By Isabella Garcia
September in Portland, Oregon, usually brings a slight chill to the air and an orange tinge to the leaves. This year, it brought smoke so thick it burned your throat and made your eyes strain to see more than 20 feet in front of you.
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By Scott Faber
The staggering number of food and farm workers who have died from Covid-19 has laid bare the Trump administration's disastrous policies on food and farm issues.
Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Scott Faber
No candidate for president has ever pledged to make the toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS a priority – until now.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Deciding what household products and foods to buy is tricky.
There are thousands of products out there. Many do the exact same thing, or are nearly identical with slight nuance. But some products contain toxic compounds that can harm us or our children. Even the simple task of choosing a toothpaste can give us anxiety!
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By Hannah Seo
If you've been considering throwing out that old couch, now might be a good time. Dust in buildings with older furniture is more likely to contain a suite of compounds that impact our health, according to new research.
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By Brian Bienkowski
Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a rule change on Friday that will allow some coal power plants to ignore a court order to clean up coal ash ponds, which leech toxic materials into soil and groundwater. The rule change will allow some coal ash ponds to stay open for years while others that have no barrier to protect surrounding areas are allowed to stay open indefinitely, according to the AP.
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Europe's chief policy-making body Wednesday called for a safer, more sustainable chemicals market, plotting a zero-tolerance approach that nearly eliminates hormone mimicking compounds.
Five Main Thrusts<p>The new European plan, dubbed the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, is part of the broader Europe Green Deal, a sweeping proposal for the European Union to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, eliminate pollution, and promote a sustainable economy.</p><p>The strategy released Wednesday has five main thrusts:</p><ol><li>Tighter scrutiny of hormone-mimicking compounds, along with an early warning system for chemical risks before such compounds hit the market.</li><li>A "one substance, one assessment" approach to increase chemical testing transparency.</li><li>Incentives for green chemistry and non-toxic materials development.</li><li>Information and tools for citizens to understand chemical risks.</li><li>Pressure on international markets to improve chemical safety globally.</li></ol><p>At its core, the strategy makes use of the precautionary principle—forcing companies or manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe before they go to market, and making them pay when there is pollution.</p>
Concern From Business<p>While environmental and health advocates lauded the move, business interests cautioned it will stifle commerce and innovation.<br></p><p>"Production cycles and supply chains are complex ... (and) not always well understood by decision makers," wrote EuroCommerce, representing the continents' retail and wholesale business sectors, in a position paper as the policy was being crafted this summer. "We ask the Commission to keep a close eye on the impact of individual initiatives, and its cumulative effects on the retail and wholesale sector and how it affects their economic viability."</p>
Contrast With United States<p>The Commission's plan stands in sharp contrast to the United States. Despite decades of warnings from academic scientists, U.S. regulators have largely ignored independent, non-industry science about the dangers of chemicals that impact our hormones, often at very low doses.<br></p><p>Endocrine-disrupting compounds are a particular concern, based on science from research labs worldwide. The compounds—added to a broad range of products such as plastics, toys, cosmetics, food packaging—have been linked to myriad health problems, including birth defects, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, as well as impacts to the brain and reproductive and immune systems.</p><p>The highest profile—and highest dollar— effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get on the same page of academic scientists and Europe on endocrine disruptor science has only deepened divides. An <a href="https://www.ehn.org/is-bpa-dangerous-for-health-2641153205.html" target="_blank">EHN investigation</a> of the FDA's effort on just one chemical, BPA, found the agency stacked the deck against findings from independent scientists studying BPA. It also found that many chemicals used to replace BPA in "BPA-free" products have the same adverse health impacts as the original chemical.</p>
Separate Focus on PFAS<p>Also released Wednesday was an EU strategy that specifically takes aim at PFAS, compounds so persistent they're called "forever chemicals." PFAS, used in products including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and some clothing, have been found in the water of roughly 2,230 U.S. communities in 49 states, affecting more than 100 million people.<br></p><p>The new European strategy would only allow for PFAS use when the chemicals are "essential for society." In addition, it will fund research for safe alternatives and for monitoring and cleanup.</p>
Toward 'Zero Pollution'<p>The framework stems from political guidelines laid out at the end of 2019 by European Union President Ursula von der Leyen that pointed Europe toward "zero pollution."</p><p>"I will put forward a cross-cutting strategy to protect citizens' health from environmental degradation and pollution, addressing air and water quality, hazardous chemicals, industrial emissions, pesticides and endocrine disruptors," President von der Leyen wrote <a href="https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/43a17056-ebf1-11e9-9c4e-01aa75ed71a1" target="_blank">in the report.</a></p><p>The Commission plans to release a Zero Action Pollution Action Plan on air, water and soil next year to complement the chemicals strategy.</p>
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By Carol Kwiatkowski
Like many inventions, the discovery of Teflon happened by accident. In 1938, chemists from Dupont (now Chemours) were studying refrigerant gases when, much to their surprise, one concoction solidified. Upon investigation, they found it was not only the slipperiest substance they'd ever seen – it was also noncorrosive and extremely stable and had a high melting point.
As PFAS are produced and used, they can migrate into soil and water. MI DEQ
Toxic Chemicals<p>A <a href="https://cen.acs.org/articles/83/i30/DuPont-Faces-Class-Action-Lawsuits.html" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought this issue to national attention in 2005. Workers at a Parkersburg, West Virginia, DuPont plant joined with local residents to sue the company for releasing millions of pounds of one of these chemicals, known as PFOA, into the air and the Ohio River. Lawyers discovered that the company <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts-worst-nightmare.html" target="_blank">had known as far back as 1961</a> that PFOA could harm the liver.</p><p>The suit was ultimately <a href="https://www.levinlaw.com/dupont-c8-litigation" target="_blank">settled in 2017</a> for $670 million, after <a href="http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an eight-year study</a> of tens of thousands of people who had been exposed. Based on <a href="http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/publications.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple scientific studies</a>, this review concluded that there was a probable link between exposure to PFOA and six categories of diseases: diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.</p><p>Over the past two decades, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0405-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers</a> have shown that many PFAS are not only toxic – they also <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">don't fully break down in the environment</a> and have accumulated in the bodies of people and animals around the world. Some studies have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.10.008" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">detected PFAS in 99% of people tested</a>. Others have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emcon.2019.06.002" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found PFAS in wildlife</a>, including polar bears, dolphins and seals.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e62ff1326c2d51afc5f0856eb1ec3795"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JbHeE3YzeRA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Widespread and Persistent<p>PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>" because they don't fully degrade. They move easily through air and water, can quickly travel long distances and accumulate in sediment, soil and plants. They have also been found in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.06.009" target="_blank">dust</a> <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas" target="_blank">and food</a>, including eggs, meat, milk, fish, fruits and vegetables.</p><p>In the bodies of humans and animals, PFAS <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2013.06.004" target="_blank">concentrate in various organs, tissues and cells</a>. The <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/noncancer/completed/pfoa/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">U.S. National Toxicology Program</a> and <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp.asp?id=1117&tid=237" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> have confirmed a long list of health risks, including immunotoxicity, testicular and kidney cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and thyroid disease.</p><p>Children are even more vulnerable than adults because they can ingest more PFAS relative to their body weight from food and water and through the air. Children also put their hands in their mouths more often, and their metabolic and immune systems are less developed. Studies show that these chemicals <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070691" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harm children</a> by causing kidney dysfunction, delayed puberty, asthma and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/noncancer/completed/pfoa/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">altered immune function</a>.</p><p>Researchers have also documented that PFAS exposure <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.2034" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduces the effectiveness of vaccines</a>, which is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p>
<div id="2f489" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc8947d6f28cecd61b99688c8e1f751a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291831257790402560" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">PFAS, a class of chemicals that have been associated with health hazards including liver damage, birth defects, can… https://t.co/NtnVkmMQs0</div> — WIRED (@WIRED)<a href="https://twitter.com/WIRED/statuses/1291831257790402560">1596831547.0</a></blockquote></div>
Regulation Is Lagging<p>PFAS have become so ubiquitous in the environment that health experts say it is <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/exposure.html" target="_blank">probably impossible to completely prevent exposure</a>. These substances are released throughout their life cycles, from chemical production to product use and disposal. Up to 80% of environmental pollution from common PFAS, such as PFOA, comes from <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/es0512475" target="_blank">production of fluoropolymers</a> that use toxic PFAS as processing aids to make products like Teflon.</p><p>In 2009 the EPA established a health advisory level for PFOA in drinking water of 400 parts per trillion. Health advisories are not binding regulations – they are <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/drinking-water-contaminant-human-health-effects-information#dw-standards" target="_blank">technical guidelines</a> for state, local and tribal governments, which are primarily responsible for regulating public water systems.</p><p>In 2016 the agency <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/drinkingwaterhealthadvisories_pfoa_pfos_updated_5.31.16.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dramatically lowered</a> this recommendation to 70 parts per trillion. Some states have set <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.4863" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">far more protective levels</a> – as low as 8 parts per trillion.</p><p>According to a recent estimate by the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/about-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Working Group</a>, a public health advocacy organization, up to 110 million Americans could be <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/map/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking PFAS-contaminated water</a>. Even with the most advanced treatment processes, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2013.10.045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">extremely difficult and costly</a> to remove these chemicals from drinking water. And it's impossible to clean up lakes, river systems or oceans. Nonetheless, PFAS are <a href="https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/toxic-forever-chemicals-a-call-for-immediate-federal-action-on-pfas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largely unregulated by the federal government</a>, although they are <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/pfas-action-act-congress-bill-house-pass-trump-epa-20200110.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gaining increased attention from Congress</a>.</p>
Reducing PFAS Risks at the Source<p>Given that PFAS pollution is so ubiquitous and hard to remove, many health experts assert that the only way to address it is by <a href="https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2016/12/21/reducing-human-exposure-to-highly-fluorinated-chemicals" target="_blank">reducing PFAS production and use as much as possible</a>.</p><p><a href="https://pfascentral.org/" target="_blank">Educational campaigns</a> and <a href="https://toxicfreefuture.org/toxic-free-future-action-center/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">consumer pressure</a> are making a difference. Many forward-thinking companies, including grocers, clothing manufacturers and furniture stores, have <a href="https://pfascentral.org/pfas-basics/pfas-free-products/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed PFAS</a> from products they use and sell.</p><p>State governments have also stepped in. California recently <a href="https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/ban-on-firefighting-foam-with-pfas-signed-by-california-governor" target="_blank">banned PFAS in firefighting foams</a>. Maine and Washington have <a href="https://www.natlawreview.com/article/attack-pfass-extends-to-food-packaging" target="_blank">banned PFAS in food packaging</a>. Other states are <a href="https://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-state-laws.aspx" target="_blank">considering similar measures</a>.<br></p><p>I am part of a group of scientists from universities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe that has argued for managing the entire class of PFAS chemicals as a group, instead of one by one. We also support an "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/C9EM00163H" target="_blank">essential uses" approach</a> that would restrict their production and use only to products that are critical for health and proper functioning of society, such as medical devices and safety equipment. And we have recommended developing safer non-PFAS alternatives.</p><p>As the EPA acknowledges, there is an <a href="https://www.epa.gov/innovation/innovative-ways-destroy-pfas-challenge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">urgent need for innovative solutions</a> to PFAS pollution. Guided by good science, I believe we can effectively manage PFAS to reduce further harm, while researchers find ways to clean up what has already been released.</p>
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The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is one of the largest and deepest in the past 15 years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Tuesday.
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By Tim Schauenberg
Whether they smoked a joint on the couch or sniffed a line in a club, some 269 million people around the world indulged in drugs in 2018, according to the United Nations.
Cannabis Vs. Potatoes: Which Has a Bigger Carbon Footprint?<p>With 192 million users in 2018, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-marijuana-use-rose-by-60-percent-over-the-past-decade/a-49358921" target="_blank">cannabis is by far the most popular drug worldwide</a> — excluding alcohol and tobacco.</p><p>Efforts to legalize marijuana are continuing to gather pace in the United States, where the drug has already become a billion-dollar market. But cultivating the plants in greenhouses, with optimum light, ventilation and temperature, guzzles an enormous amount of resources.</p><p>According to estimates, cannabis production in the U.S. already accounts for around <a href="https://www.swansea.ac.uk/media/Environmental-Impacts-of-the-Legalization-of-Cannabis-in-California.pdf" target="_blank">1% of the country's total energy consumption</a>.</p><p>"Within a single year, approximately 16.5 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted in the United States as the result of indoor cannabis production, equivalent to the annual emissions of 3 million cars," according to a <a href="https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4w64g29s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report by the University of California, Davis.</a></p><p>That means that a single joint has a similar carbon footprint to about 6.6 pounds of potatoes.</p>
Cannabis Plants Add to Water Stress<p>Cannabis is also an extremely thirsty plant, needing twice as much water as tomatoes or grapes.</p><p>About 70% of the cannabis consumed across the country is grown in California. Such large-scale cultivation of a crop that requires up to 6 gallons of water per day per plant has only intensified the region's water shortages during dry seasons.</p><p>Scientists from the Californian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife estimate that illegal outdoor cultivation has lowered the water level in some flowing streams by up to a quarter.</p>
Clearing Forests to Plant Coca<p>The ecological footprint of the world's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/2020-may-set-eu-record-for-cocaine-seizures/a-54585695" target="_blank">19 million cocaine users</a> is particularly apparent in Latin America. According to the United Nations, <a href="https://wdr.unodc.org/wdr2020/field/WDR20_Booklet_3.pdf" target="_blank">Colombia had the potential to produce 1,120 tons of pure cocaine in 2018</a> — a record crop for the South American country.</p><p>Since 2001, about 741,000,000 acres of forest have been cleared for the cultivation of coca — the plant that produces cocaine. </p><p>Following a temporary decline, "we can see actually the same peak of coca that we were watching 20 years ago," Paulo Sandoval, a geographer at the University of Oregon, told DW.</p><p>Sandoval's latest satellite data shows that around 123,000 acres of coca are currently being cultivated in Colombia's Amazon region alone — about half of it in nature reserves that are home to a rich diversity of species.</p><p>But the plantations he surveyed account for only 20% of the total cultivated area.</p>
Colombia's Approach 'Harms' the Environment<p>Until now, the Colombian government has relied on a strategy of eradication in its fight against coca cultivation. As part of its campaign, aircraft sprayed plantations with the highly concentrated herbicide glyphosate. This method effectively destroyed many coca plantations, but it also damaged neighboring forests and farmland.</p><p>Elizabeth Tellman, a geographer at Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York, says this approach harms rather than helps the environment. And once the fields are destroyed, the cartels simply clear more forests elsewhere and plant new coca crops.</p><p>"We do know that it [the destruction of cultivated areas] has not only had no effect (...) it's been really counterproductive," she told DW in an interview. </p><p>Coca leaves aren't just grown in the jungle; they're also processed into cocaine in secret laboratories there. This process requires highly toxic chemicals such as ammonia, acetone and hydrochloric acid. Scientists estimate that several million liters of these substances end up in soils and rivers each year. There are now few aquatic plants or animals living in those contaminated waters, according to a 2015 EU report.</p>
MDMA, Ecstasy and Co.<p>So-called party drugs — from pills to a line of powder in a nightclub bathroom — have grown in popularity in recent years.</p><p>The Netherlands and Belgium are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-police-find-netherlands-largest-cocaine-lab/a-54529270" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hotspots for synthetic drugs</a>. The production of a kilo of pure MDMA, the main substance in ecstasy, results in 10 kilos (22 pounds) of toxic waste — or 30 kilos (66 pounds) in the case of amphetamines. This might include sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acids and acetone, substances that would normally have to be disposed of as hazardous waste using protective suits.</p><p>The Dutch Water Research Institute (KWR) estimates that in 2017, around 7,000 tons of these substances were either dumped somewhere in drums or leaked into the ground and rivers. "That's unbelievable," says Eric Emke, a scientist at the KWR.</p><p><a href="https://nos.nl/artikel/2264440-politie-ontmantelt-drugslab-in-rijen-dit-was-heel-erg-gevaarlijk.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A report aired by Dutch public broadcaster NOS</a> showed just how abrasive these liquids can be. In it, a scientist immerses a chicken leg in a yellow sodium hydroxide solution. After two days, the meat has completely dissolved, leaving just the bone behind.</p><p>Emke says the waste is sometimes dumped into containers used to collect cattle excrement, becoming mixed with the dung that is spread on corn crops.</p><p>"And so five years ago, they discovered amphetamine and ecstasy residues in corn lice."</p><p>Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia, says Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have also become a hub for "industrial scale" global synthetic drug production in recent years.</p><p><span></span>"The spillover damage to groundwater and habitats is severe, and frankly it is nothing short of an ecological and public health disaster," he said.</p>
Groundwater Sinking in Afghanistan<p>Around 337,000 football fields, or 23 times the size of Paris — that's the amount of land that was used to cultivate opium worldwide in 2019, according to the UN. The main producers are Myanmar, Mexico and Afghanistan — which accounts for 84% of global cultivation.</p><p>Poppy fields spread mainly across the country's southwest in areas where, until the 1990s, there was nothing but arid desert. Today, some 1.4 million people live there, making a living from cultivating opium and agriculture. That's all possible thanks to more than 50,000 solar-powered water pumps that have greened the desert. But that is not as green as it sounds.</p><p><a href="https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2006E-When-the-Water-Runs-Out.pdf" target="_blank">A report by socio-economist David Mansfield</a> found that the region's groundwater is sinking by 9.8 feet per year. Wells as deep as 426 feet are now being drilled to find water.</p><p>"Each year, more people are arriving in the desert and installing solar deep wells. There are local fears that there will fast become a time when agricultural production will no longer be viable."</p><p>The poppy farmers also use chemical fertilizers and strong pesticides to control weeds. Groundwater tests have shown that nitrate levels are significantly higher than what is deemed safe. This can increase the risk of blue-baby syndrome, which leads to heart defects and death in newborns.</p><p>Mansfield warns that if water in the region does eventually run out, it will likely force large numbers of people from their homes, sparking a rural exodus.</p>
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By Brett Walton
Who's responsible for making sure the water you drink is safe? Ultimately, you are. But if you live in the U.S., a variety of federal, state and local entities are involved as well.
Setting Limits<p>The process for setting federal drinking water contaminant limits, which is overseen by the EPA, was not designed to be speedy.</p><p>First, the EPA identifies a list of <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ccl/contaminant-candidate-list-4-ccl-4-0" target="_blank">several dozen</a> unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants that might be harmful. Then water utilities, which are in charge of water quality monitoring, test their treated water to see what shows up. The identification and testing is done on a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ccl/basic-information-ccl-and-regulatory-determination#what-is-CCL" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">five-year cycle</a>. The EPA examines those results and, for at least five contaminants, as required by the SDWA, it determines whether a regulation is needed.</p><p>Three factors go into the decision: Is the contaminant harmful? Is it widespread at high levels? Will a regulation meaningfully reduce health risks? If the answer is "Yes" to all three, then a national standard <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ccl/basic-information-ccl-and-regulatory-determination#what-crieria-reg-det" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will be forthcoming</a>. Altogether, the process can take a decade or more from start to finish.</p><p>Usually, however, one of the three answers is "No." Since the 1996 amendments were passed, the EPA has not regulated any new contaminants through this process, though it has strengthened existing rules for arsenic, microbes and the chemical byproducts of drinking water disinfection. The agency did decide in 2011 that it should regulate perchlorate — which is used in explosives and rocket fuel and damages the thyroid — but reversed that decision in June 2020, claiming that the chemical is not widespread enough to warrant a national regulation.</p><p>Two other chemicals have recently advanced to the standard-writing stage. In February, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the agency would regulate PFOA and PFOS, both members of the class of non-stick, flame-retarding chemicals known as PFAS. For those two chemicals, the EPA currently has issued a health advisory, which is a non-enforceable guideline.</p>
Omissions and Nuances<p>That is the regulatory process at the federal level. But there are omissions and nuances.</p><p>One big omission is private wells. Water in wells that supply individual homes is not regulated by federal statute. Rather, private well owners are responsible for testing and treating their own well water. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that about 15% of U.S. residents use a private well. Some states, such as New Jersey, require that private wells be tested for contaminants before a home is sold. County health departments might also have similar point-of-sale requirements.</p>
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