EPA TO ISSUE NEW CLIMATE RULES WITHOUT CONGRESS

While Democrats’ climate agenda remains on hold heading into this fall’s midterm elections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vows it will take action to roll out it’s own new regulations on greenhouse gases.  A senior administration official tells Reuters:

The agency “has a huge role to play in continuing the work to move from where we are now to lower carbon emissions”, said the official, who did not want to be identified as the EPA policies are still being formed.

President Barack Obama, looking to take the lead in global talks on greenhouse gas emissions, has long warned that the EPA would take steps to regulate emissions if Congress failed to pass a climate bill. …

The senior official stopped short of saying the EPA alone would achieve Obama’s goal of about 17 percent reductions in greenhouse gases by 2020 from 2005 levels.

Though Congress isn’t likely to act on the president’s climate change agenda in 2010, the EPA expects it will do so in coming years, the official said.

Among the EPA’s new rules will be new fuel-efficiency standards for America’s motor vehicles, a policy hammered out by the EPA and the Department of Transportation.  In addition, the EPA is also unilaterally working to regulate greenhouse gases from “stationary sources” such as power plants and factories.

Starting next year the EPA will require large power plants, manufacturers and oil refiners to get permits for releasing greenhouse gas emissions, though details are unclear.

The EPA will also require industrial sources to submit analyses on the so-called “best available technology” they could add to their plants to cut emissions under the existing Clean Air Act.

In today’s uncertain economy, it’s not clear new regulations based in dubious policy will affect job-makers.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/epa-to-issue-new-climate-rules-without-congress/

Air tests from the Louisiana coast reveal human health threats from the oil disaster

The media coverage of the BP oil disaster to date has focused largely on the threats to wildlife, but the latest evaluation of air monitoring data shows a serious threat to human health from airborne chemicals emitted by the ongoing deepwater gusher.

Today the Louisiana Environmental Action Network released its analysis of air monitoring test results by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s air testing data comes from Venice, a coastal community 75 miles south of New Orleans in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish.

The findings show that levels of airborne chemicals have far exceeded state standards and what’s considered safe for human exposure.

For instance, hydrogen sulfide has been detected at concentrations more than 100 times greater than the level known to cause physical reactions in people. Among the health effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure are eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, dizziness, confusion and headache.

The concentration threshold for people to experience physical symptoms from hydrogen sulfide is about 5 to 10 parts per billion. But as recently as last Thursday, the EPA measured levels at 1,000 ppb. The highest levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide measured so far were on May 3, at 1,192 ppb.

Testing data also shows levels of volatile organic chemicals that far exceed Louisiana’s own ambient air standards. VOCs cause acute physical health symptoms including eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion.

Louisiana’s ambient air standard for the VOC benzene, for example, is 3.76 ppb, while its standard for methylene chloride is 61.25 ppb. Long-term exposure to airborne benzene has been linked to cancer, while the EPA considers methylene chloride a probable carcinogen.

Air testing results show VOC concentrations far above these state standards. On May 6, for example, the EPA measured VOCs at levels of 483 ppb. The highest levels detected to date were on April 30, at 3,084 ppb, following by May 2, at 3,416 ppb.

Flood of sludge breaks TVA dike

*Hopefully, karma will be a bitch.*

HARRIMAN, Tenn. — Millions of yards of ashy sludge broke through a dike at TVA’s Kingston coal-fired plant Monday, covering hundreds of acres, knocking one home off its foundation and putting environmentalists on edge about toxic chemicals that may be seeping into the ground and flowing downriver.

One neighboring family said the disaster was no surprise because they have watched the 1960s-era ash pond’s mini-blowouts off and on for years.

About 2.6 million cubic yards of slurry — enough to fill 798 Olympic-size swimming pools — rolled out of the pond Monday, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cleanup will take at least several weeks, or, in a worst-case scenario, years.

The ash slide, which began just before 1 a.m., covered as many as 400 acres as deep as 6 feet. The wave of ash and mud toppled power lines, covered Swan Pond Road and ruptured a gas line. It damaged 12 homes, and one person had to be rescued, though no one was seriously hurt.

Much remains to be determined, including why this happened, said Tom Kilgore, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“I fully suspect that the amount of rain we’ve had in the last eight to 10 days, plus the freezing weather … might have had something to do with this,” he said in a news conference Monday on the site.

The area received almost 5 inches of rain this month, compared with the usual 2.8 inches. Freeze and thaw cycles may have undermined the sides of the pond. The last formal report on the condition of the 40-acre pond — an unlined, earthen structure — was issued in January and was unavailable Monday, officials said.

Neighbors Don and Jil Smith, who have lived near the pond for eight years, said that nearly every year TVA has cleaned up what they termed “baby blowouts.”

Ashen liquid similar to that seen on a much larger scale in Monday’s disaster came from the dike, they said.

“It would start gushing this gray ooze,” said Don Smith, whose home escaped harm. “They’d work on it for weeks and weeks.

“They can say this is a one-time thing, but I don’t think people are going to believe them.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, EPA, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation were among agencies that responded to the emergency.
Toxic irritants possible

Coal is burned to produce electricity at the Kingston Fossil Plant, notable for its tall towers seen along Interstate 40 near the Harriman exit in Roane County.

Water is added to the ash, which is the consistency of face powder, for pumping it to the pond. The ash is settled out in that pond before the sludge is moved to other, drier ponds, Kilgore said.

Coal ash can carry toxic substances that include mercury, arsenic and lead, according to a federal study. The amount of poisons in TVA’s ashy wastes that could irritate skin, trigger allergies and even cause cancer or neurological problems could not be determined Monday, officials said.

Viewed from above, the scene looked like the aftermath of a tsunami, with swirls of dirtied water stretching for hundreds of acres on the land, and muddied water in the Emory River.

The Emory leads to the Clinch, which flows into the Tennessee.

Workers sampled river water Monday, with results expected back today, but didn’t sample the dunelike drifts of muddy ash.

That could begin today, officials said, and the potential magnitude of the problem could make this a federally declared Superfund site. That would mean close monitoring and a deep, costly cleanup requiring years of work.

“We’ll be sampling for metals in the ground to see what kind of impact that had,” said Laura Niles, a spokeswoman for the EPA in Atlanta.

“Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as creating a Superfund site, but it depends on what is found.”

Stephen Smith, with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Knoxville, said those concerned about water and air quality have tried for years to press for tighter regulation of the ash.

The heavy metals in coal — including mercury and other toxic substances — concentrate in the ash when burned, he said.

“You know where that is now,” he said. “It’s in that stuff that’s all over those people’s houses now.”

Chemicals and metals from coal ash have contaminated drinking water in several states, made people and animals sick in New Mexico, and tainted fish in Texas and elsewhere, according to Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice, a nonprofit national environmental law firm that follows the issue.

“It’s discouraging because this is an easy problem to fix,” she said.

Ash could be recycled by using it to make concrete and at the very least should be placed in lined, state-of-the-art landfills, she said.
Plant is still operating

TVA’s Kilgore said that chemicals in the ash are of concern, but that the situation is probably safe. The power plant is still operating, sending the ash to a larger pond on the site.

“There are levels of chemicals in there that we are concerned about,” Kilgore said. “We don’t think there’s anything immediate of danger because most of that’s contained, but that’s why we have sampling folks out.”

Officials were monitoring a water intake that serves Kingston City and is only a few miles downstream from the Kingston plant, but said no problem had been noted there as of Monday afternoon.

The power producer, which oversees the Tennessee River system, had slowed river flow in the area, releasing less water from key dams, so the pollution might be better contained for possible cleanup.

TVA has insurance for an event like this, spokeswoman Barbara Martucci said, but what the cleanup cost is and how much insurance will pay remains to be determined.

Otherwise, ratepayers in Tennessee could bear much of the costs. TVA provides virtually all the electricity in the state, along with parts of six others.

http://tennessean.com/article/20081223/GREEN02/812230370

FDA Conspired with Chemical Industry to Declare Bisphenol-A Harmless

*Yet another reason to never trust anything the FDA has to say about product safety*

The FDA has been caught red-handed conspiring with the chemical industry to conclude that Bisphenol-A, the plastics chemical, is harmless to human health. As revealed by the Environmental Working Group (see below), the FDA based its evaluation of BPA on a report authored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade group that represents chemical companies and plastics manufacturers.

The FDA’s evaluation concluded that BPA was perfectly safe for consumers of any age, including infants. This conclusion stands in direct opposition to the Canadian government, which declared BPA to be a toxic chemical on Oct. 18 and moved towards banning the chemical in baby bottles.

Even the U.S. National Institutes of Health says BPA may be dangerous, admitting it is concerned about BPA’s “effects on development of the prostate gland and brain and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children.”
How the FDA conspires with industry
The FDA, however, has never met a corporate-sponsored chemical it didn’t like. Thanks to industry pressure, the FDA has once again stepped to the tune of private industry while betraying the safety of the American consumer. This decision on BPA is the latest example of why the FDA has become an enormous threat to the health and safety of the American people.

Two days ago, NaturalNews reported the FDA’s masterminding of an extortion racket that targets small health supplement companies and threatens their owners with imprisonment if they don’t pay huge sums of money to FDA contractors (http://www.naturalnews.com/024567.html).

It is now clear to most independent observers that the FDA is operating a criminal protect racket that seeks to multiply the profits of drug companies and chemical companies while betraying the health and safety of the American people. FDA decision boards are routinely stacked with “experts” who are on the take from the corporations impacted by their decisions, and even while the FDA is giving the big thumbs up to deadly pharmaceuticals and cancer-causing chemicals, it is targeting health supplement companies with threats so severe they would be considered criminal if uttered by anyone else.

Thanks to the FDA, it remains illegal in the United States to even link to a scientific study on the health benefits of cherries if you happen to sell cherries. Telling the truth about anti-cancer herbs can land you in prison, and placing a customer testimonial on your health product website can earn you a visit from FDA agents accompanied by armed SWAT-style assault teams (http://www.naturalnews.com/021791.html).

The FDA, it seems, has turned reality upside down and is now telling us that all the poisons are safe while all the natural substances are dangerous. Consider this:

According to the FDA:

• Aspartame is perfectly safe, but stevia is too dangerous to use in foods

• Vioxx is perfectly safe, but cherries are too dangerous to treat arthritis pain

• Chemotherapy is safe enough for everyone, but anti-cancer herbs might poison you

• Vaccines are so safe that we should inject all our teenage girls with them, but Vitamin D has no biological benefit whatsoever and has no effect on preventing infections

• Bisphenol-A is safe enough for babies to drink, but human breast milk is dangerous and outlawed from being sold
The FDA: Harming babies for profit
The number of babies that have been harmed or killed by the FDA is beyond accounting. This agency, through its outright abandonment of its duty to protect the People, has established itself as the single most dangerous organization operating on U.S. soil, far exceeding the harm posed by criminal gangs, white-collar criminals or even terrorist cells.

In the United States today, bankers who steal the People’s money go free. Politicians who steal the People’s vote stay in power. And regulatory agencies that steal the People’s health are given yet more money by Congress. Is there no justice left in America? Is there no agency remaining that’s willing to arrest the criminals who work for the United States government? When did the People surrender their freedoms to the jackals in Washington?

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” –Benito Mussolini

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.” — Thomas Jefferson

“A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” — Dresden James.

What follows is the original press release written by the Environmental Working Group (www.EWG.org)
Chemical Industry Wrote FDA’s Glowing Assessment of BPA; Chemical Lobby Admits Involvement in Drafting Agency’s Position
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that internal documents from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) show that an agency task force assessment of the toxic plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) “was written largely by the plastics industry and others with a financial stake in the controversial chemical.”

The newspaper reported that the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the Washington-based trade group that represents the $664 billion U.S. chemical industry, commissioned a review of all studies of the neurotoxicity of bisphenol-A and submitted it to the FDA. The FDA then used that report as the foundation for its evaluation of the chemical on neural and behavioral development.

An FDA assessment made public last August asserted that BPA, a synthetic estrogen and component of polycarbonate and epoxy resin plastics, is safe for use in consumer products, including baby bottles and infant formula containers.

“This latest revelation makes clear that no matter who is in the White House come January, he has to rebuild the FDA,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook. “An agency that once epitomized independent, impartial expertise in the service of public health has degenerated to a disgraced stenographer for the chemical and plastics industry.”

The FDA’s stance conflicts with the position of National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program, which last month concluded that people are being exposed to BPA at levels which raise “some concern” for “effects on development of the prostate gland and brain and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children.”

On Oct. 18, the Canadian government, differing sharply with FDA’s position on BPA brain toxicity, declared BPA a toxin, a first step in its efforts to restrict its use in baby bottles and formula.

The Journal Sentinel quoted ACC spokeswoman Tiffany Harrington as confirming ACC’s involvement in drafting the agency’s position: “We are a stakeholder just like anyone else,” Harrington said. “It’s part of the process.”

Earlier this month the Journal Sentinel disclosed that University of Michigan toxicologist Martin Philbert, Ph.D., chair of a key science advisory panel guiding the FDA’s continuing review of BPA’s potential health risks, failed to disclose to the agency a $5 million gift from Charles Gelman, the retired head of Gelman Sciences, a medical device manufacturing company which used BPA in its products, to the university Risk Science Center which Philbert directs.

The FDA has said it will review Philbert’s actions. But it has rebuffed calls by EWG and other groups to halt a meeting scheduled for Oct. 31 until a top-down investigation of this matter is concluded. At that meeting, Philbert is expected to make recommendations to the FDA Science Board on the safety of BPA in baby bottles, formula cans and other food packaging.

EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/fda-conspired-with-chemical-industry-to-declare-bisphenol-a-harmless.html

Great Lakes Danger…WHAT THEY DO NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW!!!!!!

For more than seven months, the nation’s top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially “alarming information” as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates.

The 400-plus-page study, Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in the Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern, was undertaken by a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the request of the International Joint Commission, an independent bilateral organization that advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on the use and quality of boundary waters between the two countries. The study was originally scheduled for release in July 2007 by the IJC and the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the study, which warns that more than nine million people who live in the more than two dozen “areas of concern”—including such major metropolitan areas as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee—may face elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, or six other hazardous pollutants.

In many of the geographic areas studied, researchers found low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.

Since 2004, dozens of experts have reviewed various drafts of the study, including senior scientists at the CDC, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies, as well as scientists from universities and state governments, according to sources familiar with the history of the project.

“It raises very important questions,” Dr. Peter Orris, a professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in Chicago and one of three experts who reviewed the study for ATSDR, told the Center. While Orris acknowledged that the study does not determine cause and effect—a point the study itself emphasizes—its release, he said, is crucial to pointing the way for further esearch. “Communities could demand that those questions be answered in a more systematic way,” he said. “Not to release it is putting your head under the sand.”

In a December 2007 letter to ATSDR in which he called for the release of the study, Orris wrote: “This report, which has taken years in production, was subjected to independent expert review by the IJC’s Health Professionals Task Force and other boards, over 20 EPA scientists, state agency scientists from New York and Minnesota, three academics (including myself), and multiple reviews within ATSDR. As such, this is perhaps the most extensively critiqued report, internally and externally, that I have heard of.”

Last July, several days before the study was to be released, ATSDR suddenly withdrew it, saying that it needed further review. In a letter to Christopher De Rosa, then the director of the agency’s division of toxicology and environmental medicine, Dr. Howard Frumkin, ATSDR’s chief, wrote that the quality of the study was “well below expectations.” When the Center contacted Frumkin’s office, a spokesman said that he was not available for comment and that the study was “still under review.”

De Rosa, who oversaw the study and has pressed for its release, referred the Center’s requests for an interview to ATSDR’s public affairs office, which, over a period of two weeks, has declined to make him available for comment. In an e-mail obtained by the Center, De Rosa wrote to Frumkin that the delay in publishing the study has had “the appearance of censorship of science and distribution of factual information regarding the health status of vulnerable communities.”

Some members of Congress seem to agree. In a February 6, 2008, letter to CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, who’s also administrator of ATSDR, a trio of powerful congressional Democrats—including Representative Bart Gordon of Tennessee, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology—complained about the delay in releasing the report. The Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of the letter to Gerberding, which notes that the full committee is reviewing “disturbing allegations about interference with the work of government scientists” at ATSDR. “You and Dr. Frumkin were made aware of the Committee’s concerns on this matter last December,” the letter adds, “but we have still not heard any explanation for the decision to cancel the release of the report.”

Canadian biologist Michael Gilbertson, a former IJC staffer and another of the three peer reviewers, told the Center that the study has been suppressed because it suggests that vulnerable populations have been harmed by industrial pollutants. “It’s not good because it’s inconvenient,” Gilbertson said. “The whole problem with all this kind of work is wrapped up in that word ‘injury.’ If you have injury, that implies liability. Liability, of course, implies damages, legal processes, and costs of remedial action. The governments, frankly, in both countries are so heavily aligned with, particularly, the chemical industry, that the word amongst the bureaucracies is that they really do not want any evidence of effect or injury to be allowed out there.”

The IJC requested the study in 2001. Researchers selected by the ATSDR not only reviewed data from hazardous waste sites, toxic releases, and discharges of pollutants but also, for the first time, mapped the locations of schools, hospitals, and other facilities to assess the proximity of vulnerable populations to the sources of environmental contaminants. In March 2004, an official of the IJC wrote to De Rosa to thank him for his role in the study, saying that he was “enthusiastic about sharing this information with Great Lakes Basin stakeholders and governments,” and adding, “You are to be
commended for your extraordinary efforts.”

Unlike his Canadian counterpart, however, the ATSDR’s Frumkin seems anything but thankful. De Rosa, a highly respected scientist with a strong international reputation from his 15 years in charge of ATSDR’s division of toxicology and environmental medicine, was demoted after he pushed Frumkin to publish the Great Lakes report and other studies. De Rosa is seeking reinstatement to his former position, claiming that Frumkin illegally retaliated against him. Phone calls to ATSDR seeking comment about the pending personnel dispute were not returned.

“I think this is really pretty outrageous, both to Chris personally and to the report,” Dr. David Carpenter, a professor of public health at the State University of New York at Albany and another of ATSDR’s peer reviewers, told the Center for Public Integrity.

Some members of Congress have also taken De Rosa’s side. That same February 6 letter to Gerberding, which was co-signed by Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina, chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Science and Technology Committee, and Representative Nick Lampson of Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, expressed concern that “management may have retaliated against” De Rosa for blowing the whistle on ATSDR’s conduct related to this investigation and another involving work on formaldehyde in trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “The public is well served by federal employees willing to speak up when federal agencies act improperly, and Congress depends upon whistle blowers for effective oversight,” the letter states. “We will not tolerate retaliation against any whistle blowers.”

Barry Johnson, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service and a former assistant administrator of ATSDR, told the Center that before he left in 1999 he recommended that the agency investigate the dangers that chemical contaminants might pose to residents of the Great Lakes states.

“This research is quite important to the public health of people who reside in that area,” Johnson said of the study. “It was done with the full knowledge and support of IJC, and many local health departments went through this in various reviews. I don’t understand why this work has not been released; it should be and it must be released. In 37 years of public service, I’ve never run into a situation like this.”

http://www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/359/

It’s in the water, stupid

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation’s 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

• Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.

• Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

• Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

• A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s drinking water.

• The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

• Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven’t: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

The AP’s investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city’s water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that “New York City’s drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system” — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP’s questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren’t in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City’s upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. “Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail,” Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40% of the nation’s water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12% to a record 3.7 billion, while non-prescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10% of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8%, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. “Based on what we now know, I would say we find there’s little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health,” said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: “There’s no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they’re at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms.”

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

“It brings a question to people’s minds that if the fish were affected … might there be a potential problem for humans?” EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. “It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven’t gotten far enough along.”

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

“I think it’s a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health,” said Snyder. “They need to just accept that these things are everywhere — every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It’s time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental.”

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to “detect and quantify pharmaceuticals” in wastewater. “We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations,” he said. “We’re going to be able to learn a lot more.”

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it’s being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

There’s growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and non-profit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

“These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That’s what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects,” says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That’s why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

“We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,” says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-10-drugs-tap-water_N.htm