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Conducting Forensic Autopsies On the Canaries, While the Miners Are Poisoned

Tales From A Rigged Regulatory Regime

Maybe if I put the metaphor in the headline, people, the press and policymakers will begin to get it?

In the case of the dual sexed fish story, the metaphor closely approximates reality.

This is not a new story –

What Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking 1962 book “Silent Spring” did for pesticides – i.e. set off public outrage, generated huge media coverage, and resulted in Congressional legislation and regulation of the pesticide industry –  Theo Colbern’s 1996 book “Our Stolen Future” should have done for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) – but didn’t. The guard dog didn’t bark.

The failure of media and government to respond is a prefect illustration of what Bernie Sanders calls our “rigged system” – Big Pharma and corporations have gone way beyond the quaint academic notion of “regulatory capture” and have bought and paid for the government regulators. Follow the logic:

  • Hundreds of unregulated chemical are discharged without treatment to NJ rivers.
  • NJ relies on major rivers, like the Delaware, Raritan, and Passaic, that receive billions of gallons of this chemically laced wastewater for drinking water supplies.
  • Almost all of these unregulated chemicals are not removed by conventional drinking water treatment systems and pass though directly to your tap.

Numerous scientific studies demonstrate that many of the pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and hundreds of other unregulated chemicals found in our drinking water supplies are “endocrine disruptors”: biologically they mimic human hormones.

The same biological abnormalities these chemicals are causing in fish and amphibians are occurring in human beings, including the developing fetus:

Effects Already Seen

Some argue that these chemicals are found in our drinking water in such tiny amounts (parts per trillion or ppt) that they cannot possibly cause human harm. However, insulin, estrogen, and other hormones are exceptionally potent chemicals that operate at concentrations of ppt, and fetuses are sensitive to chemicals in the parts per quadrillionrange.

Already these chemicals are being associated with reproductive abnormalities in fish – male fish bearing eggs – and genetic damage in frogs and other indicator species. The potential effects on humans are now coming to be understood. EPA admits that endocrine disruptors “may cause a variety of problems with, for example, development, behavior, and reproduction. They have the potential to impact both human and wildlife populations.” Even the drug industry is expressing concern.

In addition to direct health effects, the widespread presence of antibiotics in our water is fostering thegrowth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  This could result in the spread of human diseases that cannot be treated by our current arsenal of antibiotics.

I got a call from Chasing News this morning for an interview on that story, so we’ll see how they use what I gave them. Always a mystery what narrative they will frame.

In terms of the canary autopsy metaphor, take a look at all the forensic autopsies conducted by the USGS on fish and amphibians and streams and rivers – sampling everything but drinking water sources, discharges from pharmaceutical facilities, and conducting human health studies. Note especially the Orwellian euphemisms of “emerging contaminants” – emerging for the last 25 years? That’s some gestation period!- instead of the correct but dangerous term “unregulated toxic chemicals”:

Take a look at all the inaction by US EPA over the last 20 years, despite direction from Congress way back in 1996 amendments to the Food Safety Act. Note especially the Orwellian “screening program” instead of “regulatory program” and 20 year pattern of inaction by EPA:

Do you want more politically safe forensic autopsies and regulatory inaction?

Our friends at the Pinelands Commission jumped on the canary autopsy bandwagon last friday, with this corporate friendly Penn Foundation grant proposal (note how the forensic autopsy funder, the Wm. Penn Foundation, is not even mentioned by Pinelands Commission):

Grant Proposal Presentation

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been linked to reproductive and developmental abnormalities in fish and amphibians. Surface-water discharge of wastewater is a major point source of EDCs to aquatic systems and on-site septic systems and chemical use associated with development and agriculture represent non-point sources of EDCs. Commission and USGS scientists propose to sample surface water, fish, and frogs at on-stream and off-stream sites with potential point and non-point sources of EDCs and compare these results to minimally impacted reference sites. All animals will be assessed histologically for measures of endocrine disruption and surface water from all sites will be analyzed for approximately one hundred known or suspected EDCs. A letter of intent was accepted and a full proposal requested for possible funding through the Delaware Watershed Research Fund.

So, 3 years from now, we will get a report that there are dual sexed fish and/or abnormal frogs in the Pinelands.

Meanwhile, pregnant women are drinking water that contains chemicals that can cause harm to their developing fetus at extremely low levels – parts per quadrillion – and Big Pharma has EPA and NJ DEP regulators on a short leash, safely doing more forensic autopsies and non-action “screening” of “emergent contaminants” that never seem to fully emerge.

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