Very positive vibes… will keep my ‘Force Fingers’ crossed for ya on the job front!
A friend of yours has discovered that his firm is adding nitrites and nitrates to bacon to help preserve it. He also has read that these compounds are precursors to cancer forming chemicals that are produced in the body. On the other hand, he realizes that certain disease organisms such as those that manufacture botulism toxin have been known to grow in bacon that had not been treated. He asks you whether he should (a) protest to his superiors knowing he might get fired; (b) leak the news to the press; (c) remain silent because the risk of dying from cancer is less than the absolute certainty of dying from botulism.
Note: The addition of nitrite to bacon is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Last first — it is amazing how the FDA has decided what is ‘worth’ exposing people to and what is ‘not worth the problem’… to include how much ‘bug parts’ can be allowed in certain foods, which toxic chemicals are ‘okay’ to ingest even though they are toxic, etc. I have to give them a nod — the U.S. does have the ‘safest and most consistant’ food supply compared to others…. still, I wish most of their ‘approvals’ were based on independent anaylsis instead of what the manufacturer who is trying to ‘get approved’ has given to the agency as ‘truth’. (Latest example — the diabetes medicine which makes the drug company about 3 billion in profits each year… but also raises the risk of heart attacks/strokes by more than 40%. Profits now for early deaths later? )
A slippery slope in all facets of ‘life’. Strict ethics, situational ethics… any stance can be ‘justified’ with the right argument — “best for the company” (more profits, fewer lawsuits ) “good for the environment” (makes us look good -vs- really caring about the environment), etc. The motivation for the ethics ‘stance’ is sometimes as important to examine as the ‘ethic’ itself.
As for example one — it is more than a coin toss… for one must look at the person involved. Is he a low paid employee who has a wife, kids, house mortgage, etc… who must know that he stands a good chance of being fired / black listed if he is seen as a ‘whistle blower’… should he put his family ‘on the street’ to rock the boat? Or a young pup who says ‘damn it all, it’s the right thing to ‘do’ and goes full steam into exposing a long used practice… who has little to lose since he can ‘make’ a career out of being an advocate against nitrates/nitrides. Or… there are so many ‘examples’, one can go nutz considering all possibilities!
(a) protest to his superiors knowing he might get fired;
Well… this can be done. He can be told ‘it is the long standing procedure used AND approved by the FDA’ — so shut up and get back to work. Now, he must consider if he stops ‘making waves’ or if he must take it outside the company. (while never letting his family EVER eat bacon again!)
(b) leak the news to the press;
He can leak it to the press or whatever community which is sympathetic to his point of view. He stands a good chance of losing his job and … the procedures/methods will grind on as it has. In some cases, he becomes an advocate ‘against’ the nitrate/nitrides use and uses the community to argue his point and hope enough agree to steamroll the issue ‘up the government’ ladder so someone of ‘real power’ looks at the issue. It may or may not have an alternate solution. It may or may not ever change the situation.
(c) remain silent because the risk of dying from cancer is less than the absolute certainty of dying from botulism.
Sometimes there *is* no other avenue. One takes the lesser of the evils — no botulism versus percentage chance of cancer ‘in the future’. (( reminds me of the lab work done in the late 70’s / early 80’s that showed that pretty damn much everything we ate or drank was cancer causing — in rats. ((usually when given in doses that equalled eating / drinking pounds of the substance every day. ))
I posit a (d)
He approached his bosses; they tell him — if you can find some better way (and approved by the FDA) and doesn’t cost us a fortune to impliment, we’ll consider it.
He spends time looking into ‘how it is done and why’ — and then looks at what alternative methods are available. (like irradiation)
He looks at what might replace the established process with an eye toward eliminating botulism and eliminating the cancer chances — AND — totally re-working the manufacturing process (which costs money) ……
…. and then convince the company that the change is ‘best’ — for the people who eat bacon, the company (fewer chances of botulism/no law suits regarding cancer issue — over the cost of changing processing and letting the public ‘know’ how great the company is for doing it this way, etc.)
If it raised the cost of processing by a dollar — is it ‘worth’ doing if the company already has a sizable bank roll to combat any lawsuits they are pretty certain can be won (or at least dragged out for years until most can’t afford to wait for an outcome…)
LOTS of things to consider. It’s never ‘this or that’ when it comes to looking at the entire issue. And can end up opening a gigantic bucket of ethical worms!
As the only engineer in the shop who has had any training in noise pollution, you have been asked, on your third day on the job, to review a manufacturer’s bid for noise control devices on aeration blowers for a wastewater treatment plant. After reading the bid proposal and making a few calculations, you conclude that the noise silencers will protect the workers. However, your reading of Introduction to Environmental Engineering leads you to surmise that the noise level for nearby neighbors will be excessive at night. (The city has no noise ordinance.) You know that if you ask to go back out on bid for better noise control equipment, construction of the plant will be delayed 90 days. During these 90 days untreated sewage will enter the river. What do you recommend to your new boss?
Things to consider…
If they impliment the changes now, chances are the city WILL be enacting a noise ordinance in the near future… so what will it cost to add the prevention ‘up front’?
What is the added cost now to avoid cost later? (possible civil suits against the treatment plant, etc.)
Will NOT getting the aerators now avoid the pollution in the river? What must be done to stop/avoid/hold the untreated sewage until the new equipment can be installed? Can it be done in ‘increments’??? — so the aerators are online immediately BUT, changes to further reduce the noise can be installed later?
I worked for a city organization ‘once upon a time’. The unfortunate truth is… city governments always go for ‘low bid’ (even when the cost of ‘fixing’ the crappy, low bid results will cost the city MORE than if they paid for a better bid/results up front!) Most cities are run by a board/city council which is a bunch of businessmen who do not spend any time at all ‘looking at’ city issues except for the three – four hours when they meet and give summary judgments on ‘what is accepted or rejected’ ((after only having 30 minutes before the meeting starts to glance over the agenda for the night)). It is why, if it is something of note or ‘worth considering’ — they push it to the next meeting… and stuff slowly rolls on until the next meeting…. like a bad debate team contest.
Ya, ethics is a can of worms… and why it is now ‘studied’.
There are plenty of bad… and some good examples of what can be accomplished when considering ‘ethical stances’.