Author Archives: Bix

Study: Government Agencies Don’t Tell The Public How Bad PFAS Really Are

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of extremely persistent chemicals that are used in many consumer products and are ubiquitous in the environment.

Effects On Human Health

Take a quick informal survey of your peoples. Ask them if they know what PFAS are. Bet you come up with a lot of “What?” and “I don’t know.” Why? Because:

Study: Government Agencies Don’t Tell The Public How Bad PFAS Really Are, North Carolina Public Radio, 13 May 2022

The report* also noted that government agencies tend to overemphasize the uncertainty of health harm and hedge that PFAS ‘may’ cause health effects, according to “some studies.” This language is misleading, because nearly all studies link PFAS exposure to negative health outcomes for certain immune, liver, reproductive, and cancer outcomes such as kidney or testicular cancer.

“The experimental and observational evidence supporting the links between exposure to certain PFAS and adverse outcomes like reduced vaccine responses and liver damage is robust,” said co-author and East Carolina University professor Jamie DeWitt. “Agency websites and fact sheets that use weak language like ‘may cause’ and ‘some studies’ across health outcomes are misleading the public.”

Ten leading PFAS researchers listed in the paper are calling on government agencies to update their communications … and to better align with the science.

* Official Health Communications Are Failing PFAS-contaminated Communities, BioMed Central Environmental Health, 11 May 2022

This commentary briefly reviews scientific evidence concerning per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for health outcomes that concern members of affected communities and that have compelling or substantial yet differing degree of scientific evidence. It then features official documents in their own language to illustrate communication gaps, as well as divergence from scientific evidence and from best health communication practice. … Most health communications do not distinguish levels of evidence for health outcomes and overemphasize uncertainty, dismissing legitimate reasons for concern in affected communities.

Conclusions: Immediate action should be undertaken to review and improve official health communications intended to inform the public and health providers about the risks of PFAS exposure and guide community and medical decisions.

Biden said he’d “follow the science.” He’s so keen on it that he set up a Disinformation Governance Board to make sure that “the science” is disseminated and that misleading language is corrected or censored. What do we do when the misleading information originates in the body that’s tasked to control misleading information?

It looks like the government has signed on to “Doubt Is Our Product“, the famous tactic used by the tobacco industry:

Cigarette manufacturers knew that their product was hazardous to people’s health, but hired mercenary scientists who “manufactured uncertainty by questioning every study, dissecting every method, and disputing every conclusion”. In doing so the tobacco industry waged a campaign that “successfully delayed regulation and victim compensation for decades”.

Finally! One State (Maine) Bans Use Of Sewage Sludge On Farms (Because Sludge Is Contaminated With PFAS)

Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine, was poisoned by PFAS after the owners used sludge from water treatment facilities as fertilizer. Photograph: Tristan Spinski/The Guardian

Tom Perkins at The Guardian is doing a bang-up job reporting on PFAS contamination here in the states. (While CNN, the New York Times, and other US mainstream media skirt the issue. Weird. Although it does have the potential of upsetting their sponsors.)

Maine Bans Use Of Sewage Sludge On Farms To Reduce Risk Of PFAS Poisoning

Maine last month became the first state to ban the practice of spreading PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge as fertilizer.

Maine and Michigan are the only two states that are routinely checking sludge and farms for PFAS, and both are finding contamination on farms to be widespread.

Maine’s legislature banned the practice of spreading sludge as fertilizer in April after environmental officials discovered astronomical levels of PFAS in water, crops, cattle and soil on farms where sludge had been spread, and high PFAS levels have been detected in farmers’ blood.

Biden needs to set up a PFAS fund to compensate farmers:

Contamination from PFAS-tainted sludge has already poisoned well water on around a dozen farms, and has forced several Maine farms to shutter. The state is investigating about 700 more fields where PFAS-contaminated sludge was spread in recent years. Farmers have told the Guardian that many of their peers with contaminated land won’t alert the state because they fear financial ruin.

Maine is being proactive, while other states are INCREASING their sludge use:

In Virginia, environmental regulators are considering permitting an additional 6,000 acres worth of sludge to be spread and have so far resisted public health advocates’ calls to test for PFAS and reject new sludge permits.

In Alabama, the state’s department of environmental management said in 2019 that “the best use of biosolids is as a [fertilizer].” … Officials in Alabama are increasing the amount of out-of-state sludge that’s imported and spread on fields or landfilled, and the state in 2020 updated its biosolids rule to “encourage” the use of biosolids as fertilizer.

20 Million Acres Of Cropland Found Contaminated With PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

Pumpkins grown with biosolids (sewage sludge). All sewage sludge is thought to contain PFAS. – Wikipedia

No one is talking about this. It isn’t in mainstream news. It’s bad. It wouldn’t be bad if people didn’t have to, you know, eat.

‘Forever Chemicals’ May Have Polluted 20 Million Acres Of US Cropland, Study Says, The Guardian, 8 May 2022

About 20m acres of cropland in the United States may be contaminated from PFAS-tainted sewage sludge that has been used as fertilizer, a new report estimates.

20 million may be on the low end:

“We don’t know the full scope of the contamination problem created by PFAS in sludge, and we may never know, because EPA has not made it a priority for states and local governments to track, test and report on,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s legislative policy director. … Faber called the estimate “conservative”.

“The EPA could today require treatment plants to test sludge for PFAS and warn farmers that they may be contaminating fields, but it has refused to do so,” Faber said.

Why are PFAS bad?

Known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down, [PFAS] have been linked to cancer, thyroid disruption, liver problems, birth defects, immunosuppression and more.

People say just eat organic. Are organic fields immune? Songbird Farm which sold organic produce and grain had to shut down when “high levels” of PFAS were discovered in “their soil, drinking water, irrigation water, crops, chickens” and their own blood. They used PFAS-contaminated biosolids (sewage sludge) on their organic crops.

Endocrine Disruptors In Their Environment Had Changed Majority Of Male Fish Into Females

Necropsy of a largemouth bass. Photo by Luke Iwanowicz.

Speaking of endocrine disruptors contributing to weight gain, I saw:

A Sex Change Phenomenon In Fish Suggests There Is Something In The Water, Mongabay, 5 April 2016

A new study* published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety finds that male fish are turning into females – a phenomenon known as intersex – due to chemical pollution, specifically estrogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals or EEDCs.

Researchers have found evidence [“having female egg cells in their testis“] of intersex in 85 percent of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and 27 percent of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) tested on 19 National Wildlife Refuges from Maine to Virginia.

“It’s hard not to make the leap to ask if fish are effected, then are amphibians, birds, wildlife, and then are humans?” noted Luke Iwanowicz, lead scientist with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), on the study.

At certain concentrations, estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, is capable of derailing the natural hormone system of fish, wildlife, and humans. … It can cause reduced sperm count and viability, reproductive failure, and population decline.

Researchers also found that EEDCs were present in all types of water bodies sampled — rivers, reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and effluent.

One active ingredient in birth control pills, a very potent estrogen, is known to pass right through waste water treatment plants.

* Evidence Of Estrogenic Endocrine Disruption In Smallmouth And Largemouth Bass Inhabiting Northeast US National Wildlife Refuge Waters: A Reconnaissance Study, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, February 2016

Highlights:
– Intersex in male smallmouth bass ranged from 60% to 100%.
– Intersex in male largemouth bass from ranged from 60% to 100%.
– Estrogenic activity was above the PNOEC (probable no effects concentration, 0.73 ng E2/L) from 73% of sites.

Endocrine disruptors can act like estrogen, feminizing males of the species.

The thing about hormones – natural or synthetic – is that you only need a tiny bit to have a profound effect.

Did you know that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup is an endocrine disruptor?

Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Are Toxic And Endocrine Disruptors In Human Cell Lines, Toxicology, August 2009

3200 Calories In 1945, 2640 Calories In 2010, But We Weigh More

This is a repost. I originally wrote it in 2015, almost 7 years ago. Even back then I was attributing Americans’ weight gain to chemicals – particularly endocrine disruptors – in the environment. I’ve learned a lot since then. I only believe it more now – that chemicals are to blame. The diabetes epidemic? That’s linked to chemicals too. Fatty liver disease, heart disease, cancer … We have to stop polluting our planet. It’s killing us.

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Did you happen to notice in that 1945 Minnesota Starvation Experiment that Gary Taubes recalled in his recent article, the following description of the mens’ pre-study diet?

Control Period (12 weeks): This was a standardization period when the subjects received a controlled diet of approximately 3,200 calories of food each day. The diet of the subjects who were close to their “ideal” weight was adjusted so as to maintain caloric balance, while the diets of the underweight and overweight individuals was adjusted so as to bring them close to their ideal weight. On average, the group ended up slightly below their “ideal” weight.

The men were fed ~3,200 calories/day and the group ended up slightly below their ideal weight.

Here’s a photograph of the group before the calorie-limiting part of the experiment:

MinnesotaStarvationExperiment5

Minneapolis Semi-starvation CPS unit. Digital Image © 2011 Brethren Historical Library and Archives. All Rights Reserved. Civilian Public Service Story

My impression is … those are a lot of calories and the men aren’t that big.

This photograph is from the 1930s, a decade that saw mens’ beachwear tops come off.

An aside… While I was browsing for what men in the 1940s looked like, I came across the site: Beefcake Swimwear: A Visual Scrapbook Of Vintage Men’s Beachwear. It’s just a snapshot, if you will, but it does reveal mens’ body shapes over the decades. For a long time it was considered indecent for a man to uncover his chest. How times have changed.

Back to the present. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 give this information about mens’ calorie needs today, and their actual intake:

The estimated calorie needs of a moderately active male, 19 to 30 years old is 2,600 to 2,800 calories/day.

On the basis of national survey data, the average calorie intake among women and men older than age 19 years are estimated to be 1,785 and 2,640 calories per day, respectively.

It looks like men today are eating fewer calories than decades previous, yet they’re heavier. This chart says that in 1962 slightly less than half our population was overweight/obese. By 2000, 70% were overweight/obese. By 2010 it rose to 75%.

National Institutes of Health: Trends in Overweight and Obesity among Adults, United States, 1962–2010

You could speculate until the cows come home. Some people will say we move less. Some will say people lie about what they eat. Some will say the macronutrient (protein/fat/carbohydrate) content of our diets has changed. Maybe we smoked more or snacked less years ago. Me? I think there’s a significant contribution from chemicals in our food, chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that weren’t so abundant years ago. GMOs and their attendant pesticides (Roundup Ready) have been available since the 1980s. Take another look at that weight graph.

Interview With Lawyer Rob Bilott On PFAS “Worldwide Public Health Threat”

Here’s an interview with Rob Bilott, the lawyer at the center of the PFAS fiasco. You know him. He was played by Mark Ruffalo in the movie Dark Waters. He’s written a book, “Exposure,” and been featured in the New York Times as “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” (He used to work for the same chemical companies he ended up suing.)

Interview: Lawyer Rob Bilott On PFAS “Worldwide Public Health Threat” And His Letter To President Biden, The New Lede, 26 April 2022

He says industry has known for decades that PFAS are harmful:

It is critical to keep in mind when considering the PFAS problem that these are completely man-made toxins whose creation and release into our environment — and into all of us — was controlled by a small group of companies who not only knew that this contamination was occurring and would continue to occur, decades ago, but who profited enormously by intentionally covering up the problem. These are the same companies who now refuse to accept financial responsibility for the unprecedented damage they have caused and are even fighting those who dare to try to adopt laws or regulations to combat the problem they created.

I mean, really harmful:

… by the 1990s, 3M’s own scientists had sat down to calculate what a “safe” blood level would be for PFOS. At the time, they knew that the level of PFOS being found in the general US population’s blood was around 30 parts per billion. And when this internal 3M scientist sat down to calculate a safe blood level, the number he calculated was 1.05 parts per billion. Some 30 times lower than the level that was actually being found.

But, for some reason, the EPA just can’t get them regulated. Or get companies to clean up their mess:

How is it that even if we know that these chemicals, PFOA in particular, are incredibly toxic, persistent, bio accumulative, carcinogenic, you even have some of the biggest human health studies ever done confirming direct links with human health effects, including cancers, yet we still can’t seem to manage to get these things fully regulated at a federal level. Why?

When I was a child, I did not drink PFAS. I didn’t eat it. I didn’t wear it. I didn’t breathe it. Today’s children do. Lots of it. And it’s making them (and us) sick.

Bilott:

Study: Folic Acid And Vitamin B12 Supplementation Associated With Increased Risk Of Colorectal Cancer

Well, this is interesting.

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 Supplementation and the Risk of Cancer: Long-term Follow-up of the B Vitamins for the Prevention of Osteoporotic Fractures (B-PROOF) Trial, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, February 2019

Daily supplementation with folic acid (400 micrograms) and vitamin B12 (500 micrograms) increased the risk of colorectal cancer in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study of older people.

Conclusions:
Folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Some other bits:

The effect on colorectal cancer risk was even more extreme in compliant participants.

Does that mean you still have elevated cancer risk even if you don’t take the vitamins all the time? Seems so.

We cannot yet ascertain whether this is due to an individual effect of folic acid or vitamin B12, or an interactive effect of both folic acid and vitamin B12 combined.

That was my first question! It’s easy not to take folic acid. Vegans get it pretty easily from their diet. Not so with B12. We have to take a supplement. And try to find one that only supplies a few micrograms, not 500 or 1000 mcg.

We only included Caucasian participants aged 65 years and over.

The age range is notable. The study said that increased cancer risk was not found as much in trials with younger populations. It may be that an older person’s immune system isn’t up to the task of wiping out any nascent bowel cancer … to which the B vitamins were contributing.

This trial is one of the few that were done in a population without mandated folic acid fortification and relatively low supplement use. As a result we were able to clearly discern the effect of supplementation in a population with limited intake of folic acid above the tolerable upper intake level.

Americans probably get a healthy dose of folic acid even before they take a supplement. In 1998, the FDA required that folic acid be added to enriched grain products (bread, pasta, rice, cereal).

This will likely reduce the amount of vitamin B12 I take.