By Karen Charman
When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.
Foxes Guarding the Henhouse<p>Before he assumed power, Trump attacked regulations as unnecessary barriers to freedom and economic prosperity. Since taking office, he has targeted anything enacted by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and taken steps to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the international effort to combat climate change. He has also staffed heads of key agencies with climate deniers of various stripes, forced out career public servants and created a hostile work environment for those who don't profess loyalty to his deregulatory agenda.</p><p>Like Trump himself, some of his cabinet choices displayed an audacious penchant for <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage" target="_blank">self-dealing</a> and abusing their positions of authority. One example is Trump's first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who aggressively worked to overturn Obama's climate regulations, spent most of his time in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-epa-head-steps-down-after-wave-of-ethics-management-scandals/2018/07/05/39f4251a-6813-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">private meetings</a> with fossil fuel and chemical company executives, sidelined career EPA staff and reconfigured independent scientific advisory boards to make them more supportive of the industries EPA is charged with regulating. Dubbed "<a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-pruitt-leaves-20180705-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history</a>," Pruitt resigned in disgrace after revelations about his multiple brazen abuses, including using the agency as his personal concierge service and piggy bank.</p><p>Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/andrew-wheeler-acting-epa-administrator-former-number-two-before-scott-pruitt-resignation/" target="_blank">former coal industry lobbyist</a> and longtime Republican Washington insider, took over and has continued Trump's deregulatory agenda apace.</p><p>At the Department of Interior (DOI), a sprawling agency that oversees 75 percent of the country's public federal lands and includes the U.S. Geological Survey, which is tasked with evaluating natural hazards that threaten life and the health of our ecosystems, Trump installed another flamboyant anti-environmentalist to head the agency. Like Pruitt, Trump's first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke aggressively attacked environmental regulations, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/07/epa-dismisses-half-of-its-scientific-advisers-on-key-board-citing-clean-break-with-obama-administration/" target="_blank">ditched more than 200 advisory panels</a>, and pushed to open up vast swaths of public land to oil and gas drilling. Described by one environmental group as "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/interior-secretary-zinke-resigns-amid-investigations/2018/12/15/481f9104-0077-11e9-ad40-cdfd0e0dd65a_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation's history</a>," Zinke was forced out after numerous highly publicized conflict-of-interest scandals.</p><p>The DOI is now run by Zinke's deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, another longtime Republican Washington insider and former oil industry lobbyist who has also been the subject of <a href="https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/05/this-is-still-happening-david-bernhardt-trump-lincoln.html" target="_blank">several government ethics complaints</a> for various violations favoring polluting industries.</p><p>More recently, longtime climate change denier David Legates, a climatologist at the University of Delaware previously <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/19032015/u-delaware-refuses-disclose-funding-sources-its-climate-contrarian" target="_blank">funded by fossil fuel interests</a>, was hired for a <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">top job</a> advancing weather modeling and prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Legates has called for <a href="https://www.democracynow.org/2020/9/18/noaa_david_legates_climate_crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasing carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>The Trump administration has done much more than stack government agencies with fossil fuel industry proponents. It has removed or diluted discussion of climate change from as many government platforms as it can and decimated independent scientific advisory boards that provide unbiased, fact-based information the government needs to enact policies that protect the public. It has also <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/482352-trump-budget-slashes-funding-for-epa-environmental-programs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slashed environmental agency staffing and budgets</a>.</p>
The Damage So Far<p>A September 17 <a href="https://rhg.com/research/the-rollback-of-us-climate-policy/" target="_blank">report</a> by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. These include repealing Obama's main climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce dirty emissions from power plants; increasing pollution from cars by rolling back fuel economy standards and challenging California's longtime authority to set stricter emissions standards; targeting controls on hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigerators and air conditioners that also destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer; and allowing unreported and unregulated emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, by oil and gas companies.</p><p>Besides these measures, Trump is also trying to gut core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which were enacted to protect human health and preserve a livable world.</p><p>The Paris agreement aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and hopefully cap it at 1.5 degrees C or lower. We are now at approximately 1.2 degrees C and counting.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Sharon Zhang
Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.
By Leanna First-Arai
In a push to capture the rural vote, 62 percent of which went to Trump in 2016, both the Trump and Biden campaigns are ramping up efforts to appeal to farmers and ranchers.
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By Sara Amundson
Every year, fins from as many as 73 million sharks circulate throughout the world in a complex international market. They are the key ingredient in shark fin soup, a luxury dish considered a status symbol in some Asian cuisines.
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By Tony Dunn
On Nov. 8, 2018, I was trapped in my car as embers fell all around me in Paradise, California, and the thought that kept going through my head was, "This can't be the same fire [that had been reported 10 miles away only two hours before]. Fires can't move like that."
I should know: I spent nearly a decade studying wildland fire history, fire ecology and fire behavior in Southern California for the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.
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By Leslie Crawford
Remember back when we were all tubes?
Leslie Crawford: Do you understand animals more than people?<p><strong>Sy Montgomery:</strong> As a child, I grew up on an Army base and I did not have a single human friend. It allowed me the freedom to get to know other species. I vividly remember my 20s like it was yesterday. As a young person, I was often worried about whether or not I was reading other people correctly. And yet these are organisms that use the same English language. It's terrific to be in my 60s and know I can read animals. I have always read animals better than people.<span></span><br></p>
What did you find surprising about humans as a child?<p>I was shocked to learn that people use their language to lie. Even little kids lie. Of course, animals will lie, too. An octopus will say, "I'm four or five sea snakes." What the octopus does is change each of its arms to look like a sea snake, which is very poisonous.<em></em> Chimpanzees lie all the time. But the degree to which humans use language to lie shocked me. I've always dealt with animals in a very straightforward way. I wasn't ever trying to conceal things from them. Humans often want incorrect information about you and project incorrect things on you.</p>
So much has changed about our understanding of animals since you started writing about them. When did you first realize that animals are sentient beings?<p>I think most of us realize as children that animals are sentient beings. But then, somehow, for so many people, this truth gets overwritten — by schools teaching old theories, by agribusiness that wants us to treat animals like products, by the pharmaceutical and medical industries who want to test products on animals as if they were little more than petri dishes. But thankfully, scientific and evolutionary <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/what-the-crow-knows/580726/" target="_blank">evidence for animal sentience</a> has grown too obvious to ignore.</p>
What have you learned about animals and consciousness?<p>You don't want to project onto animals your wishes and desires. You have to respect your fellow animals. I don't want to roll in vomit, but a hyena would enjoy that. I don't want to kill everything I eat with my face, but that's what I'd do if I'm a great white shark. If I were eating a carcass, I would not be as happy about it as a scavenger. We have different lives but what we share is astonishingly deep, evolutionarily speaking.</p>
When did you know you were an animal person?<p>Animals have always been my best friends and the source of my deepest joy. Before I was 2, I toddled into the hippo pen at the Frankfurt Zoo, seeking their company, and totally unafraid. When I learned to speak, one of my first announcements to my parents was that I was really a horse. The pediatrician reassured my mother I would outgrow this phase. He was right, because next I announced I was really a dog.</p><p>My father loved animals. Growing up, my mother had a dog named Flip who she adored. But I seem to have had an even greater attachment to animals than they did. My friend, the author <a href="http://www.brendapetersonbooks.com/about/" target="_blank">Brenda Peterson</a>, says that I must have been adopted at the local animal shelter.</p>
How many animals do you currently live with?<p>Right now, the only animal who lives with us is a border collie named Thurber. I travel a lot: Thailand, Ecuador, Germany, Spain. I can't force my husband to have a house filled with animals. I had chickens but predators got almost all of them. Weasels got into the coop. They are so smart. Even though we buried wire beneath the floor, weasels need just a tiny opening to get through. You can never weasel-proof an old barn.</p>
It sounds like you have some respect for weasels even though they killed your chickens?<p>They were there first. I learned my chickens were killed on Christmas morning when I brought a bowl of popcorn to them and saw this white creature with black eyes staring at me. You'd think I'd be angry. But the beauty and ferocity of this creature filled me with awe. At the same time that I mourned my beloved chickens, I admired the weasel.</p>
You originally studied psychology. How do you go about thinking about what animals are thinking? Or is it a mistake for people to imagine animals are thinking in a way that we think?<p>I triple majored in college, and psychology was one of them. But thinking about animals wasn't really part of the coursework. I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume that nonhuman animals share our motivations and much of our thought processes. We want the same things: food, safety, interesting work and, in the case of social animals, love. But we can't always apply human tastes to animals — otherwise fish would seek to escape from the water and hyenas wouldn't roll in vomit.</p>
When did you stop eating meat and dairy and why do you think some people make the decision and others don’t?<p>I read <a href="https://www.harpercollins.com/9780061711305/animal-liberation/" target="_blank"><em>Animal Liberation</em></a>, by Peter Singer, in my 20s. Even though I loved meat, I haven't eaten it since. I can't wait to try the Impossible Burger!</p>
In writing Sprig, I learned so much about pigs, including how smart they are. What do you love most about pigs?<p>They are so sensitive and emotional. And they're wise. They know what matters in life: warm sun, the touch of loving hands and great food.</p>
Similarly, when I wrote Gwen, I found out how remarkable hens are with their own superpowers, including keen eyesight and a strong community that includes watching out for each other.<p>I agree with you. I love these aspects of their lives. I love how similar they are to us in so many ways, but I also love the otherness of these animals.</p>
Speaking of “otherness,” in your book Soul of an Octopus, you came to know Athena, an octopus, as a friend. But can a person really know an octopus?<p>Until the day I met Athena in 2011, pretty much all of the creatures I got to know personally were vertebrates. We are so like fellow mammals, with whom we share 90 percent of our genetic material.</p><p>I didn't know if I would be able to bring what I understand about other animals to an invertebrate, but I was delighted to see it was true of the octopus. It was clear the octopus was just as curious about me as I was about her.</p><p>There are some animals who aren't interested in you. But when you have an octopus look you in the face and investigate you with her suckers with such an intensity, well, what that octopus taught me [about consciousness] blew me away. When Athena grabbed me, I correctly understood that she wasn't being aggressive, just curious.</p>
How do you convince people to consider an octopus as something other than something to eat?<p>I tell them about my octopus friends, Octavia and Kali and Karma — specific individuals to whom they could relate.</p>
I have realized that preaching to people about seeing animals as worthy of the same compassion and dignity as is owed humans doesn’t work. But if preaching isn’t effective, what do you think works to change hearts and minds — and stomachs?<p>Teach by example. It's the most powerful tool we have. Your love for pigs, told through your stories of Sprig and Gwen, is contagious because of your example. You show how much fun it is to let these animals enrich your life and make others want to be part of it. That's much more appealing than a lecture.</p>
Are there one or two calls to action you would ask of people who want to improve the world for animals?<p>I would suggest that individuals find the action that best suits them. For me, when I was young, working 14 hours a day and making relatively little money, I had no extra time for volunteer work, and my tithes to animal causes amounted to far too little. But I could change my diet, so I did. For another person, an overnight <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/article/279566/9-healthy-tips-to-help-you-start-eating-a-vegan-diet/" target="_blank">change to vegetarianism or veganism</a> might be too tough, but perhaps they could <a href="https://www.wikihow.com/Volunteer-at-an-Animal-Shelter" target="_blank">volunteer at a shelter</a>.</p><p>I personally hate politics, though I vote and donate. But other people might throw themselves joyously into working toward electing candidates that <a href="https://aldf.org/article/protecting-animals-through-local-legislation/" target="_blank">support conservation and animal welfare legislation</a>. Happily, we can all work with our individual strengths to make the change animals deserve.</p>
What about everything we learn daily about climate change and the growing risk of mass extinctions?<p>Sometimes you don't want to read the headlines. It's so depressing. During the civil rights movement, I was too young to have anything to do with that. But now we can choose to be part of what is definitely a movement, one that recognizes that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/what-the-crow-knows/580726/" target="_blank">nonhuman animals think and know and feel the way we do</a>. We know this based on cognitive and behavioral science. That change has happened within my lifetime, which is fantastic.</p><p>The fact that we live during a challenging time gives us an opportunity to be courageous. I'm thrilled to be able to apply my courage to such a worthy endeavor and with such worthy partners.</p>
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By Elliott Negin
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.
Updating an Antiquated System<p>Currently, <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/renewable-portfolio-standards.aspx" target="_blank">29 states and the District of Columbia</a> require utilities to increase the amount of electricity they generate from renewable resources over time. California, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and Washington, D.C., are leading the pack with a target of 100 percent by mid-century.</p> <p>These renewable electricity standards have proven to be one of the most effective ways to curb U.S. global warming emissions. According to a 2016 Energy Department <a href="https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/new-study-renewable-energy-state-renewable-portfolio-standards-yield-sizable-benefits" target="_blank">report</a>, these standards cut carbon pollution nationally by 59 million metric tons in 2013 alone, akin to closing 15 average-sized coal-fired power plants. It would be even more effective to have a national standard, and Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) has <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/steve-clemmer/national-renewable-electricity-standard" target="_blank">proposed</a> one of 50 percent by 2035. But ratcheting up renewable electricity requirements can go only so far without modernizing the grid and increasing storage capacity.</p> <p>While today's smartphones boast more than <a href="https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2019/07/02/your_mobile_phone_vs_apollo_11s_guidance_computer_111026.html" target="_blank">100,000 times</a> <a href="https://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2019/07/02/your_mobile_phone_vs_apollo_11s_guidance_computer_111026.html" target="_blank">the processing power</a> of the computer on board Apollo 11, most of the power plants, transmission lines, transformers and poles that comprise the grid are at least 40 to 50 years old, built during the expansion of the electric power sector in the decades following World War II. With its aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks and vulnerability to climate impacts, today's grid gets a <a href="https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/energy/" target="_blank">barely passing grade</a> of D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers.</p> <p>The grid was designed to transmit electricity from large, centralized plants, but power today flows from other sources, including solar and wind facilities. Rooftop solar panels and other "distributed" generation systems reduce the distance electricity has to travel, potentially increasing efficiency, but they also increase the complexity of transmitting electricity, and the amount generated from hour to hour varies. Investing in grid infrastructure would enable utilities to incorporate modern technology, making the grid more resilient and flexible, better able to integrate variable energy sources, and capable of providing real-time information so consumers can manage their energy use and save money.</p>
100 Percent Clean Energy Is Possible — With Storage<p>A modernized electricity grid would have the capacity to store large amounts of excess electricity. Today, utilities have to produce the exact amount of electricity needed at a specific time to meet demand. With advanced storage technology, it doesn't have to be that way.</p> <p>"Our electricity grid is where our food distribution system was before refrigeration," says Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst at my organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "Up until the 1920s, when the refrigerator became widely available, most people had to eat fresh food right away because they had no good way to keep it cold. A grid with storage capacity would allow consumers to light their homes at night with the extra energy from solar panels during the day."</p> <p>One storage technology — pumped hydroelectric — has been around since the 1890s, and there has been increased interest in it in recent years because it can be paired with variable renewable sources. Hydroelectric plants pump water to elevated reservoirs and release it through turbines to generate electricity when demand is high. With <a href="https://energystorage.org/why-energy-storage/technologies/pumped-hydropower/" target="_blank">23 gigawatts</a> of capacity, pumped hydro is currently the largest type of energy storage in the United States. That said, it represents less than 2 percent of U.S. generating capacity and is unlikely to grow much more due to the cost of building such facilities.</p> <p>The ideal solution would be rechargeable, factory-size batteries that can store massive amounts of energy for days or even weeks. Today's grid-scale batteries can store only a few hours' worth of energy before they need to be recharged. That's enough to accommodate solar or wind power variability but not nearly enough to completely switch from fossil fuels to renewables.</p> <p>Money is the main issue. Billions of private-sector dollars are now pouring into research and development for electric vehicle batteries, but they are only trickling in for grid batteries because the market is still in its infancy. That makes funding dependent on the U.S. government, which historically has <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dont-take-federal-science_b_4146736" target="_blank">supported</a> cutting-edge research before the private sector was ready to invest. But federal funding for grid battery R&D has been deficient, and the United States is <a href="https://americanenergyinnovation.org/2017/03/can-the-us-take-charge-in-the-global-battery-market/" target="_blank">falling behind</a> China, Japan and South Korea in the global battery market.</p>
Bipartisan Support in Congress<p>Deploying batteries to store electricity generated when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing would enable the grid to handle more renewable energy. Fortunately, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle recognize that potential.</p> <p>There are a handful of bipartisan <a href="https://www.powermag.com/doe-lawmakers-looking-at-energy-storage-rd-funding/?pagenum=1" target="_blank">energy storage bills</a> now pending in the Senate. One bill, introduced by Angus King (I-Maine) and Martha McSally (R-Arizona), would provide $500 million over five years for a joint Energy and Defense department energy storage demonstration program. In September, the King-McSally proposal was folded into a <a href="https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/republican-news?ID=23EE00A2-2A58-40CE-B7CC-733D03DC5651" target="_blank">bill</a> proposed by King's fellow Mainer, Republican Susan Collins, which would dedicate $330 million over the next five years for storage R&D to help lower battery costs, which already have <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/giant-batteries-supercharge-wind-and-solar-plans-11565535601" target="_blank">dropped</a> nearly 40 percent since 2015. The Department of Energy <a href="https://www.powermag.com/doe-lawmakers-looking-at-energy-storage-rd-funding/?pagenum=1" target="_blank">supports</a> a number of the proposed research efforts, which is not surprising, given Energy Secretary Rick Perry has <a href="https://thinkprogress.org/rick-perry-hails-energy-storage-7cb6b0709a1a/" target="_blank">called</a> storage the "holy grail" of U.S. energy.</p> <p>The House is also jumping on the bandwagon. In June, it passed an <a href="https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY2020%20E%26W%20Sub%20Markup%20Draft.pdf" target="_blank">appropriations bill</a> that boosts the Energy Department's energy storage budget by nearly <a href="https://www.aip.org/fyi/2019/fy20-appropriations-bills-doe-applied-energy-rd" target="_blank">35 percent</a>, and the budget of its Advanced Research Projects Agency — which has invested as much as <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2018/07/federal-energy-storage-convening-summary.pdf" target="_blank">15 percent</a> of its funding in electricity storage projects — by <a href="https://www.aip.org/fyi/2019/fy20-appropriations-bills-doe-applied-energy-rd" target="_blank">17 percent</a>. More recently, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee proposed <a href="https://mikethompson.house.gov/sites/mikethompson.house.gov/files/GREEN%20Act%20Discussion%20Draft.pdf" target="_blank">legislation</a> in November that would provide tax incentives for a range of clean energy technologies, including energy storage.</p> <p>"Energy storage technology was developed right here in the United States, but we are losing out to other countries," says Rob Cowin, director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Increasing federal funding for energy storage R&D will pay big dividends for the U.S. economy and national security. Taking the right steps now will make our electricity grid cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable."</p>
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By Tia Schwab
In 2014, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, commissioned by the UK government and Wellcome Trust, estimated that 700,000 people around the world die each year due to drug-resistant infections. A follow-up report two years later showed no change in this estimate of casualties. Without action, that number could grow to 10 million per year by 2050. A leading cause of antibiotic resistance? The misuse and overuse of antibiotics on factory farms.
Antibiotic Resistance<p><strong>The problem</strong>: In 2017, nearly <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/119332/download" target="_blank">11 million</a> kilograms of antibiotics—including 5.6 million kilograms of medically important antibiotics—were sold in the U.S. for factory-farmed animals. Factory farms use antibiotics to make livestock grow faster and control the spread of disease in cramped and unhealthy living conditions. While antibiotics do kill some bacteria in animals, resistant bacteria can, and often do, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/narms/faq.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fnarms%2Fanimals.html" target="_blank">survive and multiply</a>, contaminating meat and animal products during slaughter and processing.</p><p><strong>What it means for you</strong>: People can be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria by handling or eating contaminated animal products, coming into contact with contaminated water or touching farm animals, which of course makes a farmworker's job especially hazardous. Even if you don't eat much meat or dairy, you're vulnerable: Resistant pathogens can enter water streams through animal manure and contaminate irrigated produce.</p><p><strong>Development</strong>s: The European Union has been much more aggressive than the U.S. in regulating antibiotic use on factory farms, <a href="https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-05-1687_en.htm" target="_blank">banning</a> the use of all antibiotics for growth promotion in 2006. But the U.S. is making some progress, too. Under <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/83488/download" target="_blank">new rules</a> issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which went into effect in January 2017, antibiotics that are important for human medicine can no longer be used for growth promotion or feed efficiency in cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals raised for food.</p><p>Additionally, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyavm2of" target="_blank">95 percent</a> of medically important antibiotics used in animal water and feed for therapeutic purposes were reclassified so they can no longer be purchased over the counter, and a veterinarian would have to sign off for their use in animals. As a result, domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in factory farmed animals decreased by 43 percent from 2015 (the year of peak sales) through 2017, <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/119332/download" target="_blank">reports</a> the FDA.</p><p>However, the agency still allows routine antibiotic use in factory farms for disease prevention in crowded and stressed animals, so these new rules aren't nearly enough, says Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.</p><p>"The FDA should implement ambitious reduction targets for antibiotic use in the meat industry, and ensure that these medicines are used to treat sick animals or control a verified disease outbreak, not for routine disease prevention," Wellington <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyavm2of" target="_blank">said</a> in a statement, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.</p><p>National Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Avinash Kar <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyavm2of" target="_blank">agrees</a>. "Far more antibiotics important to humans still go to cows and pigs—usually when they're not sick—than to people, putting the health of every single one of us in jeopardy."</p>
Water and Pollution<p><strong>The problem</strong>: Livestock in this country produce between 3 and 20 times more waste than people in the U.S. produce, according to a <a href="https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/P10089B1.TXT?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=2000+Thru+2005&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5Czyfiles%5CIndex%20Data%5C00thru05%5CTxt%5C00000024%5CP10089B1.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8/r75g8/x150y150g16/i425&Display=hpfr&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results%20page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=1&SeekPage=x&ZyPURL" target="_blank">2005 report</a> issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That's as much as 1.2-1.37 billion tons of manure a year. Some estimates are even higher.</p><p>Manure can contain "pathogens such as <em>E. coli</em>, growth hormones, antibiotics, chemicals used as additives to the manure or to clean equipment, animal blood, silage leachate from corn feed, or copper sulfate used in footbaths for cows," <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">according to</a> a 2010 report by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. Though sewage treatment plants are required for human waste, no such treatment facility exists for livestock waste.</p><p>Since this amount far exceeds what can be used as fertilizer, animal waste from factory farms typically enters massive, open-air waste lagoons, which <a href="https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/manureirrigation/" target="_blank">spread airborne pathogens</a> to people who live nearby. If animal waste is applied as fertilizer and exceeds the soil's capacity for absorption, or if there is a leak or break in the manure storage or containment unit, the animal waste runs off into oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater.</p><p>Extreme weather increases the possibility of such breaks. Hurricane Florence, for example, flooded <a href="https://www.npr.org/2018/09/22/650698240/hurricane-s-aftermath-floods-hog-lagoons-in-north-carolina" target="_blank">at least 50</a> hog lagoons when it struck the Carolinas last year, and satellite photos <a href="https://stonepierpress.org/goodfoodnews/mapping-factory-farms" target="_blank">captured</a> the damage.</p><p>Whether or not the manure is contained or spread as fertilizer, it can release many different types of harmful gases, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, as well as <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">particulate matter</a> comprised of fecal matter, feed materials, pollen, bacteria, fungi, skin cells and silicates, into the air.</p><p><strong>What it means for you</strong>: Pathogens can cause diarrhea and severe illness or even death for those with weakened immune systems, and nitrates in drinking water have been <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">connected</a> to <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40572-016-0085-0" target="_blank">neural tube defects and limb deficiencies in newborns</a> (among other things), as well as miscarriages and poor general health. For infants, it can mean blue baby syndrome and even death.</p><p>Gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">cause</a> dizziness, eye irritation, respiratory illness, nausea, sore throats, seizures, comas and death. Particulate matter in the air can <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">lead</a> to chronic bronchitis, chronic respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function and organic dust toxic syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/docs/understanding_cafos_nalboh.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a> that children raised in communities near factory farms are more likely to develop asthma or bronchitis, and that people who live near factory farms may experience mental health deterioration and increased sensitization to smells.</p><p><strong>Developments</strong>: It is difficult to hold factory farms accountable for polluting surrounding air and water, largely for political reasons. The GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration excused big livestock farms from reporting air emissions, for instance, following a <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/food/2018/12/factory-farms-no-longer-have-to-report-their-air-emissions-that-could-be-dangerous-for-their-neighbors/" target="_blank">decade-long push</a> for special treatment by the livestock industry.</p><p>The exemption indicates "further denial of the impact that these [emissions] are having, whether it's on climate or whether it's on public health," <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/food/2018/12/factory-farms-no-longer-have-to-report-their-air-emissions-that-could-be-dangerous-for-their-neighbors/" target="_blank">says</a> Carrie Apfel, an attorney for Earthjustice. In a 2017 <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-09/documents/_epaoig_20170919-17-p-0396.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the EPA's Office of the Inspector General, the agency admitted it has not found a good way to track emissions from factory farms and know whether the farms are complying with the Clean Air Act.</p><p>No federal agency even has reliable information on the number and locations of factory farms, which of course makes accountability even harder to establish.</p>
Foodborne Illness<p><strong></strong><strong>The problem</strong>: The U.S. has "shockingly high levels of foodborne illness," <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/animals-farmed/2018/feb/21/dirty-meat-shocking-hygiene-failings-discovered-in-us-pig-and-chicken-plants" target="_blank">according</a> to an investigation jointly conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian, and unsanitary conditions at factory farms are a leading contributor.</p><p>Studying 47 meat plants across the U.S., investigators found that hygiene incidents occur at rates experts described as "deeply worrying." One dataset covered 13 large red meat and poultry plants between 2015 and 2017 and found an average of more than 150 violations a week, and 15,000 violations over the entire period. Violations included unsanitary factory conditions and meat contaminated with blood, septicemic disease and feces.</p><p>"The rates at which outbreaks of infectious food poisoning occur in the U.S. are significantly higher than in the UK, or the EU," Erik Millstone, a food safety expert at Sussex University told The Guardian.</p><p>Poor sanitary practices allow bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, which live in the intestinal tracts of infected livestock, to contaminate meat or animal products during slaughter or processing. Contamination occurs at higher rates on factory farms because crowded and unclean living conditions increase the likelihood of transmission between animals.</p><p>It also stresses out animals, which suppresses their immune response, making them more susceptible to disease. The grain-based diets used to fatten cattle can also quickly increase the risk of <em>E. coli</em> infection. In poultry, the practice of processing dead hens into "<a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/e-coli-salmonella-and-oth_b_415240?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAANkjLwmsnRglc1VCMlqcRi5-MysjhEUaB6ddNuzRBu4D7mS_Kc5u2RYcFwbWFy3rsSXK8Rh26fF32cF4wb3DP6yf0ECvgxMz6hOVz-kY2KxgbY_3lEMErrMEjYYFOkCdXibwPndBfr_fztIA1Gw6EbO5sRlbajNmkUFhG382YQg&guccounter=2" target="_blank">spent hen meal</a>" to be fed to live hens has increased the spread of <em>Salmonella</em>.</p><p><strong>What it means for yo</strong>u: According to the CDC, roughly <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/estimates-overview.html" target="_blank">48 million</a> people in the U.S. suffer from foodborne illnesses annually, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. <em>Salmonella</em> accounts for approximately 11 percent of infections, and kills more people every year than any other bacterial foodborne illness.</p><p><strong>Developments</strong>: In January 2011, President Obama <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/international-capacity-building-under-fsma" target="_blank">signed</a> the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the <a href="https://tinyurl.com/kl4oqm" target="_blank">first</a> major piece of federal legislation addressing food safety since 1938. FSMA grants the FDA new authority to regulate the way food is grown, harvested and processed, and new powers such as mandatory recall authority.</p><p>The FSMA "basically codified this principle that everybody responsible for producing food should be doing what the best science says is appropriate to prevent hazards and reduce the risk of illness," <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/20/health/food-safety-illness-rise-cdc/index.html" target="_blank">according</a> to Mike Taylor, co-chairman of Stop Foodborne Illness and a former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. "So we're moving in the right direction."</p><p>However, almost a decade later, the FSMA is still being phased in, due to a shortage of trained food-inspectors and a lack of funding. "Congress has gotten about halfway to what it said was needed to successfully implement" the Act, Taylor said.</p>
The Flu<p><strong></strong><strong>The problem</strong>: Both the number and density of animals on factory farms increase the risk of new virulent pathogens, <a href="https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/22780/swine_flu_report_05_05_2009.pdf" target="_blank">according</a> to the U.S. Council for Agriculture, Science and Technology. In addition, transporting animals over long distances to processing facilities brings different influenza strains into contact with each other so they combine and spread quickly.</p><p>Pigs — susceptible to both avian and human flu viruses — can serve as ground zero for all sorts of new strains. Because of intensive pig farming practices, "the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track, churning out variants every year," <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yybhkxaq" target="_blank">according</a> to a report published in the journal Science.</p><p><strong>What it means for you</strong>: These viruses can become pandemics. In fact, viral geneticists <a href="https://www.wired.com/2009/05/swineflufarm/" target="_blank">link</a> the genetic lineage of H1N1, a kind of swine flu, to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory pig farms. The CDC has <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-h1n1-pandemic.html" target="_blank">estimated</a> that between 151,700 and 575,400 people worldwide died from the 2009 H1N1 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.</p>
Breast, Prostate and Colon Cancer<p><strong></strong><strong>The problem</strong>: Factory farms in the U.S. use hormones to stimulate growth in an estimated <a href="https://www.foodandwatereurope.org/factsheet/food-safety-consequences-of-factory-farms/" target="_blank">two-thirds</a> of beef cattle. On dairy farms, around <a href="https://www.foodandwatereurope.org/factsheet/food-safety-consequences-of-factory-farms/" target="_blank">54 percent</a> of cows are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a growth hormone that increases milk production.</p><p><strong>What it means for you</strong>: The health effects of consuming animal products treated with these growth hormones is an ongoing international debate. Some <a href="https://www.foodandwatereurope.org/factsheet/food-safety-consequences-of-factory-farms/" target="_blank">studies</a> have linked growth hormone residues in meat to reproductive issues and breast, prostate and colon cancer, and IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone, has been linked to colon and breast cancer. However, the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/product-safety-information/report-food-and-drug-administrations-review-safety-recombinant-bovine-somatotropin" target="_blank">FDA</a>, the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK15180/" target="_blank">National Institutes of Health</a> and the <a href="https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/127845/9789241209885_eng.pdf;jsessionid=BB8751F0CE011D6249BDE6C98211465C?sequence=1" target="_blank">World Health Organization</a> have independently found that dairy products and meat from cows treated with rBGH are safe for human consumption.</p><p>Because risk assessments vary, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and Argentina have banned the use of rBGH as a precautionary measure. The EU has also <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/meat_hormones_en" target="_blank">banned</a> the use of six hormones in cattle and imported beef.</p><p><strong>Developments</strong>: U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines allow beef products to be <a href="https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms#15" target="_blank">labeled</a> with "no hormones administered" and dairy products to be <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1994-02-10/html/94-3214.htm" target="_blank">labeled</a> "from cows not treated with rBST/rBGH" if the producer provides sufficient documentation that this is true. Consumers can use this information to make their own decisions about the risks associated with hormone-treated animal products.</p>
What You Can Do<p>You can vote for local initiatives that establish health and welfare regulations for factory farms, but only a tiny number of states, including <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_12,_Farm_Animal_Confinement_Initiative_(2018)" target="_blank">California</a> and <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Massachusetts_Minimum_Size_Requirements_for_Farm_Animal_Containment,_Question_3_(2016)" target="_blank">Massachusetts</a>, are even putting relevant propositions on the ballot.</p><p>Another option is to support any of the nonprofits that are, in lieu of effective government action, taking these factory farms to task. The <a href="https://www.ewg.org/" target="_blank">Environmental Working Group</a>, <a href="https://earthjustice.org/" target="_blank">Earthjustice</a> and the <a href="https://aldf.org/focus-area/farmed-animals/" target="_blank">Animal Legal Defense Fund</a> are among those working hard to check the worst practices of these factory farms. Another good organization is the <a href="https://sraproject.org/" target="_blank">Socially Responsible Agricultural Project</a>, which works with local residents to fight the development of factory farms in their own backyards.</p><p>Buying humanely raised animal products from farms and farmers you trust is another way to push back against factory farming. Sadly, products from these smaller farms make up only a fraction of the total. In the U.S., roughly <a href="https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/us-factory-farming-estimates" target="_blank">99 percent</a> of chickens, turkeys, eggs and pork, and <a href="https://www.sentienceinstitute.org/us-factory-farming-estimates" target="_blank">70 percent</a> of cows, are raised on factory farms.</p><p>You can support lab-grown "clean" burgers, chicken and pork by buying it once it becomes widely available. Made from animal cells, the process completely spares the animal and eliminates the factory farm. "The resulting product is 100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, <em>E. coli</em>, <em>Salmonella</em>, or waste contamination," <a href="https://www.gfi.org/images/uploads/2018/06/GFI1pager.pdf" target="_blank">writes</a> the Good Food Institute.</p><p>In the meantime, you can register your objection to factory farming by doing your bit to reduce demand for their products. In short, eat less meat and dairy, and more plant-based proteins.</p><p>More than $13 billion has been invested in plant-based meat, egg and dairy companies in 2017 and 2018 alone, <a href="https://www.gfi.org/state-of-the-industry" target="_blank">according</a> to the Good Food Institute, and Beyond Meat's initial public offering debut in May marked the most successful one since the year 2000.</p><p>Lest you think that what you do on your own can't possibly make a difference, consider one of the major drivers behind all this new investment: consumers are demanding change.</p><p>"Shifting consumer values have created a favorable market for alternatives to animal-based foods, and we have already seen fast-paced growth in this space across retail and foodservice markets," says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute.</p>
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A major but largely glossed over report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental and public health nonprofit based in Washington, DC, shows that thousands of untested chemicals (an estimated 2,000, to be exact) are found in conventional packaged foods purchasable in U.S. supermarkets. And yes, all of them are legal.
An extensive collection of permissible food additives includes several known or suspected carcinogens. Pixabay
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By Michael Green
A handful of multibillion-dollar chemical companies have waged war on our bodies and our environment for nearly 70 years without our knowledge or consent. Although the federal government — tasked with protecting the public and upholding the law — became aware of this chemical assault 20 years ago, it chose to conceal the truth, downplay the threat, and expand the use of a class of chemicals known to endanger the health of present and future generations.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Toxic, Persistent, Inescapable<p>PFAS are a class of nearly <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas" target="_blank">5,000 synthetic chemicals</a> that make products water- and grease-resistant. They are in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant carpets, lubricants, firefighting foams, paints, cosmetics and <a href="https://www.ceh.org/wp-content/uploads/CEH-Disposable-Foodware-Report-final-1.31.pdf" target="_blank">paper plates our kids eat off at schools</a>. Humans are exposed to PFAS through contaminated food, air, dust, rain, soil and drinking water.</p><p>Termed "forever chemicals," PFAS can take thousands of years to break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for decades. PFAS are now <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/index.html" target="_blank">in the blood of 99 percent of</a> <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/index.html" target="_blank">Americans</a> and have contaminated the drinking <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/report-110-million-americans-could-have-pfas-contaminated-drinking-water" target="_blank">water of as many as 110 million Americans</a> — particularly those living near chemical manufacturing facilities, <a href="https://www.ehn.org/pfas-contamination-is-likely-at-pittsburgh-airport-airports-may-face-legal-challenges-by-doing-nothing-2639773679.html" target="_blank">airports</a> and <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2018/09/a-toxic-threat-pfs-military-fact-sheet-ucs-2018.pdf" target="_blank">military bases</a>. <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects.html" target="_blank">Even the smallest exposure</a> to PFAS can cause a variety of cancers, thyroid disease, hormone disruption, decreased fertility and other serious health issues.</p><p>But there are signs of hope. Health-ravaged communities are fighting back against those that poisoned them — and winning. Schools and businesses are increasingly <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/road-eliminating-fluorinated-chemicals-food-packaging" target="_blank">seeking out foodware, carpets, couches</a> and other items that are PFAS-free. The Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, just <a href="https://corporate.homedepot.com/newsroom/phasing-out-products-containing-pfas" target="_blank">announced</a> that it will phase out the sale of all carpets and rugs containing PFAS chemicals. More and more <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y3vq6d7f" target="_blank">states are</a> taking matters into <a href="https://www.theintell.com/news/20190822/gov-wolf-announces-38m-to-help-pfas-contaminated-communities-in-bucks-montco" target="_blank">their own hands</a>, leading a national movement to combat exposure to PFAS.</p><p>"<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvQUIt0BWcU" target="_blank">Dark Waters</a>," an upcoming film starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins, will tell the story of corporate lawyer Robert Bilott, who helped expose one <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Waters_(2019_film)" target="_blank">of the most appalling environmental crimes in our nation's history</a>. And Congress is finally moving to action on behalf of the people they serve, not the corporations making them sick. Action to protect public health is being taken abroad as well, with Denmark recently becoming the <a href="https://www.ehn.org/denmark-pfas-ban-2640174947.html" target="_blank">first country to ban PFAS in food packaging</a>. But much more must be done.</p>
In the Chemical Industry’s Secret War, Communities Are Fighting Back<p>In 1947, manufacturing company 3M developed perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — a member of the PFAS family. DuPont purchased PFOA in 1951 to make Teflon, which quickly made its way into the kitchens of millions of American households.</p><p>In 1999, a West Virginia farmer whose cattle were suffering unexplained illnesses sued DuPont. The company was forced to release internal documents showing its PFOA-producing factory had contaminated the local water supply, and that it had hidden <a href="https://theintercept.imgix.net/wp-uploads/sites/1/2015/08/IC_teflon_timeline-03_corr.png?auto=compress%2Cformat&q=90" target="_blank">evidence showing</a> that the chemical was hazardous to human health. Tens of thousands of local residents paid the price, including DuPont's own workers, suffering elevated risks of cancer and greater incidences of <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas" target="_blank">low infant birth weights</a>.</p><p>This landmark legal victory by one small farmer against a multibillion-dollar chemical company sparked a nationwide uprising of PFAS-poisoned communities filing and winning a series of class-action lawsuits against DuPont, 3M and Chemours (a spinoff of DuPont), resulting in <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/10/06/dupont-pfas-chemicals-lawsuit/" target="_blank">billions of dollars in legal settlements</a>. These courageous communities forced the release of damaging internal <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts-worst-nightmare.html" target="_blank">documents</a> showing these companies had known since the 1970s their two most widely used PFAS — PFOA in Teflon and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in Scotchgard — were linked to cancer, thyroid disease and other adverse health impacts.</p><p>In response, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rightfully determined PFOS and PFOA were too great a risk to human health, and DuPont and 3M voluntarily phased them out. But instead of getting out of the PFAS business, these companies simply replaced them with slightly altered <a href="https://greensciencepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Myths-vs.-Facts-June-2018.pdf" target="_blank">substitutions</a>, renamed and rebranded as safe, yet <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1385894719319096?fbclid=IwAR3zIeEDnluiG2QKSGTh4HN0Q-sIsBvr_WuZAeS6dkrIshQBWyWQ8JF-8gA" target="_blank">equally persistent and no less</a> hazardous.</p><p>For example, Chemours <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/06/17/new-teflon-toxin-found-in-north-carolina-drinking-water/" target="_blank">replaced PFOA with a new PFAS called GenX</a>. Now, eastern North Carolina is <a href="https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2019-06-12/environmental-justice/communities-still-in-dark-on-cape-fear-river-contamination/a66714-1" target="_blank">reeling from GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River</a> as a result of discharge from the manufacturing process that allows for the creation of Teflon and firefighting foam. Consequently, this <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2019/02/andrew-wheeler-refuses-address-toxic-chemical-harming-98-americans" target="_blank">recurring chemical</a> onslaught continues unabated, increasing the number of unaware and unprepared communities being decimated by companies that will lie and kill for money.</p>
It’s All About Class: The Key to Reducing Human Exposure to PFAS<p>This game of <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.9b01337" target="_blank">chemical "whack-a-mole"</a> must end. Thanks to weak laws and undue chemical industry influence, PFAS remain in an endless number of products and industrial applications, continue to spread across the globe, and pollute our drinking water, food, bodies and environment.</p><p>All PFAS are similar in structure and use and contain properties known to be toxic. To even begin to address this crisis, PFAS must be properly regulated as a "class" of chemicals and included on the EPA's <a href="https://www.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program" target="_blank">Toxics Release Inventory</a> (TRI), just as what was done to Monsanto's cancer-causing class of polychlorinated biphenyls chemicals.</p><p>Once on the TRI, one of the nation's premier right-to-know initiatives, chemical manufacturers will have to report where, when and the amount of PFAS they are releasing into our air, water and soil annually. This would better inform unknowingly exposed communities, incentivize companies to reduce PFAS pollution, prioritize the elimination of the most hazardous PFAS and more effectively hold polluters accountable.</p>
EPA, Trump and DoD: Greed, Corruption and Collusion<p>Yet, Trump's EPA and Department of Defense (DoD) remain dependable PFAS defenders. The EPA has yet to set a safe, enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS, has <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/yogin-kothari/did-epa-consult-with-the-chemical-industry-while-working-to-suppress-a-scientific-study-on-pfas?_ga=2.39499115.93197554.1561921734-469411700.1561921734" target="_blank">colluded with the chemical industry</a> to keep health risks secret, and has approved the use of more than 600 new PFAS chemicals in the last 10 years.</p><p>The DoD has long <a href="https://www.theintell.com/news/20190728/docs-military-chemical-hazards-going-unaddressed" target="_blank">been aware</a> that PFAS in firefighting foam endangers the health of soldiers, their families and surrounding communities. But again, the life of U.S. soldiers are not as valued as the chemicals that kill them.</p><p>As of August 2017, there are more than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-05/documents/dod_presentation_epa_summit_pfos_pfoa_may2018_final.pptxx_.pdf" target="_blank">400 known or suspected</a> military sites contaminated with PFAS. <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/center-science-and-democracy/preserving-science-based-safeguards/toxic-threat-pfas-contamination-military-bases" target="_blank">A recent report found</a> PFAS water contamination at 130 military bases across the country — nearly two-thirds had more than 100 times levels considered safe. Nonetheless, the DoD supports the continued use of PFAS despite the <a href="https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2019/05/17/40234605/lake-union-marina-fire-is-out-thanks-to-non-toxic-firefighting-foam" target="_blank">availability of safer alternatives</a>, <a href="https://gatehousenews.com/unwellwater/battleground/" target="_blank">opposes spending the $2 billion</a> in PFAS cleanup costs needed on and around military bases and has pressured the EPA to <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/440874-critics-accuse-epa-of-weakening-pollution-rule-for-pentagon" target="_blank">weaken cleanup standards</a>.</p><p>The Trump administration recently <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/suppressed-study-the-epa-underestimated-dangers-of-widespread-chemicals" target="_blank">attempted to suppress</a> a major environmental health study that showed exposure limits for PFAS should be 7 to 10 times lower than current EPA safety standards. Last February, <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/08/11/toxic-corruption-chemical-industry-keeps-pulling-epas-strings" target="_blank">Trump's EPA, a wholly owned subsidiary of the chemical industry</a>, released its long-awaited "<a href="https://www.ceh.org/news-events/press-releases/content/cehs-ansje-miller-statement-regarding-epas-pfas-action-plan/" target="_blank">PFAS Action Plan</a>" that actually makes it easier for the continued, secret and unregulated use of chemicals that threaten our future survival without fear of repercussion.</p>
Congress Steps Up, Trump Threatens Veto<p>After decades of inaction, Congress has recently <a href="https://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact/press-publications/research-reports/pfas-federal-legislation" target="_blank">introduced</a> more than 20 PFAS-related bills, as well as dozens of amendments to the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would reduce PFAS pollution and help identify the extent of the crisis we face — including increasing the cleanup of PFAS waste using the Superfund program and requiring the EPA to set a science-based standard for PFAS in drinking water.</p><p>Notably, <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/452507-trump-threatens-veto-on-defense-bill-that-targets-forever-chemicals" target="_blank">President Trump has threatened to veto</a> the NDAA if it contains current amendments that would protect soldiers — and surrounding communities — impacted by the U.S. military's use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam. Congress has until early October to submit an agreed-upon, merged bill to the president.</p>
A Clash on Class: We Must Get This Right<p>Despite Trump's threatened veto, my organization, the <a href="https://www.ceh.org/" target="_blank">Center for Environmental Health</a>, applauds these historic and long overdue congressional actions. However, there are significantly different approaches being taken on the most important action of all.</p><p>The Senate has proposed an amendment to the NDAA that only adds 200 of the nearly 5,000 PFAS currently in existence to the Toxics Release Inventory. Such a limited scope will only open the door for companies like DuPont, Chemours and 3M to continue to perpetually spawn new PFAS chemicals, allowing this cycle of corporate profit at the expense of human life to continue, perhaps forever.</p><p>The better approach is a bipartisan, <a href="https://delgado.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-antonio-delgado-writes-epa-acting-administrator-urging-limits-pfoapfas" target="_blank">stand-alone bill</a> proposed by Rep. Antonio Delgado of New York that includes all 5,000 PFAS on the TRI. <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/attorney-general-james-leads-coalition-22-state-attorneys-general-urging-congress-act" target="_blank">Twenty-two state attorneys general</a> support this approach, as they've seen firsthand the futility of eliminating one PFAS chemical, only to see another toxic copycat take its place.</p><p>Congress should reject the Senate's feckless TRI amendment, support Representative Delgado's bill, and support an NDAA bill only if it includes the PFAS amendments.</p><p>We face one of the most serious environmental health crises in our history. All communities deserve the right to know if toxic chemicals are being released into their air, water, food and soil. It's time to embrace scientific reality as our guide to overcoming this challenge and start prioritizing peoples' health over corporate.</p>
What You Can Do to Help Avoid PFAS Exposure<p><a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/#.W5wqoOhKjIX" target="_blank">Find out</a> if your tap water has been properly tested. If you are concerned, consider installing an in-home filter on your tap. Avoid "<a href="https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas" target="_blank">nonstick" or "waterproof" products</a> and <a href="https://www.ceh.org/wp-content/uploads/CEH-Foodware-Database_05.01.2018-Final_Full.pdf" target="_blank">disposable foodware and carryout items</a> — see the <a href="https://www.ceh.org/wp-content/uploads/CEH-Foodware-Database_05.01.2018-Final_Full.pdf" target="_blank">Center for Environmental Health's database</a> for safer options. <a href="https://www.ceh.org/get-involved/take-action/content/toxic-chemicals-found-microwave-popcorn/" target="_blank">Avoid microwave popcorn</a> — and <a href="https://www.ceh.org/wp-content/uploads/Popcorn-Infographic-1.pdf" target="_blank">make your own</a> instead. Don't use beauty products with ingredients <a href="https://saferchemicals.org/get-the-facts/toxic-chemicals/pfas-per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances/" target="_blank">containing the term "fluoro</a>." </p><p><a href="https://actionnetwork.org/letters/make-companies-come-clean-about-their-toxics/" target="_blank">Tell your representatives</a> to include PFAS as a class on the TRI today.</p>
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