Thursday, 24 January 2019

Polluting for Profit - the "biosolids" business model.



Polluting for Profit - the "biosolids" business model.
It is hard to believe that in this age of hyper-awareness of environmental issues, and the growing sensitivity to the importance of the agricultural lands outside our urban centers, that there is a business that is centered around the transporting and disposing of toxic waste from urban areas to farms and forests. The success of this business has been based on keeping the general public, and those in the countryside where they were spreading the waste, in utter darkness as to the true nature of this practice.

Welcome to the "biosolids" business - purveyors of toxic sewage sludge.

Most wastewater treatment facilities do a fantastic job of cleaning our sewage water of pollutants before that water is introduced back into the environment. These facilities separate out and collect the pollutants that were originally in that sewage stream. These collected, and concentrated solids are called sewage sludge. It represents everything people pour down their sinks and goes down storm drains - cleaners, solvents, pharmaceuticals including cancer drugs, and of course poop, lots of poop.



The big problem for our modern cities is what to do with these piles of toxic goulash. In the past they simply emptied these residuals into the oceans and lakes, but that was outlawed with the Clean Water Acts - it was too toxic to dispose of in that manner. They tried burning it, but that too was too polluting - hence the Clean Air Acts. The disposal method of choice now is - "land application" - but wait a minute - isn't there a Clean Soils Act to protect the rural environment? If it was too toxic to burn or pour into waterways, how is it ok to spread over Mother Earth? Good question, and NO, our soils have no such protection against this onslaught of pollutants. So here we are - cities use the cheapest legal method to hand of disposing of our cities' toxic burden - trucking it out to the countryside - out of sight, out of mind.

This is where the "biosolids" business model comes into play - polluting for profit.

This business has set itself up as a middleman - offering our cities a way of getting rid of its pollutants. It merely needs to find someone willing to takes tons of waste, full of thousands (85,000+) of toxins, and spread it on their land. Job done.

How is this done?

Some municipalities actually buy hundreds or thousands of rural acres on which to spread this waste. Most however hire these "biosolids" companies, to hoodwink others to take this sludge.
Firstly, they need to convince farmers and ranchers, those with the acres of land, that the collected and concentrated residuals coming out of our waste treatment facilities, are actually a form of "fertilizer" and not really a pollutant-rich sludge.  Secondly, they need to convince the population, and the various levels of government, that the constant trucking out (at huge carbon emission cost) of all this toxic sewage waste into rural environments is a virtuous, green and sustainable practice. That is a heck of a spin! But that is just what they have done. We know too well - repeat a lie often enough and it will soon be believed.



The first thing the "biosolids" companies had to do was to change the term "sewage sludge" to "biosolids" ... slightly more appetizing, more pleasing to the ear, and more marketable from a PR point of view. They then began a campaign of misinformation - persuading people that "biosolids" was somehow, magically, a substantially different substance than mere sewage sludge. This was simply not true. Adding lime, or wood chips and subjecting it to a short, period of "composting" does not eliminate the vast majority of pollutants in the sludge. Calling it by a new name is merely putting lipstick on a pig. The next strategy was to coopt the language of the environmental movement. Presto! - this toxic goulash, the concentrated residuals from our treatment facilities became "compost" and an "organic amendment" and "green" and "sustainable" and part of a circular economy! This assault on language, and on logic has been staggering. Cloaked now in the language of environmentalism, and sporting all sorts of "green" names, the "biosolids" companies spread out across the provinces and states of North America looking for land to pollute, and suckers to accept toxic residuals under the guise of "fertilizer." As Deborah Koons Garcia,  the film Director of "Future of Food" and "Symphony of the Soil" said in a public speech on sewage sludge some years ago, "Turning agricultural lands to a toxic waste dump, I think, is a big mistake."
(Note too that sometimes, branded products containing sewage sludge are bagged up or sold in piles at nurseries or at city composting facilities.  Some is given away or sold as “compost.” Some is dried and made into pellets, bagged, and sold as fertilizer. Sometimes sludge is “blended” into bagged fertilizers. Labeling is vague, and the bags never tell you the full range of pollutants contained in the "medium." In BC, Nutifor, OgoGrow, NutriGrow are three examples of this to watch out for. For more on this see - http://biosolidsbattleblog.blogspot.com/2018_04_09_archive.html )

Is this stuff really so bad?

Dr. David Lewis, a microbiologist, has said this sludge represents "a world of pollution in one product." Our sewers have become the "super-highways" for our cities' toxic wastes. We are now at a point in history where we are potentially exposed to some 85,000+ man-made chemicals. Most of these will eventually find their way to our sewer systems. Many of these are endocrine-disrupters or carcinogenic. Our sewage system was built to collect almost everything that goes down the drain, which creates a dangerous cocktail of domestic, commercial, hospital, industry and street run-off sources of sewage and septic sludges - things like solvents, PCBs, dioxins, metals, pharmaceuticals, microplastics, flame retardants, superbugs & prions.

But surely they test this sewage muck for possible problems?

Canadian and American governing bodies can't assure the safety of using "biosolids" on soils.
Here's Why -
The sad truth is that out of the thousands of pollutants in biosolids, they only test for about a dozen pollutants - mostly metals. On top of this, it may come as a surprise that both the CCME (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment)  and in BC, OMRR (Organic Matter Recycling Regulation), rely on incomplete, outdated and faulty risk assessments to assure the public of the safety of its "biosolids" programs.

This past November in the USA, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), published a notice (bit.ly/2zcaVz4) saying it could no longer assure the public that biosolids were safe. They admit they do not know the risks involved with spreading hundreds of pollutants onto farm soils - they identified 352 toxins of special note. "EPA scientists said that without completing risk assessments on all of the pollutants found in biosolids they cannot say whether biosolids are safe … the biosolids program is at risk of not achieving its goal to protect public health and the environment." Canada also lacks data on these same pollutants, and needs to make a similar public statement - safety cannot be assured.

There is a more sinister issue here however. Imagine putting thousands of pollutants together in one substance, as is done with "biosolids." Now you don't have to be a chemist, to guess that something might just happen within that toxic mixture. In fact, the analysis of these hazards and the risk assessment strategies based on chemical mixtures is one of the hot topics in environmental and human health research today.

Since Paracelsus (born in 1493) stated “the dose makes the poison,” this idea has formed the basis for the regulation of toxic chemicals, including the use of pesticides and pharmaceuticals. We now know that the truth of this observation is incomplete. It is not only the dose, but also the type of chemical, the timing of exposure, the combination of chemicals and individual risk factors that combine to produce toxic effects. Sadly, our government bases its risk assessment solely on this 500 year old perspective. Please note that CCME and OMRR (and the EPA in the USA) make no attempt to look at this issue of exposure to multiple pollutants, nor to the possible synergies between pollutants when evaluating the safety of "biosolids." Instead, they rely simply on the rudimentary risk framework of Paracelsus - and look at individual toxin levels - which admittedly, are usually, (though not always see Suzuki Foundation toxin tests of Biosolids - https://bit.ly/1UEK3L0), in low levels individually.



A new study (January, 2019 https://bit.ly/2WmrF0F) has just been published by a group of scientists from various universities around the UK, which has clearly demonstrated the danger of this "cocktail mix" of pollutants found in all biosolids - it is titled - "Long-term exposure to chemicals in sewage sludge fertilizer alters liver lipid content in females and cancer marker expression in males" As it states,  "this study shows that chronic EC (environmental chemical) exposure, via sewage sludge, at concentrations and complexity relevant to humans ... is a significant contributor to abnormal liver physiology and … causes major physiological changes in the liver, likely to affect multiple systems in the body and which may predispose individuals to increased disease risks"  (Note that the UK, and the EU generally, have tougher pollutant guidelines than we do in North America for "biosolids" - they followed the "biosolids" application rules … and still the sheep began to show abnormalities).




As the scientists taking part in the "Halifax Project" have shown, it is the exposure to a variety of toxins in low-dose that can cause cancer. (The Halifax Project took place between 2012 and 2015 and it involved more than 350 cancer researchers and physicians from 31 countries …  focused on the carcinogenic potential of low dose exposures to mixtures of chemicals in the environment - see https://bit.ly/2RRVXcW) The absurd situation we have operating within the "biosolids business" is that we have soil specialists, agronomists etc. determining the safety of something they are utterly unqualified to make such pronouncements about - this is more properly the purview of chemists, doctors, and oncologists.

 The testing regime employed by this waste disposal practice, is wholly inadequate, and done by those actually involved in the business of pushing this "product" on people with little or no knowledge of what they are actually putting on their lands. As Dr. Rayne, a microbiologist who has written on the particular issue of flame retardants in biosolids,  has noted, "An unimaginably large number of chemical and biological contaminants exist in these materials, and they persist in the product up to, and after, land disposal. Scientific investigations have identified only a tiny fraction of the total contaminant load. We cannot even say with any degree of confidence what the true range of contaminant risk is from the sludge ... Governments are playing Russian roulette with sewage sludge. Over time, there is a high probability this game will be lost at the public's expense." (see https://bit.ly/2sT8spO).


Is this just a small issue blown out of proportion by a few noisy activists?

The "biosolids" business thrives in darkness. Pushing poop and pollutants is not usually a topic for everyday conversation, and these companies try hard to keep it quiet. However, there is growing opposition to this reckless practice. These are not the beliefs of some fringe group. Organizations like the Suzuki Foundation for instance, has stated - "The David Suzuki Foundation does not support the dumping of sewage sludge, treated or otherwise, on farm land.  The potential of heavy metal and chemical contamination of crops grown in soils that are “conditioned” with sludge from sewage treatment plants, and the potential for impacts on animal and human health from consuming those crops, raises concerns." So too, the Sierra Club has made the following assertion - "Contaminants in wastewater residuals such as sewage sludge threaten our food and health." Similarly scientists from some of the best institutions in the USA and Canada have asserted their opposition to land-disposed "biosolids."

 Prof. Murray McBride, Cornell University has noted that - "Once contaminated … the contamination will remain for decades or centuries" and, "Is it reasonable to conclude that there is little or no risk of land-applying a material (biosolids) containing unknown concentrations of thousands of chemicals with undetermined toxicities?"

 Prof. Jordan Peccia- Yale University states that - "biosolids contain heavy metals, hazardous organic chemicals, microbial pathogens, and antibiotic resistant bacteria … Metals and organic chemicals that resist biological mineralization can sorb to solid particles and also accumulate in sludge. These include polybrominated flame retardants, pharmaceuticals like Prozac and Tagamet, human hormones such as estrogen, antibiotics, narcotics including cocaine, and the metabolites of these compounds."

To get Organic Certification, farmers must prove that "biosolids" have not been used on the soils they grow their foods in, or graze their animals on. Food companies like  Heinz, Campbell’s, DelMonte, and Whole Foods, do not accept produce that is grown on land treated with biosolids. They consider it potentially toxic.



Many European countries are making great strides to shift away from this reckless practice. Switzerland has completely banned the use of biosolids on agricultural soils because of "the risk of irreversible damage to the soil, the danger to public health and possible negative effects on the quality of the food farmers produce" https://bit.ly/2Fc6ObP

The Swedish Government has recently noted that - "since biosolids contain environmental and health hazardous substances, drug residues and microplastics, our task force will propose a ban on spreading sewage sludge on farmland" https://bit.ly/2PRKdFk

So too, the German Environment Agency recently stated that - "With the precautionary principle and in light of the pollutants found in biosolids, we deem the agricultural use of biosolids to be a serious public health & environmental hazard & advocate that this practice be phased out" https://bit.ly/2SXfLIQ



If we can't pour it in our oceans and lakes any more, or spread it thinly over our soils and hope for the best … what can be done with it?

Many countries have moved away from this reckless approach and are embracing new greener technologies. The goal should be not just to stop the present madness, but to "mine" this waste resource for its valuable content - things like nitrogen, phosphorus, and biogas / biocrude can be harvested from this sludge. Switzerland, Germany and Sweden for instance, have written legislation that requires this be done. Clean methods of incineration, as well as gasification and pyrolysis are approaches being adopted by countries around the world.



Think for a moment about just how absurd this "biosolids" business model really is. The wastewater treatment facilities have spent a great deal of time and effort collecting, concentrating, and segregating the pollutants out of the water ... so why on earth would we turn around and put those piles of toxins back into the environment we just eliminated them from? That is truly a short-sighted practice that merely supports a business model based on "pushing" pollution. Situating a gasification / pyrolysis (or clean incineration) plant directly beside the water facility would dramatically cut trucking costs, and cut the huge carbon emissions this constant transport inevitably involves.

An example of gasification - producing energy and biochar - Tennessee Gasification plant
An example from the UK - gasification of sludge - Yorkshire Water's Gasification Plant 
Pyrolysis of sewage sludge - syngas and biochar - Pyrochar - Cordis Europe 
There are new solutions appearing almost daily - We can make BRICKS out of biosolids, or we can
PAVE ROADS with it. Making Bio-Crude is also an option. These are just a few possibilities.

It is time we put an end to land disposal of our cities' toxic sewage waste. It is time we expose this "biosolids" business model for what it is - merely a method of toxin dispersal - reckless and short-sighted. It is time our cities embraced a truly "green" approach to dealing with its pollutants - trucking it out to rural landscapes is no longer acceptable!








Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Farmers & Ranchers - Are you thinking about using "biosolids" on your soils as a fertilizer / soil amendment?


Thinking about using "biosolids" on your soils as a soil amendment? 



Some things you might want to be aware of before you make that leap of faith …






1. Microplastics - "Sewage sludge microplastics could pollute soil for thousands of years" https://bit.ly/2Sngwd2 "43% of microplastics that go down the drain eventually end up applied to agricultural land as biosolids."



2. Antibiotic residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria - https://bit.ly/2KM7xj5 - "spreading of sewage sludge leads to a significant increase of ARG in the soil"




3. Unregulated / untested pollutants - https://bit.ly/2BLyhNz "the EPA (listing 352 serious toxins in biosolids) cannot determine whether biosolids pollutants, with incomplete risk assessments, are safe"





4. Switzerland has completely banned the use of biosolids on agricultural soils because of "the risk of irreversible damage to the soil, the danger to public health and possible negative effects on the quality of the food farmers produce" https://bit.ly/2Fc6ObP



5. Swedish Government- "since biosolids contain environmental and health hazardous substances, drug residues and microplastics, our task force will propose a ban on spreading sewage sludge on farmland" https://bit.ly/2PRKdFk



6. German Environment Agency - "With the precautionary principle and in light of the pollutants found in biosolids, we deem the agricultural use of biosolids to be a serious public health & environmental hazard & advocate that this practice be phased out" https://bit.ly/2SXfLIQ





7.  Prof. Murray McBride, Cornell University - "Once contaminated, stopping the application of pollutants such as metals and many organic chemicals that are in sewage biosolids will not correct the problem. The contamination will remain for decades or centuries"     http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/case.pdf




8. Prof. Jordan Peccia- Yale University - "biosolids contain heavy metals, hazardous organic chemicals, microbial pathogens, and antibiotic resistant bacteria ...Metals and organic chemicals that resist biological mineralization can sorb to solid particles and also accumulate in sludge. These include polybrominated flame retardants, pharmaceuticals like Prozac and Tagamet, human hormones such as estrogen, antibiotics, narcotics including cocaine, and the metabolites of these compounds."     http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.5b01931




9. Plant uptake of pollutants is not just a theoretical possibility; it has been demonstrated in various papers since the 1980s https://bit.ly/2Q7zkjY




10. Risk - assessments have only been done on a tiny fraction of pollutants in sewage sludge & no assessments look at the synergies between the thousands of toxins, nor at the cumulative effect of being exposed to multiple pollutants over time.

THIS IS HUGE - NEW STUDY ON SEWAGE SLUDGE TOXINS -
Long-term exposure to chemicals in sewage sludge fertilizer alters liver lipid content in females and cancer marker expression in males
  "this study shows that chronic EC exposure, via sewage sludge, at concentrations and complexity relevant to humans, induces persistent xenotoxicant responses in the liver, disrupts a large portion of the observable liver proteome and affects lipid levels and the expression of liver cancer markers, all of which are likely to affect many body systems. Our observations support the existing data showing that low-level EC exposure is a significant contributor to abnormal liver physiology"
"Our results demonstrate that chronic exposure to ECs causes major physiological changes in the liver, likely to affect multiple systems in the body and which may predispose individuals to increased disease risks"
"The increased incidence of diseases, including metabolic syndrome and infertility, may be related to exposure to the mixture of chemicals, which are ubiquitous in the modern environment (environmental chemicals, ECs). Xeno-detoxification occurs within the liver which is also the source of many plasma proteins and growth factors and plays an important role in the regulation of homeostasis."
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412018317318

For more on RISK see -
http://biosolidsbattleblog.blogspot.com/2018_02_17_archive.html

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Experts talk about the Sewage Sludge problem ...

Video #1

Dr. David Lewis gives some background information on what "biosolids" are - "a universe of pollution in one product" - 





Video #2

Dr. David Lewis talks about the EPA biosolids science fraud -

https://www.brighteon.com/5978194908001




Video #3

Dr. Richard Honour talks about the many dangers of land-disposed sewage sludge

https://www.brighteon.com/5973823313001



Video #4

Caroline Snyder (PhD), a pioneer fighter against land disposal, talks about how we got where we are today 

https://www.brighteon.com/5973187121001



Video #5

Dr. David Lewis talks about human health concerns around sewage sludge … 

https://www.brighteon.com/5979110445001




Monday, 1 October 2018

What the experts say about Sewage Sludge (Biosolids)



Prof. Murray McBride, Cornell University

"Agricultural soils are a unique and valuable resource. Protecting agricultural soils requires anticipating and avoiding potential harms since once contaminated with persistent pollutants, the damage will remain for the foreseeable future.  Once contaminated, stopping the application of pollutants such as metals and many organic chemicals that are in sewage biosolids will not correct the problem.  The contamination will remain for decades or centuries.  It is thus critical to prevent this essentially permanent degradation"

"Livestock that graze on sludge-amended pastures ingest biosolids that adhere to the forage plants and also ingest soil directly.  Particularly in arid conditions, soil can be up to 18% dry weight of a grazing animal’s diet.  Even where lesser amounts are ingested, recent research has shown impacts to grazing animals from biosolids additions to soils. These impacts include an accumulation of toxic metals in edible body organs, with implications for the human food chain.  Additionally, endocrine disruption (reduced testis size) has been documented, with implications for livestock reproduction.  There is now evidence that elements in sludge, particularly molybdenum and sulfur, are readily taken up by forages and can lead to Cu deficiency in livestock. "

"All sewage biosolids contain an array of synthetic organic chemicals. An array of pharmaceuticals was found in all of the biosolids tested, regardless of the type of treatment.  All biosolids are “highly enriched” in organic wastewater contaminants.  Some are present in high concentrations in sewage biosolids (up to 1% by dry weight).  Some have demonstrated toxicity.  Pharmaceuticals are designed to be biologically active at very low concentrations and thus even at trace levels they may impact plants and animals. There is new information showing that antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals have an impact on plants grown in soils containing these chemicals."

"Recent studies have confirmed that the use of antimicrobials had created a large pool of antibiotic-resistance genes in bacteria that are detected in sewage sludge and effluent from sewage treatment plants. Antibiotic resistant bacteria were found in higher numbers downstream of sludge-treated farmland as compared to upstream"

"The potential for prions that might be present in wastewater to accumulate in sludges and to persist through treatment is a concern."

"Soil microorganisms play a critical role in the functions of soil as a source of plant nutrition and in the cycling of nutrients.  Recent research shows that sludge application changes the soil microbial community and decreases its diversity. A number of human-use compounds (such as triclosan found in many personal care products such as antibacterial soaps) bioconcentrate in earthworms where soil has been amended with sewage sludges."




Prof. Jordan Peccia-  Yale University

"Land application is often accompanied by strong odors, and biosolids contain heavy metals, hazardous organic chemicals, microbial pathogens, and antibiotic resistant bacteria." 

"Sludge is a record of what society excretes. This includes any pathogen that is contained in human feces, urine, and vomitus. A recent study found more than 27 different forms of human viruses in the sewage sludges of five large U.S. cities, ranging from Adenovirus to Corona virus to HIV."

"Metals and organic chemicals that resist biological mineralization can sorb to solid particles and also accumulate in sludge. These include polybrominated flame retardants, pharmaceuticals like Prozac and Tagamet, human hormones such as estrogen, antibiotics, narcotics including cocaine, and the metabolites of these compounds." 



Dr. Sierra Rayne

"The science doesn't support the disposal of sewage sludge across the landscape. The supposed benefits are more than offset by the risks to human and environmental health. As scientists, we have been watching the issue with increasing concern.

An unimaginably large number of chemical and biological contaminants exist in these materials, and they persist in the product up to, and after, land disposal. Scientific investigations have identified only a tiny fraction of the total contaminant load. We cannot even say with any degree of confidence what the true range of contaminant risk is from the sludge ... Governments are playing Russian roulette with sewage sludge. Over time, there is a high probability this game will be lost at the public's expense." 


Brian Bienkowski, Scientific American -  May 12, 2014

"Sewage sludge used as fertilizer on farms can leave traces of prescription drugs and household chemicals deep in the soil, according to a new study by federal scientists. The findings suggest that the widespread use of biosolids could contaminate groundwater near farms with a variety of chemicals, including anti-depressants such as Prozac and hormone-disrupting compounds in antibacterial soaps."

"The researchers looked for 57 “emerging” contaminants that are increasingly showing up in the environment. Ten were detected in the soil at depths between 7 and 50 inches 18 months after the treated sludge was applied. None was in the field’s soil beforehand... Other studies have found hormones, detergents, fragrances, drugs, disinfectants, and plasticizers in treated sludge used as fertilizer. But this is the first study to show how they can persist and move in soil." 



Author Lidia Epp  (manager of  the Molecular Core Lab in the Biology Department of College of William and Mary in Williamsburg)

"There is little doubt that there are direct human health consequences of land application of sludge. Several published public health reports clearly link the sludge application sites to the overall decline of health by the surrounding communities.  Czajkowski et al in a publication from 2010 “Application of GIS in Evaluating the Potential  Impacts of Land application of Biosolids on Human Health” concludes that there is a statistically significant increase in ill-health symptoms and diseases near the biosolids permitted fields.  Exposed residents were defined as those living within the one mile radius of filed applied biosolids, the illnesses included certain respiratory, gastrointestinal and other diseases."

It is evident that the long term exposure to a host of the environmental pollutants is the foundation of many chronic conditions that are now at the epidemic levels. Rather than focusing narrowly on determination of specific sets of toxins present in biosolids from different sources – the research needs to shift to the epidemiological studies assessing the overall impact of complex mix of pollutants present in sludge. 

It is true that biosolids contain beneficial elements like phosphorus, nitrogen, organic matter and trace nutrients. But the benefits derived from introducing those components to the soil via biosolids are by far overshadowed by the detrimental effects of toxins and pollutants that comprise the vast majority of the biosolids content. 

Many countries adopted and implemented a new approach to  the disposal of biosolids; methane production, energy source, recovery of metals and microelements. It is well past the time when we start to look at those alternatives as the only sustainable solution to the growing problem – what to do with the sludge our society produces."  



Dr. David Lewis

"What a wastewater treatment plant does is clean up the water, but it takes all those chemicals, all those priority pollutants we worry about that are highly neurotoxic - they are carcinogenic, they are mutagenic (In genetics, a mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level) - all of those are concentrated at the water treatment plant in sewage sludge. The EPA in 1978 decided that what we should do with this is put it on land. Forget the fact that sewage sludge now has every known priority pollutant in existence that we know of, it has every chemical that we don't know of - and no matter how long we live, we probably will never know the vast majority of chemicals that are out there that we are being exposed to - they will never be identified. What we do know is that they are all there in that sewage sludge!"

"So in 1988 Congress bans the ocean dumping of sewage sludges over health concerns, and the EPA starts promoting land application of sewage sludges in tons per acre on farms, forests, playgrounds, school athletic fields, and other public and private lands. (Please note that it was considered TOO TOXIC to continue with ocean disposal, but illogically, the public is supposed to believe that land disposal as somehow acceptable?! The toxic sludge is just the same - the thousands of pollutants now are to be spread on soils meant to sustain future generations!). EPA says it has nitrogen in it and phosphorus, so we'll spread it, provide it to farmers to put on their crops, golf courses, everywhere. Can you imagine this!?" None of the scientists at the EPA at the time I was working there, could imagine this. Unanimously, all the scientists working in that office did their best to stop this, but politics and industry, money, big money … had other ideas"

Dr. Caroline Snyder

 "Land-applied municipal sewage sludge (biosolids) is a highly complex and unpredictable mixture of biological and chemical pollutants. Biosolids generated in our large industrialized urban centers is very likely the most pollutant- rich waste mixture of the 21st century."

Dr. Richard Honour

"Few in any governments appreciate that nearly all chronic diseases are caused by long-term exposure to low levels of environmental contaminants and pollutants. We should be trying to minimize this exposure, not amplifying it. It is time to end land disposal of Toxic Sewer sludge, and look at cleaner, greener alternatives - gasification / pyrolysis."

Friday, 28 September 2018

Why are modern cities disposing of their Toxic Sewage Sludge (TSS) on rural environments?


Why are modern cities disposing of their Toxic Sewage Sludge (TSS) on rural environments? Here is some background by Dr. David Lewis, internationally recognized research microbiologist, and author of the book "Science for Sale" 


"Early 1970's - Congress of USA passes Clean Air and Clean Water acts - but no Clean SOIL act. We have no way to protect the soil like we do, air, and water" (Until these acts were passed,  ocean dumping of sewage sludges was the most common way cities got rid of their toxic burden).

"What a wastewater treatment plant does is clean up the water, but it takes all those chemicals, all those priority pollutants we worry about that are highly neurotoxic - they are carcinogenic, they are mutagenic (In genetics, a mutagen is a physical or chemical agent that changes the genetic material, usually DNA, of an organism and thus increases the frequency of mutations above the natural background level) - all of those are concentrated at the water treatment plant in sewage sludge. The EPA in 1978 decided that what we should do with this is put it on land. Forget the fact that sewage sludge now has every known priority pollutant in existence that we know of, it has every chemical that we don't know of - and no matter how long we live, we probably will never know the vast majority of chemicals that are out there that we are being exposed to - they will never be identified. What we do know is that they are all there in that sewage sludge!"



So in 1988 Congress bans the ocean dumping of sewage sludges over health concerns, and the EPA starts promoting land application of sewage sludges in tons per acre on farms, forests, playgrounds, school athletic fields, and other public and private lands. (Please note that it was considered TOO TOXIC to continue with ocean disposal, but illogically, the public is supposed to believe that land disposal as somehow acceptable?! The toxic sludge is just the same - the thousands of pollutants now are to be spread on soils meant to sustain future generations!) EPA says it has nitrogen in it and phosphorus, so we'll spread it, provide it to farmers to put on their crops, golf courses, everywhere. Can you imagine this!?" None of the scientists at the EPA at the time I was working there, could imagine this. Unanimously, all the scientists working in that office did their best to stop this, but politics and industry, money, big money … had other ideas"

"In 1988 we increased pollutants a million-fold (collected and concentrated in the waste water treatment plants), spread them around us instead of putting them out in the bottoms of oceans - a real doomsday scenario as far as environmental exposures. We took pollution, when we did this, from the general population, to have it hauled out to primarily economically and educationally disadvantaged communities - This is an environmental justice issue!!"  (Note that it was around this time that the US government actively promoted this reckless disposal method to other countries around the world - selling it as a form of "recycling" and a great source of much needed nitrogen and phosphorous. The fact that it meant spreading concentrated amounts of toxins throughout the environment was glossed over).



"So the modern "solution" is no longer "dilution" (like the old slogan - "the solution to pollution is dilution") now the solution is the exact opposite - let's concentrate everything, a million times higher, and let's put it all around us, on school playgrounds, and golf courses, farms, and forests. Now it is concentrated selectively in human populations that don't have the political power or the economic means to even complain about it ... and if they did, they are faced with a body of literature that says this is good for you."



"The complexity of that mixture ... no organism has the genetic machinery capable of dealing with so many different assaults at one time - this is what we as humans are doing to the earth - because we do not have a Clean Soil Act. This to me is the heart of the problem; it is not so much that it is lead nor mercury or aluminum, our biggest challenge is that we've taken everything, mixed it together, and there is no lifeform on earth that has ever been exposed to anything like this, that has the genetic machinery needed, if it is even possible, to live in that kind of environment."



Environmental exposure - "In reality we all live in an ocean of chemicals, an almost infinite number ... and a lot on their own are not mutagenic  but when mixed with others, they can become mutagenic. We don't factor that in when we look at this problem."

"We can't solve any of these problems by regulating a handful of chemicals, it's insane. How is regulating 100 or so priority pollutants going to change this picture? It isn't! Not when we've got infinite numbers of chemicals. We have to eliminate pollution at the source. We can't have pharmaceutical companies, or chemical companies dumping a universe of stuff into the waters ... and then try to regulate a few of them!"  (Dr. David Lewis advocates using Pyrolysis as a clean, sustainable method to deal with our toxic sludges).



(quotations from the following video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzfNSw9xG-c&feature=youtu.be )

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Ten Toxic Truths by Prof. Marc Cohen


THE TEN TOXIC TRUTHS

March 3, 2015, by Professor Marc Cohen


It is widely recognised that the greatest underlying cause of death among humans today is lifestyle-related chronic disease. The world is in the grip of an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and more, fuelled by a high intake of sugar, fat, salt, alcohol and tobacco, and a lack of physical activity. In addition to this voluntary consumption, the entire human population is exposed to a toxic cocktail of industrial chemicals. The impact of industrial chemicals on human health was recently highlighted by the World Health Organisation, which forecasts a “tidal wave of cancer” (International Agency for Research On Cancer 2014). Meanwhile, public health researchers suggest we are experiencing a “silent pandemic of neuro-developmental disorders” and a “chemical brain drain” brought about by the exposure of an entire generation to industrial chemicals (Grandjean 2014). There are many actions we can take to avoid voluntary and involuntary health risks and, rather than becoming despondent, we need to become more aware and vigilant. Since the 16th century when Paracelsus stated “the dose makes the poison”, this idea has formed the basis for the regulation of toxic chemicals, including the use of pesticides and pharmaceuticals. We now know that this truth is incomplete. It is not only the dose, but also the type of chemical, the timing of exposure, the combination of chemicals and individual risk factors that combine to produce toxic effects. These factors give rise to what I call the “10 toxic truths”.







TOXIC TRUTH 1:

Everyone is affected

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, industrial chemicals have permeated the globe and it is clear that the world will never return to the conditions that existed prior to this period. Many toxic chemicals are carried throughout the world dispersed as atmospheric aerosols, while billions of tons of chemicals and plastics have entered the oceans, resulting in plastic microparticles being reported in nearly every litre of ocean water. Toxic chemicals have now entered every habitat and ecosystem on earth, from the most arid deserts to the deepest seas, and virtually all living creatures now contain pollutants at or near harmful levels. Toxic chemical exposure has become an inevitable part of modern life and everyone is affected. Toxic chemicals are pervasive in our food, soil, air, water and indoor environments as well as in all human tissue, including umbilical cord blood and breast milk. Only a few countries such as the US, Canada and Germany have programs that aim to monitor toxic chemicals in their general population. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes the world’s most comprehensive assessment of human chemical exposures. The most recent NHANES report examined only 212 chemicals and found chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), used as fire retardants, and bisphenol A (BPA), a component of epoxy resins and polycarbonates, in the vast majority of participants (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2009).



TOXIC TRUTH 2:

The full extent is unknown

While we are all chronically exposed to a toxic cocktail of industrial pollutants, the full impact of industrial chemicals on human health remains unknown. There are more than 80,000 industrial chemicals that are commercially produced with more than 3000 produced in high volume and many tens of thousands more being inadvertently produced from industrial processes. Yet while the number of industrial chemicals increases every year, in most cases it is not possible to determine a chemical’s ‘safe level’, or ‘toxicity threshold’. And even when levels are measured, it is often difficult to interpret their clinical significance. The measurement of the body’s toxic load is still an emerging science (Sexton 2004, Committee on Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Toxicants, 2006). There are very few laboratories that currently have the facilities to perform comprehensive measures of toxic chemicals and, as yet, there are no general assessment measures that doctors can request to assess the ‘toxic load’ or ‘body burden’ of their patients. Thus, even though the signs and symptoms of overdose or overt toxicity are known for some compounds, the relationship between toxic load, individual susceptibility, clinical symptoms and chronic disease is incredibly complex and far from understood.



TOXIC TRUTH 3:

Tiny doses can have big effects

In the past it was thought that dose-response curves were linear, displaying a direct relationship between dose and toxicity. It is now known that dose-response curves can be non-linear or ‘non-monotonic’. This occurs when chemicals disturb the body’s regulatory processes rather than just impacting on target organs or tissues. By disrupting the endocrine system, the potential to reap metabolic havoc is greatly increased and extremely small exposures – orders of magnitude below recognised safety levels – can have dramatic effects. The hazards of endocrine disrupting chemicals and their potential for irreversible, latent effects was first brought into the public spotlight by Theo Colborn and Pete Myers in the mid-1990s with their book Our Stolen Future. In it they highlighted the science that shows that many chemicals, which are still being used, can impair reproduction, behaviour, intellectual capacity and the ability to resist disease in current and future generations. The book also suggested that: “World-wide exposure to endocrine disruption has thrust everyone into a large-scale, unplanned, unintended experiment with health, the outcome of which may not be known for generations.” While at the time of its release Our Stolen Future was seen by many as alarmist, a 2013 joint report from the World Health Organisation and United Nations Environment Program on the ‘State-of-the-Science of Endocrine Disruptors’ confirms many of the book’s findings and suggests that exposure to industrial chemicals with endocrine-disrupting actions are contributing to the global increase in obesity, cancer, psychiatric diseases, birth deformities, ADHD and neuro-developmental problems in children, with current findings being “the tip of the iceberg”.






TOXIC TRUTH 4:

Biomagnification occurs up the food chain

Many toxic chemicals are fat soluble and last for decades in the environment where they undergo biomagnification (tissue concentrations increase) as they pass up the food chain. The toxicity of DDT and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (see ‘The rise of pesticides’ box on page 47) was first brought to the public’s attention in 1962 by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring. In May 2004, the Stockholm Convention on POPs came into effect, banning the use of nine of the most dangerous pesticides along with dioxins, furan and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These so-called legacy chemicals were all known to persist in the environment; undergo long-range environmental transport; be toxic to humans; and biomagnify up the food chain. Even though the use of most POP pesticides is banned in agriculture, these chemicals now permeate the global environment and lodge in the fatty tissue of animals where they biomagnify millions of times as they travel up the food chain. Being a precious biological resource, fat is seldom excreted, except for special situations such as breastfeeding where valuable fat (along with fat-soluble pollutants) is transferred to infants who sit at the very top of the food chain. POPs are also absorbed by micro-plastics in the oceans and are found in high concentrations in marine mammals, with some beached whales being classified as toxic waste.



TOXIC TRUTH 5:

Chemical cocktails are synergistic 

While exposure to individual toxic chemicals can be harmful, exposure to chemical mixtures is even more harmful. It has been shown that chemical cocktails can produce ‘something from nothing’ with toxic mixture effects arising even when the level of each contaminant in the mixture is below its specific ‘NOAEL’ (no observable adverse effect limit). Such mixture effects are not accounted for when determining chemical safety, which is assessed one chemical at a time, if at all. A 2009 ‘State of the Art Report on Mixture Toxicity’ commissioned by the European Union found that “there is consensus in the field of mixture toxicology that the customary chemical-by-chemical approach to risk assessment might be too simplistic. It is in danger of underestimating the risk of chemicals to human health and to the environment.” While mixture toxicity is currently not accounted for in chemical risk assessments, it is actively used in pesticide formulations to increase their potency. In order to kill pests, pesticides contain active ingredients with their own inherent toxicity, yet when pesticides are packaged and used, they are prepared as formulations. Pesticide formulations include the addition of often unnamed and unlabelled adjuvants that are designed to make the active ingredient more potent by acting as surfactants and cell penetrants. While these so-called ‘inert’ adjuvant chemicals are excluded from safety testing, recent research suggests they are far from inert and that they make formulations hundreds of times more toxic than the active ingredient alone (Mesnage 2014).



TOXIC TRUTH 6:

Bioaccumulation occurs over the lifespan

Over a human’s lifespan, exposure rates to fat-soluble chemicals often exceed the excretion rate leading to their accumulation in fatty tissue. Exposure begins in the womb with fat-soluble chemicals in umbilical cord blood crossing the placenta and lodging in foetal fat, which is mainly in the developing brain. A Canadian report has begun to document the extent to which children are born “pre-polluted” (Group 2005, WWF 2005, Canada 2013). Throughout a person’s lifespan, combinations of persistent chemicals accumulate in fatty tissue such as the brain, breast, prostate and bone marrow, which are often the tissues that develop cancers in later years. In addition to persistent fat-soluble chemicals, there are many other water-soluble endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA and organophosphate (OP) pesticides that are ingested continually throughout a person’s lifespan, making them pseudo-persistent.





TOXIC TRUTH 7:

Windows of development are critical

The toxic effects of chemical exposure during critical periods, such as early childhood, can be irreversible. This became tragically evident in the 1970s with the birth of thousands of children without limbs and other birth defects after being exposed in utero to thalidomide. More recently, in-utero exposure to OP pesticides has been shown to impair children’s intellectual development in later life (see Ref 1).



TOXIC TRUTH 8:

Effects are trans-generational

Parental exposure to industrial chemicals can affect offspring and future generations. Many chemicals interfere with biochemical and endocrine pathways; induce genetic and developmental abnormalities; and produce trans-generational epigenetic effects that may lead to abnormalities in the third or fourth generation post-exposure. This can influence all aspects of an individual’s life history. This has recently been demonstrated experimentally with a single exposure to a commonly used fungicide being shown to alter the physiology, behaviour, metabolic activity and brain development in offspring three generations later, changing how they perceive and respond to a stress (see Ref 2).



TOXIC TRUTH 9:

Risk is unequal, unjust and greater for the young

The health risks of chemical exposures differ according to individual risk factors that include health status, physiology and genetics as well as demographic and social differences. Children are most vulnerable due to their higher dietary exposure, contact with the ground, hand-to-mouth behaviour, higher metabolic activity, immature organ systems, longer latency period for developing disease and sensitive development windows so that exposures lead to lifelong consequences (Landrigan 2005). The US-based Pesticide Action Network recently published a review of the scientific literature titled ‘Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence’, which reports on the many studies that demonstrate that pesticide exposure compromises children’s cognitive function and leads to later chronic disease (Schafer 2013).





TOXIC TRUTH 10:

Exposure is unequal and unjust, and accidents happen

Everyone is exposed to industrial pollutants, yet exposure risk is not equal. Exposures vary with age, income, education, occupation, location, lifestyle, public policy and proximity to industrial activity and accidents. People living in poverty and lower socio-economic conditions often have the greatest exposure, which then compounds the effects of wealth inequality (Wright 2009). This makes environmental justice an important issue. Industrial accidents raise further justice issues as catastrophic accidents have inadvertently exposed vast populations of humans and wildlife to industrial pollutants. These accidents have occurred at every stage of the chemical-production cycle including mining (BP oil spill); transport (Exxon Valdez); manufacture (Bhopal); use (Fukushima and Chernobyl); and disposal (Love Canal). What’s more, often accidents are associated with minimal, delayed and inadequate compensation and remediation measures. Here are the detailed references for this article including ‘Ref 1’ and ‘Ref 2’ for Toxic Truths 7 & 8 respectively.





REFERENCES

·         Ref 1: Bouchard, M., Chevrier, J., Harley, KG., Kogut, K., Vedar, M., Calderon, N., Trujillo, C., Johnson, C., Bradman, A., Barr, DB., Eskenazi, B. (2011). "Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children." Environ Health Perspect 119(8).

·         Ref 2: Crews D, G. R., Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK. (2012). "Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses." Proc Natl Acad Sci 109(23): 9143-9148 

·         Baillie-Hamilton (2002). "Chemical toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic." J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Apr;8(2):185-92.

·         Bouchard, M., Chevrier, J., Harley, KG., Kogut, K., Vedar, M., Calderon, N., Trujillo, C., Johnson, C., Bradman, A., Barr, DB., Eskenazi, B. (2011). "Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children." Environ Health Perspect 119(8).

·         Canada, E. D. (2013). Pre-polluted: A report on toxic substances in the umbilical cord blood of Canadian newborns. Toronto.

·         Carson, R. (1962). Silent Spring. New York, Houghton Mifflin.

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, US Department of Health and Human Services Committee on Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Toxicants. (2006). Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Chemicals National Research Council

·         Crews D, G. R., Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK. (2012). "Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses." Proc Natl Acad Sci 109(23): 9143-9148

·         Curl, C., Fenske, FA., Elgethun, K. (2003). "Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure of Urban and Suburban Preschool Children with Organic and Conventional Diets." Environmental Health Perspectives 111(3): 377-382.

·         Grandjean, P., Landrigan, P.J. (2014). "Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity." The Lancet 13(3): 330-338.

·         Group, E. W. (2005). Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns. Washington, DC.

·         International Agency for Research On Cancer (2014). World Cancer Report 2014. B. W. Stewart, Wild, C.P.,. Geneva, World Health Organisation.

·         Krüger, M., Schledorn, P., Schrödl, W., Hoppe, H.W., Lutz, W., Shehata, A.A., (2014). "Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans." Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology 4(2).

·         Landrigan, P., Garg, A. (2005). Children are not little adults. Children’s health and the environment: A global perspective - A resource manual for the health sector. J. Pronzczuk de Garbino. Geneva, World Health Organization.

·         Lu, C. and K. Toepel, Irish, R., Fenske, RA., Barr, DB., Bravo, R. (2006). "Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides." Environ Health Perspect 114: 260–263.

·         Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Spiroux de Vendômois, J., & Séralini, G.-E. (2014). "Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. ." BioMed Research International: 1-15.

·         Oates, L., Cohen, M., Braun, L., Schembri, A., Taskova, R., (2014). "Reduction in Urinary Organophosphate Pesticide Metabolites in Adults after a Week-Long Organic Diet." Environmental Research 132: 105-111

·         Schafer, K., Marquez, EC. et al. (2013). Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence. Oakland CA, Pesticide Action Network.

·         Sexton, K., Needham, LL., Pirkle, JL. (2004). "Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals." American Scientist 92: 38-45.

·         van der Sluijs, J. P., Simon-Delso, N., Goulson, D., Maxim, L., Bonmatin, J.M., Belzunces, L.P. (2013). "Neonicotinoids, bee disorders and the sustainability of pollinator services." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5(3-4): 293–305.

·         Vogt, R., D. Bennett, D. Cassady, J. Frost, B. Ritz and I. Hertz-Picciotto (2012). "Cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures for children and adults in California: a risk assessment." Environmental Health 11(1): 83.

·         WHO/UNEP (2013). State of the science of endocrine disrupting chemicals - 2012: An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO. Geneva, World health Organisation & United Nations Environment Program.

·         Wright, R. J. (2009). "Moving towards making social toxins mainstream in children's environmental health." Curr Opin Pediatr 21(2): 222-229.

·         WWF, G. (2005). A present for life: hazardous chemicals in umbilical cord blood. Amsterdam.

·         Zeng, G., Chen, M., Zeng, Z. (2013). "Risks of Neonicotinoid Pesticides." Science 340: 1403.





The 10 Toxic Truths - In short form

1) Everyone is affected

Toxic chemicals are pervasive and are distributed through long-range environmental transport so that all living things contain pollutants at or near harmful levels. Toxic chemicals are found in all human tissues and in food, soil, air, water and indoor environments.

2) The full extent is unknown 

Toxic chemicals are often invisible and have latent effects. Over 80,000 chemicals are produced commercially and industrial processes inadvertently create many more. Most chemicals are not tested for toxicity - and very few are routinely tested for in human tissue. 

3) Tiny doses can have big effects

Dose responses can be non-linear with extremely small doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contributing to the global increase in obesity, birth deformities, cancers, psychiatric diseases and neurodevelopmental problems with current findings being “the tip of the iceberg”.

4) Bio-magnification occurs up the food chain

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) last for decades in the environment, accumulate in fatty tissue and magnify up the food-chain. Bio-magnification leads to much higher concentrations in predatory species and human infants who sit at the top of the food-chain.

5) Windows of development are critical

The toxic effects of exposure during critical periods can be irreversible, yet remain hidden until later in life. Early exposure can impair intellectual development and metabolism and foster the development of metabolic syndrome, cancer and other chronic diseases.

6) Effects are trans-generational

Parental exposure to industrial chemicals affects offspring and future generations. Industrial chemicals can induce genetic and developmental abnormalities and transgenerational epigenetic effects that can lead to abnormalities in the third and fourth generation post-exposure.

7) Chemical cocktails are synergistic

Exposure to chemical mixtures is more harmful than individual chemicals. Mixture effects can produce ‘something from nothing’, with toxicity arising even when individual chemical concentrations have no effect, yet chemicals are tested for safety individually, if at all.

8) Bioaccumulation occurs over the lifespan

Exposure rates of fat-soluble chemicals often exceed the excretion rate leading to accumulation over the lifespan in fatty tissue such as the brain, breast, prostate and bone marrow. This accumulated body burden crosses the placenta and targets the fetal brain.

9) Risk is unequal, unjust and greater for the young

Risks vary with physiology, genetics, demographics and income. Children are most vulnerable due to higher dietary exposure, contact with the ground, hand-to-mouth behavior, higher metabolic activity, immature organ systems and a longer latency period for developing disease.

10) Exposure is unequal and unjust and accidents happen

Exposure is not equal and varies with age, income, education, occupation, location, lifestyle, public policy and proximity to industrial accidents. Accidents that inadvertently expose vast populations to toxic chemicals happen at every stage of the industrial chemical lifecycle.



Professor Cohen's Ten Toxic Truths article appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Organic Gardener magazine.