While those who lead our cities, towns, and public utilities companies continually reassure us that they’re doing us a service and require payment to continue doing so, it is glaringly obvious that most Americans are getting a poor return on their investment.
A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University has found that people in 43 states in the United States have access to unhealthy drinking water, contaminated with PFAS chemicals. According to the CDC, those very same chemicals have been linked to major health issues like birth defects, cancer and infertility. “PFAS compounds are a family of thousands of chemicals used in a wide array of consumer and industrial applications” that most of us have in our homes right now—cleaning products, waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, textiles, grease-resistant food packaging, leather, paper goods, paint and more. One of the most notorious PFAS compounds is PFOA, which was previously used to make DuPont’s Teflon.
Using information compiled from the Pentagon and water utility reports, the researchers have shown that around 19 million people are currently being exposed to contaminated water, with contamination sites ranging from entire public water systems to military bases, airports, industrial plants, garbage dumps and firefighter training sites.
The EWG said in a statement on Monday:
“The known extent of contamination of American communities with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate, with no end in sight.”
“This should be frightening to all Americans in many ways,” said David Andrews, a scientist with the Environmental Working Group. “These chemicals… don’t break down in our body and they don’t break down in our environment and they actually stick to our blood. So levels tend to increase over time.”
“These chemicals can impact a lot of different health systems, cause numerous health problems, everything from testicular and kidney cancer, heart to the liver, heart to the thyroid.”
The EWG’s interactive map, pictured below, is the most comprehensive resource to track PFAS contamination currently in use, and it shows just how widespread the problem truly is.
Now that we know the contamination sources for many of the PFASs found in municipal drinking water, is anyone being held accountable for this contamination? And why aren’t we being told don’t drink the water?
The truth is, according to the EWG, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t currently have a legally enforceable limit on the books for PFASs in drinking water.
According to Ken Cook, EWG president:
“The Environmental Protection Agency has utterly failed to address PFAS with the seriousness this crisis demands, leaving local communities and states to grapple with a complex problem rooted in the failure of the federal chemical regulatory system.”
Of the EPA’s failure, Andrews said:
“Part of the problem is they haven’t set a new legal drinking water limit for any contaminant in over two decades. The whole system of regulating chemicals that may end up in our water and setting limits is broken and the agency is really falling behind the science here.”
The Environmental Working Group is proposing that a legal limit 1 part per trillion be set for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. And while the EPA isn’t acting quickly or thoroughly enough for some, the agency did release a PFAS Action Plan just this year, which outlines “concrete steps the agency is taking to address PFAS and to protect public health.” But one has to wonder why issues such as this often only warrant a report from the overseeing agency after the true breadth
But unfortunately, PFASs aren’t the only concern. According to CBS News:
“This report comes less than one week after another study by the Environmental Working Group claimed a collection of toxic chemical pollutants found in California drinking water could be responsible for an excess of 15,000 estimated cancer cases over the coming decades. Scientists published that study in the journal Environmental Health after finding toxins and carcinogens in more than 2,700 California community water systems between 2011 and 2015.”
All of this comes in addition to the numerous municipalities dealing with water supplies contaminated by metals like lead. Cities like Flint, Michigan are still struggling to tackle the issue and reeling from the consequences, despite having known about it for years.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.