Now Playing | A searing expose uncovering the ugly truth behind the global plastic pollution crisis. Striking footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with poisons from plastic production and recycling processes with no end in sight. Original animations, interviews with experts and activists, and never-before-filmed scenes reveal the disastrous consequences of the plastic flood around the world – and the global movement rising up in response.
Ballooning cost of cleaning up toxic PFAS contamination at military sites places service members and civilians at riskThe cost of cleaning up toxic PFAS “forever chemical” contamination around hundreds of US military installations is ballooning, but Congress and the Pentagon are failing to keep pace, a development that is leaving service members and civilians indefinitely at risk, a new analysis finds.The estimated total cost for remediating about 50 contaminated military sites has soared to $31bn , up by $3.7bn from 2016 to 2021, the last year the Department of Defense provided estimates. But its requested cleanup budget increased just $400m over the same period, according to the new report by Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit that tracks the military’s PFAS pollution. Continue reading...
Past Presentation | If you travel down a one-mile stretch of Doremus Avenue in Newark, NJ, you pass a natural gas plant next to a sewage treatment facility next to an animal fat rendering plant next to a series of ominous looking chemical storage containers behind acres of fencing. Airplanes pass overhead every two minutes, their engines rattling windows, while a putrid smell wafts from the open pools at the sewage treatment plant.This stretch is known as Chemical Corridor, and it’s located just down the road from schools and apartment buildings. It borders the Ironbound neighborhood, where Portuguese, Brazilian, Central American and African American residents are separated from toxic substances by little more than a railroad track.The Ironbound district of Newark, New Jersey, is one of the most toxic neighborhoods in the country. Maria Lopez, a Honduran-American resident there, is waging a war for environmental justice. The Sacrifice Zone follows Maria as she leads a group of warriors who are fighting to break the cycle of poor communities of color serving as dumping grounds, so the rest of us can live in comfortable ignorance.
The national award from the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT recognizes The Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer for their series, “Big Poultry.”
Forest fires, burst pipelines, and chemical waste are just some of the more than 800 instances of environmental degradation recorded since the war began.
A Roseate Spoonbill flew over our heads as our group of about 20 assembled in the parking lot of the High Island Bird Sanctuary in Texas. We caught our breath. Welcome to SEJ 2022, the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference.
This piece was published originally by Capital & Main. You can read their full series on the struggle for farmworker health care in California, Ill Harvest, here. Carmen Hernandez lives in a small home on Chateau Fresno Avenue, one of the three streets that make up Lanare, a tiny unincorporated settlement in the San Joaquin Valley. The street’s name sounds […]
President Sally Kornbluth talks with Associate Professor Desirée Plata about her research — and what she wishes students knew about their professors.
1 in 20 Americans have the "forever chemicals" in their drinking water. The new, $10.3-billion deal aims to start the cleanup.
If you live in America, it's a coin toss.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) internal watchdog on Tuesday knocked a Trump-era move in which political officials weakened an assessment on the dangers of a toxic chemical. The Office of the EPA’s Inspector General issued a new report in which it stated that political appointees used a last-minute disagreement to take the “unprecedented” step of...
This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. It’s late October in the northeast corner of Wisconsin. Trees have started to change colors and a colder wind whips across Lake Michigan. Gas station marquees welcome back fall hunters on their annual pilgrimage. Tucked away at a technical college, citizens of […]
"It's happening all over the country."
3M has struck a $10.3 billion settlement with U.S. cities and towns over claims of water pollution to "forever chemicals," the chemical and manufacturing company announced Thursday.Why it matters: The settlement in the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) case that'd be paid over a 13-year period marks a major step in efforts to curb the threat of the chemicals that've been linked to health problems, and which were found to have contaminated drinking water systems.The Minnesota-based 3M is facing thousands of lawsuits over PFAS contamination claims and has pledged to stop making and using "forever chemicals" by the end of 2025 following increased scrutiny from regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Yes, but: 3M did not admit liability in its settlement that's subject to court approval."If the agreement is not approved by the court or certain agreed terms are not fulfilled, 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation," the company said.Driving the news: Under the agreement, 3M would provide funding to cities, towns and public water suppliers to test for PFAS and treat any contamination, per a statement from the company.It resolves current and future drinking water claim, including multi-district litigation based in Charleston, South Carolina, 3M noted.3M was due to face trial Monday in that lawsuit, brought by Stuart over allegations that the company had polluted the Florida city's water supply. But a judge granted the plaintiffs' request for a delay as they sought to reach an agreement.The big picture: 3M's settlement announcement follows a $1.19 billion settlement agreement by chemical producers Chemours, DuPont and Corteva earlier this month with water providers around the country over water contamination claims.What they're saying: Mike Roman, chair and CEO of 3M, in a statement called the agreement "an important step forward" for the company that builds on its commitment to "exit all PFAS manufacturing."
So-called “forever chemicals” have been found in 45% of the nation’s tap water, according to a recent government study, but is your tap water affected?
It’s an aggressive move that represents what health experts and community activists say is a long-overdue effort.
Activists in North Carolina allege that DuPont has for decades fouled Cape Fear River. They want the UN Human Rights Commission to hold it accountable.
Dupont, Chemours and Corteva agree deal and 3M also reportedly considering $10bn settlement to avoid trial due to start on MondayDuPont and two related companies said they would pay close to $1.2bn to settle liability claims brought by public water systems serving the vast majority of the US population on Friday, just days before the start of a bellwether trial in South Carolina over PFAS contamination.PFAS maker 3M was reportedly also considering a settlement that would keep the company from having to face allegations that it was responsible for knowingly contaminating drinking water supplies around the United States. Continue reading...
A new study suggests unregulated “precursor” compounds account for half of total PFAS pollution at sites around the country.
Settlement will provide funds to US municipalities over 13 years to test for and treat PFAS contamination in public water systems3M Co has reached a $10.3bn settlement with a host of US public water systems to resolve water pollution claims tied to “forever chemicals”, the chemical company announced on Thursday.The company said the settlement would provide the funds over a 13-year period to cities, towns and other public water systems to test for and treat contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Continue reading...
Calls for rail reform after the East Palestine train derailment overlook a more fundamental policy issue: The need for stronger regulations on the hazardous materials that infuse our products and saturate our lives.More than 80,000 chemicals are registered for commercial use with the U.S. government. Tens of thousands of these have never been assessed for public health risk or impact. Worse, there is nearly no knowledge or measure of how the millions of potential chemical group co-exposures endanger our human health and fellow living species. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking slow, irregular and flawed steps to assess risk. The latest steps, building on a 2003 framework, are up for public comment – yet to date the announcement has drawn 497 views on the Federal Register website and just 10 comments, four of which were posted April 20 by the same person representing four different chemical consortiums asking for a deadline extension.The public comment period is scheduled to close Friday, April 28, and I urge you to make your voice heard.Phthalate risk assessmentThe agency seeks comment on three facets: Cumulative risk assessment principles, approach for risk assessment of phthalates, and a slate of candidates for an advisory panel guiding the process. Together these principles and committee members will have tremendous power and decision-making influence over the environment of billions of living animals, plants and humans.The other six public comments focus just on the candidates, skipping over seemingly bland – yet important! – bureaucratic principles and assessment approaches. Focusing on the proposed principles of cumulative risk assessment, the document describes:Priority populationsTypes of stressorsRoute of exposuresHow cumulative chemical groups will be defined for assessment.Include animals, plants and other organismsAs a former senior advisor for health policy in the New York City Mayor’s Office and a doctoral student in public health at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, I strongly urge the EPA to reconsider two structural flaws of their proposed principles:First, the principles must be rewritten to include plants and animals in cumulative risk assessments of chemical groups. The history of environmental health is a repetitive one, where hazards, risks and impacts are first identified among plants and animals. In the 19th century, the adaptation of peppered moths to their polluted environment was an early influence on evolutionary theory – the white and black moths gradually became mostly black to better blend into a sooty environment.Amidst the Minamata Bay disaster in the 1950s, where a factory dumped large quantities of mercury into the water, the first signals of environmental health danger were erratic behavior among cats. In East Palestine, Ohio, numerous reports already describe thousands of domestic and wild animals dying.Partly because of their shorter lifespans and reproduction cycles, cumulative risks – including intergenerational impacts – can be more quickly and thoroughly identified in plants, animals and other organisms than by studying humans. Plus omitting animals is an inhumane violation of the inherent natural rights and dignity due to our fellow Earthlings. EPA claims plants, animals and other organisms are left out because of a lack of related guidance documents, which is indicative of a larger unacceptable reality of chemical regulation. This is dooming an unknown number of living species to unknown dangers causing unknown harm.Prioritize real-world exposuresThe second structural flaw is how EPA prioritizes chemical groups for assessment. Considering EPA’s perpetually limited resources and strained enforcement mechanisms, risk assessments of chemical groups should be identified and prioritized by real world co-exposure considerations. This approach better reflects the “ifs” and “whens” we come into contact with in a cumulative chemical group.This reduces the likelihood of industrial companies clogging the assessment pipeline with chemical groups that we would likely never see. Unfortunately, we will experience more chemical train derailments, toxic spills into our water table, unfettered air pollution from chemical production and other industrial catastrophes in the United States.As documented in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Toms River by Dan Fagin, the US government could do little in the late 20th century to assess the cumulative impact of different chemicals contaminating groundwater or air. Some 50 years later, our government still lacks a thorough and adequate process to conduct assessments of, and to collect critical information about, the cumulative risk and impact of co-exposures such as vinyl chloride via air pollution and dioxins through groundwater contamination that are occurring today in East Palestine.To better regulate the production, transportation and destruction of chemical groups we must know all of the risks. Ignoring the mistakes of the past places our health – and the health of our fellow living beings – in peril. The EPA must update its Proposed Principles of Cumulative Risk Assessment Under the Toxic Substances Control Act to include animals and prioritize co-exposures for cumulative risk.Patrick Masseo is a former senior advisor for health policy in the New York City Mayor’s Office from 2019 to 2022 and a doctoral student in public health at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. Views expressed in this piece are those of the author and not necessarily those of Environmental Health News or its publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.
Scientists have identified a surprising new source of “forever chemicals” awash in global wastewater: the ubiquitous paper product dangling next to most of the planet’s toilets. Toilet paper is the latest product that could be contaminating environments worldwide with cancer-linked per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to a study, published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters....
The payment will settle lawsuits over contamination of many U.S. public drinking water systems with potentially harmful compounds known as PFAS.
Downstream of a Chemours fluorochemical manufacturing plant on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, people living in Brunswick and New Hanover counties suffer from higher-than-normal rates of brain tumors, breast cancers and other forms of rare — and accelerated — diseases. Residents now know this isn’t a coincidence. It’s from years of PFAS contamination from Chemours. It wasn’t easy to make the connection. More than a decade of water testing and lawsuits identified the link between aggressive cancers and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS – a class of more than 9,000 toxic and persistent man-made compounds known informally as “forever chemicals.” They’re commonly found in nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, firefighting foam, cosmetics, food packaging and recently in school uniforms and insecticides. The difficulty of tracing these chemicals to a specific source is that Americans — 97% of us, by one estimate — are exposed to potentially thousands of PFAS. New research published in Science of the Total Environment now finds that tracing models can identify sources of PFAS contamination from people’s blood samples. Instead of using environmental measures of PFAS as a proxy for how people are exposed, the methods use blood samples as a more direct way to map people’s exposure. “If this works, it would allow us to identify, without any prior knowledge, what people are being exposed to and how they’re being exposed to it,” Dylan Wallis, a lead author of the paper and toxicologist formerly at North Carolina State University, told EHN. The research, while not yet perfect, marks the beginning of what could become a wide-scale method of determining where the PFAS in our blood came from—such as our food, drinking water or use of nonstick cookware—and how much of it came from each source. But its effectiveness hinges on the need to collect more comprehensive data on where PFAS occurs in people’s bodies, the environment and sources. If scientists can collect this data, then these methods would be able to draw a roadmap for people’s exposure, allowing us to pinpoint problem areas, avoid contamination and implement regulatory changes. PFAS in blood samplesFor this tracing method to work, scientists need an idea of which compounds exist in air, water, food and everyday products in a determined community. First, they have to know where to look for PFAS. This study used data from previous research to identify the types of PFAS in drinking water. Then, they test blood samples for which PFAS are in people’s bodies—although using blood alone gives us only part of the contamination picture, Carla Ng, a chemical and biological engineer at University of Pittsburgh, told EHN. Once they match PFAS proportions in blood to what’s in their drinking water, as in this study, they can gain clues to which sources contributed the chemicals showing up in people’s blood.“You start to build this picture of what are the inputs, what’s the material they’re getting their exposure from, and then what’s in their blood,” Ng, who was not involved in the study, explained. The new study analyzed blood samples taken in 2018 and 2020 from residents in Wilmington, North Carolina, and three towns in El Paso County, Colorado. Both communities are near well-known PFAS polluters: the Chemours facility in North Carolina, which manufactures fluoropolymers for nonstick and waterproof products, and the Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, which uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam, also called AFFFs. Related: PFAS on our shelves and in our bodiesThe team used computer models to identify 20 PFAS compounds from residents’ blood samples and then grouped them in categories representing different sources. Some are easy to identify because manufacturers often use a specific type of PFAS. For example, the compounds found in firefighting foam have a unique signature, like a fingerprint, making Peterson Space Force Base the obvious culprit. But more diffuse sources of PFAS, such as those in dust or food, are harder to pin down because scientists aren’t sure which PFAS are in them or where they come from.In North Carolina and Colorado, the sources were more obvious, allowing the research team to test models’ ability to identify sources. However, to conduct similar research on a national scale is not so simple. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has tested levels of PFAS in blood samples nationwide since 1999, but it only tests for a specific list of PFAS, which could overlook the full spectrum of compounds. Drinking water in both locations in the study shows high levels of fluoroethers and fluoropolymers, many of which are “legacy” PFAS, meaning they have been phased out of production for at least a decade but are still found in drinking water. Because the chemical bonds are so strong, they persist in the environment for years, which is why they show up in blood samples long after companies have stopped using or manufacturing them. Long-chain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS, which are the most-studied compounds with a longer structure of carbon-fluorine bonds, are harder to break down, and they bond to proteins in the blood more easily than short-chain compounds.“These last a really long time,” Wallis said of long-chain PFAS, which were recorded at levels several times higher than national averages. “If you were drinking a really high level of it 40 years ago, you would still have really high levels of it 40 years later.”A pollution snapshotWallis said they were surprised the models worked because they have never been used for PFAS before. They were built to trace other contaminants in the environment, like particles in air pollution, rather than in people.Tracing PFAS is more challenging than tracing air pollution for several reasons, Xindi Hu, a lead data scientist at the research organization Mathematica, told EHN. Hu conducted earlier research using a different type of computer analysis of blood samples to identify the main sources of PFAS contamination in the Faroe Islands. Many PFAS lack distinct chemical fingerprints to tell researchers exactly where a particular compound came from, Hu said. But in the study led by Wallis, the chemical fingerprints from the Space Force base in Colorado and fluorochemical facility in North Carolina are well-known.“When you take a blood sample, it’s really just a snapshot,” she said. “So how do you translate this snapshot of concentration back to the course of the entire exposure history?”That’s partly why the new paper’s authors conducted this study: The more compounds that are correctly linked to a source, the better these models will work, Wallis said. In essence, they need a better database of PFAS compounds so the models know how to connect the dots. PFAS also react differently in the human body than in the environment, and scientists still don’t fully understand how we metabolize different compounds. Shorter-chain PFAS, for example, are more likely to appear in urine samples than in blood because they are water-soluble, said Pittsburgh’s Ng, who studies how PFAS react in humans and wildlife. “If you’re doing everything on the basis of blood levels, it may not tell you everything you need to know about exposure and potential toxicity,” she said, adding that PFAS could also accumulate in the liver, brain, lungs and other locations where it’s difficult to take samples. Worse, more modern PFAS with carbon-hydrogen bonds can actually transform into other types of compounds as the body metabolizes them, which could give a false impression of what people are exposed to. “The key to identifying a good tracer is a molecule that doesn’t transform,” Ng said. Some PFAS are great tracers, she added, but “the more transformable your PFAS is in general, the poorer the tracer is going to be.”That’s why newer PFAS compounds like GenX were not detected in blood samples or used as tracers in the recent study. “These models aren’t going to account for everything,” Wallis said. “No model is.” Stopping the contamination Wallis and their co-authors said they hope the models can become more accurate for less exposed communities in the future. With more data, it would be easier to suggest what to avoid instead of guessing where PFAS exposures come from, Wallis said, adding that it could lead to more protective regulations.Although these models can vaguely help identify where compounds might come from in a particular community, it’s not a definitive solution, Alissa Cordner, an environmental sociologist and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab who was not involved in the recent study, told EHN. Even if there’s no immediate application of these methods, identifying where PFAS are is the first step.“Everybody can point their fingers at other possible sources of contamination,” Cordner said. “The best way to address this is not to try to, after the fact, link people’s exposure to a contamination source. It’s to stop the contamination.”
North Carolina residents push back against environmental agency bringing 4m lbs of ‘forever chemical’ waste to regionThe federal US government has paused the importation of millions of pounds of toxic PFAS “forever chemical” waste from the Netherlands following intense backlash from residents near a North Carolina facility that would receive the substances.Local media last month revealed the Environmental Protection Agency had quietly approved a permit for chemical manufacturer Chemours to import about 4m lbs of waste over the next year, sparking fears of further pollution in a region already thoroughly contaminated by the company’s operations. Continue reading...
Last month, Minnesota passed a bill that will ban all nonessential uses of PFAS, a class of harmful chemicals that accumulate in people and the environment. The first round of restrictions will take effect in 2025, banning the sale of PFAS-containing products from 13 categories, including menstrual products, cookware, children’s goods and certain types of firefighting foam. By 2032, after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has conducted further investigations, all additional unnecessary PFAS uses will be eliminated as well, which could include products such as clothing. The new bill additionally requires companies to disclose which products contain intentionally added PFAS by 2026. “It’s important that Minnesota be a leader in tackling PFAS because it was invented in Minnesota,” Democratic state representative Sydney Jordan, who helped to negotiate the final version of the bill, told Environmental Health News (EHN). “We need to create the solution for it.” 3M, the Minnesota-based chemical giant, developed the first PFAS in the 1940s. For several decades, 3M dumped PFAS-laced waste in four sites in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region, contaminating the drinking water of roughly 140,000 residents. In 2018, the state of Minnesota settled a $850-million lawsuit against 3M. PFAS, a class of more than 12,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are nicknamed “forever chemicals” due to the ability to resist breaking down in water, soil and the human body. Dangerous in even minute amounts, PFAS are linked to a range of health harms including cancer, immune dysfunction and low birth weight. These substances, often used for their water, heat and stain-resistant properties, are found in a vast array of products such as cosmetics, food packaging, clothing, carpeting and electronics. Advocates hope that the Minnesota bill can act as a roadmap for other states. “It really does prove that this can be done,” Avonna Starck, the state director of the advocacy group Clean Water Action Minnesota, told EHN. Minnesota adopted a broader definition of PFAS than the EPA’s, categorizing the substances as chemicals that contain at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom. “I'm hoping that other states mimic our language and hold firm on the definition, to keep it narrow and concise.” “The jocks and the theater kids, and then there were the cancer kids” The bill is also known as Amara’s law, after Amara Strande, a former student at Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minnesota, who developed a rare form of liver cancer at the age of 15. Cancer is so common at the school, which sits in the contamination plume of the 3M dumps, that students talk about “there being the jocks and the theater kids, and then there were the cancer kids,” Starck said. Strande was a passionate advocate for the PFAS bill, testifying numerous times before lawmakers. She passed away in April 2023, just two days shy of her 21st birthday. “She was in so much pain and she was so uncomfortable. But she was not going to go down without a fight,” Starck said. While PFAS bans “can be the start to an effective management program,” there are certain limitations, Jamie DeWitt, a immunotoxicologist at East Carolina University who studies the health effects of PFAS, told EHN. These chemicals are so ubiquitous, she said, that companies might not even know if their products contain them or not. Flooring, for example, can contain multiple layers from several different manufacturers, who, for confidential business or proprietary reasons, may not be forthcoming about the chemicals their products contain. “Some companies will have to be very strategic about how they get information from their suppliers about intentionally added PFAS,” DeWitt said. Tonight the Environment, Natural Resources, Climate, and Energy Conference Committee agreed to a groundbreaking proposal to tackle PFAS forever chemicals. This would not have been possible without the work of Amara Strande. https://t.co/Dpv4B82vNN— Sydney Jordan (@SydneyJordanMN) May 5, 2023 Chemical industry representatives met the bill with less enthusiasm. In a statement, Rudy Underwood, vice president of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council, said the bill was overly broad, would cost Minnesotans jobs and hamper access to cell phones, automobiles and other products. The bill, however, exempts the use of PFAS in items considered essential to health and safety, and for which no alternatives currently exist. These include car and airplane parts, medicines and biomedical devices. State and federal PFAS bans 3M’s legacy of PFAS pollution in Minnesota is far from an outlier. Last week, 3M struck a tentative $10 billion settlement for dozens of PFAS pollution cases across the country, and is potentially on the hook for $143 billion in clean-up costs alone. According to company documents uncovered by the Environmental Working Group, 3M knew as far back as the 1960s that PFAS pose health risks and accumulate in blood, but kept this research secret from employees and the public. 3M announced in December that it will stop PFAS manufacturing by 2025. While several other states have enacted legislation to reduce or ban PFAS, notably Maine and California, the Minnesota bill is the most comprehensive and has stricter definitions of what constitutes nonessential use. State-level legislation joins federal efforts: In March, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first national drinking water standard for six types of PFAS, limiting levels to the lowest detectable amount. For Rep. Jordan, the idea that PFAS restrictions might be seen as controversial, or be met with opposition, is “pretty outlandish. This is a manufactured toxin that gives people horrible, rare forms of cancer.” Bans such as these, she said, aren’t something “we get to do. This is something that we have to do.”
A French company that has been blamed for contaminating drinking water in some New Hampshire communities with a group of chemicals known as PFAS says it plans to close its plant there and will work with the state on an ongoing environmental investigation
Flies consistently swarm the 5-acre farm where she has raised goats for 18 years. Within weeks, the goats started getting sick, Stewart said. Soon after, 12 of the 36 died. She blames the flies crawling the goats’ feed, and the pests also began entering her home however they could—through tiny cracks in the building, through […] The post Health Concerns Grow as Oklahoma Farmers Fertilize Cropland with Treated Sewage appeared first on Civil Eats.
Lawyers for chemical company say they are making ‘significant’ progress over deal with city of Stuart, FloridaUS industrial conglomerate 3M and the city of Stuart, Florida are making “significant” progress to settle a water pollution suit tied to toxic “forever chemicals” and sought to delay a trial, according to a court filing on Sunday.3M was scheduled to face trial in South Carolina federal court on Monday in a lawsuit brought by the Florida city accusing the company of manufacturing PFAS, or per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, despite knowing for decades that the chemicals can cause cancer and other ailments. Continue reading...
Forever chemical' manufacturers are facing thousands of lawsuits seeking compensation for cleaning up local land and water supplies.
The standards would force states to begin the arduous process of cleaning out 'forever chemicals' from their water supplies.
Using bees as biomonitors can be a more sensitive and effective way of detecting contaminants than traditional sampling methods, new research shows.
Chronic coastal contamination from the Tijuana River can end up in the atmosphere as “sea spray aerosol” — spreading far beyond the San Diego County beaches where it has long polluted the water, a new study has found. For decades, storms occurring along the U.S.-Mexico border have been diverting sewage through the Tijuana River and into...
At the most recent event last February, Ed Messina, director of the Office of Pesticide Programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spoke to the virtual crowd. After running through at least a dozen other topics, he turned to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS—“forever chemicals” that companies have used for decades in products including […] The post New Evidence Shows Pesticides Contain PFAS, and the Scale of Contamination is Unknown appeared first on Civil Eats.
The legislation targets harmful chemicals that are often found in products marketed to women of color.
The Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio left behind toxic chemicals, leaving many wondering about potential health impacts though officials say it’s safe to remain in the community. Residents temporarily evacuated because of the release of a carcinogen called vinyl chloride, but on Feb. 8, officials determined they could return, citing air quality monitoring that showed “readings...
As the United States begins to crack down on PFAS contamination, Indigenous communities are getting left behind.
In Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas, Black communities are fighting for their right to access clean water.
From carpets to toilet paper, these persistent manufacturing chemicals are everywhere. Here's what to know.
St. James Parish, located on a stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans dubbed “Cancer Alley” due to the high concentration of petrochemical plants, is home to the country’s largest producer of polystyrene — the foam commonly found in soft drink and takeout containers. Now, the owner of that plant wants to build a new facility in the same area that would break down used foam cups and containers into raw materials that can be turned into other kinds of plastic. While there’s limited data on what kinds of emissions this type of facility creates, environmental advocates are concerned that the new plant could represent a new source of carcinogens like dioxin and benzene in the already polluted area.The proposed plant comes as the U.S. federal and state governments and private companies pour billions into “chemical recycling” research, which is touted as a potential solution to anemic plastics recycling rates. Proponents say that, despite mounting restrictions on single-use packaging, plastics aren’t going away anytime soon, and that chemical recycling is needed to keep growing amounts of plastic waste out of landfills and oceans. But questions abound about whether the plants are economically viable — and how chemical recycling contributes to local air pollution, perpetuating a history of environmental injustices and climate change. Skeptics argue that chemical recycling is an unproven technology that amounts to little more than the latest PR effort from the plastics industry. The Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether or not to continue regulating the plants as incinerators, with some lawmakers expressing concerns last month about toxic emissions from these facilities. “They’re going to be managing toxic chemicals…and they’re going to be putting our communities at risk for either air pollution or something worse,” Jane Patton, a Baton Rouge native and manager of the Center for International Environmental Law’s plastics and petrochemicals campaign, told EHN of the proposed new plant in Louisiana.The air of St. James Parish, where the new plant will be located, has among the highest pollution levels along the Mississippi River corridor dubbed “Cancer Alley.” A joint investigation in 2019 by ProPublica, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate found that most of the new petrochemical facilities in the parish –including the recycling plant– will be located near the mostly Black 5th District.What is chemical recycling?When most of us picture recycling, we picture what industry insiders call “mechanical recycling:” plastics are sorted, cleaned, crushed or shredded and then melted to be made into new goods. In the U.S., though, less than 10% of plastics are actually recycled due to challenges ranging from contamination to variability in plastic types and coloring. “No flexible plastic packaging can be recycled with mechanical recycling — the only real plastic that can be recycled are number one and number two water bottles and milk jugs,” George Huber, an engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin and head of the multi-university research center for Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics, told EHN. Enter chemical recycling –– processes that use high heat, chemicals, or both to break used plastic goods down into their chemical building blocks to, in theory, make more plastics. Proponents say that chemical recycling can complement more traditional recycling by handling mixed and harder-to-recycle plastics. “An advantage of advanced recycling is that it can take more of the 90% of plastics that aren’t recycled today, including the hard-to-recycle films, pouches and other mixed plastics, and remake them into virgin-quality new plastics approved for medical and food contact applications,” Joshua Baca, vice president of the plastics division at the American Chemistry Council, told EHN. A long and winding historyThe technology has actually been around for decades, with an initial wave of plants built in the 1990s, but it didn’t take off then because of operational and economic challenges. Huber said some factors have changed, like a significant increase in plastic use and China’s refusal to accept other countries’ waste, that make chemical recycling more viable this time around. Yet a 2021 Reuters investigation found that commercial viability remains a major challenge for chemical recyclers due to difficulties like contamination of the incoming plastic, high energy costs, and the need to further clean the outputs before they can become plastic. “It's one thing in theory to design something on paper — it's a whole huge challenge to build a plant, get it operational, get the permits and for it to perform like you think it would,” Huber said. Tracking down just how many chemical recycling plants operate today in the U.S. is tricky — and depends in part on what one counts as “recycling.” Potential climate impacts Most of the plants in the U.S. are pyrolysis facilities, which use huge amounts of energy to heat plastics up enough to break their chemical bonds, raising concerns about their climate impacts if that energy comes from burning fossil fuels. An analysis from Closed Loop Partners found that, depending on the technology, carbon emissions from chemical recycling ranged from 22% higher to 45% lower than virgin plastics production. “It's a very promising technology to tackle the problem of (plastic) waste, but if you don't concurrently tackle the challenge of where the energy is coming from, there's a problem,” Rebecca Furlong, a chemistry PhD candidate at the University of Bath who has conducted life cycle assessments of plastics recycling technologies, told EHN. A life cycle assessment study prepared for a British chemical recycling company found that chemical recycling has a significantly lower climate impact than waste-to-energy incineration — but produced almost four times as many greenhouse gas emissions as landfilling the plastic. The American Chemistry Council, or ACC, says that there are at least seven plants in the U.S. doing plastics-to-plastics recycling, although many of those facilities also turn plastics into industrial fuel. For example, according to records reviewed by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, or GAIA, in 2018 a facility located in Oregon and owned by one of the companies planning to build the Louisiana plant, converted 216.82 pounds of polystyrene into the plastics building block styrene, sending roughly the same amount to be burned at a cement kiln. The ACC, European Union regulators and Furlong and her advisor, Matthew Davidson, say plastics to fuel shouldn’t count as recycling. “Clearly digging oil out of the ground, using it as a plastic, and then burning it is not hugely different from digging it out of the ground and burning it,” Davidson, director of the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies at the University of Bath, told EHN.Unknowns about environmental health impacts Chemical recycling saw a boost under the Trump administration, including a formal partnership between the federal Department of Energy and the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies on behalf of the plastics industry, to scale up chemical recycling technologies. There’s limited information, however, on the environmental health impacts of chemical recycling plants. Furlong said she had not included hazardous waste generation in her life cycle assessments because of a lack of data. Tangri said there have been few studies outside the lab, in part because there are relatively few chemical recycling plants out there. Additionally, the ones that do exist are either too small to meet the EPA’s pollution reporting threshold, or are housed within a larger petrochemical complex and so don’t separately report out their air pollution emissions. Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report looking at eight facilities in the U.S. The environmental group found that one facility in Oregon sent around half a million pounds of hazardous waste, including benzene and lead, to incinerators in Washington, Colorado, Missouri and three other states. Hazardous waste incinerators can release toxic air pollution to nearby communities. Additionally, some hazardous waste incinerators in the U.S. have repeatedly violated air pollution standards and the EPA has recently raised serious concerns about a backlog of hazardous waste piling up due to limited incineration capacity. The Oregon facility, which is supposed to break down polystyrene into styrene, also sent more than 100,000 pounds of styrene in 2020 to be burned in waste to energy plants rather than recycled back into new plastics, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s report. Plastics contain a range of additives, like phthalates and bisphenols, that have serious health concerns. The European Chemicals Agency expressed concerns in a 2021 report about the extent to which chemical recycling could eliminate these chemicals, especially “legacy” additives like lead-stabilized PVC that the EU no longer allows, and prevent them from showing up in new plastic products. The agency also cautioned that, depending on the type of plastic waste the facilities are processing, pyrolysis and gasification plants can generate hazardous compounds such as dioxins, volatile organic compounds and PCBs. Dioxins are considered “highly toxic” by the EPA as they can cause cancer, reproductive issues, immune system damage and other health issues. Volatile organic compounds can cause breathing difficulties and harm the nervous system; and some, like benzene, are also carcinogens. The agency noted that companies are required to take measures, like installing flue gas cleaning systems and pre-treatment of wastewater, to limit emissions. Additionally, experts interviewed by the EU highlighted an overall lack of transparency about the kinds of chemicals used in some of the chemical recycling processes. The American Chemistry Council, or ACC, says that emissions from most chemical recycling plants are too low to trigger Clean Air Act permits, citing a recent report from consultant Good Company and sponsored by the ACC that found that emissions from four plants in the U.S. were on par with those from a hospital and food manufacturing plant. The trade group claims the plants are “designed to avoid dioxin formation with many interventions, the primary one being that the plastic material is heated in a closed, oxygen-deprived environment that is not combustion,” and that the facilities would be subject to violations or operating restrictions if dioxins were formed. Policy debateAs the EPA decides what to do about chemical recycling plants, 20 states — including Louisiana, where the new plant could be built — have already passed laws that would regulate the facilities as manufacturers rather than solid waste facilities, according to the American Chemistry Council — a move that environmental advocates say could lead to less oversight and more pollution. “Whenever I see a big push for exemptions from environmental statutes, I get a little concerned,” Judith Enck, director of the anti-plastics advocacy group Beyond Plastics, told EHN. Advocates in Louisiana fear the new law will exempt the new facility from being regulated by the state Department of Environmental Quality, something the ACC says won’t happen. However, it is unclear in the text of the law which state agency will oversee its environmental impacts (the state Department of Environmental Quality didn’t respond to our question). In a recent letter to the EPA, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and more than 30 other lawmakers requested that the agency continue to regulate pyrolysis and gasification plants as incinerators. Additionally, they also urged the EPA to request more information from these facilities on their air pollution and climate impacts. “Communities located near these facilities need to know what chemicals they are being exposed to, and they need the full protection that Congress intended the Clean Air Act’s incinerator standards to provide,” wrote the lawmakers. The American Chemistry Council contends that chemical recycling plants take in plastics waste that is already sorted, and that regulating these facilities as solid waste facilities, with measures like odor and rodent controls, does not make sense. The ACC adds that, like other manufacturing facilities, chemical recycling plants would still be subject to air and water pollution and hazardous waste regulations. Tangri, from GAIA, said that the U.S. should also follow in the footsteps of the EU and not count plastics to fuel as chemical recycling. Overall, environmental advocates would prefer to see stronger measures taken to reduce plastic use and require that manufacturers take more responsibility for plastic packaging — a concept known as “extended producer responsibility.” Enck suggested that there be mandatory environmental standards for packaging similar to auto efficiency standards. “We really need to move to a refillable, reusable economy,” she said. “Do we need all these layers of packaging on a product? Do we need multi-material packaging?”
Toxic PFAS have likely contaminated roughly 57,412 locations across the U.S., according to a new study. Those locations include certain industrial facilities, waste processing facilities, and places where firefighting foam containing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used, such as airports and military bases. The study, published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found likely PFAS contamination sites in all 50 states. It is the first study to use existing scientific data on PFAS contamination to create a model that can predict locations where contamination is likely. “PFAS contamination at these sites is not just possible, but probable,” Alissa Cordner, senior author on the paper and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab, told EHN. “Testing for PFAS is extremely expensive and requires a lot of time and technical capacity… One of our big goals is to help decision makers prioritize testing and remediation at these locations based on this high likelihood of contamination.”Related: What are PFAS? PFAS don’t break down naturally, so they linger in the environment and human bodies. Exposure is linked to health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, liver and thyroid problems, reproductive problems, lowered vaccine efficacy in children and increased risk of birth defects, among others. The chemicals have been found in drinking water systems throughout the U.S., in the bodies of humans and animals around the globe, in plants and crops, and even in rainwater at levels too high for safe consumption. Research on the chemicals has increased in recent years, but due to a lack of testing requirements at the federal level, we lack critical data about the scale, scope, and severity of PFAS releases and contamination in the U.S. The new study helps fill that gap and also provides a map of presumptive contamination sites. The researchers looked at 11 existing studies and regulatory lists that clearly linked levels of PFAS contamination to specific types of facilities, then referenced national databases to map the location of similar sites across the country. To ensure its accuracy, the researchers compared the results from their model against their existing map of known contamination sites based on published PFAS testing data, and found that about 70% of known contamination sites were captured by the model. The remaining 30% of sites were locations where PFAS have been found by testing at locations where they wouldn’t be expected by the model. "This model is likely an underestimation of contaminated sites,” Cordner said. “For example, we know that locations where sludge has been applied to farmland, and locations where firefighting foam has been used in training exercises are likely to be contaminated, but there are no federal databases of those sites, so they aren’t included here.”Lack of regulationsIn 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laid out a road map to new regulations for PFAS, including regulating the chemicals in drinking water, but many health advocates and scientists who study the chemicals believe the agency is moving too slowly. In the meantime, some states have begun regulating the chemicals, but that has led to a patchwork of protections. “There certainly is a need for a federal [drinking water limit] on PFAS that’s protective of public health,” Cordner said. “In the meantime, we would love to see this research used broadly by local, municipal, and state decision makers to prioritize sites for testing and public health interventions.”PFAS in PennsylvaniaThe report identified about 2,100 presumed PFAS contamination sites in Pennsylvania, according to Cordner, putting the state 10th nationwide for number of presumed contaminated sites. California was the top state with roughly 7,200 sites, according to Cordner. In contrast, only 10 locations in Pennsylvania show up on the report’s map of known contamination sites.From 2019-2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted statewide PFAS sampling that revealed one out of three drinking systems exceed the EPA’s recommended health thresholds for PFAS.Related: How toxic PFAS chemicals could be making their way into food from Pennsylvania farmsThe DEP has been working to set drinking water limits for PFAS in the state since at least 2017. That process is expected to be complete in 2023. In the meantime, the EPA’s recommended health thresholds for the two most common and dangerous PFAS, PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), were lowered substantially earlier this year, putting Pennsylvania’s proposed limits on these chemicals hundreds of times above recommended health thresholds.“The EPA’s interim health advisory limits are so low, they’re essentially saying almost any amount of exposure to these chemicals is likely to be hazardous to human health,” Cordner said. She also noted that PFOA and PFOS are only two of a class of more than 12,000 similar chemicals, and called on regulators to move away from regulating them one at a time and instead regulate them as a class. “We need to stop all non-essential use of these chemicals in industrial processes, commercial products, and firefighting foam to prevent these harmful exposures.”
Recent reporting on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposed rules that would restrict or ban an array of toxic chemicals used in industrial manufacturing presented the regulation as a ‘tough choice’ for a White House seeking to balance its economic agenda and public health. The “public health vs economic growth” framing is unhelpful and demonstrably false. The only “tough choice” to be made is whether to stick with an outdated and toxic model that benefits a few regressive companies or to focus on innovation in chemistry that catches up to our competitors abroad and saves on American medical bills to boot. To understand why, let’s tally the costs of continuing business as usual. A report just published on March 21 in the Annals of Global Health estimates that in 2015 the health-related costs of plastic production – the single most common use of industrial chemical manufacturing today – exceeded $250 billion globally. And, in the U.S. alone, the annual health costs of disease and disability caused by four industrial chemicals – PBDE, BPA, DEHP and PFAS – approach a staggering $1 trillion. Considering that there are more than 86,000 industrial chemicals in circulation, it seems likely that the actual health costs are much, much higher. A growing emerging body of research supports those seemingly astronomical estimates. A 2015 study published by the Lancet Group estimated that the cost of disease mediated by exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the U.S. could exceed $340 billion annually. A 2022 cohort study used historical data to link phthalate exposure in the US to roughly 100,000 premature deaths and a resulting $40 billion in societal costs annually. There are serious climate risks too. A 2022 study from Lund University in Sweden found that petrochemicals are responsible for a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions when researchers evaluate their full lifecycle, which might include everything from a fracking well in Pennsylvania to a raft of Styrofoam disintegrating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. More recently, the Minderoo Foundation published an analysis showing that cradle-to-grave greenhouse gas emissions from plastics alone – a subset of total petrochemical use – were roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Russia. Critically, the plastics and petrochemicals industry has known about the health-harming effects of its products for decades. In the 1970s, research by 3M scientists showed conclusively that compounds in the PFAS forever chemical family bioaccumulate in the human body and pose significant health risks. Yet rather than remove the chemicals from use and develop safe alternatives, the industry doubled down on defending their products, resulting in the universal PFAS contamination that can be found in every American and every American community today.EPA’s oversight is importantStatus quo chemistry is costing us money and shortening our lives. To make matters worse it’s also standing in the way of necessary innovation and likely impairing economic growth. By not incorporating the cost of health and environmental harms of petrochemical production and use, the existing industry enjoys an artificially low cost of doing business, thus hindering new researchers and companies seeking to develop healthier, more sustainable chemical products.The European Union (EU) has found an approach that could translate. Europe is pursuing a “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability” roadmap that puts innovation at its core while strengthening the concept of “no data, no market.” This can only be achieved by testing the chemicals before they enter the market with the best of today’s biomedical science, including tests for endocrine disruption.The European approach centered on safer solutions is already in action at the state level in the U.S. – from Maine to Washington state. Corporations are taking the lead as well, enacting ever more stringent chemical policies to protect their workers and customers. Related: The Titans of Plastic The EPA’s oversight is important. So is preventing the U.S. petrochemical industry from expanding with a new generation of toxic projects that will extend the health-harming and economy-stifling status quo for decades. Many of these projects are located in disadvantaged communities that are already severely polluted – places like the Gulf Coast of Texas, “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana, and the Ohio River Valley. That’s why Michael Bloomberg recently launched a new campaign, Beyond Petrochemicals: People Over Pollution, that will block the expansion of more than 120 proposed petrochemical and plastic projects concentrated in three target geographies – Louisiana, Texas and the Ohio River Valley – and will also work to establish stricter rules for existing plants to safeguard the health of American communities. The EPA’s proposed rules represent a critical step towards leveling a playing field that has enriched the few and harmed the many for far too long. Now is the time to unleash the innovative brilliance of American scientists and companies in pursuit of chemistry that is truly safe and sustainable by design, from the production facility to the store shelves and into our homes. Our health and our climate cannot wait another moment.Linda Birnbaum is former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Scholar in Residence at Duke University. Terry Collins is a Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon and founder of Sudoc.
Major chemical producers have agreed to pay billions of dollars to settle claims from U.S. water providers over toxic "forever chemicals" pollution.Why it matters: The settlements are a significant step forward in the effort to reduce potentially dangerous chemicals in water systems across the country.They also follow the Environmental Protection Agency tightening regulations on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are a family of more than 12,000 chemicals.The chemicals have contaminated thousands of drinking water systems around the country, and most people living in the U.S. have some amount of PFAS in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The health effects of the chemicals are still being studied, but exposure to certain levels of PFAS has been linked to adverse health effects in humans and animals, including increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.Driving the news: Chemours, DuPont and Corteva said Friday they reached a $1.19 billion settlement with water providers around the country.The water providers had alleged that the companies were responsible for environmental pollution from firefighting foams they manufactured that contained PFAS.Though the companies denied the allegations, the settlement would resolve hundreds of lawsuits against them that were consolidated in the federal district court for South Carolina, which must finalize the settlement for it to take effect.What they're saying: John O'Connell, the board president of the National Rural Water Association, said in a statement that the settlement "is the beginning of helping our utility members in the fight against PFAS."The group works with 50 state associations representing more than 31,000 water and wastewater utility systems, and helped filed a lawsuit on behalf of its members.Yes, but: Not included in the settlements are systems operated by states and the U.S. government, some smaller drinking water systems, and systems in the lower Cape Fear River Basin of North Carolina, which has been plagued by high levels of PFAS.Chemours, which produces products containing PFAS nearby, faces several lawsuits over PFAS exposure in the area. How it works: The durable synthetic chemicals, which resist degradation by repelling oil and water and withstanding high temperatures, have been used in hundreds of nonstick, water- and oil-repellent, and fire-resistant products.If the chemicals enter the environment through production or waste streams, they can resist breaking down for hundreds of years while contaminating water sources and bioaccumulating in fish, wildlife, livestock, and people.Research has shown that reducing levels of PFAS in drinking water or switching to other water distributors will likely require municipalities to invest millions of dollars into new infrastructure and incur ongoing maintenance costs.For example, officials in Cape Fear allocated $46 million and a recurring annual operating cost of $2.9 million to upgrade a treatment plant designed to filter PFAS from drinking water.Meanwhile, 3M — a major PFAS producer — has also reached a tentative settlement worth at least $10 billion with water providers, Bloomberg reported Friday.News of a potential settlement came just days before the company's first federal trial over PFAS pollution claims.Facing extensive PFAS litigation — including a lawsuit from the Dutch government — 3M announced in December 2022 that it would stop manufacturing and using the chemicals by the end of 2025.Go deeper: Communities of color disproportionately exposed to PFAS in drinking water, study says
A new federal study estimates that toxic “forever chemicals” can be found in nearly half of U.S. tap water. “Forever chemicals,” also known as PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, can found in at least 45 percent of the country's tap water, according to the study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released Wednesday. The...
Cancer-linked “forever chemicals” are contaminating a broad assortment of pet food packaging and textiles made for babies and toddlers, a new investigation has found. These toxins — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — are common ingredients in children’s and pet product coatings, and can wear off as dust over time, according to the Environmental Working...
Thousands of lawsuits remain pending around the country—a number that could grow to millions.
This story was originally published in KFF Health News and is republished here with permission. Gary Flook served in the Air Force for 37 years, as a firefighter at the now-closed Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois and the former Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana, where he regularly trained with aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF — a frothy white fire retardant that is highly effective but now known to be toxic. Flook volunteered at his local fire department, where he also used the foam, unaware of the health risks it posed. In 2000, at age 45, he received devastating news: He had testicular cancer, which would require an orchiectomy followed by chemotherapy. Hundreds of lawsuits, including one by Flook, have been filed against companies that make firefighting products and the chemicals used in them. And multiple studies show that firefighters, both military and civilian, have been diagnosed with testicular cancer at higher rates than people in most other occupations, often pointing to the presence of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in the foam. But the link between PFAS and testicular cancer among service members was never directly proven — until now. A new federal study for the first time shows a direct association between PFOS, a PFAS chemical, found in the blood of thousands of military personnel and testicular cancer. Using banked blood drawn from Air Force servicemen, researchers at the National Cancer Institute and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found strong evidence that airmen who were firefighters had elevated levels of PFAS in their bloodstreams and weaker evidence for those who lived on installations with high levels of PFAS in the drinking water. And the airmen with testicular cancer had higher serum levels of PFOS than those who had not been diagnosed with cancer, said study co-author Mark Purdue, a senior investigator at NCI. “To my knowledge,” Purdue said, “this is the first study to measure PFAS levels in the U.S. military population and to investigate associations with a cancer endpoint in this population, so that brings new evidence to the table.” In a commentary in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Kyle Steenland, a professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, said the research “provides a valuable contribution to the literature,” which he described as “rather sparse” in demonstrating a link between PFAS and testicular cancer. More studies are needed, he said, “as is always the case for environmental chemicals.” Not ‘Just Soap and Water’Old stocks of AFFF that contained PFOS were replaced in the past few decades by foam that contains newer-generation PFAS, which now also are known to be toxic. By congressional order, the Department of Defense must stop using all PFAS-containing foams by October 2024, though it can keep buying them until this October. That’s decades after the military first documented the chemicals’ potential health concerns.A DoD study in 1974 found that PFAS was fatal to fish. By 1983, an Air Force technical report showed its deadly effects on mice.But given its effectiveness in fighting extremely hot fires, like aircraft crashes and shipboard blazes, the Defense Department still uses it in operations. Rarely, if ever, had the military warned of its dangers, according to Kevin Ferrara, a retired Air Force firefighter, as well as several military firefighters who contacted KFF Health News.“We were told that it was just soap and water, completely harmless,” Ferrara said. “We were completely slathered in the foam — hands, mouth, eyes. It looked just like if you were going to fill up your sink with dish soap.”Photos released by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service in 2013 show personnel working in the foam without protective gear. The description calls the “small sea of fire retardant foam” at Travis Air Force Base in California “non-hazardous” and “similar to soap.”“No people or aircraft were harmed in the incident,” it reads.There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, invented in the 1940s to ward off stains and prevent sticking in industrial and household goods. Along with foam used for decades by firefighters and the military, the chemicals are in makeup, nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, rugs, food wrappers, and a myriad of other consumer goods.Known as “forever chemicals,” they do not break down in the environment and do accumulate in the human body. Researchers estimate that nearly all Americans have PFAS in their blood, exposed primarily by groundwater, drinking water, soil, and foods. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study estimated that at least 45% of U.S. tap water has at least one type of forever chemical from both private wells and public water supplies.Health and environmental concerns associated with the chemicals have spurred a cascade of lawsuits, plus state and federal legislation that targets the manufacturers and sellers of PFAS-laden products. Gary Flook is suing 3M and associated companies that manufactured PFAS and the firefighting foam, including DuPont and Kidde-Fenwal.Congress has prodded the Department of Defense to clean up military sites and take related health concerns more seriously, funding site inspections for PFAS and mandating blood testing for military firefighters. Advocates argue those actions are not enough.“How long has [DoD] spent on this issue without any real results except for putting some filters on drinking water?” said Jared Hayes, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group. “When it comes to cleaning up the problem, we are in the same place we were years ago.”On a mission to get screeningThe Department of Veterans Affairs does not recommend blood testing for PFAS, stating on its website that “blood tests cannot be linked to current or future health conditions or guide medical treatment decisions.”But that could change soon. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), co-chair of the congressional PFAS Task Force, in June introduced the Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act, which would require the VA to treat conditions linked to exposure and provide disability benefits for those affected, including for testicular cancer.“The last thing [veterans] and their families need to go through is to fight with VA to get access to benefits we promised them when they put that uniform on,” Kildee said.Evidence is strong that exposure to PFAS is associated with health effects such as decreased response to vaccines, kidney cancer, and low birth weight, according to an expansive, federally funded report published last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The nonprofit institution recommended blood testing for communities with high exposure to PFAS, followed by health screenings for those above certain levels.It also said that, based on limited evidence, there is “moderate confidence” of an association between exposure and thyroid dysfunction, preeclampsia in pregnant women, and breast and testicular cancers.The new study of Air Force servicemen published July 17 goes further, linking PFAS exposure directly to testicular germ cell tumors, which make up roughly 95% of testicular cancer cases.Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among young adult men. It is also the type of cancer diagnosed at the highest rate among active military personnel, most of whom are male, ages 18 to 40, and in peak physical condition.That age distribution and knowing AFFF was a source of PFAS contamination drove Purdue and USUHS researcher Jennifer Rusiecki to investigate a possible connection.Using samples from the Department of Defense Serum Repository, a biobank of more than 62 million blood serum specimens from service members, the researchers examined samples from 530 troops who later developed testicular cancer and those of 530 members of a control group. The blood had been collected between 1988 and 2017.A second sampling collected four years after the first samples were taken showed the higher PFOS concentrations positively associated with testicular cancer.Ferrara does not have testicular cancer, though he does have other health concerns he attributes to PFAS, and he worries for himself and his fellow firefighters. He recalled working at Air Combat Command headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia in the early 2010s and seeing emails mentioning two types of PFAS chemicals: PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.But employees on the base remained largely unfamiliar with the jumble of acronyms, Ferrara said.Even as the evidence grew that the chemicals in AFFF were toxic, “we were still led to believe that it’s perfectly safe,” Ferrara said. “They kept putting out vague and cryptic messages, citing environmental concerns.”When Ferrara was working a desk job at Air Combat Command and no longer fighting fires, his exposure likely continued: Joint Base Langley-Eustis is among the top five most PFAS-contaminated military sites, according to the EWG, with groundwater at the former Langley Air Force Base registering 2.2 million parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.According to the EPA, just 40 parts per trillion would “warrant further attention,” such as testing and amelioration.The Defense Department did not provide comment on the new study.Air Force officials told KFF Health News that the service has swapped products and no longer allows uncontrolled discharges of firefighting foam for maintenance, testing, or training.“The Department of the Air Force has replaced Aqueous Film Forming Foam, which contained PFAS, with a foam that meets Environmental Protection Agency recommendations at all installations,” the Air Force said in a statement provided to KFF Health News.Both older-generation forever chemicals are no longer made in the U.S. 3M, the main manufacturer of PFOS, agreed to start phasing it out in 2000. In June, the industrial giant announced it would pay at least $10.3 billion to settle a class-action suit.Alarmed over what it perceived as the Defense Department’s unwillingness to address PFAS contamination or stop using AFFF, Congress in 2019 ordered DoD to offer annual testing for all active-duty military firefighters and banned the use of PFAS foam by 2024.According to data provided by DoD, among more than 9,000 firefighters who requested the tests in fiscal year 2021, 96% had at least one of two types of PFAS in their blood serum, with PFOS being the most commonly detected at an average level of 3.1 nanograms per milliliter.Readings between 2 and 20 ng/mL carry concern for adverse effects, according to the national academies. In that range, it recommends people limit additional exposure and screen for high cholesterol, breast cancer, and, if pregnant, high blood pressure.According to DoD, 707 active and former defense sites are contaminated with PFAS or have had suspected PFAS discharges. The department is in the early stages of a decades-long testing and cleaning process.More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed over AFFF and PFAS contamination; beyond 3M’s massive settlement, DuPont and other manufacturers reached a $1.185 billion agreement with water utility companies in June.Attorneys general from 22 states have urged the court to reject the 3M settlement, saying in a filing July 26 it would not adequately cover the damage caused.For now, many firefighters, like Ferrara, live with anxiety that their blood PFAS levels may lead to cancer. Flook declined to speak to KFF Health News because he is part of the 3M class-action lawsuit. The cancer wreaked havoc on his marriage, robbing him and his wife, Linda, of “affection, assistance, and conjugal fellowship,” according to the lawsuit.Congress is again trying to push the Pentagon. This year, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) reintroduced the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act, which would require DoD to test all service members — not just firefighters — stationed at installations with known or suspected contamination as part of their annual health checkups as well as family members and veterans.The tests, which aren’t covered by the military health program or most insurers, typically cost from $400 to $600.In June, Kildee said veterans have been stymied in getting assistance with exposure-related illnesses that include PFAS.“For too long, the federal government has been too slow to act to deal with the threat posed by PFAS exposure,” Kildee said. “This situation is completely unacceptable.”KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.
Fracking companies used more than 282 million pounds of hazardous chemicals from 2014 to 2021 with no federal oversight, according to a new study. The study, published in Environmental Pollution, is the first to examine the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts fracking from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The provision, passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was endorsed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who formerly served as the CEO of Halliburton. The company patented fracking technologies in the 1940s and is still one of the top suppliers of fracking fluids in the world. The study found that from 2014 through 2021, 62% to 73% of reported fracking jobs each year used at least one chemical that’s categorized as harmful to human health and the environment under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These chemicals include carcinogens like formaldehyde, arsenic and benzene; possible carcinogens like acrylamide and naphthalene; and ethylene glycol, which can damage the kidneys, nerves and respiratory system. According to the study, the fracking industry reported using at least 250 million pounds of ethylene glycol, 10 million pounds of naphthalene, 1.8 million pounds of formaldehyde, 4.6 million pounds of acrylamide, 7.5 million pounds of benzene and 590 pounds of arsenic from 2014 to 2021, in addition to more than a dozen other chemicals regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, extracts natural oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting huge volumes of water and chemicals at high pressure. Previous research has shown that fracking chemicals can wind up in drinking water and impact human health. Only a handful of the toxic chemicals used by the industry are regulated in drinking water, and those that aren’t may not be filtered or monitored by public water utilities. The Environmental Working Group, a public health advocacy nonprofit, estimates that current levels of contamination in drinking water — most of which meet legal standards — could cause 100,000 cancer cases in the U.S.“Because of the Halliburton Loophole and gaps in reporting, the environmental health and justice impacts of fracking aren’t being properly assessed,” Vivian Underhill, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University, told Environmental Health News (EHN).Underhill said the quantities of these chemicals are likely an underestimate, since not all states require disclosure of fracking chemicals, and most states requiring disclosure allow companies to keep some chemicals secret if they say the mixtures are proprietary.During the same time period, fracking companies reported using about 7.2 billion pounds of proprietary chemicals – more than 25 times the total mass of chemicals listed under the Safe Drinking Water Act that they reported. There’s no way to know what proportion of those chemicals are hazardous.“We saw proprietary chemicals in 77% of disclosures in 2015, and that number was up to 88% in 2021,” said Underhill. “The use of trade secrets is steadily increasing, and that’s definitely concerning.”A backroom deal with public consequencesThe Safe Drinking Water Act regulates both public drinking water contaminants and the injection of toxic chemicals underground. Other industries that inject hazardous chemicals underground where they could contaminate water supplies, like mining and hazardous waste disposal, are subject to federal regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The fracking industry is exempt from these regulations. “The oil and gas program under the Safe Drinking Water Act was already weak, but the Halliburton Loophole gouged it even bigger for fracking specifically,” Erik Olson, an attorney, Safe Drinking Water Act expert and senior strategist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told EHN. “Oil and gas wells are basically to be regulated by the states under a much more flexible oversight scheme, and those programs are very weak in many states with a big oil and gas presence.” Previous research has demonstrated public health harms from this lack of oversight in states like Pennsylvania and Colorado. The fracking industry agreed to publicly disclose some chemicals it uses in response to public concern about threats to water. But Underhill and Olson say those disclosures aren’t useful because of the trade secrets provision. “This study shows us that there are a lot of very toxic chemicals being injected underground by this industry,” Olson said. “But it’s hard to say there’s any kind of meaningful disclosure if we still don’t know what most of these chemicals are or how toxic they are.”Stronger fracking regulationsIn light of their findings, Underhill and her coauthors are urging Congress to repeal the Halliburton Loophole and regulate the fracking industry under the Safe Drinking Water Act.“It was Halliburton’s CEO who first and most strongly lobbied for this loophole, and that company is indeed benefiting most from this exemption today,” said Underhill.Halliburton did not respond to numerous requests for comment.Olson is also in favor of closing the Halliburton Loophole. “This loophole was a backroom deal folded into legislation with no public debate, and they’ve never justified to the public why it’s needed,” he said. “That’s because it’s not needed. It was just raw political power that enabled them to get it enacted.”Related: Fractured — The body burden of living near frackingUnderhill and her coauthors are also urging Congress to pass a law requiring full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, including proprietary chemicals, and housing it in a centralized database with federal oversight.The American Petroleum Institute, a trade association representing the oil and gas industry, opposes that idea. The organization’s “issue paper” on chemical disclosures for the fracking industry notes that fracking fluid producers have agreed to disclose details about proprietary chemicals to health care professionals, emergency responders and regulatory agency representatives “when it is appropriate.” The paper acknowledges that trade secrets have caused concern, but concludes, “the compromise of limited disclosure when need is justified is a sound response. Protection of [intellectual property] rights is fundamental to the free market economy in which we all work and thrive.”Making data on fracking chemicals more accessibleResearchers are just starting to figure out the cumulative impacts of the Halliburton Loophole because, until recently, it was difficult to obtain nationwide data on fracking disclosures. The industry uses a site called FracFocus for public disclosures. While it’s possible to look at chemical disclosures for individual wells through the site, it’s virtually impossible to obtain data in a format that allows for large-scale analysis. But a new, open-source program called Open-FF is changing that. “I was trying to get information from FracFocus and I realized it’s not really a database,” Gary Allison, who developed Open-FF, told EHN. “It takes a lot of work to get the data to the point where you can actually use it.” One issue was that FracFocus uses non-standardized names for companies and chemicals. For example, Allison had to account for more than 80 variations of the word “Halliburton” including misspellings, typos and abbreviations to make it possible to search the database for all chemicals made by the company. “Before now, it was incredibly hard to download data from FracFocus that allows for systematic analysis or investigation,” Underhill said. “Now this data can finally be used effectively by researchers.” Allison noted that anyone can use the program — not just scientists and researchers. “Most people don’t have fluency in chemistry, so it can be really overwhelming to look at these data sheets and make sense of what’s happening,” he said. “I hope to get Open-FF to the point where members of the public can easily log into the site and find out what chemicals are being put into the ground near their homes.”
A quarter of the 13,000 chemicals commonly added to plastics are known to have hazardous properties.
Technology to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – known for their links to fertility problems and some cancers – could be on the horizon.
At least 45% of U.S. tap water is estimated to be contaminated with "forever chemicals," according to new U.S. Geological Survey research.Why it matters: Exposure to certain levels of these synthetic compounds, referred to collectively as PFAS, have been linked to adverse health effects in humans and animals, including an increased risk of cancer."Millions of people have been drinking a toxic forever chemical linked to cancer all their lives and are only discovering it today," Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told the Washington Post Thursday.What they did: The USGS study tested for the presence of 32 types in water samples from more than 700 locations across the U.S. over a five-year period and used the data to estimate PFAS contamination nationwide."USGS scientists tested water collected directly from people’s kitchen sinks across the nation, providing the most comprehensive study to date on PFAS in tap water from both private wells and public supplies," said USGS research hydrologist Kelly Smalling, the study’s lead author, in a statement Wednesday.What they found: "The study estimates that at least one type of PFAS — of those that were monitored — could be present in nearly half of the tap water in the U.S," Smalling said. "PFAS concentrations were similar between public supplies and private wells."Researchers found the greatest exposures in the Great Plains, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard, and Central and Southern California, according to the study.Of note: The study marks "the first time anyone has tested for and compared PFAS in tap water from both private and government-regulated public water supplies on a broad scale throughout the country," per a USGS statement accompanying the study on Wednesday.The research builds on previous study findings indicating the widespread effects of these extremely durable chemicals used in several different nonstick, water-repellent and fire-resistant industrial and consumer products, including cookware, some food packaging and fire fighting materials.The Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory last year saying that newly available science showed that certain types of these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances were more dangerous than previously thought.For the record: There are over 12,000 types of PFAS, not all of which can be detected with current tests.What they're saying: Elsie Sunderland, a professor of environmental chemistry at Harvard, told WashPost the findings were "alarming" but "“I would be careful in extrapolating that conclusion to the entire country" as the sample size was too small.What we're watching: The EPA has proposed the first-ever federal regulations that would require utilities to remove the PFAS from drinking water before they reach households and businesses.
Researchers have found PFAS in the bodies of wild animals everywhere they’ve looked. Now they’re beginning to understand the health effects. The post PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Everywhere: Here’s What That Means for Wildlife appeared first on The Revelator.
And nearly half have no plans to clean up their mess.
By Leah Borts-Kuperman Some residents of North Bay, Ont., are expressing doubts about Mayor Peter Chirico’s defense of a new plastics factory set to open in the city. Jason Harris, an Ojibwe filmmaker who has lived in the Nipissing region his whole life, said he’s still worried about polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as PTFE. Part of a group of...
The group of chemicals referred to as PFAS are known for their ability to repel water and stains from fabric, but a new study found that treatments containing PFAS had a low impact on protecting furniture fabrics and that the fabric type did more to prevent stains. PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals," are a family of chemicals added to fabrics, non-stick cookware, food packaging and other consumer goods for their purported ability to repel water and oil. They contain a strong chemical bond that makes them difficult to break down. This persistence has made PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a widespread environmental pollutant found in drinking water, the blood of about 97% of Americans and even wild polar bears. PFAS are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they can impact the body’s hormones, and elevated levels of some PFAS have been linked to health concerns including kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol levels, low birth weights and decreased vaccine effectiveness in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “PFAS have been detected in the dust of homes,” Jaime DeWitt, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University who is unaffiliated with the study, told Environmental Health News (EHN). When textiles with PFAS coatings, including furniture, wear down they can release the toxics and increase exposure, she said. In the new study, published today in the AATCC Journal of Research, scientists put PFAS fabric treatments to the test after hearing from textile manufacturers that the coatings might not be effective, Carol Kwiatkowski, an author on the study and science and policy senior associate at the Green Science Policy Institute, told EHN. Coffee stains were easily cleaned from both PFAS-treated and untreated fabrics under varying levels of pressure, sit-times and fabric wear, meaning the PFAS coating provided no benefit. For fabrics with abrasion representing normal wear and tear, balsamic vinegar stains also impacted PFAS-treated and untreated fabrics equally. The one scenario where PFAS-treatments outperformed untreated fabric was a balsamic vinegar stain under ideal conditions: no abrasion to the fabric, no pressure and a short sit-time. “Those are pretty unusual conditions,” Kwiatkowski pointed out. Related: What are PFAS? “What really stood out is that the PFAS don’t provide that protection in the long term,” DeWitt said. The most important variable for stain resistance was the type of fabric, Kwiatkowski explained. “That’s a cost effective approach. We don’t have to look for some new replacement for the PFAS,” she said. Not using PFAS treatments and picking furniture with fabrics that naturally repel stains can be more impactful, the study shows. Cutting PFAS exposure The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced standards for six types of PFAS in drinking water that are “very low,” said Kwiatkowski. She explained that manufacturing of PFAS and products that contain the toxic chemicals is a major source of drinking water contamination. Water treatment facilities will soon need to upgrade equipment to filter PFAS and find a way to dispose of it once collected. Meanwhile, workers and communities around manufacturing sites where PFAS are used face elevated levels of exposure that could lead to poor health outcomes, DeWitt said. “We’re spending all this time to clean up, but we’re still adding more and more PFAS that are ending up in the water,” Kwiatkowski said. “Why not stop it on the front end?” It’s important to think about what uses of PFAS are essential versus which are avoidable, DeWitt echoed. “This [study] doesn’t tell us about every PFAS coated fabric that’s out there,” she said, “but it does suggest that the qualities that PFAS confer aren’t really all that necessary, and in fact, don’t outperform untreated fabrics.” Tatum McConnell is a reporting fellow at EHN.org. Follow her on Twitter at @tatum_mcconnell.
Fifteen principal investigators from across MIT will conduct early work to solve issues ranging from water contamination to aquaculture monitoring and management.
Editor’s note: This is part three of a four-part series in which our special correspondent Terry Collins, Ph.D., examines what qualities of leadership are essential for ensuring that the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability inspires trust in Europeans and the world that there can be a body of chemical products and processes we can safely live with.Read Part 1 and Part 2. In part 2 of this series, I began outlining what traits the European Union should avoid in its leadership as it actualizes its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The EU must beware of the lukewarm, ineffectual and exploitative “sustainability dispositions” in people leading the strategy because the stakes are so high. Before we get to the most dangerous dispositions, let’s unravel one of the most intimate of the impacts from toxic chemicals — effects on our reproduction. Falling fertility As Dr. Shanna Swan and Stacey Colino make apparent in their marvelous book, “Count Down,” endocrine-disrupting chemicals are significant causes of widespread sperm count declines. Males of reproductive age in Western societies are on track to being mostly sterile by the 2040s — that’s today’s infants! In a recently published research update by Hagai Levine, Swan and others, the broader international picture of sperm count decline is even more serious. Females are also suffering significant increases in reproductive maladies. This is not surprising. In controlled lab experiments and at low doses, endocrine-disrupting chemicals cause reproductive tract injuries and other effects in numerous animal species and those same chemicals are typically found in our own blood and urine. This emphasizes the importance of such testing to fully understand these chemicals. If animal testing is taken off the regulatory table over the understandable drive to protect animals from harm, EU regulators will be trying to make decisions with much weaker tools. Let’s be honest — endocrine-disrupting chemical testing on the animals would still occur if lab testing stopped, it would just be on species in the wild. Which type of testing do you think is less cruel? "Males of reproductive age in Western societies are on track to being mostly sterile by the 2040s — that’s today’s infants!" Highly chemicalized societies, especially those awash in workplace endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenols, phthalates, PFAS and dioxin-like substances, show plummeting fertility rates (meaning the number of live births per woman in her lifetime.) This is especially evident in highly chemicalized Asian societies. South Korea — with its sweeping endocrine-disrupting chemical infusions in the manufacturing of electronic, transportation and military goods — continues to hold the lowest national fertility rate, 0.81 in 2021. Countries need a fertility rate of 2.1 to maintain a stable population without emigration or immigration. The reproductive effects from endocrine-disrupting chemicals alone, not even considering all the other health impacts, are so concerning that anybody in charge of actualizing the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability must have unquestionable integrity. This brings me back to the different types of “sustainability dispositions” of leaders in this field. Revisit part two of this series to read about the first four, but here I will focus on the fifth and sixth “sustainability dispositions” — Exploiter and Nonconsciente. Exploiter It is easy to detect the exploiter sustainability disposition. For example, some chemical enterprise insider careers implicitly require the exploiter disposition as an essential job qualification. Individuals with this disposition sense opportunities that come from supporting the attempts of powerful corporations to ignore endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Indeed, considerable conventional benefits can accrue to exploiters from such support in the form of money, tribute and political support. Dying systems in the grip of misdirected leadership need exploiters to prop them up. The more advanced the morbidity, the more useful the exploiter, the higher the likely rewards. At its core, the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability is attempting to reassert the rights of the commons and define the rights of the future in all chemical enterprise matters. The exploiter disposition reflects shaped personalities where the possessors can be counted on to do what is best for themselves and their teams over what is best for the common and future goods. The exploiter disposition is common. And I have come to believe that chemical professionals can feel trapped into adopting it by the cultures in which they work: they live by the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra. It is utterly deadly to the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The EU Commission needs to be on high alert to recognize and marginalize its pernicious influence. NonconscienteIndividuals who hold this disposition appear to be in the dark as to endocrine-disrupting chemicals’ effects. But they have specialized knowledge so as to be capable of comprehending the perils of the chemicals. Nonconsciente bearers are not deliberately self-serving and have not made Faustian bargains that are markers of bad faith. Instead, they are directionally blind-sighted. They are paralyzed from taking a hard look into endocrine-disrupting chemical realities by concern for the economic good of the people around them and the system they inhabit. They are unlikely to consider solutions anywhere that have disturbing economic implications.The “sustainability light of the world” Can people change sustainability dispositions? Perhaps pointing out the very nature of the bits and pieces of our civilization-level collective failure over sustainability in the chemical enterprise and elsewhere might help make these personal changes. And perhaps it will alert young people entering the chemical enterprise that they have choices in how they embrace the challenges of sustainability.With its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the EU has become the sustainability light of the world — so I say to EU parliamentarians and Commission officers: don’t let the incompetence inherent in these sustainability dispositions I’ve laid out cheat you of success as you actualize your magnificent strategy. In part 4, I will introduce the Engager Sustainability Disposition, which is vital to the success of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.Terrence J. Collins, Ph.D., is a Teresa Heinz professor of green chemistry, and director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.The author thanks the Axios Fund, Korein-Tillery LLC and the Heinz Family Foundation for support of CMU's Institute for Green Science.