By Shannon Kelleher
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a major company to stop producing hundreds of millions of plastic containers each year that contain toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which leach into countless products.
The so-called “forever chemicals” are produced by a fluorination technique that Inhance Technologies uses to prevent liquids from leaking out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers. The resulting PFAS can leach into pesticides, personal care products, household cleaners, condiments, and many other liquids stored within the containers.
“I’m stunned but pleased that EPA took such strong action and hoping the decision remains intact through whatever court case Inhance is going to bring,” said Kyla Bennett, the science policy director for the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and a former EPA employee. “It wasn’t easy getting them there, but they got there and that’s what matters.”
Inhance is “basically the only one in the world” that uses this particular fluorination process to treat plastic containers, Bennett said, adding that plastic containers from two ounces up to 55 gallon drums are affected and “we’re talking about really all sectors of the economy.”
The order, issued Dec. 1 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), states that nine long-chain PFAS chemicals have been identified in Inhance containers, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was recently classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). The order will go into effect Feb. 28, 2024.
“What is going on?” Pregnant women living near farm fields show increased weed killing chemical in their urine
By Carey Gillam
Pregnant women living near farm fields show “significantly” increased concentrations of glyphosate weed killer in their urine during seasonal periods when farmers are spraying their fields with the pesticide, according to a new scientific paper published Wednesday.
The research team said the findings were concerning, given recent studies that have associated gestational exposure to glyphosate with reduced fetal growth and other fetal problems.
“If the developing fetus is especially vulnerable to glyphosate, it is critical to understand the magnitude and sources of exposure during this critical developmental period,” the new paper states. The authors include researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; King’s College London; Boise State University; and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The results were also considered somewhat surprising because none of the women studied worked with glyphosate or other pesticides or had a household member who worked with pesticides, said Cynthia Curl, associate professor at Boise State and lead author on the paper.
“What is going on? Is it drifting more than we think? Is it adhering to soil particles which then blow around and end up in people’s house dust? Is it drinking water? Until we figure that out we can’t suggest the right interventions,” Curl said.
Follow-up research will collect household dust and water samples to try to determine routes of exposure, Curl said.
Prior findings by the same research team found that pregnant women cut levels of glyphosate in their urine when eating an organic diet – unless they lived near farm fields.
By Shannon Kelleher
A group of global scientific cancer experts this week classified a widespread chemical known as PFOA as carcinogenic to humans, confirming decades of research, and building on concerns about human and animal exposure to that chemical and to the larger class of manmade substances that are commonly known as “forever” chemicals because of their persistence in the environment. Separately, the experts deemed a related chemical called PFOS as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The classifications, published Thursday in The Lancet Oncology, were determined by a working group of 30 experts from around the world through the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). The experts convened in Lyon, France Nov. 7-14 to review published literature on the health risks of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Both are types of per-and poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
“This latest action highlights and reaffirms the concerns we have been raising for decades that these man-made ‘forever chemicals’ present a serious threat to human health, mandating that appropriate steps be taken to prevent and address exposures,” said Rob Bilott, an environmental lawyer for the Ohio-based firm Taft Law who has spent over two decades exposing the dangers of PFAS chemicals.
In classifying PFOA as carcinogenic, the IARC scientists said they found “sufficient” evidence for cancer in experimental animals exposed to PFOA and “strong” evidence that the chemical affects gene expression and immune response in humans exposed to PFOA. They also found limited evidence for cancer in humans, identifying a link to renal cell cancer and testicular cancer.
The scientists said that the research shows PFOS is “possibly” carcinogenic to humans. They said they found strong mechanistic evidence that the chemical affects gene expression and immune response in exposed humans, along with several other key characteristics of carcinogens. They also found limited evidence linking PFOS to cancer in experimental evidence but ‘inadequate evidence’ linking it to cancer in humans.
It remains to be determined how, or if, the new classifications may impact thousands of lawsuits that are pending in US courts against PFAS makers DuPont and 3M. The companies have been sued by individuals as well as by drinking water utilities and municipalities over alleged harms tied to PFAS contamination.
On Monday, a US appeals court turned back a large class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Ohio residents, finding there was not sufficient proof that the companies caused the exposure alleged in the case. Lead plaintiff Kevin Hardwick, who worked as a firefighter for 40 years and used PFAS-containing foams, brought the suit in 2018, alleging that the companies caused his blood to become contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of PFAS chemicals. Hardwick asked for a panel of scientists to study the effects of PFAS in his body and for medical monitoring.
By Keith Schneider
AMES, IOWA – In a gathering that drew the attendance of both farmers and Wall Street financiers, US regulators joined with oil giant Chevron at a November conference here to promote what backers promise will be a monumental breakthrough – systemic changes that would turn polluting agricultural waste into a source of renewable energy that replaces fossil fuels and slows climate change.
Speakers at the conference, which was hosted by Iowa State University and co-sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture, assured attendees that the answers to agricultural and climate woes can be found in technology that already exists: Key, according to conference promoters, is the rapid expansion of large methane biodigesters, which capture manure waste from the nation’s cattle, hog and poultry operations and convert it into a harvest of both public and private riches.
Water and air would be cleaner and farmers could see billions of dollars in new farm income, among other benefits, according to backers.
“It can provide a substantial portion of global energy needs,” Rudi Roeslein , CEO of Roeslein Alternative Energy, told the attendees. His company has built farm-based methane systems around the country that produce enough fuel to displace six million gallons of diesel fuel and 80,000 cars. “If we do this on a large scale in the US we could generate $63.6 billion worth of revenue for farmers around the country.”
Roeslein’s company promises on its website to “restore a balance” to farmland “by using the sustainably harvested biomass to create renewable natural gas.”
Chevron promotes its investment in manure biodigestion as “finding inspiration in nature.”
“I’m really excited about the innovation in this space,” Lisa Schulte Moore, a professor and co-director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State, said in an interview. “The renewable natural gas market is providing economic incentives for better management of manure.”
But critics argue that the emergence of an alliance of Big Ag, Big Oil, and Big Government to generate energy from livestock waste is ripe with peril. They say that air pollutants and waste discharged from farms and from already existing farm-based biodigesters receive scant federal and state oversight. They fear that without strict regulation, manure digesters could make water and air pollution worse, not better. Industrial-sized farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), already are one of the nation’s largest sources of water pollution, and among the principal causes of air pollution.