Ministry proposes tax to stop spread of widespread chemical

Government says voluntary reduction measures are not working and calls for levy on “dangerous” substance

The Environment Ministry is calling for a tax on Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO), an odourless and potentially lethal chemical, as a way to curtail its use after a new report from the national environmental agency Miljøstyrelsen revealed high levels of the chemical in the nation’s food supply.

“This substance kills thousands every year,” said the environment minister, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti). “As little as a few centilitres can kill if inhaled, and some of our municipalities are literally swimming in this stuff.”

In a controlled environment DHMO is safe, and it is considered a possible performance enhancing substance for athletes. But when consumed it can cause tissue damage, excessive sweating and in extreme cases an uncontrollable urge to urinate.

DHMO is also considered to be a vessel substance, which can aid the spread of other toxins.

Auken said she would present her proposal for the tax once ministry officials had been able to study the report.

However, the team behind the report measuring the amount of DHMO currently in the environment expressed concern that the chemical was too widespread for a tax to have any effect.

“We are way beyond the tipping point,” study leader Anders Andersen wrote.

Speaking with Jyllands-Posten newspaper, Andersen, an expert on faux chemicals with the Technical University of Denmark, said: “Traces of DHMO, known also as hydroxyl acid, have been found in every stream, lake and fjord we studied.”

In the report, Andersen called on politicians to take up the issue with the EU during Denmark’s presidency.

“If it’s this widespread in Denmark, we could fear that the situation would be the same elsewhere in Europe, and possibly worldwide. Hydroxyl acid has even been detected in the Arctic icepack, and we fear that this may be a sign it’s affected by climate change.”

The left-wing Enhedslisten said in a statement that the party was convinced that a total ban was the only answer to solving the problem of DHMO overuse in Denmark.

“It is hard to believe that in 2012 it remains perfectly legal for irresponsible companies to dump DHMO into Denmark’s rivers, pump it underground and even store dangerous quantities of it in unsecured tanks that are a prime target for terrorists.”

Auken recognised that DHMO was widespread, but said she saw a tax as a stopgap measure.

“Until science can give us a safer alternative, the best we can do is regulate the use of this chemical. Voluntary agreements have not worked, so now we must get tougher.”

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