Wastewater Recycling Prion Contamination

The urge to recycle more wastewater in the face of climate change and rising human populations is tempting. Places such as Singapore have been doing it for years. Unfortunately, recycling wastewater and spreading biosolids (sewage sludge) on our crops, parks and golf courses is creating an environmental nightmare. The practice must be stopped to protect our remaining water, our food and our lives.

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.

We have an unstoppable and untreatable global epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s killing more than 50 million people around the globe now. Related diseases include Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans, mad cow disease (livestock), chronic wasting (deer, elk, moose and other animals) and others. Mismanaged sewage is fueling all forms of prion disease.

All prion diseases are unstoppable and the time for denial is over. The time for intelligent management is now. All prion diseases will escalate, but that is no rationale for spreading the disease around with even more wastewater reuse.

The prion pathogen is spread through blood, urine, feces, mucus, saliva, milk and cell tissue. This means that as more and more people get Alzheimer’s and CJD, the more deadly prions are going into our wastewater treatment systems.

municipal wastewater treatment and disease

Wastewater treatment technology does not stop prions.

The U.S. EPA admits the risk and the inability to detect or neutralize prions. 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.

“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.

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