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Denmark: Tax on DHMO to Be Proposed

(Apr. 4, 2012) Denmark's Environment Ministry is planning to propose a tax on the chemical dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) as a method to discourage its use. DHMO is odorless but potentially lethal. High levels of the substance were found in the food supply in Denmark, according to a report by that country's environmental agency. Ida Auken, the Environment Minister, says that DHMO “kills thousands every year,” adding that “[a]s little as a few centiliters can kill if inhaled, and some of our municipalities are literally swimming in this stuff.” (Ray Weaver, Ministry Proposes Tax to Stop Spread of Widespread Chemical, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Apr.1, 2012).)

DHMO is used as a performance enhancer by athletes and is considered safe if used properly (not inhaled). It can cause health problems if consumed in large amounts. The proposal to impose a tax will be issued once the recent report is fully evaluated. Anders Andersen, who led the study, argued, however, that a tax will not be sufficient to remedy the current situation, as DHMO is already widely spread in the environment. He said, “[w]e are way beyond the tipping point,” and added that the chemical has been “found in every stream, lake and fjord” that was studied. He further suggested that the EU look into the matter, as it seemed to him likely that the same situation would be found elsewhere in Europe. (Id.)

In response to the criticism, Auken acknowledged that a tax would be a “stopgap,” and added”[u]ntil 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.” (Id.)

Commenting on the problem, Enhedslisten, a left-wing political party also called the Red-Green Alliance, stated, “[i]t 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.” (Id.; The Danish Red-Green Alliance, Enhedsliten website (Jan. 2006).)