White House called toxins contamination ‘PR nightmare’
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
Tuesday, August 14
HORSHAM, Pa. (AP) — Lauren Woeher wonders if her 16-month-old daughter has been harmed by tap water contaminated with toxic industrial compounds used in products like nonstick cookware, carpets, firefighting foam and fast-food wrappers. Henry Betz, at 76, rattles around his house alone at night, thinking about the water his family unknowingly drank for years that was tainted by the same contaminants, and the pancreatic cancers that killed wife Betty Jean and two others in his household.
Tim Hagey, manager of a local water utility, recalls how he used to assure people that the local public water was safe. That was before testing showed it had some of the highest levels of the toxic compounds of any public water system in the U.S.
“You all made me out to be a liar,” Hagey, general water and sewer manager in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Warminster, told Environmental Protection Agency officials at a hearing last month. The meeting drew residents and officials from Horsham and other affected towns in eastern Pennsylvania, and officials from some of the other dozens of states dealing with the same contaminants.
At “community engagement sessions” around the country this summer like the one in Horsham, residents and state, local and military officials are demanding that the EPA act quickly — and decisively — to clean up local water systems testing positive for dangerous levels of the chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The Trump administration called the contamination “a potential public relations nightmare” earlier this year after federal toxicology studies found that some of the compounds are more hazardous than previously acknowledged.
PFAS have been in production since the 1940s, and there are about 3,500 different types. Dumped into water, the air or soil, some forms of the compounds are expected to remain intact for thousands of years; one public-health expert dubbed them “forever chemicals.”
EPA testing from 2013 to 2015 found significant amounts of PFAS in public water supplies in 33 U.S. states. The finding helped move PFAS up as a national priority.
So did scientific studies that firmed up the health risks. One, looking at a kind of PFAS once used in making Teflon, found a probable link with kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, hypertension in pregnant women and high cholesterol. Other recent studies point to immune problems in children, among other things.
In 2016, the EPA set advisory limits — without any direct enforcement — for two kinds of PFAS that had recently been phased out of production in the United States. But manufacturers are still producing, and releasing into the air and water, newer versions of the compounds.
Earlier this year, federal toxicologists decided that even the EPA’s 2016 advisory levels for the two phased-out versions of the compound were several times too high for safety.
EPA says it will prepare a national management plan for the compounds by the end of the year. But Peter Grevatt, director of the agency’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, told The Associated Press that there’s no deadline for a decision on possible regulatory actions.
Reviews of the data, and studies to gather more, are ongoing.
Even as the Trump administration says it advocates for clean air and water, it is ceding more regulation to the states and putting a hold on some regulations seen as burdensome to business.
In Horsham and surrounding towns in eastern Pennsylvania, and at other sites around the United States, the foams once used routinely in firefighting training at military bases contained PFAS.
“I know that you can’t bring back three people that I lost,” Betz, a retired airman, told the federal officials at the Horsham meeting. “But they’re gone.”
State lawmakers complained of “a lack of urgency and incompetency” on the part of EPA.
“It absolutely disgusts me that the federal government would put PR concerns ahead of public health concerns,” Republican state Rep. Todd Stephens declared.
After the meeting, Woeher questioned why it took so long to tell the public about the dangers of the compounds.
“They knew they had seeped into the water, and they didn’t tell anybody about it until it was revealed and they had to,” she said.
Speaking at her home with her toddler nearby, she asked, “Is this something that, you know, I have to worry? It’s in her.”
While contamination of drinking water around military bases and factories gets most of the attention, the EPA says 80 percent of human exposure comes from consumer products in the home.
The chemical industry says it believes the versions of the nonstick, stain-resistant compounds in use now are safe, in part because they don’t stay in the body as long as older versions.
“As an industry today … we’re very forthcoming meeting any kind of regulatory requirement to disclose any kind of adverse data,” said Jessica Bowman, a senior director at the American Chemistry Council trade group.
Independent academics and government regulators say they don’t fully share the industry’s expressed confidence about the safety of PFAS versions now in use.
“I don’t know that we’ve done the science yet to really provide any strong guidance” on risks of the kinds of PFAS that U.S. companies are using now, said Andrew Gillespie, associate director at the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.
While EPA considers its next step, states are taking action to tackle PFAS contamination on their own.
In Delaware, National Guard troops handed out water after high levels of PFAS were found in a town’s water supply. Michigan last month ordered residents of two towns to stop drinking or cooking with their water, after PFAS were found at 20 times the EPA’s 2016 advisory level. In New Jersey, officials urged fishermen to eat some kinds of fish no more than once a year because of PFAS contamination.
Washington became the first state to ban any firefighting foam with the compound.
Given the findings on the compounds, alarm bells “should be ringing four out of five” at the EPA, Kerrigan Clough, a former deputy regional EPA administrator, said in an interview with the AP as he waited for a test for PFAS in the water at his Michigan lake home, which is near a military base that used firefighting foam.
“If the risk appears to be high, and you’ve got it every place, then you’ve got a different level” of danger and urgency, Clough said. “It’s a serious problem.”
Problems with PFAS surfaced partly as a result of a 1999 lawsuit by a farmer who filmed his cattle staggering, frothing and dying in a field near a DuPont disposal site in Parkersburg, West Virginia, for PFAS then used in Teflon.
In 2005, under President George W. Bush, the EPA and DuPont settled an EPA complaint that the chemical company knew at least by the mid-1980s that the early PFAS compound posed a substantial risk to human health.
Congress has since boosted the agency’s authority to regulate problematic chemicals. That includes toughening up the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and regulatory mandates for the EPA itself in 2016.
For PFAS, that should include addressing the new versions of the compounds coming into production, not just tackling old forms that companies already agreed to take offline, Goldman said.
“Otherwise it’s the game of whack-a-mole,” she said. “That’s not what you want to do when you’re protecting the public health.”
Associated Press video journalist Joseph B. Frederick contributed to this report.
Online: EPA site on PFAS: https://www.epa.gov/pfas
55 and Better Campaign
SourcePoint Kicks Off Wellness Campaign for Adults Ages 55 and Better
DELAWARE—SourcePoint invites Delaware County residents ages 55 and better to Find Your Center by participating in programs at its enrichment center. Located at 800 Cheshire Road, south of Delaware and east of U.S. 23, the center acts as a community, fitness, social, and learning center for local adults.
The Find Your Center wellness campaign promotes healthy aging and emphasizes functional fitness, exercises that improve strength, stamina, and performance in daily activities. SourcePoint invites Delaware County employers to join the wellness campaign by sharing promotional materials with older employees and encouraging regular participation in fitness classes.
SourcePoint offers more than 40 fitness and wellness programs each quarter, including tai chi, Vinyasa yoga, boot camp, balance classes, hiking, and weight training. SourcePoint’s fitness center is equipped with treadmills, exercise bikes, strength-training machines, and more. The warm-water exercise pool offers a variety of aquatics classes and opportunities to work with a personal trainer or occupational therapist.
SourcePoint’s enrichment center is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon. Walk-ins are welcome to take a tour.
Learn more about current programs at MySourcePoint.org/55 and participate in a one-question survey to suggest new programs.
SourcePoint is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides professional expertise, services, and programs for Delaware County adults who want to thrive after 55. Services and programs are supported in part by the local senior services levy, corporate and private donations, sponsorships, grants, and by the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. SourcePoint is a United Way agency.
Older Adults Avoid Talk of Driving Ability
COLUMBUS, Ohio (August 14, 2018) – Nearly 83 percent of older drivers never speak to a family member or physician about their safe driving ability, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Of the small percentage of families that do have the conversation, 15 percent do so after a crash or traffic infraction has occurred – which could be too late.
Today’s seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years. While these older drivers are notoriously safe drivers, age-related conditions make them more likely to be injured or killed in a crash.
The number of traffic fatalities involving senior drivers age 65 and older is on the rise in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. Last year, 252 people died in crashes involving a senior driver, up from 184 people in 2013.
“The right time to stop driving varies for everyone,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This research shows that older drivers can be hesitant to initiate conversations about their driving capabilities, so it is important that families encourage them to talk early and often about their future behind the wheel.”
The report is the latest research released in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. This study found that only 17 percent of older drivers report ever speaking with a family member or physician about driving safety. The most commonly cited reasons for having the discussion include:
- Driving safety concerns (falling asleep while driving, trouble staying in lane): 65 percent
- Health issues: 22 percent
- Driving infraction or crash: 15 percent
- Planning for future: 7 percent
Planning for Driving Retirement:
AAA urges seniors to begin planning for “driving retirement,” just as they would plan for retirement from work. Families should start talking about safe driving early and avoid waiting for “red flags” like crashes, scrapes on the car, new medical diagnoses, or worsening health conditions. When talking to an older driver:
- Start early and talk often: Be positive, be supportive and focus on ways to help keep them safe behind the wheel, including other available forms of transportation.
- Avoid generalizations: Do not jump to conclusions about an older driver’s skills or abilities.
- Speak one-on-one: Keep the discussion between you and the older driver. Inviting the whole family to the conversation can create feelings of alienation or anger.
- Focus on the facts: Stick to the information you know, like a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Do not make accusations.
- Plan together: Allow the older driver to play an active role in developing a driving plan.
“The best time to initiate discussion with a loved one about staying mobile without a set of car keys is before you suspect there is a problem,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “Planning for personal mobility and independence should be done working shoulder to shoulder with an older driver.”
Families should plan to keep older drivers on the road for as long as safely possible. Past research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older adults who stopped driving are almost two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times as likely to enter a long-term care facility as those who remain behind the wheel.
The AAA Driver Planning Agreement can help families start conversations about safety and plan together for future changes in driving abilities, before they become a concern.
For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as driver improvement courses or other programs that help seniors better “fit” with their vehicles, visit SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
About LongROAD: Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is one of the largest and most comprehensive senior driver databases available on senior drivers, incorporating 2,990 participants being followed for five years. It will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit AAAFoundation.org.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial- and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.
Nationwide Children’s Experts: Talk About Suicide
Columbus – 08/14/2018
As kids head back to school this year, many of them will be struggling. According to national statistics, we lose more than 2,000 children and teens per year to suicide.
Experts say parents who check in regularly with their child could have a life-saving conversation.
“A conversation about depression or suicide is going to be difficult, but you can have it without putting a young person at risk and it can be very helpful,” says John Ackerman, PhD, clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “For the young person, having this discussion can be incredibly relieving. It is a powerful opportunity to understand that being emotionally open, especially about thoughts of suicide, can lead to healing and connection rather than shame and isolation.”
According to suicide prevention experts, asking a child directly about suicidal thoughts is usually the best thing a parent can do to help their child open up about their emotions. Even if their child is not struggling with suicide or depression, parents can model for their child that it is good to talk about serious emotional concerns with trusted adults and important to reach out to friends to have these conversations, too.
According to Dr. Ackerman, if your child’s friend tells them they are feeling suicidal, your child should tell their friend that they care about them and acknowledge that they are hurting. After their friend knows they are being listened to and supported, the next step is to ask specifically if they are thinking about suicide or have tried to kill themselves. This should be done in a compassionate way free of judgement. If they say “yes” or even “I’m not sure,” a trusted adult should be told right away. Never leave someone alone if they are showing warning signs of suicide.
“This is a conversation that saves lives,” said Dr. Ackerman, who says his goal is to identify kids before they have a crisis or go years without treatment. Statistics from the National Institutes of Mental Health indicate that half of mental health issues start by age 14.
Tips for parents, families and teachers include:
- Do not wait for a crisis. A good opportunity to talk about suicide or mental health issues is when things are going well.
- Check in regularly and ask your child directly how they are doing and if they have ever had thoughts about ending their life.
- Look for changes in mood or behavior that might be a warning sign that something is wrong. For example, if the child seems really down, they stop doing things they normally enjoy, or you notice significant changes in eating or sleeping.
“It is not hopeless, and there are lots of ways loved ones can help youth get support when they need it,” said Dr. Ackerman. This involves timely treatment, building connections, helping other people know what to say when a family member or friend is struggling and having a safety plan in place to help get through a crisis.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
The Center for Suicide Prevention and Research is a partnership with Big Lots Behavioral Health Services and the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s.
Watch one teen’s story about talking about suicide at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axoTuFd51Pk. To access high-resolution photos and videos, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinion: EU’s Flawed Approach to Silicone Regulation Reveals Broader Threat to Innovation
By Steve Pociask
The fact that misguided government rules can damage economic growth is simply common sense, but the international debate regarding the use of silicone in consumer products illustrates just how harmful needless regulations can be to the economy.
Silicone compounds, “the blue-collar mainstays of the chemical industry,” are used in thousands of consumers products, from solar panels and marine paint to airbags and face creams. Three specific silicone compounds are commonly used in manufacturing: D4, D5 and D6.
In recent years, regulatory agencies around the world have scrutinized silicone compounds’ potential adverse effects to the environment and public health. Europe and some other countries, including the United States, have used different regulatory philosophies relating to evaluating scientific evidence, leading to dramatically different policies in the European Union than everywhere else.
The debate reflects two opposing regulatory philosophies.
The first approach is risk-based and focuses on quantitative scientific results in determining not only the potential harm a chemical might cause but the probability of actual harm. Regulators base their judgments on all the best available evidence.
In recent years, the governments of Canada and Australia, using this “weight-of-evidence” approach, comprehensively reviewed field tests, environmental monitoring data, and other scientific information, and concluded that silicone compounds pose a negligible risk to human health and the environment and that no product restrictions are needed.
A second approach to silicone regulation is guided by the precautionary principle that states that steps should be taken to regulate chemicals potentially capable of harm, even when no compelling causal evidence has been found.
Based on precautionary reasoning, the EU has recently cracked down on the use of D4 and D5 in “wash-off” personal care products, such as shampoos, and the regulation is now being challenged in the EU courts.
EU regulators are considering taking further steps to restrict D4 and D5 in household cleaning products and personal care products designed to be left on the body, and just last month they took the draconian step of designating them as substances of very high concern. This finding, based only on select observations, could lead to an effort to restrict silicone on a global level through the Stockholm Convention — a treaty the United States has signed but not ratified.
Industry rightly pushed back noting that the EU failed to consider real-world data that shows that D4, D5 and D6 pose little or no risk to the environment. Cosmetics Europe specifically claimed that EU regulators made the determination “despite the scientific evidence showing that these unique chemicals behave differently in the environment from what is predicted” under the EU legal criteria.
Tightening restrictions on silicone compounds without credible scientific evidence will drive up prices for consumers and force manufacturers to turn to lesser substitutes, without providing significant value to the environment. Without silicone, countless consumer products would be less safe, less durable, less efficient and more costly. Those are not good outcomes for consumers.
The EU’s decision to restrict the use of certain silicone compounds is bad enough, but the true danger is the precautionary principle’s broad application to chemical regulation. Requiring manufacturers to demonstrate the absence of environmental and health risks before incorporating a new compound into their products would have profound negative implications — reducing innovation in engineering new materials, costing jobs in the manufacturing sector, and ultimately depriving consumers of valuable products.
Silicone products help make automobiles safer on the road; they are prevalent in lifesaving medical equipment; they are a major ingredient in circuit boards in smartphones, computers and other important electronic components; and many other important applications.
Suppose the manufacturers of technological advances like LED light bulbs, solar panels and high-tech medical prosthetics (all of which contain silicone) had been forced to prove the lack of harm associated with their products. Progress would be put on hold, as consumers would wait to enjoy the benefits of these applications.
Government oversight of potentially toxic chemicals is important and appropriate, but it should be guided by sound science, not an overly cautious philosophy that hinders innovation, economic growth and, most important, consumer welfare.
Other countries developing their own chemicals management regimes should take note of the EU’s failed policy of precautionary regulation that allows relevant real-world data to be ignored.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Steve Pociask is president of the American Consumer Institute, www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.