Fire Retardant Chemicals Are Contaminating Drinking Water Across the US

By Dr. Mercola

Flame retardant chemicals have been identified as one of 17 high priority chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce breast cancer.1,2 In the environment, these chemicals are also poisoning pets and wildlife. Yet despite their significant health risks, they continue being used — ostensibly because they save lives in case of fire.

However, researchers and firefighters alike say flame retardant chemicals actually cause more harm than good, as the fire suppression they provide is minuscule at best,3 while releasing toxic fumes when they burn — toxins that may be more far more likely to kill you than the fire itself.

In addition to that, the chemicals do not remain inertly bonded within the foam or upholstery until or unless a fire actually occurs. They escape in the form of dust, making their way into everything from babies’ mouths to breast milk and water supplies.

9 in 10 Americans Have Flame Retardant Chemicals in Their System

Research4 published in 2015 found Tris phosphate and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) in every single dust sample collected from American homes; 91 percent of urine samples from the residents contained metabolites of Tris phosphate, and 83 percent of residents had metabolites of TPHP.

Other tests have shown 90 percent of Americans have flame retardant chemicals in their bodies, and many have six or more types in their system.5 Eighty percent of children’s products tested6 have also been found to contain flame retardant chemicals, including nursing pillows, baby carriers and sleeping wedges, which can have significant health ramifications.

As noted by Linda S. Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,7 these chemicals can alter a child’s developing reproductive system and nervous system, and have been shown to reduce IQ.8,9 For example, children born of women exposed to high levels of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) during pregnancy have an average of 4.5 points lower IQ.10,11 Such children are also more prone to hyperactivity disorders.

Firefighters Are at High Risk

About half of U.S. firefighters believe cancer is the greatest occupational health risk they face.12 Indeed, California female firefighters aged 40 to 50 are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than the national average. A major reason for this is because of the high levels of dioxins and furans firefighters are exposed to when flame-retardant chemicals burn.

What many fail to realize is that an object treated with flame retardant chemicals can indeed still catch fire — it’s merely retarded by seconds — and when it does go up in flames it will emit much higher levels of toxic carbon monoxide, soot and smoke than an untreated object. Ironically, these three things are more likely to kill you than a burn might, which means flame-retardant chemicals may actually make fires deadlier when you’re caught in them.

According to the chemical industry, fire-retardant furniture provide a fifteenfold increase in escape time in the case of a fire. This claim came from a study using powerful, NASA-style flame retardants, which provided an extra 15 seconds of escape time. But this is not the same type of chemical used in most furniture. Tests have shown that the most widely used flame-retardant chemicals actually provide no meaningful benefit in case of a fire, while increasingthe amounts of toxic chemicals in the smoke.

The Role of Big Tobacco and Chemical Industry Front Groups

In 2013, I wrote about the deceptive campaigns13 that led to the proliferation of fire retardant chemicals. Big Tobacco played a key role in this development. Flame retardant chemicals were developed in the 1970s, a time when 40 percent of Americans smoked and cigarettes were a major cause of house fires. The tobacco industry, under increasing pressure to make fire-safe cigarettes, resisted the push for self-extinguishing cigarettes and instead created an industry front group called the National Association of State Fire Marshals.

The group pushed for federal standards for fire retardant furniture and, in 1975, California became the first state to enact such fire standards (Technical Bulletin 117).

Another front group called Citizens for Fire Safety — which is actually a front group trade association for manufacturers of flame retardant chemicals, not a coalition of concerned citizens — has fought to protect the chemical industry from legislation that might cut into business, and has helped expand the commercial use of flame retardant chemicals into an ever-greater number of products besides furniture.

What’s worse, while the original fire standard specified that any chemical used had to be proven safe for human health, politicians removed this requirement, and the law went into effect without this requirement. The end result is now becoming increasingly obvious, as fire retardant chemicals are becoming an environmental pollutant of tremendous concern.

Firefighting Foam Is Contaminating Drinking Water

Sharon Lerner, a reporting fellow at The Investigative Fund and an investigative journalist for The Intercept and other major media outlets, has written extensively about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS14 (two of the most well-known ones of which are PFOA and PFOS) and the industry’s attempts to cover up the damage. At the time of this writing, The Intercept has published 16 parts of Lerner’s ongoing series,15 which began in 2015. 

Part 1516 addresses the U.S. military’s affinity for toxic flame retardants, despite the fact that billions of dollars are now being spent trying to clean up drinking water contaminated by firefighting foam used on military installations. Setting the scene, Lerner writes, in part:

“About an hour north of Seattle at the northern edge of Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is quiet, forested, and, in Bob Farnsworth’s neighborhood, idyllic. In the 22 years he’s lived on Whidbey, where he served as a command master chief at the Naval Air Base, Farnsworth, 61, has regularly crabbed and fished for salmon and enjoyed fruit from his own trees …  

But last February, he discovered a toxic side to the Navy’s presence in his life: His well, which he had used to water his fruit trees, cook, and fill his children’s and grandchildren’s glasses over the years, tested positive for three chemicals that had apparently seeped in from foam used for firefighting on the base.

One chemical, PFOS, was present at 3,800 parts per trillion, more than 54 times a safety standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 … The realization that he and his wife had been exposed to the chemicals, which have been linked to prostate cancer and thyroid diseases, cast the struggles they have had over the past years with these very diseases in a new light. ‘I don’t know what was related,’ he said.”

Known Toxins Replaced With Lesser-Known Ones

A similar situation is playing out near hundreds of military bases around the U.S., where PFAS chemicals have leached through the ground, contaminating surrounding groundwater. In addition to prostate cancer and thyroid problems, these chemicals have been linked to other types of cancer as well, including kidney, testicular and bladder cancer, as well as immune dysfunction, reproductive problems and hormone disruption.

Considering the public health threat posed by PFAS contamination, courtesy of firefighting foam, you’d think the U.S. government would take proactive measures to eliminate the use of these toxic chemicals. After all, other countries are using PFAS-free firefighting foam, and it works just as well. Alas, this is not happening. Lerner explains:17

“[E]ven as the Army, Navy, and Air Force have begun the slow process of addressing the contamination, which is expected to cost upwards of $2 billion, the Department of Defense isn’t abandoning this line of chemicals. While some of the precise formulations that caused the contamination are off the table, the U.S. military is in the midst of an expensive effort to replace older foam with a newer formulation that contains only slightly tweaked versions of the same problematic compounds …

Some of the studies showing the dangers of these persistent chemicals came from the manufacturers themselves … The new foam contains no PFOS and ‘little or no PFOA,’ according to an Air Force press release.18 Instead, it uses the closely related molecules that pose many of the same dangers …”

Military Specifications Require Inclusion of Fluorinated Chemicals

As it turns out, the reason why one dangerous type of firefighting chemicals is simply replaced by another, very similar one, is because military specifications require the inclusion of fluorinated surfactants, which make the foam easier to spread. As explained by Lerner, the foam “creates a thin layer over the surface of the fuel that smothers the flames and prevents the release of vapor that could otherwise reignite.”

When, in the early 2000s, the EPA started urging the military to replace PFAS-containing firefighting foam due to health and environmental concerns, the foam and surfactant manufacturers created the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition — an organization aimed at defending the use of PFAS. DuPont and Dynax were among the founding members of this organization, which presented its case not only before military branches but also the EPA.

“Their messages were reassuring: The chemicals used to replace PFOS were safe for human health and the environment, and AFFF [aqueous film forming foam] was the only way to safely protect military personnel from fires,” Lerner writes. Meanwhile, evidence19 suggests fluorinated surfactants, such as those used in AFFF, are “among the most environmentally persistent substances ever.”

In the end, the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition was successful in its attempts to get AFFF excluded from the EPA’s regulatory process, and the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force were free to continue using AFFF. Even when evidence emerged showing other PFAS were just as harmful as PFOA, the EPA never reassessed the military’s use of AFFF.

Are You Drinking PFAS-Contaminated Water?

As noted by Lerner, incomplete data makes it very difficult to ascertain how widespread the PFAS-contamination might be, but drinking water near at least 46 military installations in the U.S. have been found to contain PFOA and/or PFOS at levels exceeding 70 parts per trillion (ppt), which is the EPA’s health advisory level for drinking water.20 According to Lerner:

“Many more people are exposed to the chemicals at levels below that 70 ppt threshold. And, judging from the health-based levels that states have set since the EPA set its level last year, even these lower levels may pose health threats.

New Jersey is moving forward with setting 14 ppt as its drinking water standard for PFOA, just one-fifth of the EPA’s number, and recommended 13 ppt for PFOS. Vermont and Minnesota have either set or proposed safety levels for both chemicals that are lower than the EPA’s.

And in December, a Michigan state legislator proposed the lowest standard yet for PFAS molecules: 5 ppt. Historically, chemical safety thresholds tend to drop over time as research mounts.”

Health concerns are not limited to PFOA and PFOS though. Many other PFAS chemicals21 — such as PFHxS, PFHpA, PFBA and PFBS — have been detected both in drinking water and people’s blood, yet the military is only attempting to clean up PFOA and PFOS contamination. (In all, studies have found as many as 700 different PFAS compounds at sites where firefighting foam is used.)

The military also is not providing clean drinking water to residents in affected areas unless their water contains more than 70 ppt of PFOA and/or PFOS specifically. For example, Neal Sims, another resident of Whidbey Island, does not receive bottled water, even though the four PFAS found in his tap water total more than 80 ppt. The reason for this is because his combined PFOA/PFOS level is “only” 30 ppt.

Meanwhile, European regulators took action against PFHxS last year,22 and some U.S. states have already set levels for PFBA and PFBS in drinking water.23 Making matters worse, some of these shorter-chained replacement PFAS chemicals such as PFHxS are more difficult to filter out24 than PFOA and PFOS, requiring more frequent filter replacement to ensure they’re being removed.

According to the Fire Fighting Foam Coalition, PFAS-free foam has not been adopted by the defense industry for the fact that it doesn’t work as well as AFFF. However, the difference in performance is very small and, with practice, firefighters would likely be able to apply the material quicker to meet fire suppression specs.

Without EPA pressure to replace PFAS in firefighting foam, there’s also no sense of urgency to provide additional funding to find less toxic alternatives. Lobbying to keep the chemicals in play also slows down the process. And then there’s the fact that fluorine-free foams “cannot meet specifications” for the simple fact that the standard still requires the inclusion of fluorinated surfactants.  

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Flame Retardants

While the Department of Defense needs to address its role in contaminating drinking water with toxic firefighting chemicals, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and your family. Most homes have many items that contain these hazardous class of chemicals, so water contamination is not your only potential threat. Among the basics: As you replace items around your home, select items that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool and cotton.

Also look for organic and “green” building materials, carpeting, baby items and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure. This is by far the easiest route, as manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with fire safety regulations.

Your mattress, for example, may be soaked in toxic flame retardants, but you will not find the chemicals listed on the label. That said, below are some additional guidelines to consider that can help reduce your exposure to flame retardants:

If you live anywhere near a military installation or fire department fire-training area, consider getting your tap water tested for PFAS and other toxic contaminants. Water testing is a prudent step no matter where you live these days, as is filtering your water, as there are literally hundreds of potential water contaminants that can harm your health.

Polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, are likely to contain PBDEs, another common class of fire retardant chemicals, so inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down.

Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure. If in doubt, you can have a sample of your polyurethane foam cushions tested for free by scientists at Duke University’s Superfund Research Center. This is particularly useful for items you already have around your home, as it will help you determine which harmful products need replacing.

Older carpet padding is another major source of flame-retardant PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) guide25 to PBDEs contains even more details about products in which these toxic chemicals might be lurking.

Your mattress may be of greatest concern since you spend a large amount of your life sleeping on it. Besides PBDEs, other flame-retardant chemicals currently approved for use in mattresses include boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant used to kill roaches; antimony, a metal that may be more toxic than mercury; and formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend looking for a mattress made of either 100 percent organic wool, cotton or flannel (all of which tend to be naturally flame-resistant) or Kevlar fibers, the material they make bullet-proof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards.

There are a number of good options on the market. I’ve also put together an assortment of wool and silk bedding, including organic cotton and wool mattresses you can choose from when it comes time to replace your mattress, pillows and comforters with chemical-free versions.

You probably also have older sources of the PBDEs known as Deca in your home, and these are so toxic they are banned in several states. Deca PBDEs can be found in electronics like TVs, cellphones, kitchen appliances, fans, toner cartridges and more. It’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling such items, especially before eating, and at the very least be sure you don’t let infants mouth any of these items.

PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.

From Toilet to Tap

By Dr. Mercola

Many drink water straight from their tap, assuming governmental oversight and the Safe Drinking Water Act ensure city tap water is safe. Unfortunately, while the water may be clear and taste normal, it does not mean the water is pure and free of environmental toxins.

U.S. water supplies were first regulated in the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and amended in 1977 and 1987.1 The federal law regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s surface waters, commonly used in acquiring drinking water. In 1974, the U.S. government passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in an attempt to protect the public drinking water supply and set standards for quality.2

The regulation sets limits on 90 contaminants, including seven microorganisms.3 However, not one chemical has been added to the list since 1996.4 In other words, the list has not kept up with the types of chemicals being used in the U.S. or across the world. Legally safe only means the water meets standards established in 1996 and does not mean the water supply meets standards for optimal health.

Now, drought-stricken areas across the world are using recycled water to ensure citizens have enough drinking water available. Using 1996 standards, researchers declared recycled water to be safe for consumption, but were curious about the taste of recycled water and how it might impact consumer complaints.5

The Process of Recycling Water

In most cases, wastewater is first treated before being released into the environment or for reuse. The type of treatment depends upon the country of origin. The quality of water released into the environment is also affected by accidents, such as the problem with sewage plant effluent and flooding in Oregon or by political inertia, as demonstrated by lead poisoning of the citizens of Flint, Michigan.6

To understand how water is recycled, it’s important to understand how it is first treated. Wastewater travels through the sewer system from residences and businesses, and ends up at a plant regulated by state laws and municipality treatment plans.7

In New York City,8 runoff from rain, street and sidewalk washing and melting snow flows into catch basins, where it’s carried through storm sewers to the city’s treatment plants. This is known as a combined sewer system, which can sometimes result in things like wood and dead animals entering the treatment plant.

In New York City, the incoming wastewater, called influent, passes through screens and large bars trapping larger pieces of trash. The garbage is transported to landfills, while sewage pumps lift the wastewater out of the screening chamber to the surface level of the plant. The wastewater then enters a primary settling tank where it sets for one to two hours, allowing heavy solids to settle to the bottom and lighter material to float to the top.9

After two hours, floatable trash is skimmed and the settled solids are removed. In the secondary treatment, air is pumped into large aeration tanks to mix with wastewater and stimulate the growth of oxygen using bacteria naturally present in the sewage. These organisms are expected to consume most of the remaining organic material and produce heavier particles, settling to the bottom. The water remains in these bubbling tanks for three to six hours and then flows into a final settling tank.

After primary and secondary treatment are completed, the water spends 15 to 20 minutes in chlorine contact tanks mixing with sodium hypochlorite, the chemical found in common household bleach. The resulting treated wastewater, or effluent, then moves to the next step in the process. Under normal circumstances, the water is released into the environment. This process has not deviated too much from the process published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998.10

To obtain recycled water, the effluent is either moved directly to a water treatment plant to become drinking water, called the direct potable reuse (DPR) method, or it is blended with an environmental buffer, such as a reservoir, and then pumped back into a potable water supply, called an indirect potable reuse (IDR) method.11

How Does Your Water Taste?

The study was published in Appetite, an12 “international research journal specializing in cultural, social, psychological, sensory and physiological influences on the selection and intake of foods and drinks.” The objective was to determine if taste was a factor in drinking recycled water. The researchers choose to use recycled water obtained from the IDR method.

Researchers from the University of California-Riverside did not focus on the safety of water from treatment plants, “which has long been established,”13 but instead on the taste. Years of drought conditions in California have driven the momentum to supplement groundwater with recycled water. Some have now branded the technology “toilet to tap.” Six California water agencies already employ IDR, including Orange County, Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles.14

For the study, researchers asked 143 participants to rate bottled water, conventional ground water tap water, and recycled waste water from the tap.15 The participants were categorized as either being open to experience or exhibiting characteristics of neuroticism.

They defined neuroticism as being more nervous and anxious about the experience. Those who were more open to experience rated the water from all three sources nearly identically,16 while those who were more nervous preferred the IDR and bottled water over the mineral-rich groundwater tap water.

The researchers believe this highlights a similarity in taste between IDR water and bottled water, hoping it17 “may make consumers more amenable to drinking recycled wastewater.” A surprise finding were women were twice as likely to prefer bottled water as men.

The researchers guessed a woman’s higher “disgust reaction” may mean their reaction to tastes they dislike is more extreme. The researchers concluded the favorable comparisons between recycled water and bottled water, both treated with reverse osmosis, may make consumers happier about drinking recycled wastewater.

‘Virtually’ All Contaminants Removed From Drinking Water

The press release from the University of California-Riverside states, “studies have found IDR removes virtually all contaminants.”18 Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary19 defines the word “virtually” to mean “almost entirely.” Unfortunately, virtually all contaminants are not removed from common tap water.

Although Flint, Michigan, was a wake-up call, it’s not the only place tap water problems have happened. As noted by Eric Olson, director of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) health program,20 “Thousands of other cities and small towns across the country are serving water with lead or other contamination problems to millions of people.”

An investigation by Orb Media21 found 83 percent of tap water samples from a dozen nations were contaminated with plastic fibers. The U.S. had the highest rate of contamination, at 94 percent. The organization found fibers in tap water, including samples from Congressional buildings, the U.S. EPA’s headquarters and Trump Tower in New York. Microplastics contain and absorb toxic chemicals known to be released in the body. German studies have even found fragments in 24 beer brands, in honey and in sugar.22

In a study led by Harvard University,23 researchers found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exceeding federally recommended safety levels in public drinking water supplying 6 million people across America.

The researchers believe the actual number exposed maybe even higher as government data for levels of these compounds is lacking for almost one-third of the U.S. population, or approximately 100 million people. These chemicals have been linked with cancer, high cholesterol, obesity and hormone disruption.24

Another study from Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group (EWG)25 demonstrated toxic chemical pollution in tap water systems across 27 states serving 15 million Americans. Phil Brown, Ph.D., Northeastern University, believes the research26 “reveals the inadequacy of U.S. chemical regulation and highlights the need for health protective, precautionary chemical policy.”

Although the vast majority of America’s drinking water supply receives a passing grade from federal and state regulatory agencies, as many as 250 contaminants are detected through water sampling and testing at levels legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but well above levels scientific studies have found to pose health risks.27 You can search the EWG Tap Water Database, using your ZIP code, to see the contaminants found in your water supply, at what levels and what these could mean for your health.28

The Flint, Michigan, debacle was only discovered after one mother contacted the EPA when her children got sick.29 Months later it set off a national alarm revealing lead contamination within the community and schools. The EWG Tap Water Database shows nationwide detection of lead levels within legal limits, but at which scientists and other experts believe will not fully protect public health. Other contaminants detected include:30

  • 93 linked to an increased risk for cancer
  • 78 associated with nervous system damage
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children and unborn babies
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems
  • 45 linked to hormonal disruption

Hidden Dangers Found in Recycled Biodegradable Toilet Paper

While you may have been choosing recycled toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue for environmental reasons, these often have a higher content of bisphenol-a (BPA).31 Detectable levels of BPA have been found in 93 percent of urine samples taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from people 6 years of age and older.32

While recycled toilet paper contains high amounts of BPA eventually making its way into the sewer systems, wildlife and then drinking water supply, purchasing traditional paper also contributes to pollution.33 If you’re worried about adding your own chemicals to the sewer system, it may be time to think seriously about installing a bidet at home.

Many products can be retrofitted to your existing toilet and will go a long way toward keeping you clean and reducing environmental pollution. While it has yet to catch on in the U.S., many other developed countries use a bidet in place of toilet paper. You can also have this cleaning device plumbed into your hot water supply, making the experience more pleasant than the cold water type.

A second option is purchase toilet paper, paper towels and napkins made from bagasse, a byproduct from the making of sugar, which is otherwise disposed. Sugar cane is the most readily available biodegradable non-tree fiber readily available for use and an environmentally safer alternative to traditionally manufactured or recycled toilet tissue and paper towel.

Water Filtration Necessary for Optimal Health

It becomes more apparent with each passing study that properly filtering your household water is more of a necessity than a luxury option. With each passing year, drinking water is becoming increasingly toxic and water treatment plants are not able to filter all of the chemicals and toxins now produced and making their way into the water supply.

As the studies have demonstrated, it doesn’t really matter where you live; your water supply likely contains a number of toxins dangerous to your health. The take-home message is a whole house filtration system, in addition to filtering your water supply at the point of use, is necessary if you want pure water and optimal health.

Also consider filtering the water in your shower and bath, as chemicals are absorbed through your skin and will go directly into your bloodstream, bypassing your natural digestive and internal filtration systems.

Unfiltered water from your shower may also expose you to chlorine vapors and chloroform gas. Chlorine can vaporize from your toilet bowl, washing machine and dishwasher, so if you are unable to use a whole house filter, open your windows on opposing sides for cross-ventilation at least 10 minutes every day no matter the weather in order to remove these gases.

One of the most pernicious toxins is purposely added to the water supply, namely fluoride. Even at low doses it may alter thyroid function, affect childhood brain development and lower IQ in exposed children. Fluoride is a mitochondrial poison and is difficult to filter. A whole-house carbon filtration system may help reduce the amount of fluoride but will likely not eliminate it. Among the more effective filtering systems for fluoride removal are:

Reverse osmosis (RO) — In addition to removing chlorine, inorganic and organic contaminants in your water, RO will also remove about 80 percent of fluoride and most detergent byproducts. Drawbacks include the need for frequent cleaning to avoid bacterial growth.

Your best alternative is to use a tankless RO system with a compressor. The expense is another factor, as you may need the assistance of a plumber to get the system up and running. RO will also remove many valuable minerals and trace elements along with harmful contaminants.

Water distillation — This system, like RO, also removes beneficial minerals. You then would need to restructure the water through chilling and/or vortexing. I do not recommend using distilled water on a regular basis, however, as it may cause mineral deficiencies.

Carbon, bone char and biochar filters — Carbon filters are the most common type used, often on countertops or under-counter filters. The EPA recognizes granular activated carbon as the best available technology for removing organic chemicals, including herbicides, pesticides and industrial chemicals.

The downside is the loose material in the filter may create a pathway through the carbon so water escapes filtering. Carbon block filters are compressed carbon in solid form, eliminating any channeling. By combining media in the block, it offers the ability to selectively remove a wide range of contaminants.

Bone char filters may be used as replacement filters, having the ability to also filter fluoride, chlorine, some heavy metals and other contaminants.34 These filters are created by using cleaned and aged animal bone, which is then heated to over 1,200 F to form charcoal.35 Calcite and activated carbon are sometimes added to expand the ability of the filter to remove chemicals from water.

Biochar filters are created by heating organic matter to high temperatures under low oxygen conditions.36 The resulting filters have an excellent capacity to remove water contaminants, including pathogens37 and pesticides.38

Good News and Bad News When You Quit Smoking

By Dr. Mercola

Nearly 40 million American adults smoke cigarettes.1 It is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., accounting for 1 out of every 5 deaths each year. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 130,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year are attributed to smoking.2

About 50 years ago, nearly 42 percent of the population smoked cigarettes,3 but between 2005 and 2014 those numbers dropped to nearly 17 percent and then to 15 percent by 2015.4 Public health officials hope this number continues to drop each year.

If you smoke, quitting is an essential strategy to returning to good health, as smoking is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, smoking affects nearly every organ in your body, and so your bones, brain, teeth, eyes and even fertility may all be damaged. Your body does have an amazing ability to heal, though.

Once you stop smoking you’ll experience beneficial changes in the following days, weeks and years, as your body clears out the damage done by nicotine and the hundreds of other chemicals found in cigarettes. That’s the good news. The bad news is you may never be able to completely outrun the damage incurred from smoking in your lifetime.5

Quarter Century Later, Risk of Lung Cancer Still Elevated

Your lung cancer risk drops substantially within the first five years you quit smoking. However, the team from Vanderbilt University also discovered the risk of lung cancer compared to current smokers was still three times higher than those who had never smoked, 25 years after quitting. Senior research author Dr. Matthew Freiberg says:6

“While the importance of smoking cessation cannot be overstated, former heavy smokers need to realize that the risk of lung cancer remains elevated for decades after they smoke their last cigarette, underscoring the importance of lung cancer screening.”

These are the main findings from a new analysis of the Framingham Heart Study. Researchers evaluated 907 health records of residents from Framingham, Massachusetts, who were followed between 25 and 34 years.7 During this time, 284 individuals were diagnosed with lung cancer, nearly 93 percent of which occurred in those who were identified as heavy smokers before they quit. Heavy smokers were defined as those who smoked at least a pack of cigarettes of day for 21 years or more.

The researchers discovered five years after quitting, the risk of developing lung cancer dropped by 39 percent compared to current smokers, and continued to fall as time went on.8 However, the risk remained over threefold higher at the 25-year mark, compared to people who had never smoked. These results are not unexpected as every cigarette damages DNA in the body, not only the lining of the lungs but in other cells, leading to the association of smoking with 16 different types of cancer.

Researchers have identified changes in your DNA, called methylation, affecting how the genes are expressed or modified to affect your health.9 In some cases methylation tells the genes to turn “off,” effectively changing how your body responds to its environment. This is a signaling tool for gene expression vital to a number of cell processes controlling human disease.

Researchers have been able to demonstrate the alterations to DNA methylation caused by smoking may last up to 30 years. The amount of damage and the consequences are the planned focus of further study.10 While much of the DNA reverts to the original state after a smoker quits, some remains changed decades later and may be associated with the development of chronic disease and the development of cardiovascular disease,11 obesity and diabetes in adulthood.

Smoking Increases Potential Risk of Death and Disease

Worldwide, tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable death, causing nearly 6 million deaths each year.12 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current trends show tobacco will cause more than 8 million deaths by 2030.13 In 2016, 15 percent of all adults smoked combustible cigarettes and each day more than 3,200 people younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette.

In the United States, smoking causes more deaths every year than a combination of HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents and firearm-related incidents.14 Estimates show15 smoking increases the risk for coronary heart disease up to four times, the risk of stroke up to four times and the risk of lung cancer up to 25 times, compared to those who have never smoked.

Smoking also makes it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant and affects her baby’s health before and after birth and, for everyone, increases risk of tooth loss, cataracts and Type 2 diabetes.16 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while many people are aware of the link between smoking, cancer and respiratory conditions, many are unaware of its links to heart attacks and strokes. According to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:17

“Most people know that using tobacco causes cancer and lung disease, but many people aren’t aware that tobacco also causes heart disease and stroke — the world’s leading killers. Tobacco doesn’t just cause cancer. It quite literally breaks hearts.”

Although fewer people are smoking worldwide, WHO believes only one country in eight is on track to meet a target of reducing tobacco use significantly by 2025.18 They sealed a landmark treaty in 2005, ratified by 180 countries, calling for a ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and taxes to discourage use. While WHO recognizes there has been progress, Douglas Bettcher, director of WHO’s prevention of noncommunicable diseases, said:19

“One of the major factors impeding low- and middle-income countries certainly is countries face resistance by a tobacco industry who wish to replace clients who died by freely marketing their products and keeping prices affordable for young people.”

He recognizes industrialized countries are making faster progress than developing countries and kicking the habit is a challenge. At this time, America is the only region set to meet a target of 30 percent reduction in tobacco use by 2025 compared to use in 2010. WHO has said use in the Middle East is actually increasing while parts of Western Europe have reached a standstill.20

WHO Concerned Not All Aware of Heart Risk Associated With Smoking

As concerning to the organization as reducing numbers of individuals who smoke, are the number of people in China and India who are unaware of the fact that smoking increases their risk of heart disease and stroke.21 To date, China and India have the highest number of smokers worldwide, followed by Indonesia. Bettcher commented:22

“The percentage of adults who do not believe smoking causes stroke are for example in China as high as 73 percent, for heart attacks 61 percent of adults in China are not aware that smoking increases the risk. We aim to close this gap.”

A survey done by WHO showed more than half of adults in India and Indonesia are unaware smoking can cause a stroke.23 According to their report on trends and prevalence, the percentage of those who smoke worldwide has dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2016. However, due to population growth, the actual numbers who smoke have remained relatively stable.

E-Cigarette Use on the Rise

As tobacco companies began losing clients with the push to quit smoking, the modern e-cigarette was modified and marketed. First sold in 2007 in the United States, their global use has risen exponentially.24 The popularity is likely associated with the difference between traditional combustible cigarettes emitting an offensive odor while electronic cigarettes are relatively odorless and therefore generally misperceived as safe and harmless.

However, with mounting evidence of health risks and the highly addictive nature of nicotine, a coalition of respiratory physicians and scientists from six continents is calling for an immediate ban on flavorings and of marketing e-cigarettes to adolescents and children.25 The Forum of International Respiratory Societies is a collaboration of organizations across North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

The coalition seeks to bring together a range of research highlighting the susceptibility of children and adolescents to nicotine addiction and recommends how to protect youth from its harmful effects. The authors cite evidence e-cigarettes are a bridge to traditional combustible cigarette smoking and adolescents. Dr. Thomas Ferkol, professor of pediatrics and cell biology at Washington University, commented:26

“Until recently, the risks of e-cigarettes and the rising popularity with children and adolescents were under recognized or ignored. We wrote this statement to address growing public health concerns over e-cigarette use among the youth. Product design, flavors, marketing and perception of safety and acceptability have increased the appeal of e-cigarettes to young people.

These products are normalizing smoking and leading to new generations addicted to nicotine. Some people truly believe these cigarettes could be used as a smoking cessation technique, but these products also are an entry to nicotine addiction and tobacco use in young people.”

According to statistics from WHO,27 there’s been a rapid increase in the number of individuals vaping between 2011 and 2016, rising from 7 million to 35 million in five years. The global product market is estimated to be worth $22.6 billion, up from $4.2 billion just five years ago. In a report published by Ernst & Young,28 the number of e-cigarette users in seven countries surveyed grew 86 percent between 2013 and 2015, with the total highest usage in Great Britain and France.

In 2015, 37 percent of e-cigarette users identified themselves as ex-smokers, an increase from 31 percent from 2013. The growth in flavors and nicotine strength is in response to evolving consumer preferences, and the majority of devices and liquid are purchased at specialty stores. Interestingly, the report also found countries with higher cigarette prices tend to have a higher penetration of e-cigarette use in the population.29

Vaping Is Not an Alternative

Whether used by children or adults, vaping is only a short-term alternative to smoking combustible cigarettes if you’re trying to quit, since the product carries significant health risks. Smokeless e-cigarettes are the most popular nicotine-based product used by high school and middle school students. The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report30 showed a 900 percent increase in use of this product between 2011 and 2015.

Several studies have supported the belief e-cigarettes are a gateway habit, leading teens from vaping to smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, hookah and cigars.31,32,33 In other studies using animal models,34 researchers have discovered rats exposed to nicotine during adolescence grew into adulthood with a greater potential to exhibit addictive behavior.

The researchers found exposure to nicotine at a young age changes the neurological circuitry in the brain within the reward center. Long-term changes in the midbrain reward center may also be a gateway to other addictive drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and morphine.35

In an examination of e-cigarette devices, researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health36 found a significant number generated unsafe levels of lead, nickel, chromium and magnesium, consistent with previous studies. Nearly 50 percent of the vapor samples to which bystanders are exposed had lead concentrations higher than limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.37

Despite lower levels of nicotine pollution from e-cigarettes, researchers have found bystanders have similar levels of cotinine, a measure of the amount of nicotine taken into the body, as those who are exposed to traditional combustible secondhand cigarette smoke.38 Vapor also contains acetaldehyde and formaldehyde39 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has detected antifreeze chemicals in e-cigarettes, which are linked to cancer.40

I believe the secret to quitting smoking is to first get healthy, making quitting mentally and physically easier. Exercise, eating right and getting plenty of sleep are important parts of this plan. You can read more in my previous article, “The Vaping Epidemic Is Getting Out of Hand.”

Whidbey Island WA. USAF Missile Launch

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Mystery object spotted over Washington state island, military denies missile launch
Fox News

A mysterious object was seen off the coast of a Washington state island last weekend. The military denies it was a missile launch. (Skunk Bay Weather )

A weather camera on an island in Washington state on Sunday captured a mystery object that appears to some to be a missile in ascent, Q13Fox.com reported.

The object was spotted at 3:56 a.m. over Whidbey Island, where there is a naval air station. But a spokesman from NAS Whidbey Island said there are no missile capabilities at the base.

“There’s a lot of speculation around here,” Tom Mills, the spokesman, said. “But it’s definitely not a missile launch.”

A professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington speculated that the object looks like a missile.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Cliff Mass, the professor, said. “But nothing like this.”

There was reportedly an air ambulance helicopter in the vicinity of the northern Kitsap Peninsula that was flying at the same time the shot was taken.

Stan X, there was an apparent missile launch at/near Whidbey Island WA Sunday morning. Whidbey Island is just north of Seattle.

1.Who launched it?

2. Where was it headed?

3. What became of it?

DEAR ONE/TERRAN. LAUNCH BY U.S.A.F. TARGET. UNKNOWN. COMPLETE DATA IS NOW. DATA COLLECTORS. STAN.X. END.

What became of the missile? Plasma encapsulated?

DEAR ONE/TERRAN. “HIGHEST PROBABILITY LOST” DATA COLLECTORS. STAN. X. END

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