(Natural News) There’s really no good reason why Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg aren’t in prison, let alone why Facebook still even exists. Nevertheless, they’re all still roaming free, and the platform still operates, with Facebook’s day-to-day functionality apparently now including a collection of audio recordings taken from users without their knowledge or consent. That’s…
The renowned biologist, writer and ecologist Rachel Carson called for humanity’s responsible action as stewards of the earth, warning that the federal government was part of a problem that may lead to environmental failure. Her book, “Silent Spring,” became a best seller in 1962 and inspired a grassroots movement to protect the environment.1
Carson warned of the deadly impact that a certain insecticide, DDT, would have on insects and wildlife. She contended that its use may result in the death of a vast number of birds and wildlife and ultimately lead to a silent spring devoid of the typical calls of nature. Today, neonicotinoids have become the second silent spring.
Neonicotinoids are a relatively new type of insecticide. Unlike contact pesticides, these chemicals are systemic and water soluble.2 Plants absorb the pesticide into the foliage, flower and sap.3 Commonly called neonics, the toxin works on the central nervous system of the insect,4 causing death and impairing the ability to forage in pollinators.5
Sublethal exposure negatively affects the reproductive capacity of the male insect and may be a possible explanation for the failing honey bee population.6 In addition, only 5% of the active ingredient is absorbed by the plant.7
The remainder of the toxin is dispersed into the environment. Further research8 found this exposure in white-tailed deer resulted in an increased death rate in fawns and a lower reproductive capacity in females.
Neonics responsible for majority of toxicity load
A recent study9 demonstrated America’s agricultural lands are now 48 times more toxic than they were a quarter-century ago. In an assessment of the toxicity load, comparing 1992 through 2014, the researchers found that synthetic insecticide use has shifted from mostly organophosphorus pesticides to a mix of neonicotinoids and pyrethroids.
The rise in toxicity of the agricultural lands was attributed primarily to neonics, representing up to 99% of the total load in 2014.10 While the plants only absorb 5% of the toxin,11 researchers found oral exposure of concern since the toxicity level is relatively high.12
Exposure may occur from the pollen, nectar and guttation water secreted by the plant. Not all the drops of water found on the leaves of plants in the morning is dew. Dew is the formation of droplets of water when cold air meets the warmer plant.
Guttation is the result of physics as the plant moves nutrients and moisture throughout the system. Since the leaves of a plant absorb only a specific amount of water, the extra water evaporates during the daytime. At night, pressure in the root cells forces the excess water out of the leaves.13
One study author points out this rise in environmental toxins matches the decline in pollinator populations, such as bees and butterflies.14 For years scientists have been warning of the dangers of these pesticides; this new study provides a more complete picture of the threat to insect life and wildlife as a whole.
Compounding toxic burden is persistent
The same writer warns neonics stay in the environment for up to 1,000 days,15 which is significantly different than other pesticides that dissipate more quickly.16 National Geographic reports that neonics are used in more than 140 crops in more than 120 countries.17
The combination of widespread use and slow breakdown of neonics contributes to the compounding toxic burden experienced by multiple levels of the environment. As the number of insects have declined, so have the number of birds relying on the insect population for food.
But, as the American Bird Conservancy reports, exposure to contaminated insects is not the only factor reducing the bird population. The organization commissioned a report to review 200 studies on neonics in the industry, evaluating the risk to birds and aquatic systems. Cynthia Palmer, ABC Pesticides program manager, said the results were frightening:18
“A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid can kill a songbird. Even a tiny grain of wheat or canola treated with the oldest neonicotinoid — called imidacloprid — can fatally poison a bird. And as little as 1/10th of a neonicotinoid-coated corn seed per day during egg-laying season is all that is needed to affect reproduction.”
High risk, but little reward
Despite years of documenting the effects on the environment and the long-term effects this will have on humanity, the use of damaging insecticides has continued. Not only that, farmers are not experiencing great benefits from the practice. Researchers who conducted a study published in 201819 compared the results of those using traditional regenerative farming to those of current monoculture practices.
They reviewed pest management, soil conservation and farmer profitability and found that pests were 10 times more abundant in corn fields treated with insecticides than on regenerative farms that did not use insecticides or pesticides. Although regenerative fields had 29% lower production, they yielded 78% higher profits, which appeared to be correlated with organic matter in the soil.
A 2016 review of seed coating by the Center for Food Safety explains that20 “coating crop seeds with these insecticides does not provide economic benefits to the farmers in many crop planting contexts.” When the European Union prohibited use of the insecticides in 2013, there was no production decline. In 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found:21
“The Biological and Economic Analysis Division (BEAD) analyzed the use of the nitroguanidine neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in United States soybean production. Imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin are applied to seeds at mostly downstream seed treating facilities prior to distribution to growers prior to planting.
BEAD concludes that these seed treatments provide negligible overall benefits to soybean production in most situations. Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.”
The U.S. government has failed to take action against the use of these toxins and has stalled a review of neonics. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed a ban placed on the use of neonics in wildlife refuges that was enacted during Obama’s presidency.22
The Guardian reports that although there is some support in Congress for change, one of the top contributors to the chairman of the House agriculture committee is Bayer, maker of one of the most popular neonics.23
As the insects go, so goes humanity
One recent study reported that more than 40% of all insect species are threatened with extinction within the next few decades.24 Another reports25 that 322 species of vertebrates have become extinct since 1500, and 67% of invertebrates show a 45% decline in population.
The loss of insect populations comes at a high cost. While the loss of mosquitoes and fleas may not bother many people, it’s important to remember that 80% of plant life requires the physical transfer of pollen in order to reproduce.26 Without insects, most plants on the planet would die off, directly affecting your diet and nutrition.
This has a domino effect since many mammals and birds also require plant pollination for food, or for the insects to be available for food. Insects also are part of the decomposition of organic material, which means that without insects the world would slowly fill up with dead plants and animals.
Two entomologists from Cornell University tallied how much insects mean to the U.S. economy, and found that insects help deliver $57 billion a year. Native insects are food for wildlife, supporting a $50 billion recreational industry, in addition to crop pollination and saving ranchers $380 million a year. They believe these are extremely conservative estimates and comment:27
“A lot of value is added to the economy by insects, but most people just don’t realize it. When considering the allocation of conservation resources or the management of natural habitat, we must think about this value to make sure that insects can continue to do their beneficial work.
We know how to repair roads and other components of our physical infrastructure, but our biological infrastructure is vulnerable to degradation, too. If we do not take care of it, it will break down and could seriously impact the economy. In fact, in many places — crop pollination, for example — the cracks in the infrastructure are already showing.”
In one study28 researchers report their belief that the reason monocultures attract a higher number of insect pests is because plant diversity naturally provides sustainable pest control. When an insect has a large food supply from which to draw in one place, it doesn’t leave. Monoculture crops are like a buffet, whereas plant diversity does not offer a large amount of food in one place for one type of insect.
Treated seeds increase insecticides and boost business
Despite mounting data over the past decade that agricultural practices are decimating the insect population and neonics are not beneficial to farmers, many of the soybean, corn, canola and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are pre-coated with neonics.29
Laboratory analysis has found neonics in 91% of foods tested, with the highest residues on cherry tomatoes, yellow squash and honeydew melons.30 Since the insecticide is water soluble, it’s not surprising researchers31 have found neonics are affecting the insect population not only in agriculture but also in the wildflowers growing on the margin of agricultural fields.
The original argument for genetically-engineered, insect-resistant crops was to dramatically reduce the use of insecticides. However, the use of insecticides has in fact risen since the introduction of GE crops. Concentrations of the insecticide in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers are sometimes higher than those found in the crops.32
In a study published in 2012,33 researchers found the use of GE crops increased the overall use of pesticides by 404 million pounds since the first GE corn seed was introduced in 1996.
The report produced by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., then a research professor at Washington State University, showed insecticide use dropped 28% in the initial years but once again is on the rise. Benbrook said in an interview:34
“Things are getting worse, fast. In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides. To stop corn and cotton insects from developing resistance to Bt, farmers planting Bt crops are being asked to spray the insecticides that Bt corn and cotton were designed to displace.”
In spite of continued evidence that pesticides and insecticides are harming human health and the environment, large agribusinesses continue to profit from the sale of toxic chemicals and toxic coated seeds.
Regenerative farmers profit the land and their pocketbooks
As research has demonstrated, regenerative farming improves biodiversity of the soil, does not harm the environment and increases farmers’ net profits. Farmers who use regenerative practices are rebuilding the topsoil, protecting water sources and offering you optimal nutrition.
Food produced and raised on regenerative farms minimizes your risk of foodborne illnesses and helps restore local ecology. Consider converting part of your yard into an edible landscape using organic and regenerative methods.
If you’re not into growing your own food, choose fresh organic produce from local growers and seek out farmers who can provide organic, grass fed beef, poultry and dairy products.
Certifications to look for that indicate you’re purchasing the highest quality foods grown according to regenerative principles include Demeter (biodynamic certification) and the American Grassfed Association (AGA) certification.
The exposure of medical fraud is not new. In the past, drugs have been brought to market before clinical trials revealed a deadly list of side effects, including heart attacks and deaths, as in the case of Vioxx.1 ProCon.org published a list in 2014 of 35 drugs pulled from the market after research revealed they caused more damage than benefit to users.2
You need only take a cursory glance at the epidemic that opioid manufacturers have caused in their search for profit, sometimes boasting they could become an “end-to-end” provider by supplying both the addictive drug and the cure for the addiction.3
In 2015 Dr. Anil Potti from Duke University was found guilty of research misconduct,4 and Duke faced lawsuits filed by patients in his clinical trials.5 Potti’s research was first heralded as a groundbreaking game changer, but is now an example of how fraud can occur anywhere.
Had Duke University paid attention to reports from a medical student in 2008, they could have avoided the ensuing public and political challenges. Instead, Potti’s protectors pressured the student to be silent, in a move to protect their own interests.6
Recently, it was revealed that scientists at Novartis hid manipulated data from animal studies while seeking approval from the FDA for a gene therapy drug meant to treat babies with an inherited disease, spinal muscular atrophy.7
Big Pharma corrupts data but keeps profits
AveXis, a subsidiary of Novartis, is aimed at developing and commercializing gene therapy.8 May 24, 2019, the company received approval to release Zolgensma, which was considered a major milestone. However, it is also the most expensive treatment ever offered on the market, at a whopping price of $2.1 million for a single dose.9,10
AveXis knew of the data manipulation in March,11 a full two months before the drug was officially approved by the FDA. Dr. Wilson Bryon, director of the FDA division reviewing the drug, commented to STAT12 that had the agency been told of the data manipulation, approval of the drug would have been delayed.
In what appears to be an opposing statement, Dr. Peters Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research,13 was quoted in a press release saying,14 “The FDA is carefully assessing this situation and remains confident that Zolgensma should remain on the market.” In the same statement Marks also said,15 “The agency will use its full authorities to take action, if appropriate, which may include civil or criminal penalties.”
In a letter to Ned Sharpless, acting head of the FDA, five senators wrote,16 “This scandal smacks of the pharmaceutical industry’s privilege and greed, and Americans are sick of it.” The senators urged the FDA to take action:17
” … to use your full authorities to hold AveXis accountable for its malfeasance. Anything short of a forceful response would signal a green light to future pharmaceutical misbehavior.”
Business Insider18 reports Novartis declined to comment on the content of the letter from the senators. In a Twitter conversation19 between Dr. Peter Bach20 of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and past FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb,21,22 the problem was clearly acknowledged:
Bach: “I don’t know the rules in detail, but presumably Nvs could have told the FDA to pause its review to ensure the approval was not based on data suspected to be (or known to be) fabricated. This whole thing has the ‘wrongs were committed but there were no wrongdoers’ feel.”
Gottlieb: “Based on the tone and substance of the FDA statement today, Peter, I suspect there will be wrongdoers here. And consequences.”
Drugmakers not required to report suspected data corruption
In their letter to Sharpless, the five senators described how taxpayers had funded benefits to Novartis in order to speed the regulatory and approval processes for their new drug. They wrote:23
“What makes this unscrupulous action even more appalling is the fact that AveXis was the beneficiary of numerous federal taxpayer-funded benefits and incentives, including obtaining Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, and Priority Review designations — ensuring that Zolgensma would be sped through the regulatory approval process. All the while, AveXis breaks records, and budgets, with its staggering $2.1 million price.”
In the same letter, the senators requested that the FDA answer questions about how it plans to deal with cases of data manipulation from drug companies. Additionally, they wanted an explanation about why the FDA had decided to drop a regulation requiring pharmaceutical companies to report any suspected data manipulation.24
Dr. Vasant Narasimhan became the chief executive officer of Novartis on February 1, 2018.25 Narasimhan defended the company’s decision to delay release of the information about manipulated data and said the company “thoroughly, aggressively”26 investigated the issue.
The New York Times27 reports that when Narasimhan assumed this role, his mission was to restore the reputation of Novartis following several allegations of price-fixing, past data manipulation and the decision to hire Michael Cohen, President Trump’s ex-lawyer who pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress.28
Narasimhan said they waited before releasing information about data manipulation in order to perform their own internal investigation and not in an effort to hasten the approval process.29 Novartis continues to assert the falsified data were limited to the early phases of research involving animals; this was discontinued in the summer of 2018.
Insurance companies picking up $2.1 million bill
While Zolgensma is the second gene therapy drug to be approved by the FDA, the government agency expects to be approving between 10 and 20 cell and gene therapy products each year by 2025.30 Zolgensma is a $2.1 million one-time drug for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy in children under 2.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a muscle wasting disease, affecting about 400 children each year. In the most severe form, children die before age 2. At one point, UnitedHealthcare refused payment for several cases. Later, they reversed their decision after pressure from families and intense media coverage.31
The FDA released an inspection report from the mice used in the early phases of the research and found how long the mice lived was different from the actual value in some cases. While the FDA reported the data were manipulated, they would not say if they believed the information was deliberately falsified.32
Novartis concerned regulations may impact business
The high cost of prescriptions has become a political issue, with most calling for change. Bausch Health, possibly best known for their eye care products, is led by CEO Joseph Papa. In an interview with CNBC, Papa said pharmaceuticals are the most cost-effective way to treat and improve health care.33
Also under the Bausch Health umbrella is a dermatology business, Ortho Dermatologics, which received approval in early 2019 for a lotion to treat psoriasis. In two clinical trials, the drugmaker posted a success rate of 36% in the first study and 45% in the second.
Despite pledges from Congress to help regulate prescription prices, Papa remains unconcerned.34 However, Novartis is not quite as unruffled by movements in Congress toward greater regulation.
The company is standing behind their newest gene therapy drug, and defends the massive price tag that nearly all families would find impossible to pay without full coverage insurance. At the same time, Novartis’ annual report cites concern for transparency in the way their company may be forced to do business:35
“For example, we are faced with increasing pressures, including new laws and regulations from around the world, to be more transparent with respect to how we do business, including with respect to our interactions with healthcare professionals and organizations.
These laws and regulations include requirements that we disclose payments or other transfers of value made to healthcare professionals and organizations, as well as information relating to the prices for our products. Such measures, including any additional such measures that may be put in place, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.”
Novartis dumped vaccine program and more
Novartis’s headquarters are in Switzerland and the company has offices in multiple countries.36 If their name sounds familiar it might be from years of manufacturing and supplying vaccines, including flu vaccines and those for meningitis B. Their vaccine division was formed in 2006 but began posting losses in 2013.37
In 2015, Novartis sold the flu vaccine business for $275 million to Australia’s CSL. This placed CSL as the world’s second largest flu vaccine supplier.38 The acquisition also included the cell-based manufacturing facility in North Carolina.
This was a win for CSL as it was the first of its kind in the U.S. The cost of $487 million was in part paid by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This was a part of the organization’s pandemic preparedness efforts.39 In other words, U.S. taxpayers funded the facility, which was later sold to Australia.
GlaxoSmithKline acquired the remaining vaccine business from Novartis in 2015 for $7.1 billion, which included nearly 20 vaccines the company had in development.40 In addition, GSK divested its oncology portfolio to Novartis for cash consideration of $16 billion.41
Novartis began their companywide restructure with the divestment of their vaccine portfolio, over-the-counter drugs and animal health sections.42 In another deal closed December 2015, Novartis sold Kayersberg Pharmaceuticals from their Alcon unit in a bid to improve financial margins and focus their attention in a different direction.43
By June 2018, Novartis had announced the sale of the entire Alcon eye-care unit44 as Narasimhan continued to focus the attention of the company on prescription drugs. In 2018, Novartis bought AveXis for $8.7 billion to acquire the then experimental Zolgensma.45
As the pharmaceutical industry jockeys for position in an ever-changing political environment, it is the consumer who ultimately loses the battle. Although Papa believes pharmaceutical treatments are the answer to health and wellness, it has been my assertion for decades your life choices have a significant effect on your health, including nutrition, sleep, hydration and exercise.
Per- and polyfluoroalykyl substances1,2 (PFAS) are widely used chemicals that make products water-, oil-, grease- and stain-resistant. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are associated with a wide array of health problems — even at very low exposure levels — including:
Low birth weight4
In May 2015, 200 scientists from 38 countries signed the so-called Madrid Statement on PFASs,11,12 which warns about the harms of all PFAS chemicals, both old and new. According to the Madrid Statement, health effects associated with the older, long-chain PFAS’s such as PFOA, include:13
Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune- and endocrine systems
PFAS chemicals take thousands of years to degrade, which is why many refer to them as “forever chemicals.” Disturbingly, these toxic chemicals have become ubiquitous in our environment, including groundwater.14,15
PFAS are also found in the U.S. food supply — and at levels far exceeding the advisory limit for PFOA and PFAS in drinking water (there’s currently no limits in food).
Of the 91 foods tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017 as part of its Total Diet Study16 (presented17 at the 2019 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), 10 were found to contain PFAS.18,19,20,21 How do they get there?
Food wrappers — A significant source of PFAS
Industrial production is just one route by which PFAS enter our environment and food supply. Another is through everyday waste, such as fast food wrappers and containers that end up in landfills, from where they continue to contaminate soil and water.
Disturbingly, recent findings reveal that even so-called “biodegradable” food containers contain these “forever chemicals,” which may create an even greater problem.
Thinking the containers are biodegradable and safe, people will place them in their compost, creating a vicious circle where the chemicals contaminate and ruin the compost, which is then mixed into the soil, where they contaminate the food grown in it. Ultimately, the chemicals end up on your plate again, now inside the food.
Research22 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in 2007 found PFAS chemicals in the blood of more than 98% of Americans tested. Considering their current prevalence in our food supply, it seems reasonable to assume everyone is exposed to some degree, and that blood levels have likely increased in the years since the CDC’s testing.
Biodegradable bowls contain PFAS
Concerns over mounting plastic waste pushed fast food companies to invest in safer wrappers and containers, but recent findings reveal a truly remarkable lack of understanding on behalf of some manufacturers. Writing for New Food Economy, Joe Fassler reports the disappointing news:23
“The biggest culinary star of the past five years isn’t a chef, or a restaurant group, or the author of a cookbook. It’s a bowl, a humble piece of take-out packaging that’s taken the world of commercial foodservice by storm, rising so quickly that few have noted its troubling secret …
If molded fiber bowls have become a kind of status symbol in the restaurant world … it’s probably because they’ve been positioned as an antidote to the industry’s alarming take-out waste problem.
Many varieties are explicitly pitched to food-service buyers as compostable, certified by third-party assessors like the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). Unlike styrofoam clamshells or wax-lined soup cups, fiber products feel like they’d turn into mush on a leaf pile …
But these products … are instead contributing to a growing environmental crisis. According to experts consulted for this story, all molded fiber bowls contain PFAS …
This means that the bowls used at restaurants like Chipotle and Sweetgreen aren’t truly compostable, as has been claimed. Instead, they are likely making compost more toxic, adding to the chemical load of the very soil and water they were supposed to help improve.”
All compostable bowls found to contain PFAS
For its report, New Food Economy tested 18 biodegradable fiber bowls from eight restaurants at 14 locations in New York City, including Chipotle, Sweetgreen and Dig — three restaurants that claim to compost its waste.
All were found to contain high levels of fluorine,24 which is indicative of PFAS being used. The inside (food contact side) of the bowls averaged 1,599 parts per million (ppm) of fluorine, a level far higher than what you’d find in an accidentally contaminated sample.
Now, the test used only measures total fluorine, not individual PFAS chemicals, and the total level of any given PFAS is likely to be higher than the total fluorine level. Fassler explains:25
“… [A] bowl containing 1,670 ppm fluorine will contain more total PFAS, since every molecule of the chemical compound contains multiple atoms — not just of fluorine, but of carbon, and other elements.
Though it’s impossible to say for sure due to the wide variety of PFAS chemicals … according to a rough calculation, a bowl with 1,670 ppm fluorine would likely contain about 2,000 ppm total PFAS.
Put another way: A bowl with 2,000 ppm total PFAS might be mostly made from sugarcane fiber, but 0.2 percent of its total material would be made from fluorinated chemicals …
That might not sound like very much. But due to the unique properties of fluorinated chemicals, it turns out to be a significant number, and an alarming one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that drinking water can only contain infinitesimal amounts of fluorinated chemicals before health concerns arise.”
Do not compost ‘biodegradable’ bowls
Research26,27 published in 2017 found fluorine in 46% of the fast food wrappers and takeout containers tested, and studies28,29,30 have confirmed fluorinated chemicals can migrate from the packaging into the food.
If it’s true that 100% of so-called “biodegradable” fiber bowls contain PFAS, then they would actually be a far more hazardous choice than other “standard” wrappers and containers — at least as far as PFAS exposure is concerned. As noted by Fassler, it is the surface treatment with PFAS that prevents the fiber bowls from falling apart when filled with hot, wet or greasy food.
Using toxic nondegradable chemicals in a biodegradable product is a tremendous oversight. Clearly, restaurants should not advertise these containers as compostable, yet many do just that. It’s not surprising then that the revelation has become a PR nightmare. As noted by Fassler:31
“… [A]ny product that contains PFAS can’t really be compostable, let alone biodegradable, despite restaurants’ claims to the contrary. Though fiber products have benefits from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint, the bowls we tested are likely making soil and water quality worse.”
Indeed, recent research confirms this warning. Tipped off about the presence of PFAS in compostable containers, the authors of a 2019 paper32,33 decided to assess the presence of these chemicals in municipal compost. In all, samples from nine commercial compost stations and one backyard compost pile were tested for 17 different PFAS.
Confirming suspicions, compost in which food packaging was included had a toxic load ranging from 28.7 micrograms per kilo to 75.9 mcg/kg. Compost samples that did not include food packaging, on the other hand, had a contamination level ranging between just 2.38 and 7.6 mcg/kg.
While it’s disturbing that all compost samples contained PFOA and PFOS — the older, long-chained PFAS that are no longer in use — compost with food packaging was clearly more heavily contaminated with a variety of PFAS. If there’s any good news here, it’s that some states are starting to take action against PFAS.
As noted by Fassler,34 San Francisco is banning bowls manufactured with PFAS as of January 1, 2020, and Washington’s Healthy Food Packaging Act35 — enacted in 2018 — bans all PFAS in paper food packaging, effective 2022.36 A drawback of the Act is that the ban will not take effect until or unless a safer alternative is commercially available.
Sewage sludge — A major source of PFAS on farms
As reported by The Intercept37 in June 2019, sewage sludge appears to be a major source of PFAS. Documents38 obtained by The Intercept reveal 44 samples of sewage sludge tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection all contained at least one PFAS chemical, and “In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.”
Maine’s tolerance levels for PFAS are set at 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) for PFOA, 5.2 ppb for PFOS, and 1,900 ppb for PFBS. Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland, told The Intercept these levels are “probably about 10 times weaker than they should be,” adding that “Even low parts-per-billion levels of PFAS in sludge can threaten the health of the food supply.”
You can learn more about the hazards of sewage sludge in the featured documentary, “Biosludged,”39 and the scientific fraud perpetrated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that legalizes the pollution of agricultural soils through the usage of contaminated industrial and human waste as fertilizer.
DuPont shirks cleanup duty
In related news, DuPont, a longtime maker of PFAS chemicals stands accused of creating a fraudulent spinoff, Chemours, in an effort to shirk environmental liabilities caused by its chemical manufacturing. (Chemours is the name of the spinoff company created through DuPont’s merger with Dow Chemical Inc. in 2015.40) Chemours lawyers told Bloomberg:41
“The separation agreement was the product of a one-sided process that lacked any of the hallmarks of arm’s-length bargaining. DuPont unilaterally dictated the terms of the separation agreement and imposed them on Chemours.”
One of DuPont’s environmental liabilities is the cleanup of Pompton Lakes in New Jersey. As reported by NorthJersey.com July 15, 2019:42
“The new claims by the state attorney general’s office were quietly added as amendments to a lawsuitfiled against DuPont and Chemours seeking financial damages for widespread pollution in Pompton Lakes.
This includes a neighborhood where residents have had to endure cancer-causing solvents that migrated for decadesbeneath their homes from a now-shuttered DuPont explosives factory.
Like dozens of sites across the U.S., the cleanup in Pompton Lakes had long been DuPont’s responsibility. That changed in July 2015, when DuPont created Chemours as a spinoff company that took over the bulk of the DuPont’s environmental liabilities.
But two separate lawsuits against DuPont — one by New Jersey officials and another by Chemours itself — allege what many in Pompton Lakes feared at the time of the spinoff:
DuPont created Chemours to insulate itself from future cleanup and natural resource damage claims, and left Chemours vulnerable to financial problems that could put cleanup efforts at risk in New Jersey and across the country.”
Indeed, Chemours’ lawsuit against DuPont claims DuPont set up the company to fail from the start, allowing DuPont to simply walk away from all of its cleanup responsibilities.
Chemours is now asking the court to deny DuPont’s request for unlimited indemnity for its environmental liabilities.43 (Chemours, meanwhile, claims it has now stopped making three PFAS products used in the making of grease-resistant packaging.44)
North Jersey reports that, according to Chemours, the company received only 19% of DuPont’s business lines at the company’s inception, while taking on two-thirds of the environmental liabilities and 90% of all pending litigation against DuPont.
In all, Chemours liabilities exceeded earnings by 5.5-to-1 right from the get-go, yet its management team was not fully informed about the company’s financial situation. Chemours also claims DuPont systematically underestimated the legal and environmental cleanup costs.
“For instance, DuPont estimated that three lawsuits against it over contamination from the toxic chemical PFOA would cost no more than $128 million. They were settled by Chemours for $671 million less than two years later,” North Jersey reports.45
Lawmakers promise to pursue corporate accountability
As attention on PFAS pollution increases, PFAS manufacturers such as DuPont and 3M are ramping up lobbying efforts to prevent tighter regulations. Several recent hearings46,47,48 have been held on PFAS, however, and Democratic lawmakers have promised to “continue pursuing corporate accountability,” Think Progress reports.49 As noted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in a May 15, 2019, press release:50
“Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a widely-used family of chemicals that contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans.
Representatives also introduced a number of bills to manage the threat of PFAS pollution, including legislation that would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals, as well as bills to expand water testing, improve water infrastructure, assist communities facing PFAS contamination issues and limit the use of these chemicals in the future. This effort to tackle a common and dangerous class of pollutant is long overdue …”
Certain states are also taking matters into their own hands. Michigan, for example, where PFAS is a common water contaminant, says it’s planning to start regulating certain PFAS to protect residents rather than waiting for the EPA to take action.51
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also has its sights on corporate accountability. Commissioner Catherine McCabe told Think Progress,52 “New Jersey believes that the manufacturers … should be held responsible to the public for the costs and damages of the drinking water contamination and other harmful consequences of their actions and negligence.”
How to avoid PFAS chemicals
The Madrid Statement recommends avoiding any and all products manufactured using PFASs, noting they include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. Helpful tips can also be found in the EWG’s “Guide to Avoiding PFCS.”53 Other suggestions that will help you avoid these dangerous chemicals include avoiding:
Items that have been pretreated with stain repellants, and opt out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets
Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing — One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as “breathable.” These are typically treated with polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic fluoropolymer
Items treated with flame retardant chemicals54— This includes a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton
Fast food and carry out foods — The wrappers are typically treated with PFCs
Microwave popcorn — PFCs may not only present in the inner coating of the bag, it also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use “old-fashioned” stovetop popcorn
Nonstick cookwareand other treated kitchen utensils — Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home.
A newer type of nonstick cookware called Duralon uses a nonfluoridated nylon polymer for its nonstick coating. While this appears to be safe, your safest bet is still ceramic and enameled cast iron.
While some recommend using aluminum, stainless steel and copper cookware, I don’t for the following reasons: Aluminum is a strongly suspected causal factor in Alzheimer’s disease, and stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum and carbon.
For those with nickel allergies, this may be a particularly important consideration. Copper cookware is also not recommended because most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. (Copper cookware must be lined due to the possibility of copper poisoning.)
Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFEor “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients — The EWG has an excellent database called Skin Deep55 you can peruse to find healthier options
Unfiltered tap water — Unfortunately, your choices are limited when it comes to avoiding PFASs in drinking water. Either you must filter your water or obtain water from a clean source. Both solutions can be problematic and/or costly.
While many opt for bottled water, it’s important to realize that PFASs are not regulated in bottled water, so there’s absolutely no guarantee that it’ll be free of these or other chemicals. Bottled water also increases your risk of exposure to hazardous plastic chemicals such as bisphenol-A, which has its own set of health risks.
Most common water filters available in supermarkets will not remove PFASs. You really need a high-quality carbon filtration system. The New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute recommends using granulated activated carbon “or an equally efficient technology” to remove PFC chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS from your drinking water.56 Activated carbon has been shown to remove about 90% of these chemicals.
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