Will Cape Fear Become the Next Flint, Michigan as DuPont Dumps GenX Into River?
By Josh Gay
In February, DuPont and its spinoff Chemours finally agreed to pay out the $670+ million settlement stemming from their toxic chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), commonly known as C8. The chemical was shown to cause kidney, pancreatic, liver and testicular cancer, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), pregnancy issues, including preeclampsia, thyroid disease and ulcerative colitis in thousands of cases.
The carcinogenic chemical was used to manufacture Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), known as Teflon. Teflon is most commonly used as a non-stick coating found in cookware. But by 2003, DuPont had dumped almost 2.5 million pounds of C8 from its Washington Works plant into the mid-Ohio River Valley area. To date, the chemical has been found in drinking water in 27 states. This all took place even 53 years after DuPont classified C8 as a toxin.
Now, it appears that the chemical that DuPont and Chemours have relied on to replace C8 in Teflon may be just as bad. Known as GenX, the new chemical has been known by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have negative health effects since at least 2006. Yet, the unregulated chemical has been continuously dumped into the Cape Fear River in North Carolina since 2009. Ring of Fire's Mike Papantonio addressed DuPont's deception with Ed Schultz on "News with Ed":
In response to the C8 lawsuits, companies like Chemours, Dow and 3M sought to develop chemicals with a similar composition to C8, but with a shorter molecule chain, in hopes it would be less harmful to humans. The smaller chain allows the body to pass the chemical quicker. However, it appears to still be quite dangerous. Even in its consent order, the EPA noted that GenX shows many of the same harmful properties as C8.
In a series The Teflon Toxin published by The Intercept, it was revealed that DuPont filed numerous reports confirming the risks of GenX. In experiments, rats were shown to develop cancer, kidney and liver disease, various tumors, as well as other negative health effects, all very similar to the effects of C8. Still, DuPont's researchers claim that "these tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment."
Detailing just how terrible GenX can be, The Columbus Dispatch reported in February that:
"From 2006 through 2013, DuPont filed reports with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its testing of the substances that make up GenX. In 2006, DuPont reported that a 1963 study of those substances showed that adult rats given 7,500 milligrams died gasping, convulsive deaths within three hours. Those that received smaller doses survived with slightly enlarged livers. A 2013 report stated that rats given a much lower dose of GenX developed tumors in some organs. The report stated that "these tumor findings are not considered relevant for human risk assessment."
Though DuPont and Chemours had previously assured regulators that GenX would not enter the environment, researchers have found the chemical in large quantities in North Carolina's water supply. Wilmington's The StarNews has reported that "researchers had found GenX in the Cape Fear River on three separate occasions in recent years. In 2013-14, a team of researchers and scientists found a GenX average of 631 parts per trillion, or nine times the advisory level for C8, at [the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority's] water intake on the river."
Unfortunately, because of the diminutive size of the molecule chain and the fact that Chemours and DuPont kept the chemical composition of GenX secret for many years, there is no way for a utility company to effectively filter GenX out of a water supply, meaning as many as 250,000 residents along the Cape Fear River could be consuming the harmful chemical.
Meanwhile, Dutch officials are opening their own investigation into GenX, as the chemical has been found in the Merwede River, which provides drinking water to approximately 750,000 people. The Dutch public health institute, RIVM is currently conducting a study into the long-term effects of the chemical and hopes to present some of its findings at a conference in August.
While it may seem that a massive lawsuit, fines from the government, and evidence that people are dying from a product would discourage a company from continuing to produce harmful chemicals and release them into the waterways, it is evident that it just isn't enough. Even after spending more than $60 billion in the wake of the Gulf Oil Spill, BP is still taking major risks because they returned to profitability just six years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Quite frankly, the fines and settlements just are not enough. Now that the Trump administration's insists on rolling back regulations, companies like DuPont and Chemours have zero reason to change their behavior. Papantonio said that tougher measures are needed:
"These corporate thugs can kill thousands of people and keep earning millions of dollars and never see the inside of a prison. They act like criminals and should be treated as such. I have fought DuPont before and I will keep fighting until they stop poisoning innocent people."
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Ring of Fire.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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