fearful of MMT and seeking to avoid it.

The Answers Begin to Come In

And now for the Chevron reply, which constituted the first information that I received that was detailed and credible.  (It will be helpful to know before beginning that the "AKI" referred to is the "antiknock index," the number distinguishing the different grades of gasolines at your service station, and which is the average of two octane numbers arrived at by two different kinds of tests.  The method of computation can be found on the Internet, as for example on the Experimental Aircraft Association web site.)

Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2002 10:12:05 -0800
From: Marketing Fuel Tech Service, [email protected]
Subject: FW: MMT-free gasoline
To: [email]

Thank you for your inquiry. It has been forwarded to us here at Chevron Fuels Technical Service.

At this time, Chevron Canada Limited does use the additive MMT as a blending component in the Supreme gasoline grades (AKI 92 & 94).  We do not presently use MMT in our Regular (AKI 87) or Plus (AKI 89) grade in Canada.

We did not use any MMT in Canada between 1995 & 1998 pending the outcome of the Canadian Federal Government's attempts to ban its use. In 1998 the Canadian Federal Government approved the continued use of MMT in gasolines sold in Canada (based on available scientific evidence).  Chevron Canada Limited began blending with MMT as stated above. Although Auto manufacturers have stated their concerns very emphatically about the possible harmful effects of using MMT, there is no statistical evidence to support their claims i.e. so far there is no difference in the life of catalysts, oxygen sensors, or spark plugs between US based vehicles (no MMT used) and Canadian based ones (MMT in use for many years).

At this time, Chevron does not add nor do we plan in the future to add MMT to our gasoline in the United States.  Most other majors do not use it either.  It is a antiknock compound that contains manganese and raises the antiknock quality of gasoline.  It is in use in Canada.  Very limited use in USA and in some after market octane booster products.  Auto manufactures have expressed concerns about its use shortening catalyst, oxygen sensor, and spark plug life.

Chevron Fuels Technical Service

From a practical point of view, I had my answer so long as I didn't need a gasoline with an AKI exceeding 89, which I did not, then I could avoid MMT, as my owner's manual advised, by buying Chevron AKI 87 or 89 gasoline, which I could conveniently do, as a Chevron station was located not far from my home, and Chevron stations were scattered throughout the city and throughout the province.

However, the practical matter having been solved, and compliance with the instructions in my owner's manual having been made possible, I was nevertheless curious as to what MMT was, and as to the discrepancy between Chevron selling MMT gasoline in Canada but not in the United States, and as to the mention by Chevron of the Canadian Government having attempted to ban MMT.

And as I am just about to describe what I learned next about MMT, it is instructive to note that of the five sources above that have commented on MMT so far (Honda manual, Honda dealer, BCAA, Shell, and Chevron), when they addressed themselves to any issue at all, it was to the issue of whether MMT was good or bad for cars.  The issue of whether MMT was good or bad for people was never broached.

What is MMT?

MMT stands for methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl, the presence of Manganese being of chief concern.  Manganese is a metal with chemical symbol Mn and atomic number 25, falling between the metals Chromium (24) and Iron (26), and not to be confused with the much lighter metal Magnesium (Mg, 12).  As Lead will need to be mentioned in this discussion, it might be helpful to be reminded that it is much heavier atomic number 82.  Despite Manganese being much lighter than Lead, Manganese is along with lead considered to be one of the "heavy metals," as demonstrated on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) web site at www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/metalsheavy/regulated.html.

What is the Effect of Manganese on People?

In trace amounts Manganese is needed by the body, and if a bit too much is eaten, then the body seems able to eliminate the excess, at least an adult body seems able to.  When Manganese is inhaled, however, the story changes the body has no way of getting rid of it, it accumulates, and among its targets of attack is the nervous system.  In other words, inhaled Manganese is a neurotoxin which in sufficient dosage will lead to a condition resembling Parkinson's disease.  A Health Canada statement on the subject of Manganese poisoning outlines the nature of the threat:

Airborne manganese concentrations tend to be higher near certain types of industry (e.g. steel) and busy roads, possibly due to the re-suspension of road dusts by vehicles or the combustion products of the gasoline additive MMT (methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl) in tailpipe emissions.  Spending more time in a vehicle is associated with higher exposures.  [...]

Although manganese is essential at very low doses, it is toxic at high doses.  Prolonged exposure to very high levels of manganese can lead to a rare neurological syndrome called manganism, which is similar to Parkinson's Disease.  Most cases of manganism involve people exposed in the workplace to very high levels in air (generally over 2 million nanograms1 per cubic metre of air or ng/m3 ), such as miners, or are due to accidental poisoning.  Some people are affected after just a few months of high exposure to manganese while others may be exposed for years before showing signs of manganese poisoning.

Symptoms of manganese poisoning include irritability, memory deficits, anorexia and apathy, followed by clumsiness, muscle tremors and gait disturbances, among other things.  While some symptoms of manganese poisoning can be treated, others may be permanent.

Studies have been done on workers exposed over long periods of time to moderately high concentrations of manganese in air (about 100,000 to 300,000 ng/m3 for 5 to 17 years).  These workers did not develop manganism, but they performed less well than unexposed workers on neurological tests, such as hand-eye coordination and hand-steadiness.  Moreover, a recent Canadian study on the effects of manganese in the general population found that people with higher blood manganese levels performed worse in certain tests of motor function and learning/recall.  These milder signs of impairment are consistent with the more severe clinical symptoms of manganism and with the type of damage to the central nervous system that is known to result from high manganese exposure.

Excessive manganese can also damage the respiratory system and the male reproductive system.
Health Canada: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ehp/ehd/catalogue/general/iyh/manganese.htm

Not mentioned in the above Health Canada description is that data on adult exposure to Manganese cannot be generalized to children, because children are more vulnerable than adults:

There is evidence from both human studies and animal experiments that manganese may exert a differential toxic effect on infants and children.  Human studies show that hyperactive children and children with learning disabilities may have higher hair levels of manganese than normal children.  This suggests that manganese may act as a neurodevelopmental toxicant on young children.  Animal studies show that newborn animals are unable to maintain homeostasis of manganese and that as a result manganese accumulates in the brains of animals exposed at young ages.  There is also evidence that manganese exposure to young animals can cause neurodegenerative changes such as neuronal degeneration and cortical thinning.
California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) www.oehha.ca.gov/air/toxic_contaminants/pdf_zip/Mn-finaldoc.pdf (references removed).

Reference immediately above to children with learning disabilities carrying heavier Manganese loads is echoed again, a little more concretely, in the following reference to three studies which make the same observation:

After this age [four months] there was a slow decline in hair Mn to 0.268 g/g in normal children at age 8 years and 0.434 in learning disabled (hyperactive) children.  This is the 3rd study reporting elevated hair manganese in learning disabled children.
Townsend Letter: www.tldp.com/issue/180/Clinical%20Effects%20of%20Mn.html

If you poison us, do we not die?

So, then, the American justification for excluding MMT from American gasoline can be expressed in cautious and conservative language as follows:

MMT fuel additive is likely to contribute to a small but significant increase in manganese concentrations in the environment.  The health implications of this increase in ambient manganese are not yet certain.  However, there are indications that some highly exposed or susceptible subpopulations might be at increased risk for neurological, respiratory, and reproductive toxicity from low level manganese exposure.  Such at-risk populations include infants, the elderly, those with iron deficiency, people with Parkinson's disease, and workers exposed to gasoline or exhaust fumes.

While many petroleum refiners currently claim that they are voluntarily withholding MMT from their gasoline, there is still reason for concern and a need for more decisive action.  The ready availability of alternative octane enhancers makes the case for adding MMT to gasoline almost exclusively a cost-savings argument.  Minor cost-savings should not take precedence over potentially severe damage to human health.
Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility: www.igc.org/psr/mmt.html

Or, the American objection to MMT can find expression in stronger language:

It is not unreasonable to argue that the exposure of the American population to MMT and manganese could constitute a potentially grave threat to our national security.  The United States cannot afford a repeat of the tetraethyl lead tragedy.
American Journal of Industrial Medicine 39:434-435, Apr. 2001.  www.osha-slc.gov/dts/chemicalsampling/data/CH_252900.html

But if MMT is not used in the United States because it poses a threat to national security, what about Canada?  Why is Canada being blanketed by Manganese American Manganese, as we shall see below?  What about Canadian health and Canadian national security?  Aren't Canadians human too?  If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Essential Digression to the Topic of Scientific Method

Now although it is established that in sufficient doses Manganese is, among other things, a neurotoxin, what is not known is the effect of lower doses over extended periods of time, and this question has led to confusion, and to harm being inflicted on Canadians.  Before continuing with the story of how the neurotoxin Manganese came to blanket Canada but not the US, it is necessary to digress to the question of how this question can be answered, if at all the question of the long-term effects on man of seemingly low or moderate levels of Manganese.  This discussion echoes a similar discussion already published on the Ukrainian Archive in a letter to Morley Safer of 60 Minutes, objecting to his wine-industry infommercial encouraging Americans to drink several glasses of wine each day.

What even rudimentary education in research methodology calls to awareness is that the long-term effect on man of low-level exposure to any toxin has to be guessed, but cannot be proven.  We are not waiting for an experiment that will give us this answer with respect to Manganese the reality is that no such experiment is being conducted, or is being planned, or could ever be implemented.  The reason is that an experiment to determine the effect on humans of prolonged inhalation of low levels of Manganese would be both unethical and impracticable.  That is, the experiment would require that people be allocated randomly to one of two groups one group that would be exposed to low-level Manganese for many years, and another group that would be protected from such exposure.  (Actually, if such an experiment were feasible, then it would more likely include several groups, as for example groups whose exposure to Manganese was none, low, medium, and high but let us simplify by considering two groups only.)  As it has been conjectured that children might be injured most by such exposure, then the experiment would have to be conducted on children as well as adults, and as fetuses might be particularly vulnerable as well, then two groups of pregnant women would have to undergo the same differential treatment.

As I say, experiments of this type are out of the question they are unethical, they are impracticable.  In the absence of an experiment, researchers naturally turn to correlational data they compare people who naturally happen to have been inhaling a lot of Manganese over many years to people who naturally have been inhaling little.  To the layman, this seems indistinguishable from what I just described above as an experiment.  Here the layman demonstrates one of the most serious defects in his education he shows no understanding of scientific method, and no comprehension of when cause-effect conclusions are justified.  In the case of an experiment, the assignment of subjects to the different treatments is random.  It is not just haphazard assignment, or casual or careless or impulsive or indifferent assignment, but it is rather assignment according to some truly random process, like the random numbers that can be generated by a computer, or that are sometimes published in hard copy.  What this random assignment guarantees is that the different groups of subjects will be equivalent in every imaginable respect in age, income, sex, education, height, weight, eye color, religion absolutely everything imaginable.  The larger the two random groups are, the closer to equal they will become.  Thus, the smallest conceivable groups would have one member per group, and these groups would not be very equal simply because two individuals can be very different.  However, once we get 10 people per random group, we find that the average age or income in one group is remarkably close to the average age or income of the other group, and 20 per group makes the two groups even more equal, and 30 per group makes them uncannily equal.  If, then, one such random group is exposed to Manganese and the other is not, and health differences subsequently appear between the groups, then it is legitimate to conclude that these health differences must have been caused by the Manganese.  This is the logic of the experiment that it permits the assumption of ceteris paribus, that everything else was equal, or in other words that the groups initially differed in one respect only whether they were being exposed to Manganese or not.  If health differences later arise, then the Manganese must have been the cause.

In a correlational study, in contrast, the researcher compares not two randomly-constituted groups, but two naturally-constituted groups, and this makes all the difference.  For naturally-constituted groups, not only is the assumption of ceteris paribus unjustified, but in fact the opposite assumption is justified the assumption that the groups do in fact differ in a large number of ways.  For example, people more exposed to Manganese might also have lower incomes, or poorer diets, or inferior health care.  They may differ as to where they live, what they do for a living, how they spend their time.  They may differ in nationality, in race, in religion.  They may differ as to how much they drink, how much they smoke, what drugs they take, how much exercise they get.  People exposed to Manganese may also be exposed to lead, to mercury, to a hundred other toxins and carcinogens that come spewing out of the tailpipes of their automobiles, or out of the machines at their places of employment, or out of factory smokestacks near their homes.  Although we do not know in advance exactly what differences there might be between groups singled out for having high and low Manganese exposures, we can be absolutely sure that several such large differences will exist, along with scores of lesser but possibly still important differences.  At the same time, we need not expect that the higher-Manganese group will necessarily be worse off in all or many of these other respects they could be better off on a few of them, or many of them, or most of them, which could make them as healthy as the low-Manganese group, or even healthier, despite the harmful effects of Manganese.  The implications of this view are radical, and not widely recognized the foremost being that even if Manganese exposure is harmful to health, it is nevertheless possible that in comparing two naturally-constituted groups differing in Manganese exposure, the high-Manganese group will be discovered to be healthier, simply because there exist extraneous reasons why it should be healthier.

That is why the question of the effect on humans of long-term exposure to low levels of toxins is, and always will be, a guess.  Thus, the demand for definitive proof of harmful effect on humans of long-term exposure to low levels of toxins is a demand that cannot ever be satisfied.  Such proof does not today exist for lead or for mercury or for radiation.  People can speculate as to what these effects are, they can hypothesize, they can theorize, they can draw inferences, they can generalize, they can interpolate, they can estimate, they can guess but they cannot prove.  All such indirect reasoning will have to be based on two sorts of data:

  1. On accidents in which people are exposed to high levels of toxins for example, cases arise in which children eat Lead-based paint, or a neighborhood is contaminated with Mercury, or miners inhale a lot of Manganese dust, and so on, and this can be combined with interpolation which is to say with the inference that if exposure to a lot is seen to be very bad, then exposure to less must be less bad but still bad.

  2. Also animal experiments can be conducted, though it can always be objected that animals are not humans, and that the high doses that they are exposed to in an experiment are not representative of the lower doses that humans are exposed to, so that animal studies too require the interpolation involved in concluding that a little exposure must be somewhat bad because a lot of exposure was observed to be very bad.
It is important to qualify by acknowledging that a formal experiment is necessary to determine cause-effect relations only when the effect is weak.  When the cause produces a strong effect, a formal experiment is not needed.  For example, where pregnant women taking Thalidomide gave birth to infants with stunted arms or legs, no one designed and implemented a formal experiment, and yet everyone was certain that the Thalidomide caused the damage.  At the same time, it is important to underline just how serious a weak effect can be.  The loss of two IQ points a year must, for purposes of this discussion, be considered to be a weak effect.  Assuming this particular effect, a child born with an IQ of 130 will be down to 100 by the age of 15, and down to 70 by the age of thirty in other words, from a person easily able to complete a tough university program to a person unable to manage his everyday affairs and yet this is the sort of weak effect that will be evident in experimental data, but not in correlational.

What may have been the case, as we shall see immediately below, is that the Canadian government, including all the lawyers and advisers and experts that it consulted, were ignorant of the argument presented in this section.  That is, when confronted with the question "But where's the evidence that long-term exposure to low levels of Manganese is harmful to man?" the Canadian government broke down in confusion, and left the Virginia-based Ethyl corporation free to blanket Canada with a neurotoxin.  One might conclude, then, that the reason that Canadians can't join Americans and Europeans in breathing Manganese-free air is that the Canadian public is particularly ignorant of scientific method, and for that reason is particularly content to elect representatives equally ignorant, and particularly content as well to read the stories of reporters who are equally ignorant.

This failure to distinguish correlational from experimental evidence is by far the most common and damaging fallacy that pervades our news and information media.  Just a few minutes ago to demonstrate the prevalence of this error with another example I heard Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio describe a study purportedly demonstrating that home births were as safe as hospital births.  Awareness of the correlation-experiment distinction makes us immediately recognize that the data in question must have been correlational, simply because it is inconceivable that the allocation of women to give birth in hospital or home was random.  Rather, these must have been natural groups, and it is obligatory to expect that natural groups differ in many ways.  Most relevant is that any woman who expects complications will prefer to give birth in a hospital, and any doctor who expects complications will insist on the woman giving birth in a hospital.  As a result of such selection, the hospital-birthers will on the average be less robust, and conversely the home-birthers will on the average be more robust.  If the two groups end up equal in birth-success statistics, as they are said to be in the study in question, then it is most likely because the greater safety of hospital birth compensates for the poorer prospects of the women who choose hospital birth.  The CBC airing the conclusion that it makes no difference whether children are born in hospital or home is erroneous and damaging ultimately even litigable and based on ignorance of scientific method.

Ethyl Corporation Commits Bigamy by Marrying Manganese Without Divorcing Lead

Although the general public appears to be as ignorant of MMT and Manganese poisoning as I was at the moment that I began reading that Honda manual a few weeks ago, this is not because of any absolute ban on discussion in the public forum.  Below is an excerpt from a British source, followed by two Canadian sources, which tell us the story of the invasion of Canada by Manganese, at least as much of the story as has been made public:

Running on MMT

George Monbiot




MMT is a fuel additive, which is mixed with petrol in order to prevent engine knocking.  Many scientists believe it is also a dangerous neurotoxin.  Manganese entering the body through the lungs causes nerve damage which can lead to psychosis, memory loss, and early death.

Until last year, Canada was the only country on earth in which MMT was bought and sold.  It is legal to sell it in most parts of the United States, but surveys suggest that no suppliers there will stock it, not least because it also appears to damage car engines, causing them to release other pollutants.  Canadian MPs began to question why their citizens were exposed to this peculiarly unpleasant species of pollution.  After a long and intelligent debate, parliament voted to ban it in April 1997.

Had the vote taken place three years earlier, the Ethyl Corporation would have had to abide by the decision. A sovereign parliament had decided to protect its citizens from a deadly poison, and that, you would imagine, would have been the end of the matter.

But, since 1994, corporations in Canada, the United States and Mexico have enjoyed a new and astonishing power over elected authorities.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entitles companies to sue governments which, they believe, raise unfair barriers to trade.

Ethyl sued the Canadian government for the "expropriation" of its "property" (namely its anticipated profits) and the "damage" to its "good reputation" caused by the parliamentary debate.  It took its suit to NAFTA, where a secret tribunal whose records are not disclosed and whose decisions cannot be appealed, began to assess the case.  Last month, the Canadian government, realising that its chances of success were approximately zero, settled with Ethyl.  It agreed to allow the corporation to resume its sales of MMT in Canada.  It agreed to pay Ethyl US$13 million, by way of compensation.  It agreed, too, to lie to its citizens.  Upon settling the suit, it announced that "MMT poses no health risk."  So what has any of this got to do with us?  Well, the NAFTA rules that allowed the Ethyl Corporation to sue the Canadian government are almost identical to the provisions of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment which, if passed, will allow corporations to sue the governments, such as Britain's, which sign it.

Excerpt from George Monbiot, Guardian 13-Aug-1998: www.monbiot.com/dsp_article.cfm?article_id=157

Canadian Environmental Law Association
517 College St., Suite 401, Toronto, ON M6G 4A2
Phone: 416-960-2284 Fax: 416-960-9392
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.cela.ca

Vol. 23 No. 3 July - September 1998 page 6-8

NAFTA and the erosion of federal environmental protection
How Canada became a shill for Ethyl Corp.

Ken Traynor, CELA Researcher, International Programme

In early April, 1997 the Liberal government of Jean Chretien, for one of the few times since its election in 1993, acted to "err", as the government put it, on the side of human health and the environment.  Invoking its trade powers, Parliament passed a law restricting the import and interprovincial transport of the neuro-toxic MMT (methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl), a gasoline additive that contains the heavy metal, manganese.

Within days, the US multinational Ethyl Corp., the sole supplier of MMT in Canada, invoked the "expropriation" clause (article 1110) of the investment chapter of NAFTA to sue the government for $350 million Canadian for damages and lost income.  With the NAFTA agreement working exactly as it was designed to, the pressure of significant potential public liability mounted on the federal government and on July 20th, 1998 it backed down, settling out of court before the NAFTA arbitral panel could rule.

In a final cruel irony the $13 million US ($19.5 million Canadian) compensation payment to Ethyl for lost profits and legal costs exceeds the total 1998 Environment Canada budget for enforcement and compliance programmes ($16.9 million Canadian).  The government will also issue a statement to the effect that the manganese-based additive is neither an environmental nor a health risk which, of course, Ethyl will use to market MMT internationally.

With all we know about lead, manganese and other heavy metal poisoning why are we running one more collective experiment on our kids when safer alternatives to MMT exist and are widely used in the US?  How did we end up in this sorry situation?  The answer to that question is a long and involved, but ultimately very instructive, little Canadian vignette.

This story has two basic themes.  On the one hand we have to go back to the 1920s and trace the role of Ethyl Corp. in bringing us first lead anti-knock gasoline additives and then MMT.  On the other hand we need to go back to November 1993, when the Chretien government-to-be worked so hard to make sure NAFTA came to Canada.

In 1923, lead was introduced into gasoline by the Ethyl Corporation in a joint venture with General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and DuPont.  The toxicity of lead had been well established for 100 years, but GM wanted to put lead in gas in order to compete with the Ford Motor Company.  GM had developed a more powerful gasoline engine than Ford, but the engine tended to "knock" because of its higher compression.  Lead stopped the knocking.  Ethanol, made from agricultural crops, could have done the job.  But ethanol occupies up to 10 percent of the gas tank and the oil companies were not about to give away that share of their market to US farmers.  Instead they chose to put a few drops of lead into each gallon of gas.1

On May 20, 1925, the U.S. Public Health Service convened a conference to examine the potential public health dangers posed by leaded gasoline more than was done when MMT was introduced into Canada in the 1970s for use in unleaded fuels.  At the conference, a parade of research scientists and public health officials testified that lead is a very unhealthy substance:

  • it is an accumulative poison;
  • in the form of dust, it is most likely to cause acute lead poisoning;
  • lead poisoning, when not fatal, causes "intellectual irritability and dysfunction";
  • lead penetrates the placenta and affects the unborn;
  • there are no easily recognizable symptoms of slow lead poisoning.

Dr. Yandell Henderson of Yale University summarized the conference this way: "We have in this room, I find, two diametrically opposed conceptions.  The men engaged in industry, chemists, and engineers, take it as a matter of course that a little thing like industrial poisoning should not be allowed to stand in the way of a great industrial advance.  On the other hand, the sanitary experts take it as a matter of course that the first consideration is the health of the people."2

The debate continues to this day.

By 1940 most gasoline sold had lead in it.  Thirty-five years later the EPA reduced the allowable level of lead in gasoline because it interfered with the efficient workings of catalytic converters.  Finally, in the 1980s, the overwhelming evidence of lead-associated damage in children's nervous systems led to the phasing out of lead in gasoline, first in the US and later in Canada.  Ethyl fought every step of the way.

Between 1926 and 1985, when the U.S. Congress phased out most leaded gasoline use, seven million metric tons of lead dust (15.4 billion pounds) blew out of automobile exhausts and into the environment.  In third world nations the massive lead contamination continues.3

Lead levels along roads in Nigeria are reaching 7000 parts per million, about 15 times greater than the level required to be designated a toxic Superfund [highly polluted] site in the U.S.  In Mexico City half the children tested have dangerous levels of lead.4

What is wrong with a society which says, the evidence is overwhelming, we won't subject our kids to this form of legalized poisoning any longer, and then lets Ethyl and other corporations go on poisoning kids around the world?  When lead was banned in US gasoline, Ethyl continued to sell its product overseas and turned to MMT to replace its lost lead revenues.  As recently as 1997, Ethyl's lead anti-knock products were 14% of sales and 43% of operating profits.  In 1996, they generated 59% of operating profits and in 1995 their profit in lead was 74%.5

And now they want us to repeat the same sad saga but with MMT, which contains another heavy metal, manganese, a proven neuro-toxin.

If MMT were a new product which had not been sold in the US, Ethyl Corp. would have to prove it was safe.  Because it has been around for a while, even though significant long-term health studies have not been done, the onus is on its critics to prove it is harmful.  The only major difference from the 1920s is that the auto giants are no longer in lock-step with the oil companies' interests.  Taking a page from an Environmental Defense Fund campaign, GM Canada has written to all the major oil refiners in Canada asking them to voluntarily refrain from using MMT.  A number of them already sell MMT-free gas in some markets.  They are also actively trying to drum up support for this campaign from NGOs across Canada.

The oil industry on the other hand, who, together with the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Quebec challenged the legislation under the Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade, is unwavering in the defence of its bottom-line.  Alain Perez of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute puts it this way, "Our first priority is getting rid of federal legislation that uses its jurisdiction over interprovincial trade to get at the formulation of auto fuels."

Global warming is heating up political debates.  Air pollution is taking lives (some 1400 in Ontario according to the Ontario Medical Association) and that's forcing a serious look at why sulphur levels in Canadian gasoline are so much higher than in the US.  The oil companies have a lot to lose if public health becomes an important issue for governments.

Most of the industrialized world does not use MMT as an octane-enhancer in gasoline.  It is banned in many of the most smog-prone areas of the United States, including California and much of the Eastern Seaboard.  Eighty-five percent of US oil refiners have confirmed that they are not currently using MMT.  Alternatives exist and they are not that expensive.  If the petroleum companies replaced MMT with other additives, it would cost drivers only about $5 annually (for those who drive 16,000 kilometers a year, or so).  That cost can be compared to the cost of replacing spark plugs yearly, or replacing an oxygen sensor for something in the neighbourhood of $250, if the auto company claims of significant impairment of on-board diagnostics are true.6

And we'd get better air as a bonus.

It seems a no-brainer, but the post-NAFTA world is not that straight forward.  Which brings us back to Jean Chretien and NAFTA.  If NAFTA did not exist, MMT would still be banned in Canada.  Ethyl would have had to convince the US government to go to bat for it with the Canadian government, or sue Canada in a Canadian court.  In a Canadian court, a judge can balance corporate property rights with the public interest, something glaringly absent from the deliberations of NAFTA arbitration panels.

For all intents and purposes, NAFTA gives corporate interests a form of veto power over national public policy.  Not surprisingly, Ethyl used it.  As Dalton Camp wrote in the Toronto Star on July 29th 1998 this "is a bizarre episode in Canada's own history a government bill approved by the Parliament of Canada has been vetoed by Ethyl Corp. of Virginia."

It did not have to be this way.  In late November 1993, Jean Chretien and his Liberal Party ran against the Mulroney legacy and won hands down.  In that election campaign they pledged in their famous "Red Book" that if the Labour and Environmental Side Agreements did not protect Canadian interests, the new cabinet would not pass the required order-in-council necessary to implement NAFTA in Canada.  This was important because NAFTA was still before the US Congress and drafts of Clinton's implementing legislation contained language that might force Chretien to actually carry through on his election promise.

In an unprecedented move, before he was even officially sworn in as Prime Minister, Chretien sent his primary fixer, Eddie Goldenberg, to Washington to implore the Clinton administration to tone down the implementing legislation.  Working out of a hotel room (because, officially the Liberal Party operative could not use the Canadian embassy), Goldenberg was successful at getting the most objectionable aspects of the legislation changed.  The rest, as they say, is history.


1 Morris, David - The Ethyl Corporation: Back to the Future Institute for Local Self Reliance, September 9, 1997
2 Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly #541
3 Rachel's, ibid
4 Morris ibid
5 Ethyl Corp. 1998 10-K Report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission
6 "It's worthwhile questioning motives on the need for MMT", The Montreal Gazette, February 21, 1997

Copyright 1998, Canadian Environmental Law Association

Canadian Environmental Law Association Intervenor: www.cela.ca/Intervenor/23_3/23_3ethyl.htm

You can thank free trade agreement for MMT travesty

Dalton Camp

Toronto Star, July 29, 1998

In September, 1996, Canada's Minister of the Environment, Sergio Marchi, spoke on third reading of Bill C-29, otherwise known as the Manganese-Based Fuel Additive Act.  The bill would prohibit the use of the additive MMT in gasoline produced in Canadian refineries.  The minister said the additive was a hazard to the public health and to the environment.  In addition, the minister pointed out, automobile manufacturers believed the substance "damaged emissions control equipment" installed in their cars and trucks in order to monitor fuel performance, producing a reduction in harmful tail-pipe pollutants.

Parliament approved Bill C-29.  It was a lot like motherhood: MMT, a product of the Ethyl Corp. of Virginia, had been banned in Europe and in California.  Almost every major U.S. petroleum producer, the minister said, had indicated support for the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to forbid MMT being marketed as a gasoline additive.  One-third of the American market uses a reformulated gasoline, refined for areas with acute air pollution problems.  The use of MMT as an additive is prohibited in these areas.

Early in 1991, the present Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, was urging the Mulroney government to ban the use of MMT, which he called "an insidious neurotoxin."

In a letter to a Tory government minister, Jean Chretien wrote: "Some of our leading neurotoxic scientists, as well as studies and documents from medical schools and universities, in addition to other institutions, outline in detail the truly horrific effects that allowing the continued use of this neurotoxin could have on the Canadian people."  Five years later, the Chretien government would introduce, and Parliament would pass, Bill C-29, banning the transportation or importation of MMT.

Ethyl Corp. then launched a $347 million lawsuit against the government of Canada. The government served notice it would contest the suit.  It didn't.  Last week it settled "out of court," so to speak, killing its own bill, paying Ethyl Corp. nearly $20 million and providing a written letter of apology.  In return, Ethyl dropped its suit.

This is called free trade.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, in Chapter 11, allows private corporations to sue sovereign member nations.  In this example, it allowed Ethyl to sue the government of Canada.  Such suits are not brought before Canadian courts but before a panel of three members, one of whom is appointed by Canada, another by the United States and a third chosen by mutual agreement.  In the event Canada would fail to appoint its member, the World Bank would do so; the bank would also appoint the third member of the panel should the two countries involved not agree on a nominee.

The decision of the panel cannot be appealed and all its procedures and arguments are conducted privately.  Some believe Canada settled with Ethyl last week because it did not think it could win its case before a NAFTA panel.

A California company in the waste disposal business recently acquired a site for a toxic waste dump in one of the states in Mexico, another of our NAFTA partners.  The local citizens demonstrated against the corporation, forcing it to shut the site down.  The corporation has brought a $97 million Chapter 11 suit against the government of Mexico.  Guess who'll win?

So that we understand this bizarre episode in our own history: A government bill approved by the Parliament of Canada has been vetoed by Ethyl Corp. of Virginia.  This is the substance of the matter.  What is not of substance is whether MMT poisons the air, destroys catalytic converters, is harmful to children, older people, and those suffering from respiratory ailments, or frightens the horses or whether it doesn't.  The Canadian government and Parliament, whether certain, uncertain, or indifferent, has the sovereign power to pass whatever laws it wishes.  At least, that had been the case.

When we come to think of it, the Canadian Parliament also voted in favour of NAFTA.  In doing so, it cut off its own head.  Which brings to mind John Crosbie, the then minister who sponsored the free trade agreement before Parliament and who admitted he hadn't read it all.  It was a laugh; honourable members hadn't read it either.  So, what the hell, free trade promised cheaper imports, more exports, a stronger dollar, and 500,000 new jobs.  And in the long run, it may prove to be a good thing for Canadians.  Still, something has surely been lost.  We are not as free as we used to be.  Ask Ethyl.

We must now remind ourselves to read the fine print in the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, after it emerges from the shadows where it fled after its brief appearance last year.  MAI would allow private corporations to sue any government of the 29 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada included, for real or imagined injury to their businesses caused by any law, past, present or future.

My morning paper the national edition has celebrated Ethyl's win over Canada's Parliament.  It advised those ambitious Tories running for the leadership to climb on the bandwagon while there's still room.  It would not be my advice.  I suggest the Tories review the Ethyl travesty, bone up on the MAI, and remember their honoured past.  Chances of the party doing so are, I fear, slight about as likely as Ethyl suing the state of California.

Dalton Camp is a political commentator and broadcaster.
Economic Justice Now: www.economicjustice.org/resources/media/EthylCorp.html

Does Ethyl Corporation Bring us Flesh-Eating Disease?  Does the World Trade Organization Bring us Early Puberty?

If everything was going well with ourselves and our children, then it might reasonably be asked why anyone should be concerned about toxins in the environment.  However, all is not going well.  An epidemic of learning disability and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is sweeping our youth.  The causes of this epidemic are unknown, and in view of our discussion of scientific method above, we may say that the causes are close to unknowable.  We do see toxins in our environment, but have no way of linking them to learning disability or ADD, or for that matter to similar deficits experienced by adults, as brought to our attention by Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada when she pointed out that "when you cannot remember something, think about MMT because it may have something to do with it."

Many examples of bad things happening for no identifiable reason can be found.  Let us look more closely at the case of necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating disease.  We are having something like an epidemic of it here in British Columbia, and nobody can say why.  The cause of flesh-eating disease is commonly said to be Group A streptococcus (GAS) bacteria, but this is not quite accurate, as in fact GAS are found everywhere, including on and in perfectly healthy people:

What causes it?

Necrotizing fasciitis is caused by a number of different bacteria; one of them is the Group A streptococcus.  Many people may carry these bacteria in the nose, throat, or on their skin, without getting sick, but these bacteria can also cause sore or strep throat, scarlet fever, skin infections, and rheumatic fever.  Researchers do not fully understand why Group A streptococcus bacteria, on rare occasions, cause necrotizing fasciitis.  It is known that these bacteria make poisons that destroy body tissue directly, as well as causing the body's immune system to destroy its own tissue while fighting the bacteria.
British Columbia Ministry of Health: www.hlth.gov.bc.ca/hlthfile/hfile60.html

What is group A streptococcus (GAS)?

Group A streptococcus is a bacterium often found in the throat and on the skin.  People may carry group A streptococci in the throat or on the skin and have no symptoms of illness.  Most GAS infections are relatively mild illnesses such as "strep throat," or impetigo.  On rare occasions, these bacteria can cause other severe and even life-threatening diseases.
Center for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/groupastreptococcal_g.htm#Why%20does%20invasive%20group%20A

But if it is inaccurate and unhelpful to refer to GAS as the cause of flesh-eating disease, then what would it be accurate and helpful to identify as the cause?  The answer is: a compromised immune system.  People get flesh-eating disease when their immune system is compromised and because their immune system is compromised.  A compromised immune system is what turns bacteria that we live with all our lives pretty much in harmony into killers.

And what causes an immune system to become compromised?  Steroid use does.  Alcoholism does.  AIDS.  Kidney failure.  A whole lot of things.  Among these other things is immersion in toxins.

I am not saying that MMT is responsible for flesh-eating disease, or for any of the host of other ailments whose causes we do not understand.  I am saying that it is plausible that immersing ourselves in a bath of one thousand toxins is likely to result in epidemics of illnesses, few of which will be traceable to any particular toxin.  MMT may be one such toxin in this bath.  Flesh-eating disease may be one such illness in these epidemics.  Globalization may be one of the instruments which spreads the toxins, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) may be one of the instruments of globalization:

In 1980, to their horror, Europeans discovered that 2 and 3 year old children were reaching puberty.  They traced the problem to growth hormones used to promote weight gain in cattle.  Consumers in West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium persuaded their governments to ban hormone additives.  In 1988 the European Union imposed a Europe-wide ban on European producers.  In 1989 the ban was extended to importers.

In 1998 the WTO ruled that Europe had no right to impose such rules on imported beef.  Under the new trade rules, countries were no longer allowed to implement health and safety standards that err on the side of caution, even when in response to impressive citizen demand.
The New Rules Project: www.newrules.org/resources/freetrade.html

American Tourists Stay Away From Poisonous Canada!

One of the predicaments that Jean Chretien's government has put Canadians in is this that Canada derives badly-needed foreign revenue from American tourism, that Americans view MMT as a poison that they do not want in their own country clogging either their lungs or their cars, and yet if they visit Canada, they will be forced to breathe Manganese-laden air, and if they buy Canadian gasoline during their visit, they are likely to fill their tanks with Manganese-laden gasoline.  American children might be in particular danger in Canada.  Pregnant Americans might be prudent to avoid Canada.

How could Jean Chretien not have foreseen when he caved in to Ethyl Corp that loss of American tourism might, sooner or later, be the result?  What could he have been thinking?  What horse-trading did he engage in?  Was it adequate, as noted above, for Chretien to send his "primary fixer, Eddie Goldenberg, to Washington to implore the Clinton administration to tone down the implementing legislation," or would it have been wiser to send a more substantial delegation than a "primary fixer," and to let the Canadian people participate in the debate instead of leaving their interests to be defended by a "primary fixer," and to take a firmer stand than the obsequious one of "imploring"?  Why was the welfare of Canada's children or to use American language, why was Canada's national security left ultimately in the hands of this unelected and unaccountable "primary fixer"?  As the deliberations were secret, we may never know, just as we may never know why Jean Chretien gave Edgar Bronfman the gift of $700 million, or why he had directed his Justice Minister, Anne McLellan, to orchestrate a series of show trials.  To enquire into such matters is an impertinance.  The right of the people to know what their elected representatives are doing can be carried too far.  In any case, it is not the people themselves who are poking their noses into the government's business it is only a handful of meddlesome provocateurs in their midst.

Experiment? No!  Guinea Pigs? Yes!

When I referred in my title to "Canadian Guinea Pigs in an American Experiment," I was using the term "experiment" casually and informally.  In fact, what is happening here in Canada is not a real experiment at all, and the effects of MMT will never be known from examining the Canadian experience, not if the effects are weak.  Any Canadians who might be stricken with ailments induced by MMT will have no one to sue, as cause and effect in a toxic soup are impossible to link.  Grieving relatives of those killed in the epidemics will have no one to blame.  The producer of each new toxin is welcomed by the producers of existing toxins, because with each new addition to the broth, who is responsible for what becomes increasingly difficult to trace.

But despite the impossibility of ascertaining weak effects in the absence of a formal experiment, Canada does have a role to play in protecting the United States, which is to offer Canadian citizens to the United States for preliminary exposure in case effects are strong.  Thus, if MMT has horrendous effects, the United States will be warned of them by exposing Canadians first.  Moderate effects too might be discerned.  Weak effects might at least be suspected.

A glance at the experience with Thalidomide forty years ago invites certain generalizations.  First, that protectors of Canadian health were as slovenly then as they are today:

Thalidomide became available in "sample tablet form" in Canada in late 1959.  It was licensed for prescription use on April 1, 1961.  Although Thalidomide was withdrawn from the West German and United Kingdom markets by December 2, 1961, it remained legally available in Canada until March 2, 1962, a full three months later.  Incredibly Thalidomide was still available in some Canadian pharmacies until mid-May 1962.
Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada: www.thalidomide.ca/wit.html

Second, that United States caution depended on the vigilance of a single individual, Dr. Frances Kelsey of the Food and Drug Administration, whose delay of approval for Thalidomide use in the United States was overtaken by the European recognition that Thalidomide caused birth defects.  As a result of US failure to ever approve Thalidomide use, of the five to ten thousand Thalidomide victims worldwide, only 16 were in the United States, these being cases in which pregnant Americans took Thalidomide as part of research, or obtained their Thalidomide outside the United States.  The surest way to protect Americans from the hidden dangers of any drug or chemical is to have other countries try them first:

However much we all like heroic tales and medals, there is actually very little in the record to bear out the official heroic version of the thalidomide story.  Upon careful examination it appears that no reproductive tests were done at all on thalidomide before 1961, nor indeed did the FDA ask for any.  [...]  We now know that it would have taken a much more exhaustive set of animal tests to catch thalidomide than was routinely used anywhere in 1961.  An honest reading of the facts thus forces the conclusion that (questions of luck aside) Dr. Kelsey's medal was awarded basically for being a delay-causing bureaucrat and thereby allowing Europeans to serve as first-class "guinea pigs" for Americans [...].
College Libertarians of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: w3.ag.uiuc.edu:8001/Liberty/Tales/Thalidomide.Html

Taking the MMT and Thalidomide experiences together, individuals who are paranoid, or merely drawn to conspiracy theories, might entertain the possibility that the United States has maneuvered Canada into serving as its poison taster.  Perhaps deeper investigation would uncover a tradition of employing Canadians as unwitting guinea pigs in American experiments:

In December, 1980, the wife of a member of the Canadian Parliament and four other Canadians sued the U.S. government for five million dollars in U.S. District Court charging that a Montreal psychiatrist conducted CIA-financed brainwashing experiments on them between 1957 and 1963.  During this time they were given LSD and massive electroshock treatments to wipe out past behavior patterns.
Mind Control Forum: www.visitations.com/mindnet/MN143A.HTM

On the other hand, perhaps Canadian slovenliness alone in the absence of any American machinations is sufficient to account for many cases,
Early in this century, a method for bleaching flour with nitrogen trichloride gas was developed.  In this process, the flour became whiter and the baked loaves were puffier and more uniform in shape.  "The whiter the flour, the better it sells" was the slogan of the day, and soon an estimated 80% of all flour in Canada was bleached in this manner.

There was, however, an unanticipated side-effect: Dogs fed biscuits made from the treated flour often had severe reactions, including behavioral abnormalities, seizure, and even death.  Closer investigation by British and American scientists revealed that the flour bleaching process produced a chemical by-product called methionine sulfoximine (MSO).  Concern for human health was so great that by 1950 this bleaching process had been banned in Great Britain and the United States.

Amazingly, though, the Canadian government did not follow suit.  Fortunately for the health of Canadians, the milling industry, following the lead of the British, voluntarily ceased using nitrogen trichloride to bleach flour by 1949/1950.  The only regulatory action taken by Health Canada was to issue in 1967 an advisory to delist previously allowable nitrogen additives whose chemistry was similar to nitrogen trichloride.

It remains uncertain if the Canadian government ever appreciated the potential hazard posed by the toxin MSO in the treated flour.  MSO has since been shown to be an extremely potent neurotoxin, and there is a suggestion that the consumption of MSO-containing flour may have increased the incidence of several major neurological diseases.  This is extremely difficult to prove, however, not because of a lack of evidence of MSO toxicity in controlled laboratory conditions, which is available in abundance, but rather because of the difficulty once again of establishing causality in human populations where many other variables can complicate the situation, particularly after years of exposure.
CCPA Monitor, Nov 1998: www.mps.k12.nf.ca/cfc/old/mmt.html

The Role of the Press

With the Canadian press subservient to the interests of its owners, interests which only partly overlap the public interest, and with press committment to giving especial coverage to the frivolous, the trivial, and the inconsequential, there is left little room for the discussion of contamination by neurotoxins.  Although the press has opposed MMT, as has been exemplified above, it has done so too rarely to make a difference, and has more often defended Ethyl Corp than it has Canadian children.

The evidence of press shortcoming is that Manganese blankets Canada while not one Canadian in a hundred has heard of MMT.  What Canadians are not reading in their newspapers is statements of the sort made by Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada: "If you want to introduce a potent neurotoxin into the blood and brains of people, especially children, adding that neurotoxin to gasoline is an extremely effective delivery mechanism" (www.parl.gc.ca/english/senate/com-e/enrg-e/08ev-e.htm).

If Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden were spraying Manganese into Canadian lungs, taking advantage of the "extremely effective delivery mechanism" devised by Ethyl Corp, the press would immediately recognize this as chemical warfare, and would cry out for the killing of many thousands of Arabs in retaliation; but as it's only Bruce and Teddy Gottwald of Ethyl Corporation who are doing it, the press instead celebrates free trade and globalization.

Evidence of an MMT Conspiracy

The oil companies are members of an MMT conspiracy

The way that MMT has spread itself throughout Canadian gasoline clashes with my man-on-the-street understanding of free enterprise.  What I would have expected is something like the following.

One gasoline company say Chevron recognizes how it can greatly expand its market share.  Instead of using MMT as its AKI booster, it switches to ethanol (or whatever), essentially beginning to sell in Canada the same safer gasoline that is already widely sold throughout the United States.  Chevron mounts an advertising campaign in which it informs Canadians of how they would benefit from switching to the new MMT-free gasoline.  We know what the Chevron ads would say because we have just been reading it on these pages, and from these pages alone it is possible to lift blurbs from prestigious and authoritative sources that would make Canadian drivers' hair stand on end, and would make them head for Chevron stations in droves.  Who would continue to buy MMT-laced gasoline after seeing the list of American states and European countries in which MMT was banned; or after learning that even where MMT was legal in the United States, it was not sold; or after reading the symptoms of Manganese poisoning; or after reading the recommendations of Physicians for Social Responsibility?  Or, one could keep the advertising simple do nothing more than display Prime Minister Jean Chretien's smiling face along with his statement concerning the "truly horrific effects of this neurotoxin" in the same bold red letters that it is displayed at the top of the present article.  That should do the trick.  Simplest of all might be to advertise the new product as the only gasoline sold in Canada that met American standards.

That is the sort of thing that I would expect to be happening.  Somebody should be offering Canadians a choice, especially when we can be sure that the new choice would be overwhelmingly preferred.

An ethanol octane-booster is more expensive than MMT, but by how much?  Using the statistic cited above of an extra cost of $5.00 every 16,000 km, and assuming a price of $0.60 per liter and a mileage of 20 km per liter, I calculate that ethanol-boosted gasoline should be around half a cent per liter more expensive to be exact, 0.625 of a cent.  As the price of local gasoline differs by as much as 12 cents from one station to another on any given day, that price increase of 0.625 cents would go unnoticed.  Given the much greater volume that Chevron would be selling, it could even lower the price of its ethanol-boosted gasoline in comparison to MMT-boosted gasoline, and still expand profits.  Perhaps my approximation based on the only statistic at hand is innaccurate, but perhaps also it can be expected that any more accurate estimate of increased cost will still appear insubstantial in comparison to what consumers accept as normal variation, as reflected in the 12-cent spread in prices across the city.

Why, then, is the above not the way the local economy works with respect to gasoline?  Why is the Canadian consumer given no choice?  Why is there not the least hint of competition?  Why is there no breaking of ranks?  When any gasoline company is able to instantly expand its market share, why does no gasoline company go ahead and do it?  Something very strange is happening here, something ominous, something that smells of conspiracy, something that demands to be investigated and exposed.

The government is a member of the MMT conspiracy

The interpretation offered by several writers above that it was NAFTA that was responsible for Canada adding MMT to its gasoline is false.  At least, it cannot be the whole story.  We know that it cannot be the whole story because at worst, NAFTA prevents Canada from banning MMT, but it does not force Canadian oil companies to use MMT, and it does not force Canadian consumers to buy MMT.  If the only problem was that NAFTA prohibited Canada from banning MMT, then Canada would simply find itself in the position of much of the United States in which MMT similarly is not banned.  However, in those parts of the United States in which MMT is legal, it is nevertheless not used.  Thus, Jean Chretien was fully able, even after his possibly-needless concession to NAFTA and his boot-licking of Ethyl Corp, to stick with his horrific-neurotoxin view of MMT, or at least to a calmer "let's avoid MMT until it is proven safe" view of MMT.  He could have refused to hand over $19.5 million Canadian to Ethyl Corp for its losses with the argument that Ethyl Corp would have suffered those losses anyway as a result of consumers refusing to purchase MMT just as they were refusing to purchase MMT throughout the MMT-legal regions of the United States!  And he could have bolstered his "Ethyl has suffered no damages" argument with the demonstration that even after MMT was legalized again in Canada as a result of the NAFTA action, its sales dropped to zero anyway.

Jean Chretien could have accomplished this evaporation of MMT sales simply by informing Canadians that although Canada had lost the power to ban MMT the way California had banned it, and the way other States had banned it (he could list them), and the way other countries had banned it (he could list them), nevertheless, Canadians were in no danger, at least not in any more danger than much of the United States in which MMT was similarly legal, because Canadians could decide for themselves whether they would buy MMT-laced gasoline or not, and decide for themselves whether they would follow the American example of not buying MMT-laced gasoline, and decide for themselves whether the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility were right or wrong in saying that MMT use posed the threat of "potentially severe damage to human health," and decide for themselves whether or not to take seriously the U.S. Physicians for Social Responsibility when they said that MMT use "would represent a population-wide toxicologic experiment, performed without the informed consent of those who would be exposed, in violation of accepted norms of medical ethics."

In other words, no matter what the outcome of Ethyl Corp's NAFTA complaint, Jean Chretien had it fully within his power to shatter all Ethyl Corp ambitions to blanket Canada with Manganese.  If he could not stop Ethyl Corp through legislation, he could stop it by informing Canadians of what Ethyl Corp stood for, and what it was trying to do, and how few people in the world were allowing it to succeed.

But that is not what Jean Chretien did.  He did not say, "Well, if I can't protect Canadians from this horrific neurotoxin using Plan A, then I will do it using Plan B, which will be equally effective."  Instead, he said, "Well, if I can't protect Canadians from this horrific neurotoxin using Plan A, then I will implement a plan whereby all Canadians will be exposed to the horrific neurotoxin."  But this makes no sense none whatever unless Jean Chretien's arm had been badly twisted in some way that we don't know about, unless someone made him an offer he couldn't refuse, unless he made a pact with the devil to sell out his own people.

It must be emphasized and always remembered that Jean Chretien did not merely fail in his attempt to ban MMT; he succeeded in forcing Canadians to buy MMT.  His behavior is not easily explained without supposing that he may have joined the MMT conspiracy.

The press is part of the MMT conspiracy

We've already had a look at the press.  Following a brief eruption of indignation against MMT in 1998, coverage largely evaporated.  If this is not an indication of a stake in the conspiracy, then perhaps it is merely a measure of a short attention span.

Automobile manufacturers are not part of the MMT conspiracy

With the oil companies, the government, and the press conspiring against them, the Canadian people wouldn't stand much of a chance, were it not for one thing which is that automobile manufacturers find themselves on the side of the people.  It is not just Honda that objects to MMT, it is car manufacturers generally, and they don't just object to MMT in Canadian gasoline, they object to Canadian gasoline being generally inferior.  Here, for example, is a General Motors Canada scathing indictment of Canadian gasoline:

As we move forward, there is a possibility automakers might have to detune U.S. emissions systems simply to permit satisfactory vehicle operation on inferior Canadian gasolines.  For example, additives such as MMT or higher sulphur Canadian gasoline could force the suppression of trigger points on second generation on board diagnostics (OBD-II) systems.  MMT has been shown to cause malfunction indicator lights to illuminate due to spark plug misfires and has been linked to premature oxygen sensor and catalyst failures.  Sulphur concentrations in Canadian "pump grade" gasolines could be high enough to suppress operation of the vehicle's catalytic converter, to the point that the tailpipe emissions would be high enough to otherwise trigger a dashboard warning light.
General Motors Canada: www.gmcanada.com/inm/gmcanada/english/about/Commitments/commitments_envi_reduce_fuels.html

Ethyl Corporation claims no harmful effect on engine componenets, and presents data to back its claim; however, the data having been collected by Ethyl Corp itself, and not by impartial and unaffiliated researchers, how can one forget that there are a thousand ways to cook data into supporting desired conclusions?  For example want to measure Manganese levels beside a congested six-lane road? Then measure on the downwind side if you're against Ethyl Corp, but measure on the upwind side if you're paid by Ethyl Corp.  The air upwind of the foulest exhaust can be as clean as that on a mountain meadow.  Thus, Ethyl Corp can only be accorded the degree of credance that it deserves after having introduced lead into gasoline in the first place, and then having fought to the bitter end for more than sixty years, despite accumulating evidence of destructive effect to keep lead in gasoline.  Despite the Ethyl-Corp-gathered data indicating no harmful effect of MMT on car engines, the automobile manufacturers over twenty of them, as a matter of fact beg to differ.  Thus, Senator Noel Kinsella, at the Canadian Standing Senate Committee hearing cited below, made the following statement with respect to On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) devices: "Yesterday, the president of Mercedes-Benz said, in reply to a question from me, that their engineers could not design an OBD device that would tolerate MMT."  Or, immediately below, some graphic evidence from Ford:

WEAR AND TEAR: The two spark plugs show coloration differences between spark plugs from one car using MMT-containing gasoline (left) in Canada and another car not using MMT-containing gasoline in the United States, according to the Ford Motor Co.

The Scientist: www.the-scientist.com/yr1998/nov/research_981123.html

A cui bono comparison, too, serves to point to the parties that are most, and least, likely to be telling the truth:

In such a clash of experts and studies, it is useful to ask which party stands to gain or lose in the dispute.  Obviously, the automobile manufacturers have no reason to be concerned about MMT unless it does, as they say, compromise the efficacy of the on-board diagnostic systems, including the pollution control devices.  On the other hand, Ethyl's interest in promoting contrary studies is obvious.
Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada, Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources: www.parl.gc.ca/english/senate/com-e/enrg-e/08ev-e.htm

As a further measure of the credibility of Ethyl Corp, one may note its self-serving misinterpretation of some Toronto data which it did not itself gather, but which it commissioned.  Even before contemplating the data itself, one must approach it with the suspicion requisite for any corporate-sponsored research, as those who conduct it work under a conflict of interest if their findings displease the funding corporation, they might get no further research contracts from that corporation, and have some chance of being black-listed among all corporations for having demonstrated that they cannot be depended upon to deliver expected conclusions.  In any case, one of the findings of this Ethyl-Corp-funded Toronto study is described by D. R. Lynam, Vice-President of Air Conservation for Ethyl Corp, in front of a Canadian Standing Senate Committee:

Analysis of the data showed that one of the strongest predictors of manganese exposures in Toronto is the amount of time spent travelling by subway.  The manganese levels in the subway were approximately 50 times higher than the levels found outdoors.  Manganese in subways results from the grinding of the steel rails and brakes.  Steel contains high manganese levels and the subway levels are not related to MMT.
Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources: www.parl.gc.ca/english/senate/com-e/enrg-e/08ev-e.htm

The point Ethyl Corp is making above is that MMT is not among the leading sources of airborne Manganese, and so that "the elimination of MMT from gasoline will have little, if any, effect on exposures to airborne manganese."  However, to this statement must be appended two qualifications:

  1. Lynam's "approximately 50 times higher" may be a bit of an exaggeration.  The Scientist (23-Nov-1998) cites figues from the same study of 13.1 and 150 ng per cubic meter of air, which would make "approximately 11 times higher" more accurate (a figure, one might add, still awaiting replication by impartial researchers).

  2. The attribution of subway Manganese to the grinding of steel rails and brakes is gratuitous.  No one knows the origin of this subway Manganese, and it may in fact be sucked into the subway from street-level automobile emissions, and may accumulate down in the subway, as indicated by Donna Mergler, professor of neurophysiology at the University of Quebec:
    While that suggests manganese in air at subway stations may pose a greater health threat than manganese in ambient outside air, Mergler says the finding raises questions.  "Where does the manganese come from?  We simply do not know," she says.  It could come from air intakes, making the subways a kind of manganese sink.
    The Scientist: www.the-scientist.com/yr1998/nov/research_981123.html

Demonstrating that the Ethyl Corp Senate testimony was not swallowed uncritically by all, and as well that not all Canadians are wimps, are some reflections volunteered by Senator Eugene Whelan:

In 1925, despite protests from the public health community, Ethyl began selling lead additives for gas, with devastating results for the nation's health.  Now, 70 years later, Ethyl is again disregarding health concerns and selling MMT without first obtaining adequate toxicity information.

I have not read all the evidence, but in 1925 you said the same thing, that lead was perfectly safe, and we know how bad it was.  It is still in our land and our communities.


I have strong reservations about this.  The biggest consumers in the world of your product are telling you that they want a different product.  Imagine a restaurateur, for instance, saying, "Yes, there is pepper in your soup.  Eat it."  That is what you are doing.  You are saying, "There is MMT in your gasoline.  You may not like it, but you must take it."  I cannot believe this is taking place in our society today.  I cannot believe that you cannot come up with something different.  It is incomprehensible to me that this is taking place and that this committee is even listening to this.
Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources: www.parl.gc.ca/english/senate/com-e/enrg-e/08ev-e.htm

What is the Root Cause?

When considering any social problem, it is invariably true that it will be found to occur for a multiplicity of reasons, so that to speak of its "root cause" is suggestive of naivety or oversimplification.  Nevertheless, it can sometimes happen that one cause stands out above all the others in importance, and for this reason may justifiably be considered a root cause.  This is particularly true if that cause is sufficient (that is, would produce the same social problem even without the help of other causes); and it is all the more true if that cause is necessary (that is, if it were absent, the social problem in question would vanish despite the continuing presence of other causes).

I do see such a root cause in the present instance, and that root cause is dysgenics.  That is, the Canadian intelligentsia has so thinned that it is no longer able to protect the nation against such attacks upon its welfare as the one mounted by Ethyl Corporation of Virginia.  This thinning of the intelligentsia has come about in two ways.  One is that Canada shares with other Western nations, like the United States, the practice of offering women inducements to avoid motherhood in proportion to their being gifted with valuable traits such as intelligence, talent, industry, beauty, and so on, tending to leave reproduction to women less generously gifted.  As all traits have some genetic component, the result is a progressive loss of valuable traits, and a progressive undermining of the society.  Collapse is avoided by valuable-trait plundering of the rest of the world, which leads us to the second mechanism responsible for the thinning of the Canadian intelligentsia which is that the United States is much better at plundering brains than is Canada, and Canada is in fact one of the leading victims of American brain plundering.

Intelligentsia thinning is sufficient to account for Canada's inability to protect itself from Ethyl Corp's MMT.  That is, once the average mental competence sinks below a certain level, then it will necessarily follow that a people will become burdened by every imaginable evil, and will be practiced upon by the unscrupulous in every imaginable scheme, including that of being sold dangerous products.  Benighted people cannot be stopped from accepting show trials, believing in fairy tales, paying hidden taxes, being persuaded to side with evil against good, and fiddling while Rome burns.  They cannot be stopped from happily swimming in a toxic soup without regard to whether it contains MMT or as we have noted above lead or sulphur or Thalidomide or Artecoll or MSO.

Intelligentsia thinning is necessary to account for Canada's inability to protect itself from Ethyl Corp's MMT.  With a high average mental competence, all problems become self-correcting.  No matter how many obstacles one places in the path of a people who enjoy a high level of average mental competence, they will always find the time, the energy, and the means to protect their children from being poisoned.  There is no explanation for Canada's being the world's leading, and perhaps only, consumer of MMT that does not require at the same time the acknowledgement that there must be something terribly wrong with Canadians.

What is too rare on the Canadian scene is the sort of statement issued by the US Physicians for Social Responsibility (awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985).  Canada is able to produce such statements, but the production is too infrequent to effect change.  Were the frequency of publication raised, MMT would be banned, but Canadians are not up to the task:

Resolution on MMT in the U.S. Gasoline Supply

Whereas methylcyclopentadienyl manganese carbonyl (MMT) is an organic manganese compound formulated for use as a gasoline octane enhancer by the Ethyl Corporation, and marketed as HiTec 3000; and

Whereas the widespread use of MMT in the U.S. gasoline supply might result in measurable increases in population exposure to manganese; and

Whereas manganese is recognized as a nervous system toxin at high levels of exposure, is also a pulmonary toxin, and may also be a reproductive and developmental toxin; and

Whereas no available health data indicate that the widespread use of MMT as proposed is safe; and

Whereas the widespread commercialization of MMT, without clear evidence of its safety, would represent a population-wide toxicologic experiment, performed without the informed consent of those who would be exposed, in violation of accepted norms of medical ethics; and

Whereas populations that may be at special risk of manganese toxicity from MMT use, and for which more data are especially necessary, include fetuses and children, the elderly, workers such as gasoline station attendants and mechanics with unusually high exposure, and persons with neurologic and respiratory disease; and

Whereas the United States Environmental Protection Agency was recently compelled by a Federal Appeals Court decision to permit the addition of MMT to the U.S. gasoline supply, despite its finding that available data preclude adequate assessment of MMT's risks;

Be it therefore resolved that Physicians for Social Responsibility deplores the use of MMT in the U.S. gasoline supply without clear evidence of safety; and

urges the U.S. Congress and applicable state agencies to ban the addition of MMT into gasoline until its safety is clearly documented;

urges all refiners and sellers of gasoline to refrain from adding MMT to their products until its safety is clearly documented;

urges all refiners and sellers of gasoline to announce publicly their policies regarding the use of MMT;

urges all refiners and sellers of gasoline to label their product, at the point of retail sale, with regard to MMT content, so consumers will know whether they are purchasing gasoline with MMT added;

urges applicable government authorities to take steps to monitor the use of MMT by gasoline refiners and sellers in their jurisdictions, and to make this information available to the public;

urges further research into the health effects of manganese exposure, emphasizing the effects on vulnerable populations, with financial support from Ethyl Corporation but carried out completely independently of that corporation;

urges that health care providers and members of the public be fully informed about the potential health effects of MMT use.

Why is this sort of statement typical of the United States, but atypical of Canada?  Writing it does not require laborious research.  It does not require rare scientific expertise.  It does not require an exceptional mastery of English.  It does not require unusual courage.  It is, rather, no more than a simple statement, easily written, of what obviously needs to be done to protect the public interest, or to put it in more dramatic American terms, to safeguard national security but when a nation has had its intelligentsia depleted by dysgenic reproductive practices together with a brain drain, the number of people available to write simple statements of what needs to be done to safeguard national security becomes inadequate, and when the average mental competence of the population has dropped enough, then the number of people available to read such statements becomes insufficient to catalyze action.

The United States suffers from dysgenic reproductive practices as does Canada, but partly compensates for this by brain theft, and so is better able to write such statements, and read them, and thus to protect itself.  Canada suffers from both dysgenic reproductive practices and a brain drain, and so is increasingly unable to write such statements, or to read them, or to protect itself.

Dysgenics is the root cause of Canada's MMT predicament, as it is the root cause of every injustice and crime complained of on the pages of the Ukrainian Archive.

Whence Salvation?

If any pressure is to be applied, perhaps it will have greatest effect if applied to the very top to Prime Minister Jean Chretien in Ottawa, to Bruce and Teddy Gottwald of Ethyl Corporation in Virginia, and to the heads of oil companies.  Appeals to reason, to justice, to children's welfare, to national security will be of no avail if made privately, and in fact any private correspondence addressed to these individuals can be expected to be efficiently filed away, unread, in their wastepaper baskets.  They are, however, capable of being affected by public disclosure of their wrongdoings.

What will hurt them most is discredit combined with monetary loss, which will appear on the scene when parents of learning-disabled children with high hair Manganese begin to picket Jean Chretien's office (carrying placards which quote his own words), and begin to sue Ethyl Corp for manufacturing MMT, and to sue the oil companies for selling it.  Thus, the use of Canadians as guinea pigs in this American experiment might be terminated only as a result of litigation and so, God bless the personal injuries lawyers!


One striking conclusion that arises from reading the announced below is that the Canadian public remained largely unaware of the introduction of a neurotoxin into their environment, unaware of its remaining there for many years, and remains largely unaware of what appears to be its gradual withdrawal.  Canadians, apparently, have more important things to think about than whether or not they saturate their air, and blanket their land, with a neurotoxin, such that their mass media find it unecessary to inform them of it and their governments find it unecessary to do anything about it.

Sierra Club of Canada News Release

Thursday, December 16, 2004

MMT On Its Way Out in Canada

(Ottawa)  The controversial fuel additive, MMT, may finally be disappearing from Canadian gas.  A recent survey by Sierra Club of Canada revealed that virtually every major refiner of gasoline in Canada has started phasing out MMT, a manganese based replacement for lead. Like lead, manganese is neuro-toxic.  MMT is also a threat to air quality due to its propensity to gum up catalytic converters in automobiles.  MMT results in more air pollution.  Its health and environmental threats led the Government to ban it in the late 1990s.  However, various trade challenges, including Chapter 11 of NAFTA, resulted in the repeal of the legislation.  Nevertheless, pressure from the car makers, environmentalists and health protection groups has not disappeared.

According to the Sierra Club of Canada, so far Shell Canada, Irving, Imperial, PetroCanada, Suncor, and Ultramar have stopped using MMT.  Only Co-Op and Husky are still adding the controversial neuro-toxic anti-knock agent to gas.

"We congratulate the major refineries of Canada for taking action in the public interest by voluntarily ending the use of this neuro-toxic additive," said Elizabeth May, Executive Director of SCC, "And we call on Husky and Co-op to stop buying and using this dangerous substance."

One of the world's leading experts on the neurological effects of manganese, Dr. Donna Mergler of UQAM commented, "A voluntary phase-out of MMT in Canada is very good news.  As a consequence, we should see reductions in environmental exposure to manganese.  Although manganese is an essential element that we get through food, in higher quantities, it can be toxic.  When it is inhaled, it is taken up quickly into the blood and the brain.  Our studies have shown that higher blood manganese can lead to slowing of motor functions, particularly among the elderly.  In our aging society, this can have important consequences for care and autonomy.  I hope that we will continue monitoring for manganese in our environment and carry out studies that will inform us about its effects, particularly in susceptible populations, such as children and the elderly.  In this way, we will be able to act preventively if the issue arises again."

The situation in the US mirrors that now unfolding in Canada.  Although MMT was forced to be registered by court action taken by the manufacturer, Ethyl Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, no refinery in the US will use it due to consumer and environmental group rejection of the additive.

Elizabeth May, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada, 613-241-4611
Dr. Donna Mergler, University of Québec at Montreal

Sierra Club of Canada  www.sierraclub.ca/national/media/item.shtml?x=774