Aerial shot of farmers harvesting organic kale in farm field on fall morning – stock photo Thomas Barwick


Experts Raise Alarm On Harmful Chemicals In Fertilizer, Water Systems

You’ve probably never heard of them, but a group of “forever” chemicals once seen as miraculous but now believed to cause cancer are everywhere — from the Arctic to Mount Everest — and almost certainly in your body. And one way they are spread will turn your stomach.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS chemicals, are getting renewed scrutiny after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dramatically scaled back the levels it considers acceptable in drinking water, leading to more awareness about how dangerous exposure to these compounds truly is.

“We’ve actually poisoned the world with them,” Andria Ventura, legislative and policy director at Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund, told The Daily Wire.

Ventura isn’t just sounding the alarm about another imagined environmental nightmare. PFAS chemicals enter our bodies via the food we eat and the water we drink, then return to the environment through human waste, forming a potentially dangerous cycle of human and environmental contamination. One way they go back into the environment is through fertilizer made from sewage.

A report from The Guardian recently highlighted several families whose loved ones battled cancer after being exposed to PFAS chemicals in the Cape Fear River basin in North Carolina, an area where companies have been manufacturing the chemicals for years.

Amy Nordberg, a wife and mother, passed away after being diagnosed with cancer following multiple sclerosis, which recent studies have connected to PFAS contamination.

The chemicals have been linked to an array of cancers, hypertension, low birth rates, and issues with immunity, such as the ability of children to be helped by vaccines. The EPA recently decided they were so dangerous that it lowered the acceptable levels from 70 parts per trillion to as little as 0.004 parts per trillion, a drop of more than 99.9%.

Created in the 1940s and used in products ranging from food packaging to carpet to firefighting foam, the compounds “seemed like wonder chemicals.” What wasn’t know then was that unlike other chemicals, they don’t break down and move easily through water, air, and the food chain. Hence their now ominous descriptor: “forever chemicals.”

PFAS molecules, once in a human body, cling to fats or oils and remain, Scott Wilson, CEO of Regenesis, told The Daily Wire.

Erick Orellana, a policy advocate at Community Water Center, said one key source of PFAS chemicals is sewage plants. Although now banned in some places, sewage sludge has long been used as a fertilizer, meaning chemicals passed from the body were then reinserted into the food chain. 

“So it’s not only threatening the food that we eat, but also the groundwater aquifers communities [are] largely dependent on as their primary drinking water source,” Orellana said.

Farmers have currently been facing a crisis as supply chain issues and the increased price of fertilizer have put a strain on farms. Bill Diedrich of Diedrich Farms, and president of the California Farm Water Coalition, told The Daily Wire that he isn’t aware of anyone using sludge as fertilizer in the area.  

“We use commercial fertilizer products, and are not organic producers,” he said. “Our main source of fertilizer is UN 32.  Of course we use other blends to supplement other macro and micro nutrients, but nitrogen is our most widely used nutrient.”

Darree Sicher at the United Sludge Free Alliance said there’s no way to stop PFAS chemicals from ending up in wastewater systems.

“Everything that goes down the drain of every home, business, hospital or industry gets “treated’ at some form of wastewater treatment plant,” she said.

Sewage plants screen out solids, which are then heated and chemically treated. What is left over is sludge which Sicher notes can either be incinerated, sent to a landfill or, given its high nitrogen and phosphorus content, be marketed as fertilizer.

“Everything that went down the drain that you wouldn’t take from your under your kitchen sink and pour on your food supply, that’s what goes into sewage sludge,” Sicher told The Daily Wire.

To be used as fertilizer sludge must pass EPA testing requirements. But passing muster does not mean it is free of PFAS chemicals, and if it is sold as fertilizer, it can end up on agricultural land where food grows and livestock grazes, on playgrounds, in parks, or even household gardens.

Although the EPA has radically tightened restrictions on PFAS in water, regulations on the use of toxic, municipal or private sewage sludge wastes have not changed in over 30 years, Sicher said.

“[The regulations] do not provide protection to our food, families or future,” she said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations bar sewage sludge and biosolids from being used to grow organic foods, but even those rules don’t offer protection from food grown on land previously treated with the toxic fertilizer.

With so much farmland and water already contaminated with PFAS chemicals, Ventura said the first step is to end the use of the chemicals.

“We have to stop the bleeding,” she said. “We have to stop the use of these chemicals, except in cases where they offer an extreme benefit. There have been a few medical applications or applications in various kinds of gear for workers that are protective. But outside of that we need to simply stop the use.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Experts Raise Alarm On Harmful Chemicals In Fertilizer, Water Systems