America’s Dairyland May Have a PFAS Problem
By Susan Cosier
First there was Fred Stone, the third-generation dairy farmer in Maine who discovered that the milk from his cows contained harmful chemicals. Then came Art Schaap, a second-generation dairy farmer in New Mexico, who had to dump 15,000 gallons of contaminated milk a day.
While the pollutants in these cases were different, they both belong to the same class of chemicals: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short. Numbering in the thousands, the chemicals are used to make a variety of products such as nonstick pans, stain-resistant rugs, water-repellent clothing and food packaging. Industries have been manufacturing most PFAS since the 1940s, but the effects these chemicals have on human health started surfacing only in the past decade or so. Exposure has been linked to serious conditions, including testicular and kidney cancer, colitis, thyroid disorders and suppressed immune systems in children.
Many states are just beginning to look for PFAS contamination in drinking water and elsewhere, and places like Michigan, where state officials are actively testing for (and finding) these chemicals, are starting to look like contamination hot spots. In reality, the PFAS problem is much more widespread.
While Teflon plants and military bases that use firefighting foams are common PFAS sources, another culprit is emerging: sludge produced by sewage treatment plants. Farmers all over the country use such sludge to fertilize their land, potentially contaminating the crops and livestock they produce. And it could be happening in the Midwest, too.
Wary in Wisconsin
Doug Oitzinger, the former mayor of Marinette, Wisconsin, was at a meeting to discuss a new community garden last year when he found out about his town's groundwater. Just 30 feet below where they stood, levels of PFAS were as high as 33,000 parts per trillion (ppt), more than 470 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's health advisory level for drinking water of 70 ppt — a concentration many experts and states still consider a threat to human health. A few months later, Oitzinger knocked on a neighbor's door to see if anyone had told her about the pollution pooling below her home. She said she hadn't heard a thing.
In the beginning, he thought the contamination was limited to a specific area at the edge of town, close to the Tyco Fire Technology Center run by Johnson Controls International. But the more Oitzinger researched, the more concerned, and angry, he became. He's now pushing for Wisconsin politicians to make the PFAS issue a top priority. "I went from somebody who thought this was an unfortunate thing Tyco didn't know about, to ... well, let's just say their hands are covered in some pretty nasty stuff," he said.
Tyco knew back in 2013 of its PFAS problem, according to records it submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but it wasn't until 2016 that the company documented the chemicals on its property and in the groundwater nearby. The public found out about it only in 2017, four years after Tyco's original admission, when the company acknowledged to the DNR that its pollution could be spreading.
When Tyco disclosed that PFAS pollution had contaminated groundwater in Marinette and nearby Peshtigo, the DNR directed the company to find affected wells. Since December 2017, Tyco has been voluntarily distributing bottled water to more than 120 households and installed 37 water treatment systems in the community. But it's not enough, and drinking water isn't the only thing in jeopardy. Just like other PFAS manufacturers, Tyco sent its waste to a local sewage treatment plant, where farmers obtain sludge for fertilizing their fields.
"We foolishly thought that we had institutions that would protect us from this sort of thing, that this couldn't happen anymore," said Oitzinger. "What we've discovered is that those institutions didn't protect us."
The DNR has since asked the wastewater treatment facility to stop selling sludge to farmers and launched a larger investigation into the matter earlier this year. For many farm owners, however, this action may have come too late — and there are no quick fixes. PFAS do not easily break down and can persist in the environment for decades, if not centuries.
A Message From Maine
The Stone family had been raising dairy cows in southern Maine for close to a century when, in 2016, Fred Stone voluntarily checked the farm's milk for PFAS. What he found, he said, destroyed his life: levels as high as 1,470 ppt.
"The toxic chemicals that I never used and had never even known about until two years ago contaminated my cows — which I really take exception to — and ruined my farming operation and hurt my family," he told reporters at a March press conference.
Stone had spread PFAS-contaminated sludge and paper mill ash on his fields for 20 years, but he stopped that practice in 2004. After 15 years, the substances were still there in amounts that could severely taint the milk of Stoneridge Farm, which is now out of business.
Stone went to Washington, DC, to ask Congress do something about PFAS contamination. Back in Maine, legislators set a PFOS action level of 210 ppt in milk, and the governor set up a PFAS task force. Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) temporarily stopped allowing farmers to spread sludge on their fields until it was tested. In 44 sludge samples taken by the agency, all but two had levels that exceeded the state's new limits for three PFAS chemicals: PFOA (2.5 parts per billion), PFOS (5.2 ppb), and PFBS (1,900 ppb). The DEP also tested retail and raw milk from three other farms, where PFAS levels did not exceed the state's reporting limit of 50 ppt.
So far, Stone's is the only Maine farm to shutter due to PFAS contamination, but others could follow and clean fields are still at risk. The Maine-based nonprofit Environmental Health Strategy Center has been pushing for the state to investigate other farms that received sludge from the same place as Stone, said Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of the group, but the group hasn't yet gotten a list of such farms, and testing isn't mandatory.
Even though no federal PFAS standards exist, lawmakers in a few states such as Vermont, Michigan and New Hampshire have proposed or passed bills that limit various types of PFAS — at differing concentrations — in drinking water. For Wisconsin's water supplies, the state's Department of Health Services recently recommended limits for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most widely used types, at 20 ppt. These are moves in the right direction, but PFAS find their way into more than just water. Researchers have been detecting these substances in everything from fish to leafy greens and grains to iced chocolate cake.
According to a 2012 study conducted by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, a branch of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "a number of researchers have concluded that food is often the primary human exposure route" for PFAS. (A 2016 EPA report agreed that diet is a primary source.)
Milk containing PFAS tends to be particularly potent because the substances bioaccumulate in cows. Farmers spread sludge on fields, plants take the contaminants up from the soil, then cows eat the grass in great amounts, concentrating the PFAS, which end up in their milk. That's bad for children, who tend to drink lots of milk and are also more vulnerable to these substances than adults are.
"Yes, exposure from milk is likely less than drinking water for adults, but for infants and children it's different," said Anna Reade, an NRDC staff scientist specializing in toxic chemicals. "It could be a significant source of exposure, and they're the most vulnerable in our population. We have a responsibility to protect them." Yet so far, no state except Maine has begun to develop a PFAS standard for milk — or any other food, for that matter.
The 2012 study showed that PFAS levels in 49 milk samples taken from around the country didn't contain levels higher than the EPA health advisory level of 70 ppt except for one — taken from a dairy farm where sludge was spread. Locations where we know farmers spread contaminated sludge are good places to be testing, said Erik Olson, NRDC's director of health and food.
In Wisconsin, the DNR has a map of where the state's farmers have spread biosolids from the wastewater treatment facility used by Tyco, and staff have tested the farms' soils and their surface water and groundwater. The results are expected this fall, but the agency hasn't yet indicated whether it will also test the foods grown on these farms.
Needless to say, tensions are high in these parts. "This is like coming to someone and saying your house is radioactive," said Oitzinger.
NRDC's Reade suggests that state agencies test sludge before it's spread on fields and milk before it goes to market. Then officials could see where the highest PFAS concentrations are coming from. But she knows that's not a popular idea. "PFAS is a huge, global public health threat," she said. "It's going to be hard to test for all this."
In July, the Wisconsin DNR urged 125 sewage treatment plants to test their waste products, but the agency has yet to set a PFAS standard for sludge or milk. Oitzinger hopes to change that. He's now working with a small group of activists and Wisconsin lawmakers to put PFAS standards on the books in his state, but he fears for the rest of the country, too.
The problems with these chemicals are complex, he said, and as Stone knows, they don't go away on their own. "It's like peeling an onion," he said. "Every time you take a layer off, there's another layer, and the more layers you take off, the more your eyes water. It just gets worse and worse."
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By Sara Lindberg
Whether you've hit a workout plateau or you're just ready to turn things up a notch, adding more strenuous exercise — also known as high-intensity exercise — to your overall fitness routine is one way to increase your calorie burn, improve your heart health, and boost your metabolism.
However, to do it safely and effectively, there are some guidelines you should follow. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of vigorous exercise and how to safely dial up the intensity of your workouts.
What Is Considered Strenuous Exercise?<p>When it comes to exercise, the intensity of how hard you work out is just as important as the duration of your exercise session. In general, exercise intensity is divided into three categories:</p><ul><li>low</li><li>moderate</li><li>vigorous or strenuous</li></ul><p>For an activity to be vigorous, you need to work at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to the<a href="https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates" target="_blank"> American Heart Association</a>. Examples of vigorous exercise include:</p><ul><li>running</li><li>cycling at 10 mph or faster</li><li>walking briskly uphill with a heavy backpack</li><li>jumping rope</li></ul><p>Low to moderate exercise is easier to sustain for longer periods since you work below 70 percent of your maximum heart rate and, sometimes, well below that level.</p><p>To reap health benefits, the <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html" target="_blank">Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans</a> recommends that people age 18 and older get one of the following:</p><ul><li><strong>150 minutes</strong> of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week</li><li><strong>75 minutes</strong> of vigorous aerobic activity per week</li><li><strong>combination of both types</strong> of activity spread throughout the week</li></ul>
Strenuous Exercise Vs. Moderate Exercise<p>Increasing your exercise intensity is fairly simple to do. You can still participate in your favorite activities — just at a more vigorous pace.</p><p>One of the benefits of more strenuous exercise is that you can reap the same rewards as moderate-intensity exercise but in less time. So, if time is of the essence, doing a more strenuous 20-minute workout can be just as beneficial as doing a slower 40-minute workout session.</p><p>Here are some examples of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/pa_intensity_table_2_1.pdf" target="_blank">strenuous vs. moderate exercise<span></span></a>.</p><table><tbody><tr><th>Moderate intensity</th><th>Strenuous intensity</th></tr><tr><td>bicycling at less than 10 mph</td><td>bicycling at more than 10 mph</td></tr><tr><td>walking briskly</td><td>running, or hiking uphill at a steady pace</td></tr><tr><td>jog-walk intervals</td><td>water jogging/running</td></tr><tr><td>shooting baskets in basketball</td><td>playing a basketball game</td></tr><tr><td>playing doubles tennis</td><td>playing singles tennis</td></tr><tr><td>raking leaves or mowing the lawn</td><td>shoveling more than 10 lbs. per minute, digging ditches</td></tr><tr><td>walking stairs</td><td>running stairs</td></tr></tbody></table>
Benefits of Vigorous Exercise<p>Besides being more efficient, turning up the heat on your fitness sessions can benefit your health in a variety of ways. Let's take a closer look at some of the evidence-based benefits of a higher intensity workout.</p><ul><li><strong>Higher calorie burn.</strong> According to the <a href="https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5008/7-things-to-know-about-excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption-epoc/?utm_source=Rakuten&utm_medium=10&ranMID=42334&ranEAID=TnL5HPStwNw&ranSiteID=TnL5HPStwNw-hYlKnAcfzfixAUsvnO6Ubw" target="_blank">American Council on Exercise</a>, working out at a higher intensity requires more oxygen, which burns more calories. It also contributes to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the "afterburn effect" that allows you to continue burning calories even after you finish working out. This means your metabolism will stay elevated for longer after a vigorous exercise session.</li><li><strong>More weight loss.</strong> A <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/interval-workouts-will-help-you-lose-weight-more-quickly" target="_blank">higher calorie burn</a> and an elevated metabolism will help you lose weight more quickly than doing low- or moderate-intensity exercise.</li><li><strong>Improved heart health.</strong> According to a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16377300" target="_blank">2012 study</a>, high- and moderate-intensity exercise appears to offer low chance of cardiovascular events, even in those with heart disease. Cardiovascular benefits may include improvements in:<ul><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/diastole-vs-systole" target="_blank">diastolic blood pressure</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1" target="_blank">blood sugar control</a></li><li>aerobic capacity</li></ul></li><li><strong>Improved mood.</strong> High-intensity exercise may also boost your mood. According to a large <a href="https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/27/4/27_jpts-2014-736/_article" target="_blank">2015 study</a> that analyzed the data of more than 12,000 participants, researchers found a significant link between strenuous exercise and fewer depressive symptoms.</li><li><strong>Lower risk of mortality.</strong> According to a 2015 <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844882" target="_blank">study</a>, researchers found that vigorous activity may be key to avoiding an early death. The study, which followed 204,542 people for more than 6 years, reported a 9 to 13 percent decrease in mortality for those who increased the intensity of their exercise sessions.</li></ul>
How to Measure Exercise Intensity<p>So, how do you know for sure that you're exercising at a strenuous level? Let's look at three ways to measure the intensity of your physical activity.</p><h3>1. Your heart rate</h3><p>Monitoring your heart rate is one of the most reliable methods for measuring exercise intensity. Exercising at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate qualifies as vigorous exercise intensity.</p><blockquote><strong><strong>WHAT IS YOUR MAXIMUM HEART RATE?</strong></strong>Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can safely beat. To find out what your maximum heart rate is you need to subtract your age from 220. For example, for a 40-year-old person: <ul><li>220 bpm (beats per minute) minus age</li><li>220 – 40 = 180 bpm</li></ul>To work out at a vigorous pace, you'll want to exercise within 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. For example: <ul><li>180 x 0.70 (70 percent) = 126</li><li>180 x 0.85 (85 percent) = 153</li></ul>For a 40-year-old person, a vigorous training range is 126 to 153 bpm.<br></blockquote><p>You can check your heart rate while you're working out by wearing a heart rate monitor or <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">taking your pulse</a>.</p>
How to Add Vigorous Activity to Your Workout<p>Adding strenuous activity to your weekly workout routine requires some careful planning. Fortunately, many of the activities that you do at a moderate level can easily be performed at a higher intensity.</p><p>One way of incorporating vigorous aerobic activity into your routine is to do a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workout. This type of workout combines short bursts of intense activity — typically performed at 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate — with recovery periods at 40 to 50 percent maximum heart rate.</p><p>To sustain this level of training, consider following a 2:1 work to rest ratio. For example, a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/treadmill-weight-loss#hiit" target="_blank">treadmill workout </a>or outdoor running session could include:</p><ul><li>running at 9 to 10 mph for 30 seconds</li><li>followed by walking at 3 to 4 mph for 60 seconds</li><li>alternating this work-to-rest ratio for 20 to 30 minutes</li></ul><p>Playing a fast-paced sport like soccer, basketball, or racquetball is another effective way to add strenuous activity to your fitness routine. Participating in <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-a-spin-class" target="_blank">cycling classes</a> or swimming laps are other ways to build more strenuous exercise into your workouts.</p>
Safety Tips<p>Before you turn up the intensity on your workouts, it's important to keep the following safety tips in mind.</p><h3>Check with your doctor</h3><p>If you have a health condition or you haven't been active in a while, make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a high-intensity exercise routine. Your doctor can advise you on a safe level of exercise or how to become more active in the safest way possible.</p><h3>Build up the intensity slowly</h3><p>Going from low- or moderate-intensity workouts to vigorous exercise requires time and patience. While you may be ready to jump in with both feet, the safest way to add more vigorous exercise is to do it in bite-size increments. Pushing yourself too quickly can result in injuries and burnout.</p><p>For example:</p><ul><li><strong>Week 1:</strong> Swap out one moderate-paced cardio session for a HIIT workout.</li><li><strong>Week 2:</strong> Swap one moderate-paced session with a HIIT workout, and also add a circuit strength training session to your weekly routine.</li><li><strong>Week 3 and 4: </strong>Repeat weeks 1 and 2 before you start adding more high-intensity exercise to your weekly routine.</li></ul><p>It's also a good idea to space out your vigorous workouts throughout the week. Try not to do two strenuous sessions back-to-back.</p><h3>Don't forget the recovery time</h3><p>Your body requires more time to recover from a vigorous workout compared to a low- or moderate-intensity session.</p><p>To help your body recover, make sure to always include a cooldown and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/static-stretching" target="_blank">stretch routine</a> after strenuous physical activity.</p><h3>Stay hydrated</h3><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-water" target="_blank">Staying hydrated</a> is especially important when you're exercising hard. Not drinking enough fluids can affect the quality of your workout and make you feel tired, lethargic, or dizzy. It may even lead to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/how-to-stop-leg-muscle-cramps" target="_blank">cramps</a>.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Turning up the intensity of your workout sessions can be an effective way of boosting your overall health and fitness. It's also an easy way to save time when trying to fit a workout into your day.</p><p>To play it safe, always start slow and pay attention to how your body feels.</p><p>While vigorous exercise offers many health benefits, it's not appropriate for everyone. If you have a health condition or you haven't been active in a while, make sure to talk with your doctor before working out at a more strenuous level.</p>
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By Jeffrey Miller
In January 2015, food sales at restaurants overtook those at grocery stores for the first time. Most thought this marked a permanent shift in the American meal.
Solving the Age-Old Problem of Spoiled Cheese<p>People have eaten pasta and cheese together for hundreds of years. Clifford Wright, the doyen of Mediterranean food history, says <a href="http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/16/id/105/" target="_blank">the first written recipe</a> for macaroni and cheese was created in the court of the king of Naples in the 13th century, while <a href="https://food52.com/blog/9916-the-history-of-macaroni-and-cheese" target="_blank">the first reference</a> in an English language cookbook likely appeared in Elizabeth Raffald's 1769 book "The Experienced English Housekeeper."</p><p><span></span>An internet search for macaroni and cheese recipes will turn up over 5 million hits, but many still prefer to get theirs in a box – the kind with pasta that comes in shapes ranging from shells to Pokemon characters, accompanied by a packet of powdered cheese sauce.</p><p>Boxed macaroni and cheese was one outcome of the quest for ways to keep cheese longer. Some cheese gets better as it ages – a well-aged cheddar is one of life's delights – but once most cheeses hit their prime, <a href="https://www.dairyfoods.com/articles/91548-how-to-maximize-cheese-shelf-life" target="_blank">they tend to quickly go bad</a>. Before household refrigeration became common, many retailers wouldn't even stock cheese in the summer because it spoiled so quickly.</p><p>Processed cheese solved this age-old problem.</p>
When Natural Was Nasty<p>Today, food that's simple, pure and natural is <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-was-french-cuisine-toppled-as-the-king-of-fine-dining-66667" target="_blank">all the craze</a>, while <a href="https://apnews.com/c06a1200807c4b82a03452d08d480692" target="_blank">disdain for processed foods</a> is practically a credo among sophisticated consumers.</p><p>But when Kraft's different forms of processed cheese came out, they found widespread acceptance despite their strange textures. The fact that it wasn't natural didn't seem to bother consumers at all. In fact, as international food historian Rachel Laudan <a href="https://online.ucpress.edu/gastronomica/article/1/1/36/93394/A-Plea-for-Culinary-Modernism-Why-We-Should-Love" target="_blank">has noted</a>, back then, "natural was something quite nasty." She describes fresh milk as warm and "unmistakably a bodily secretion." Throughout the history of cookery, most recipes aimed to transform an unappetizing raw product into something delightful and delectable.</p><p>So for most consumers, processed foods were a godsend. They kept well, tended to be easily digestible and, most importantly, they tasted good. Many of them could be easily prepared, freeing women from spending entire days cooking and giving them more time to pursue professions and avocations.</p><p>In some ways, processed foods were also healthier. They could be fortified with vitamins and minerals, and, in an era before everyone had access to mechanical refrigeration, the fact that they kept well meant consumers were less likely to contract diseases from spoiled, rotten foods. Pasteurization of dairy products virtually <a href="https://www.the-scientist.com/foundations/rethinking-raw-milk--1918-65126" target="_blank">eliminated diseases like undulant fever</a>, while foods processed and canned in large factories were less likely to harbor food-borne illnesses that could crop up due to faulty or improperly sanitized equipment used by home canners.</p>
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By Mark Kaufman
Some fires won't die.
They survive underground during the winter and then reemerge the following spring, as documented in places like Alaska. They're called "overwintering," "holdover," or "zombie" fires, and they may have now awoken in the Arctic Circle — a fast-warming region that experienced unprecedented fires in 2019. The European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service is now watching these fires, via satellite.