By Chris Togneri
Published: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, 10:55 p.m.
Clearfield County residents got their wish, at least for now, when state officials agreed on Friday to stop spreading biosolids, or treated sewage sludge, on game lands near their homes.
“We feel really good,” said Allison Gould, who was among Bell Township residents who met with a state Game Commission official at her home. “They're going to stop; they're not going to spread here anymore.
“But this is not over,” she said. “This is a national problem, (and) I will always let people know how I feel about biosolids.”
Scientists that blow the whistle on the harmful effects of chemicals are persecuted, harassed and threatened by drug companies when their profits are at risk. This is also true of scientists who have attempted to warn the public of the harms of toxic sewage sludge. Oh yes and by the way, you will find endocrine disrupting chemicals, like Atrazine, in sewage sludge.
Not Your Grandmother’s Night Soil: What You Need To Know About FDA Rules on Soil and Food Contamination
By Darree Sicher
1938: Hitler seizes control of Germany, Benny Goodman plays the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall, Superman first appears in DC Comics and Teflon, instant coffee and Xerox copying machines are all invented. AND, the Food Safety Act becomes law in the USA. Forward to 2014: America’s food safety …. where’s Superman when you need him?
Every year 48 million Americans – 1 in 6 – get sick from food-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128,000 citizens are hospitalized annually and 3,000 die from our national “food poisoning” problem. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 16.8% of our fresh-cut fruits and vegetables are contaminated. What if curbing our national food poisoning problems could be as simple as to stop using our modern sewage sludge waste as a fertilizer? If you are what you eat, you can make a difference – the FDA is accepting comment on environmental impacts to the safety of our nation’s food supply.
Forty-eight million people contract some form of food poisoning annually. Meanwhile, at least 8 million tons of sewage sludge/biosolids “fertilizer” from waste water treatment plants is land applied annually on farms, athletic fields, parks and sold as bagged fertilizer. Roughly 60% of U.S. sewage sludge collected from homes, industries, businesses and hospitals at municipal waste water treatment plants is land applied. Exiting water effluence from waste water treatment plants is “recycled” as agricultural water for crop irrigation or reintroduced into rivers and streams. For many, a link between the pathogens, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and carcinogens found in both the sewage sludge and the water effluence and the poisoning of America’s food, water and soil falls into the realm of common sense.
Unfortunately, politics have played a major role in maintaining inadequate standards to ensure the health and safety of our food and water supply and in re-evaluating the transfer of our toxic waste to the very source of our sustenance. The bureaucratic response to concerns of health and safety risks echos industry-speak: no “proof” of contamination. In spite of bureaucratic resistance, real science proves otherwise. Even the most scientific simpleton can link soil and water health with the health of your food supply – the plant has no choice, it must soak up what is in the soil and water where it is growing. Solid science supports this obvious connection, which is why fortunes are made applying “nutrients” to the soil. Soil and water contamination will also impact the quality and safety of the food supply. The environment IS the soil and water and the contamination impact on the land that grows our food and filters our water directly impacts our health and safety. Is it possible that our explosion in food and water contamination is a direct result of using our modern waste and wastewater as a “fertilizer” to grow our food?
By Carolyn Raffensperger
“I think unless the people are given information about what is happening to them, they will die in ignorance. And I think that’s a big sin. I mean, if there is such a thing as a sin, that’s it, to destroy people and not have them have a clue about how this is happening.” Alice Walker
When people find out what I do for a living—addressing climate change, toxic chemicals, and loss of species—they ask me if I am optimistic that things will turn out ok. They ask, do I think there’s a viable future for their kids and their grandchildren? They are asking me for my professional judgment about the state of the world since I live and breathe each new study and every fact.
And my colleagues and allies in the environmental work have the same kinds of discussions about the science of endocrine disruptors, rising levels of carbon dioxide, and the acidification of the ocean. My colleagues say “that’s too negative. Focus on the good news! The solutions! We can’t tell people the bad news because it will turn them off!”
But here’s the deal—we are in deep trouble. Recent data suggest that humans will suffer more chronic debilitating diseases, most of our own making; climate will ricochet from one calamitous weather pattern to another; and frogs and pollinators will not survive the predations of industrial civilization. I write this essay from central Iowa where in 2010 we had record flooding. In 2012 we had record drought. And now in 2013 we have record rainfall and flooding, again.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) broke the story that the $12.9 billion-a-year natural and organic foods retailer Whole Foods Market had a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" when it comes to "conventional" -- or non-organic -- produce being grown in fields spread with sewage sludge, euphemistically called "biosolids." Certified organic produce cannot be fertilized with sewage sludge, which is the industrial and hospital waste and human excrement flushed down the drains and later -- in some cases -- spread on some crops.
Since this story broke, nearly 8,000 activists and PRWatch readers have sent emails to Whole Foods executives asking the company to require its suppliers to disclose this information and to label produce grown in sewage sludge so that customers can make informed decisions.
Chemical brain drain: insidious and pervasive
Today, one out of every six children suffers from some form of neurodevelopmental abnormality. The causes are mostly unknown. Some environmental chemicals are known to cause brain damage and many more are suspected of it, but few have been tested for such effects.
The brain’s development is uniquely sensitive to toxic chemicals, and even small deficits may negatively impact our academic achievements, economic success, risk of delinquency, and quality of life. Chemicals such as lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, and certain solvents and pesticides pose an insidious threat to the development of the next generation’s brains. When chemicals in the environment affect the development of a child’s brain, he or she is at risk for cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, more serious mental retardation, ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, and other disorders that will remain for a lifetime.
The chemical brain drain can be halted to protect the next generation’s brain power. First, we need to control all of the 200 industrial chemicals that have already been proven to affect brain functions in adults, as their effects on the developing brain are likely even worse. We must also demand routine testing for brain toxicity, stricter regulation of emissions of brain-toxic chemicals, and required disclosure on the part of industries who unleash these hazardous chemicals into products and the environment. Decisions can still be made to protect the brains of future generations – and some decisions appears to be seriously overdue. This site aims at furthering information on chemical risks to brain development and ways to protect the next generation against chemical brain drain.
Read the October, 2013 interview for Healthy Child Healthy World here.
Listen to the conversation about “Only one chance” organized by the Collaborative on Health and Environment on 3 December, 2013.
See the video by Philippe Grandjean (6 minutes):
ORANGE COUNTY, NC —
Berry-Jo Farms, a hay and beef-cattle operation, is run by Berry Andrews, a genial 74-year-old farmer. In the late 1980s, he was struggling to make ends meet when the Orange County Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) came around and bought up much of his property. OWASA offered to lease Andrews his land back for $1 an acre if he agreed to use municipal waste as fertilizer. After making his deal with OWASA, he sold his dairy operation and bought beef cattle. "I wouldn't be in business today if it wasn't for sludge," he said. "I may be a dumb farmer, but that sludge works better than regular fertilizer and is free."
Each year, the US produces eight million tons of dry sewage, referred to as biosolids, roughly half of which is processed and applied as a free fertilizer. Every year, Orange County, NC, alone produces and spreads about 18 million gallons of it. This mucky civilization by-product contains human excrement and has been found to include industrial runoff, oil, household chemicals, funeral-home waste and drugs. A recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey found heavy metals, PCBs, flame retardants, cocaine, antidepressants, birth-control medications and silver in treated sludge. EPA regulations for the land application of biosolids are some of the most lenient in the world, requiring wastewater-treatment plants to check for just nine of some 80,000 pollutants that can make it through processing and into sewage sludge.
By Bruce Henderson
Charlotte’s export of sewage sludge to rural South Carolina has made it a target of neighbors who say the stuff is making them sick.
A University of North Carolina study published last week supported their claims. It found evidence that sludge used to fertilize farm fields can be unhealthy for people who live up to a mile away.
CHAPEL HILL, NC —Treated municipal sewage sludge—the solids from sewage treatment—may be causing illness in people up to a mile from where it is spread on land.
Those are the findings from researchers at the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The study, titled “Land Application of Treated Sewage Sludge: Community Health and Environmental Justice,” appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It involved residents from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina who live near fields where sludge is applied as a soil amendment. More than half of the people interviewed reported acute symptoms such as burning eyes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after sludge had been sprayed or spread. Neighbors of fields where industrial swine operations spray waste have reported similar symptoms.
“Study participants told us that the onset of the symptoms occurred while the sludge was being applied or soon after,” says Amy Lowman, MPH, research associate in epidemiology, and the study’s first author. “These were not one-time incidents, either. Respondents reported these illnesses occurring several times, and always after treated sludge was applied to the nearby farmland.”
Other symptoms reported by more than one respondent in the wake of sludge applications included difficulty breathing, sinus congestion or drainage, and skin infection and sores.
Respondents also reported sludge run-off into local waterways and cattle grazing on fields soon after sludge applications.
“Both of these situations are against state rules. If there is run-off of treated sludge there can be contamination of waterways or neighboring property,” Lowman says. “Livestock are not supposed to graze on sludge-applied fields for 30 days after application.”
In addition, all three states require signs warning that treated sewage sludge is in use on farmland, but several respondents reported that such signage was either not posted or not visible.
Study coauthor and principal investigator of the research, Dr. Steve Wing says, “Most people in towns and cities don’t know where their sewage sludge goes. If they had to live near where it is being spread out, they might be more concerned about this practice. Many respondents in our study said it’s not fair for rural people to bear the burden of urban waste disposal.”
Lowman does caution that the study’s findings are based on a relatively small sample size of 34 people and that better tracking of sludge applications and human health is needed to better document relationships between the sludge application and illness.
“However, we are talking about a material containing chemicals and organisms that can make people sick. Although the EPA promotes land application of sludge, it has not said it’s safe for people’s health or the environment,” she says. “More than half of the people interviewed reported similar symptoms. These reports came from individuals in three different states on separate occasions who live up to a mile from areas where sludge was applied. These findings are consistent with previous reports of health impacts and support calls for health and environmental agencies to pay more attention to the potential for sludge to impact people who live near land application sites.”
Contact: Amy Lowman, Department of Epidemiology, UNC School of Public Health, CB# 8050, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8050 Tel: (919) 966-1306.
Comment now about how land applied sewage sludge/biosolids fertilizer contaminates the environment, soil and water used in growing our food supply.
FDA is now accepting comments until March 15, 2014 on the “Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Rule: Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.”
Only One Chance
How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development -- and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation
Purchase from Oxford University Press
What You Can Do
What You Can Do [PDF]
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