EPA Staffed With Industry Insiders

EPA Blowing Smoke On Critical Issues

By Liza Gross, Lindsey Konkel and Elizabeth Grossman, Reveal

Eleven new members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board have a history of downplaying the health risks of secondhand smoke, air pollution and other hazards, including two who have spun science for tobacco companies, according to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt fired all board members who currently receive EPA grants for their research, saying they cannot remain objective if they accept agency money. In replacing them, Pruitt transformed the board from a panel of the nation’s top environmental experts to one dominated by industry-funded scientists and state government officials who have fought federal regulations.

Pruitt removed 21 members of the advisory board, mostly academics, and replaced them with 16 experts with ties to industries regulated by the agency and two with no industry ties. Fourteen of the new members consult or work for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, which gave Pruitt nearly $320,000 for his campaigns in Oklahoma as a state senator and attorney general.

wastewater treatment and disease

Under the Obama administration, industry-affiliated scientists made up 40 percent of the Science Advisory Board, or 19 of its 47 members. Under President Donald Trump, 68 percent of the board, 30 of its 44 current members, now has ties to industries. That leaves 14 with no industry ties, including two Obama appointees who work for environmental groups.

The Science Advisory Board, established by Congress in 1978, helps the EPA ensure it has the best available science when crafting regulations and standards that address the nation’s drinking water, air pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems that threaten public health.

“If memberships are weighted toward viewpoints that support the agenda of the administration, then the administration is signaling that it’s not asking for advice, but for a rubber stamp,” said environmental scientist Deborah Swackhamer, who was chairwoman of the board under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“That’s a complete misuse.”

Keeping drinking water safe. Shielding vulnerable populations from air pollutants that trigger asthma and heart attacks. Protecting communities from cancer-causing chemicals. These are the EPA’s mandates. And when making key decisions about science to follow these mandates, the agency relies on panels of advisers.

The Science Advisory Board is arguably the most important panel among 22 federal advisory committees that report to the EPA. The board gives the agency advice on specific matters, such as the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies, factors that drive algae blooms in the Great Lakes and whether the agency’s risk assessments are scientifically sound.

The board doesn’t give guidance on proposed regulations. Rather, it vets the scientific foundations on which those recommendations are built, such as how dangerous the air pollutant ozone is at certain exposures or at what dose an industrial chemical would raise the risk of cancer.

To get the best science to policymakers, the EPA long has relied on a diversity of experts and a tradition of keeping politics out of scientific deliberations. In establishing the Science Advisory Board, Congress called for experts from academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and federal, state and tribal governments. Most board seats over the past several decades have been held by government-funded university researchers.

But in February, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, convened a hearing called “Making EPA Great Again” to investigate what he called the EPA’s “political agenda.” Smith, a Texas Republican who disputes climate science, said Science Advisory Board experts under Obama had “become nothing more than rubber stamps who approve all of the EPA’s regulations” because they receive millions of dollars in government grants.

climate change policy

Last month, Pruitt said experts who serve on the EPA’s scientific advisory boards can’t provide objective advice if they receive agency grants. He promised an audience at The Heritage Foundation, an anti-regulatory think tank that questions climate change, that he was “going to fix that” by restoring the “independence and transparency and objectivity in regard to the scientific advice we are getting at the agency” by prohibiting scientific advisers from taking EPA grants.

In a news release, Pruitt said the new makeup of the board shows the “EPA’s commitment to science and openness to expertise from a diverse array of perspectives.”

Pruitt has required advisory board members to remain “financially independent” of the EPA, but has placed no such restrictions on scientists with ties to industry.

“To say that academics have more conflicts because they get (government) grants is turning the idea of conflict of interest on its head and is patently absurd,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “If a scientist working at a high level did not receive government funding, how would they have achieved that?”

A Reveal investigation shows that several new board members have a history of criticizing mainstream science to cast doubt on the health risks of commercial and industrial air pollutants and products.

One new appointee, Kimberly White, is a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical manufacturers, including Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and DuPont Co. The group for decades has fought EPA regulations on widely used chemicals linked to health effects, including flame retardants, formaldehyde, asbestos and plasticizers.

In an email to Reveal, White said that in the past, the EPA science board “lacked sufficient balance among its members, and they have missed out on valuable insight from important perspectives from industry.” She said her goal is to ensure that board recommendations “are objective and grounded in the highest quality and most relevant scientific evidence.”

The new appointees also include scientists who have served as expert witnesses for industries regulated by the EPA. Dr. Samuel Cohen, a cancer expert at the University of Nebraska, testified on DuPont’s behalf in a lawsuit holding the company liable for illnesses related to drinking water contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical DuPont used in a West Virginia plant that made Teflon. Cohen testified that the plaintiff’s kidney cancer was caused by her obesity, not PFOA, yet an independent science panel has found a probable link between the chemical and serious health conditions, including kidney cancer.

Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.

Two of Pruitt’s new appointees helped companies defend their products or fight restrictions on secondhand smoke, and another sought more than $300,000 in tobacco industry funding but was rejected.

John Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, asked a top Philip Morris executive for $25,000 in 1991 to support his center, which he said had exposed “serious weaknesses in the federal government’s risk assessment process.”

Graham told the executive that he launched the center with gifts from several corporations, all with a financial interest in minimizing environmental regulations, including BP, Chevron Corp., Dow and Exxon. He ended his pitch by saying, “It is important for me to learn more about the risk-related challenges that you face.”

Graham got his $25,000 and later served as an adviser to The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, a group created by Philip Morris to discredit an EPA report that identified secondhand smoke as a carcinogen.

Graham told Reveal in an email that he received larger amounts of funding from the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to run his Harvard center.

“Since I have extensive experience with both government and industry,” he said, “I look forward to providing unbiased advice to EPA.”

He also said he worked to reduce particulate pollution while head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush.

But Graham instituted an approach to risk analysis, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, that challenged the scientific consensus underlying regulations on ozone, fine particulate matter and formaldehyde pollution. The EPA decided not to tighten its health standard for fine particulate matter in 2006 under Graham, rejecting the recommendations of its expert panel for the first time on ambient air pollution.

Another new board member, Louis Anthony Cox, early in his career worked for consulting firm Arthur D. Little, which contributed to the industry’s discredited effort to develop a “safer” cigarette. He later testified on behalf of Philip Morris and three other tobacco giants against a smoker’s husband who sued the companies for lying about the dangers of cigarettes.

Cox received at least $22,000 for his services from tobacco industry law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon – the same firm that helped Philip Morris create “sound science” guidelines to challenge the EPA’s listing of secondhand smoke as a carcinogen and in 2016 sued the EPA on behalf of the coal industry to prevent the agency from enforcing carbon emission reductions under its recently repealed Clean Power Plan.

In addition to his membership on the Science Advisory Board, Cox has been tapped as chairman of a separate EPA board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Cox, who runs consulting firm Cox Associates, told Reveal in an email that he’s used models to calculate the “excess risk of lung cancers caused by different smoking exposure histories” for various private- and public-sector organizations, including Philip Morris and the EPA. That work, he said, has helped him “appreciate some of the most common errors, heuristics and biases that can affect the judgments of scientists … in interpreting data.”

In addition to his work on behalf of the tobacco industry, Cox also has questioned the benefits of reducing particulate pollution in a paper sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

New board member Robert Phalen, who directs the Air Pollution Health Effects Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, asked the Center for Indoor Air Research – a tobacco industry body founded to counter evidence that secondhand smoke causes cancer – to fund a grant of more than $311,000 to study “interactions among indoor aerosols.” Phalen submitted his proposal three times, but the group rejected his request in 1997, saying his hypothesis “seems implausible.”

The center was disbanded in 1998 after the tobacco companies agreed to stop sponsoring research as part of a landmark settlement of a federal lawsuit that charged the industry with conspiring to hide the dangers of smoking for decades.

In an email to Reveal, Phalen said he did not recall seeking any grants from the tobacco-funded group.

Phalen also has discounted some of the health effects of air pollution. In a 2004 report, he wrote that the risks of breathing particulate pollution “are very small and confounded by many factors.”

He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012, “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” Children’s lungs, he was quoted as saying, need to be exposed to irritants to learn how to ward them off.

But studies repeatedly have shown that children are highly susceptible to air pollution for a variety of reasons, including because they breathe more air per pound of weight, have immature immune systems and spend more time exerting themselves outdoors.

Another new board member, Stanley Young – a statistician who advises The Heartland Institute, an anti-regulatory think tank that showcases global warming deniers at its annual conference – recently has questioned evidence underlying EPA regulations on air pollutants.

Young also is an adviser to the American Council on Science and Health, which describes itself as a “pro-science consumer advocacy organization” but is funded by free-market foundations and the chemical, fossil fuel and tobacco industries and challenges evidence supporting regulations.

Young did not respond to a request for comment.

Research from around the world has reported a link between air pollutants and deaths and hospitalizations from respiratory disease and heart attacks. Young published a critique of this evidence in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a journal known for publishing industry-friendly science.

Read The Full Story About EPA and Its Pseudoscience.

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Tap Water Exposing Millions To Carcinogen

Chromium-6 In Hundreds Of Wells Across U.S.

In the film Erin Brockovich, the environmental crusader confronts the lawyer of a power company that polluted the tap water of Hinkley, Calif., with a carcinogenic chemical called chromium-6. When the lawyer picks up a glass of water, Brockovich says: “We had that water brought in ‘specially for you folks. Came from a well in Hinkley.”

The lawyer sets down the glass and says, “I think this meeting’s over.”

chromium-6 in drinking water

But almost 25 years after that real-life confrontation, the conflict over chromium-6 is not over. A new EWG analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. Yet federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation of a chemical state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.

The standoff is the latest round in a tug-of-war between scientists and advocates who want regulations based strictly on the chemical’s health hazards and industry, political and economic interests who want more relaxed rules based on the cost and feasibility of cleanup. If the industry challenge prevails, it will also extend the Environmental Protection Agency’s record, since the 1996 landmark amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, of failing to use its authority to set a national tap water safety standard for any previously unregulated chemical.

In 2008, a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program found that drinking water with chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. Based on this and other animal studies, in 2010, scientists at the respected and influential California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina.

The California scientists set a so-called public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion in tap water, the level that would pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption. (A part per billion is about a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.) But in 2014, after aggressive lobbying by industry and water utilities, state regulators adopted a legal limit 500 times the public health goal. It is the only enforceable drinking water standard at either the state or federal level.

water contamination Phoenix

Spurred by a groundbreaking 2010 EWG investigation that found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities and a Senate hearing prompted by the findings, the EPA ordered local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests for the unregulated contaminant. From 2013 to 2015, utilities took more than 60,000 samples of drinking water and found chromium-6 in more than 75 percent of them. EWG’s analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans – more than two-thirds of the population – contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.

The California scientists based their public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion solely on protecting people from cancer and other diseases. Public health goals are not legally enforceable, but legal limits are supposed to be set as close as possible to health goals “while considering cost and technical feasibility.” But the California Department of Public Health relied on a flawed analysis that exaggerated the cost of treatment and undervalued the benefits of stricter regulation, and adopted a legally enforceable limit of 10 parts per billion.

Even by that far-too-lax benchmark, EWG’s analysis of EPA tests shows that more than seven million Americans are served tap water from supplies that had at least one detection of chromium-6 higher than the only legal limit in the nation. Because the EPA tests covered only a fraction of the small systems and private wells that supply water to more than a third of Americans, it is highly likely that chromium-6 contamination is even more widespread.

water test EPA

According to government hypotheses, the amount posing no more than a one-in-a-million risk of cancer for people who drink it daily for 70 years. (By contrast, the state’s legal limit represents a cancer risk of 500 per million.) Comparing the public health goal to levels of contamination found in the EPA tests, EWG estimates that if left untreated, chromium-6 in tap water will cause more than 12,000 excess cases of cancer by the end of the century.

The tests found chromium-6 in almost 90 percent of the water systems sampled. Oklahoma, Arizona and California had the highest average statewide levels and the greatest shares of detections above California’s public health goal. Among major cities, Phoenix had, by far, the highest average level, at almost 400 times the California health goal, and St. Louis and Houston also had comparatively high levels.

Scientists in California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are not alone in determining that extraordinarily low levels of chromium-6 in drinking water can cause cancer.

In 2010, New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute, a state agency comprised of scientists, utility officials and citizen experts, calculated a health-based maximum contaminant level – what California calls a public health goal – of 0.06 parts per billion, just slightly higher than California’s. This year, scientists in North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, also drawing on the 2008 National Toxicology Program study that drove the California goal, calculated a do-not-drink level matching the New Jersey number.

But neither New Jersey nor North Carolina has set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water. In both states, scientists’ health-based recommendations were at odds with the decisions of politically appointed regulators.

In New Jersey, the press reported the water quality institute’s recommendation before it could be formally submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for development of a regulation. According to former DEP planner Bill Wolfe, now an environmental advocate, this angered Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. Wolfe said Martin not only blocked submission of the recommendation, but effectively stopped the institute from meeting for four years, delaying drinking water regulations for more than a dozen chemicals.

In a statement to EWG, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the department “vehemently disagrees with the EWG’s contention that political pressure in any way influenced the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute’s consideration of an MCL for chromium-6.” The spokesman said EWG’s characterization is based on the “opinion of a single, former NJDEP employee who was last employed by the agency 12 years ago,” and that EWG’s criticism is “critically flawed – and blatantly misleading.”

In North Carolina, scientists at the Department of Environmental Quality were alarmed by levels of chromium-6 in hundreds of private wells near unlined pits where Duke Energy dumped coal ash. The scientists warned well owners not to drink water with chromium-6 levels higher than their calculations found were safe. But higher-ups at the department rescinded the do-not-drink warnings, citing the lack of federal regulation as justification for telling well owners their water met all state and federal standards.

The head of the Department of Environmental Quality, Donald R. van der Vaart, previously worked for a utility that is now part of Duke Energy. He was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for 29 years before he ran for office. After the McCrory administration issued a public statement attacking the integrity of a scientist who resisted their plan to rescind the do-not-drink warnings, state epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies resigned, saying she “cannot work for a department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

The conflict over chromium-6 regulation stems not only from the question of how much is safe, but the staggering cost of cleaning up such a widespread contaminant that is an industrial pollutant but also occurs naturally. The California Department of Public Health estimates that treating the state’s water to meet the legal limit of 10 parts per billion will cost nearly $20 million a year, so the cost of meeting the much more stringent public health goal would be far higher.

There are two main types of chromium compounds. Chromium-3, or trivalent chromium, is a naturally occurring compound and an essential human nutrient. Chromium-6 also occurs naturally, but is manufactured for use in steel making, chrome plating, manufacturing dyes and pigments, preserving leather and wood and, as in the Brockovich case, lowering the temperature of water in the cooling towers of electrical power plants. Chromium-6 is also in the ash from coal-burning power plants, which is typically dumped in unlined pits that a 2011 report by the nonprofit Earthjustice said may threaten hundreds or thousands of water supplies and private wells. And recent research has suggested that some methods of treating water supplies to remove other contaminants may actually increase levels of chromium-6.

Human studies by government and independent scientists worldwide have definitively established that breathing airborne chromium-6 particles can cause lung cancer, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets strict limits for airborne chromium-6 in the workplace. Whether inhaled or ingested, it can also cause liver damage, reproductive problems and developmental harm. Studies have found that exposure to chromium-6 may present greater risks to certain groups, including infants and children, people who take antacids, and people with poorly functioning livers.

But because of the unsettled science – including the crucial question of how much chromium-6 the stomach converts into mostly harmless chromium-3 – the EPA has only set a drinking water limit for total chromium, the combined level for both compounds. That outdated regulation from 2001, based on skin rash concerns, is 100 parts per billion – 5,000 times California’s public health goal for chromium-6 and 10 times the state’s legal limit.

After Brockovich uncovered chromium-6 pollution in Hinkley, residents filed a class-action lawsuit that Pacific Gas and Electric Company, or PG&E, settled in 1996 for a record $333 million. The case pushed California legislators to pass a law calling for regulators to set an enforceable drinking water standard. The law set a 2004 deadline for the regulation, but it was delayed by a PG&E-backed scheme.

In 2001, as state scientists conducted a risk assessment to guide the regulation, an epidemiologist named Jay Beaumont noticed something fishy. A Chinese scientist had revised a key study of chromium-6 in drinking water, reversing his original finding of a strong link to stomach cancer. Some members of a “blue-ribbon” panel advising the state cited the revised study as evidence against a strong regulation. But when Beaumont tried to find out why the scientist had changed his mind, it turned out he was dead.

Beaumont learned that the study was rewritten not by the original author, but by consultants hired by PG&E to help defend the Brockovich case. Before the Chinese scientist died, they paid him a token amount[26] for access to his original data, manipulated it to hide the link to stomach cancer, and published the revised study in a scientific journal without disclosing their or PG&E’s involvement.

What’s more, the advisory panel included the head of the consulting firm, Dennis Paustenbach of San Francisco-based ChemRisk, who was once described in a Newark Star-Ledger investigation of his role in weakening New Jersey chromium regulations as having “rarely met a chemical he didn’t like.” A 2013 investigation by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity found that Paustenbach and other ChemRisk employees also worked for General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Merck, all companies with liability for chromium pollution, and the Chrome Coalition, an industry lobbying group.

After his role in tampering with the Chinese study was exposed, Paustenbach resigned from the advisory panel. Beaumont and his colleagues started over, using the authentic study to guide the public health goal. In 2005, EWG obtained and published documents and emails that detailed the deception, which was also recounted in a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal. The scientific journal that published the bogus study retracted it.

In 2010, in the first-ever tests for chromium-6 in U.S. tap water, EWG found the chemical in 31 of 35 cities, with water in 25 cities containing levels above the California public health goal. The worst contamination was in Norman, Okla., where the level was 600 times the public health goal. Levels in Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside and San Jose, Calif.; Madison, Wis.; and Tallahassee, Fla., ranged from 100 to 62 times the California health goal. Sources of the contamination are largely unknown, although Oklahoma and California have high levels of naturally occurring chromium and California has the nation’s highest concentration of industrial sites that use chromium.

EWG’s tests and a petition from environmental groups pushed the EPA to add chromium-6 to the chemicals for which local utilities must test under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act require the EPA to select up to 30 previously unregulated contaminants for testing every five years. In 20 years, the agency has ordered testing for 81 contaminants, but has moved forward on setting a regulation for just one, the rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate, and is two years behind schedule on finalizing and implementing the regulation.

For our analysis, EWG matched the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule database with the federal Safe Drinking Water Information System to obtain county and population data. Population calculations for each utility were based on EPA data, and when projected to the county or state level, EWG used the U.S. Census Bureau estimates from July 2014.

The EPA results match EWG’s 2010 tests closely, with exceptions such as Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., where the EPA tests detected significantly higher levels of chromium-6. The EPA results identify several communities where levels of chromium-6 are strikingly higher than those in the surrounding state, but determining whether this is because of industrial pollution or natural occurrences would require site-by-site investigation.

After the 2008 National Toxicology Program study found that mice and rats who drank chromium-6-laced water developed stomach and intestinal tumors, scientists in the EPA’s Integrated Risk and Information System, or IRIS, began a risk assessment, the first step toward drafting a national regulation to cap chromium-6 contamination in drinking water. They saw that the 2008 study provided clear evidence that chromium-6 is carcinogenic, and reviewed hundreds of other studies. In 2010, the EPA completed, but did not officially release, a draft risk assessment that classified oral exposure to chromium-6 as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s powerful lobbying arm, argued that before formally releasing the draft for public comment, the EPA should wait for the publication of studies funded by the Council and the Electric Power Research Institute on the biological mechanisms through which chromium-6 triggers cancer. In an April 2011 letter obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Vincent Cogliano, acting director of IRIS, responded to the chemistry lobby that “granting your request could entail a delay of unknown duration with no public discussion or review of the strong new studies that are now available.”

That’s exactly what happened.

An external review panel, which the Center for Public Integrity later found included three members who consulted for PG&E in the Brockovich case, pressured the EPA to grant the American Chemistry Council’s request. In 2012, the EPA quietly announced that the draft risk assessment will be held up until the chemical lobby’s studies are finished. EWG and other public health groups objected vociferously, not only due to the delay on chromium-6 but “the dangerous precedent suggested by delaying risk assessment activities to allow incorporation of as-yet unpublished, industry-funded research.”

The EPA’s prediction of when the risk assessment will be released for public comment has been pushed back repeatedly – from 2015 to the second quarter of 2016, and then to early 2017. When asked for an update, Cogliano wrote in an Aug. 24 email to EWG: “We expect to release a draft health assessment document in 2017, though I wouldn’t use the word ‘early.'”

Also on Aug. 24, an EPA spokesperson wrote in an email to EWG that the agency “has not made any decision regarding revising the drinking water regulations for [total] chromium or establishing regulations for hexavalent chromium.” That’s troubling, as the industry studies are expected to support the position that the EPA should do nothing at all.

The industry-funded studies are being conducted by ToxStrategies, a Texas-based science-for-hire consulting firm. The Center for Public Integrity found that a principal scientist at ToxStrategies, Mark Harris, had worked on the PG&E-funded scheme to revise the Chinese scientist’s paper linking chromium-6 to stomach cancer while at ChemRisk. The Center reported that Harris and his ToxStrategies colleague Deborah Proctor previously “were leaders in the chrome industry’s efforts to dissuade the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from setting stricter rules for airborne chromium in the workplace.”

In June, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a proposal for a daily safe dose of chromium-6 in drinking water that drew heavily on studies by Proctor and other ToxStrategies scientists. It argues that the EPA’s current legal limit for total chromium – 100 parts per billion, with no separate limit on chromium-6 – is adequate to protect public health. Joseph T. Haney Jr., the Texas state toxicologist who was the lead author of the paper, told the newsletter Inside EPA it was “a remarkable coincidence” that his calculations yielded a daily safe dose corresponding exactly to the EPA’s current regulation for total chromium.

Haney’s paper assumes there is a threshold for how much of a contaminant is harmful, and that no level of chromium-6 the EPA tests found in U.S. drinking water exceeded that amount. But the so-called linear method the EPA generally requires for mutagens – carcinogenic chemicals that cause cancer by damaging DNA, which can occur when even a single molecule enters a cell – assumes that any level of exposure carries some risk. The National Toxicology Program’s 2008 two-year study of lab animals found clear evidence that chromium-6 causes cancer, and the EPA’s 2010 draft risk assessment found that it is a powerful mutagen, so the linear method should be used to calculate cancer risk.

The ToxStrategies model rejects the EPA’s finding that chromium-6 causes cancer by damaging DNA, instead arguing that it causes hyperplasia, an increase in the number of cells, which may or may not be cancerous. It is based on a 90-day animal exposure study, in contrast to the more rigorous two-year National Toxicology Program study. It also ignores the growing body of independent research exploring the effects of small doses of carcinogens in combination with the myriad other cancer-causing chemicals Americans are exposed to daily.

If the EPA accepts the ToxStrategies threshold model, it could mean not only that chromium-6 will remain unregulated in drinking water, but also set a precedent that could undermine health protections for other carcinogenic chemicals. The EPA must reject the industry-backed effort, which is supported not by unbiased science to protect health, but by agenda-driven research to protect polluters from paying cleanup costs.

The recent conflict in North Carolina is one example of how the EPA’s failure to set enforceable national regulations is leaving Americans at risk from chromium-6 contamination. The result is not just an unsettled scientific debate, but the exposure of hundreds of millions of people to a cancer-causing chemical in their drinking water.

Cleaning up water supplies contaminated with chromium-6 will not be cheap. But the answer to high costs is not allowing exposures at unsafe levels while pretending water is safe. And the fact that some unknown level of chromium-6 contamination comes from natural sources does not negate Americans’ need to be protected from a known carcinogen.

Instead, the EPA and state regulators must set drinking water standards to protect the public, including those more susceptible to the toxic effects of chromium-6. Chromium-6 polluters must be held accountable and pay their shares of cleanup costs. The EPA and state regulators must focus on ensuring that water systems lacking the resources to meet health-protective standards have access to necessary funding, expertise and support so they can provide communities with truly safe water.

Read The Full Story At: http://www.ewg.org/research/chromium-six-found-in-us-tap-water#ref19

Wastewater Treatment Plants Spreading Brain Disease

Neurodegenerative Disease Fastest Growing Cause Of Death

Neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, is the fastest-growing cause of death in the world. Misinformation and mismanagement are contributing to the surge. Alzheimer’s disease alone is killing 50-100 million people now. Experts suggest that the prevalence of brain disease will quadruple by 2050, if not sooner.

Death rates from heart disease and cancer are dropping globally due to advances in nutrition, medicine and disease management. Meanwhile, neurodegenerative disease is exploding. In the U.S., deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent from 2000 to 2013, while those attributed to heart disease decreased 14 percent. Similar trends are emerging around the world. The reasons are alarming.

Alzheimer's disease and infectious waste

Death rates from heart disease, cancer and other leading causes of death are steady, if not dropping, in most countries due to advances in nutrition, medicine and disease management. Unfortunately, neurodegenerative disease is the one glaring exception. It’s spreading exponentially. If we had accurate mortality statistics, we would likely find that brain disease is already the leading cause of death around the world. Some countries are at a higher risk than others.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion (PREE-on) disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence.

transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them with prions because prions are in the urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva of each victim. Not only are homes and hospitals exposed to the prion pathogen, so are entire sewage treatment systems and their by-products. Wastewater treatment plants are prion incubators and distributors. The sewage sludge and wastewater released are spreading disease far and wide. Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. In fact, they migrate, mutate and multiply.

Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues confirmed the presence of prions in urine. Soto also confirmed that plants uptake prions and are infectious and deadly to those who consume the infected plants. Therefore, humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via plants grown on land treated with sewage sludge and reclaimed sewage water.

Claudio Soto prion research

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain soils. Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped.

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said.

prion research sewage sludge

“Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen. The human prion is resistant to both heat and chemicals. It’s reported that prions released from people are up to a hundred thousand times more difficult to deactivate than prions from most animals.

Sewage from hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses, morgues, mortuaries, veterinarians and other high-risk places enters the same sewage system. Thanks to more and more people dying from TSEs, sewage systems are more contaminated with prions than ever. Wastewater treatment systems are now prion incubators and distributors.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to it’s antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions a “emerging contaminant of concern.” Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are promoting a public health disaster.

biosolids and prion disease

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to prion disease, many pathways are being mismanaged around the globe. Not only are homes and hospitals exposed to the prion pathogen, so are entire sewage treatment systems and their by-products. Wastewater treatment plants are prion incubators and the sewage sludge and wastewater pumped out spread the disease. People in some cities are actually drinking this wastewater.

Water contamination and disease

Via sewage, biosolids, and reclaimed wastewater, we’re recycling prions from victims into our food and water supplies. We’re dumping killer proteins on crops, parks, golf courses, gardens, ski areas, school grounds and beyond. Wind, rain and irrigation spread them throughout our communities and watersheds. We’re ignoring prion science.

Failure to account for known risks is negligent.We’re all vulnerable to prion disease right now due to widespread denial and mismanagement.

 

Wastewater Treatment and Disease via http://alzheimerdisease.tv/brain-disease-the-fastest-growing-cause-of-death/

public affairs and public relations firm

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.

U.S. Cities With The Greenest Buildings

cropped-city2.jpg

This week, the EPA released its annual list of the 25 American cities with the highest number of Energy Star certified buildings.

According to the EPA, 16,000 Energy Star certified buildings in the U.S. helped save “nearly $2.3 billion in annual utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual energy use of more than 1.5 million homes” by the end of 2011.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a press release, “More and more organizations are discovering the value of Energy Star as they work to cut costs and reduce their energy use. This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Energy Star program, and today Energy Star certified buildings in cities across America are helping to strengthen local economies and protect the planet for decades to come.”

Jackson blogged for HuffPost in March, “After 20 years, our vast network of partners gives Americans a wide-array of innovative choices for saving energy and cutting costs every day.”

America’s 4.8 million commercial buildings and 350,000 industrial facilities expend $107.9 billion and $94.4 billion a year on energy costs, according to the EPA’s Energy Star program. Yet an estimated 30% of that cost – enormous as it is – is actually wasted due to inefficient technologies. What’s more, according to Energy Star, if the energy efficiency of our commercial and industrial buildings was boosted by an attainable 10% across the board, that would result in reduction of greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 30 million vehicles off our roads (or about as many cars and trucks as are registered in Illinois, New York, Texas and Ohio combined).

How do you make sure a green building is really greener? One convenient way is third party certification. The gold standard has been the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council. Another one increasingly gaining familiarity is the EPA’s Energy Star label program, which was extended from appliances and electronics to whole structures fairly recently.

According to the EPA, the number of Energy Star-qualified buildings across the U.S. has soared by more than 130% from 2007. What does that really mean? Energy Star buildings use 35% less energy than average buildings and emit 35% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In January, the U.S. Green Buildings council released its 2011 list of top states that have implemented their LEED certification program. LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” is a system that “provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions,” according to the USGBC.

Below, find the EPA’s top 25 cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings and see if your city made the list in 2012.
1. Los Angeles

2. Washington, DC

3. Chicago

4. New York

5. Atlanta

6. San Francisco

7. Houston

8. Dallas-Fort Worth

9. Phoenix

10. Boston

11. Philadelphia

12. Denver

13. Cincinnati

14. Charlotte

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul

15. San Diego

16. San Jose

17. Seattle

18. Miami

19. Detroit

20. Sacramento

21. Indianapolis

22. Albuquerque

23. Kansas City, Mo.

23. Portland, Ore.

24. Riverside, Calif.

25. Virginia Beach

For the full list of cities, click here.

source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/energy-star-certified-buildings-cities_n_1421856.html

 

Chicago A Leader In Rooftop Gardens

Chicago’s City Hall is a pioneer in rooftop gardening, which saves energy and reduces storm-water runoff.

Rooftops are vastly underutilized spaces in the urban environment, yet it is possible for any landscape, plaza, or garden to be installed on a building or structure. In Europe, over the past thirty years, rooftops have become the focus of a quiet but steady revolution through the application of green roof technologies. It is significant that properly designed green roofs can emulate natural processes. Even the thinnest green roof can effectively absorb most rainfall events, reverse the urban heat island effect, and provide wildlife habitat. They also insulate buildings, extend the life of the roof membrane, increase property values, and vastly improve urban aesthetics. While Europeans have been enjoying these benefits for years, Americans are just beginning to embrace them. Green roof technology is so new to America, that there is far too little data published to guide landscape architects in the design process.

One way that green roofs differ from other rooftop gardens, per se, is that they are not generally designed as accessible space. Green roofs are appropriate for many applications, including warehouses, commercial and office structures, public institutions, and even residential roofs. Green roofs also differ in that they only add 17 (dry) to 30 (wet) pounds per square foot to a roof’s load, where roof gardens can add 100 pounds per square foot or more. These relatively light loads keep construction costs down while providing significant environmental, aesthetic, and social benefits. Under Mayor Richard M. Daley’s direction, the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment took the initiative to start an aggressive green roof pilot project by hiring a team of landscape architects, architects, structural engineers, and ecologists to design and implement a green roof for Chicago’s City Hall. Centrally located in downtown Chicago, City Hall is one of the most visible and recognized structures in the city. The primary purpose of the City Hall Green Roof Pilot Project is to provide a green roof demonstration that serves to facilitate research and educational outreach within the context of a midwestern climate.

Completed in 2001, the rooftop garden was designed to test different types of green roof systems, heating and cooling benefits, success rates of native and non-native vegetation, and reductions in rainwater runoff. The three systems integrated into the design include lightweight soils at 4, 6 and 18 inches in depth. These varying green roof systems are recognized respectively as Extensive, semi-intensive, and Intensive green roofs. Soils were fabricated using lightweight soil mixture guidelines developed in Germany over the past 20 years.

Although the rooftop is not normally accessible to the public, it is visually accessible from 33 taller buildings in the area. The design form is intended to be read from these various vantage points. The plantings are organized in a sunburst pattern, which respects the symmetry of the historic City Hall and provides a format for arranging groups of plants over the three different roof systems. Though green roofs are typically planted with only sedums and low grasses, the planting palette has been expanded significantly to accommodate research related to the viability of over 100 species of plants. The variety of plants include native prairie and woodland grasses and forbs, hardy ornamental perennials and grasses, several species of native and ornamental shrubs, and two varieties of trees. Plants are organized by bloom color. As the season progresses from spring through fall, plants bloom across the sunburst pattern. The radiating bands of floral color are segregated by similar bands of grasses. The long bands provide opportunities for the same plant material to be applied over various depths of soil, ranges of slope, and drainage patterns.

Since City Hall’s flat roof is over 100 years old, previous layers of waterproofing were left in place and a new liner water proofing system was installed. The relatively flat roof surface had gently sloping drainage lines that were left in place. Rectangular skylights (that are no longer used) had been covered and reinforced to increase weight support up to 60 pounds per square foot. The unified undulating ground surface was achieved by installing layers of lightweight insulation boards to elevate the soil layer 12″-24″ inches above the waterproofing layer.

Early results are very encouraging with respect to summer air temperatures above the green roof surface. Studies indicated that the ambient air temperature was as much as 78 degrees cooler than the air temperature measured on the traditional black tar roof membrane which still exists on the Cook County half of the building.

The City of Chicago Department of Environment (DOE) initiated the City Hall Rooftop Garden Pilot Project as part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The rooftop garden was designed to test its cooling effects and its ability to sustain a variety of plants in three different depths of growing media. Monitoring of the plants, birds and insects is underway. Results from monitoring the cooling effects during the garden’s first summer showed a roof surface temperature reduction of 70 degrees and an air temperature reduction of 15 degrees.