CHEMICAL WASTELAND

NICOLE KALI

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CHEMICAL WASTELAND

We're a nation that has become sick in our ideology and health standards. We are not medical experts. These are medical opinions, professional observations and statistics on the broader U.S. health system: patients, their care and threats to that.


POISONED WATER ACROSS U.S.

Water is a necessity to life and for 25% of Americans, it can kill them in the long run. We're talking arsenic and nitrate water. 3,000 areas have poisoning rates that horrendously exceed Flint, Michigan (link).

This is an alarming panorama, where amenities themselves are a gamble on your life. Water worries are the nation's highest since 2001-D.C.'s water disaster. Life and death in Flint, Michigan are too close together for this reason.

PBS' documentary Poisoned Water provides poignant commentary on Flint and the nationwide health crisis.


(D-PA) Senator Matt Cartwright shaming Governor Rick Snyder for his corrupt role in Flint water management'

Neglect by leadership and the EPA has formed a vicious cycle: poverty, pollution, low investment, health defects and creation of inescapable ghettoes with high lead levels. 278 zip codes have double the likelihood of this. 1,100 communities had lead tests four times Flint's. And in 4 million households, kids are greatly affected. 5% of Flint's children test for high lead levels.


UNSAFE AIR

30% of American buildings might have posed a chronic risk to residents, and that was reported in 1984 (WFF). A Los Angeles Times 1985 report wrote that "Indoor concentrations of 20 chemical compounds studied were almost always higher, often as much as 10 time or more, than they were outdoors. Peak concentrations in some homes were 200 to 500 times higher than outdoors."

The EPA has listed indoor air as a top four environmental risk since 1998.


 DISEASE EPIDEMICS

Cancer rates related to declining environmental protection and decaying infrastructure. This is not restricted to one kind, and lead is a major factor in multiple health epidemics.

How did such a "winning" system fail in protecting the most vulnerable citizens: children? There is poison in the blood. Where can we find an answer to this?

Health consequences can be irreversible for lead and other metals or toxins, though some manage to overcome this. They include lags in mental and physical growth. High blood pressure and kidney problems can show in adulthood.


Detroit rapper Big Sean discussing his mother's recovery from lead poisoning.

Cognitive gaps and heightened aggression are persistent side effects. Crime can be traced then from the blood. What's in it? Look deeper to see. Freddie Gray was the focal point of 2015's Baltimore uprisings. He reportedly died in police custody after prior run-ins with law enforcement.

Gray's childhood is pivotal here: located in Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester district, a lead paint hotspot.

He lived there since two and suffered developmental issues that never went away.

Follow events throughout Gray's life, and it becomes clear destiny is determined by five digits—where you live. This is not an uncommon story. Health risks of the Tri-State D.C. water crisis are unbelievable.


SYSTEMIC FAILURE


2015 NRDC map of 5,363 water systems in violation of EPA standards. This has worsened since then.

A related report released that only 908 cases were pursued by the EPA, out of 8,000 (Washington Post).

NRDC's May report Threats on Tap indicates that 80,000 violations hover over drinking water systems in each state. Underreporting's a given, so that number is considerably higher. 77 million drink from unclean filtration, 1 in 4.

This system has succeeded in toxifying nature's foundations, and the people who depend on them. Fracking, industry production, outdated water systems and weak environmental regulation have combined into a nightmare scenario.

Dozens of American cities, states and towns face a particularly rough predicament like Flint. Take Warren, PA on the Allegheny, a quiet riverside town where 36% of the local children are lead-poisoned. Another viable candidate is the D.C. metro area!

Marc Edwards is a significant professor and expert on plumbing corrosion. He came to a horrifying realization about Washington, D.C.'s drinking water in 2003.

Edwards worked for WASA (D.C.'s Water and Sewage Authority). His research involved premature pipe corrosion around the metropolitan area. And the news was awful. Chloramine treatment actually increased lead levels to 83 times the acceptable limit.

The EPA Lead and Copper Rule sets the standard for 15 parts per billion (ppb). Utilities staff has to act on contamination beyond that amount. Edwards diluted samples to 10% potency from the houses he visited. But meters still counted 1,250 ppb (Time).


ENVIRONMENTAL AND MEDICAL DISCRIMINATION

Social sickness is not abstract in physical, long-term impact. If we mapped out pollution and similar poison rates, an ugly trend emerges. Classism shows its face as well. Discrimination gives 20-year-olds chronic diseases. 84,000 Black and Latino Americans die annually from this disparity (Just Medicine).

Baltimore's, Cleveland's, East Chicago's, Philadelphia's, Saint Louis' and Washington D.C.'s lower-income minority neighborhoods host population with generational exposure. The tests in Baltimore range from 40% to 50% of residents over a decade.

 


EPA BUDGET CUTS

"EPA will use its appropriated funds and agency resources wisely by firmly grounding in the statute its actions to protect public health and welfare." - Scott Pruitt's Clean Power Plan review

The EPA Administrator has done the opposite. He has advocated assault on the global environment and public health in his "Back-to-Basics" agenda. This is unacceptable. Rewriting crucial EPA legislation spells death for millions of Americans, plus the world at large.

 


ENFORCING ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS

Government agencies must address climate change. The business sector's effect on the American environment is clear. Drinking water is at risk for 117 million Americans. Natural disasters exacerbate this, as seen in Houston, Texas and New York in 2012. 100 commercial/state producers are responsible for 70.6% of total greenhouse gases from 1988 to 2015—an unsettling statistic.

This can be explained further in the Carbon Disclosure Project's 2017 Carbon Majors Project. President Trump signed an executive order to lift Arctic and Atlantic Ocean oil drilling bans for offshore expansion. EPA's 2018 budget could fall below 1/4 of 1%, its lowest point since 1976. Department funds may be cut despite never reaching 2010 levels. How does this impact America's future?


This 2016 CDP map highlights nationwide city emissions. Major urban areas experience the most radical change. Learn more.


EMISSIONS AND RESOURCE EXTRACTION

Fossil fuel extraction will increase global average temperatures approximately 39.2° F (4° C) by 2100 if it maintains the same rate from 1988-2015. This created 91% of the world's industrial gas emissions in 2015. The biggest offenders are publicly-owned investor companies: ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody, Total, and BHP (CDP). Every one has denied climate change, though aware oil industry played an integral part in it.

New York City, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles produced the largest greenhouse gas amount from 2010-2014. Hurricane Harvey and Sandy comprise an ongoing coastal flood and superstorm trend that is tied to warming.

Unconventional oils present a growing problem for environmental preservation. This includes heavy oil, oil sands, tight oil, etc (CDP).


DISASTROUS LONG-TERM RESULTS OF TRUMP'S BUDGET

The EPA will not be able to safeguard the States from environmental hazards and pollution. Proposed cuts negate the chance to do so.

President Trump prioritizes military spending, nuclear power and tax cuts like the Reagan administration with a key difference: tougher basic science policy. 31% EPA budget cuts would end the Global Change Research Program, the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Program that assists environmentally affected children, and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program (AAAS).

Federal Interagency Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flood Hazard Scenarios and Tools Task Force is a joint effort of the NOC and U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Why remove collaborative action toward climate risk response?

Defunding means preparation lacks full potential. Almost a meter of RSL (rising sea level) will displace two million Americans. 1.8 meters can potentially flood regions with six million people (NOAA). The most extreme estimate is 2.4 (Union of Concerned Scientists). NOAA's Global and Regional Scenario Report tells us what's at stake if the 2018 fiscal budget passes.


Norfolk, VA, a leading city for coastal floods and tidal wave damage.

Cities and states have met the challenge and drafted strategies for these changes, but federal law still stands. 25 face imminent danger; Washington, D.C. is #9 (Climate Disruption Index).

Many U.S. communities have 20 years or fewer to combat the ugly reality. Almost 500 communities (40% of the East and Gulf Coast) will be chronically inundated with moderate RSL. In other words, tidal flooding happens twice a month and 26 times per year. This has quadrupled since 1970.

It might soar tenfold nationwide from 2017 onward. Rapid rise can escalate the previous ratio to 670, and 60% of oceanfront communities. 70% are in Louisiana and Maryland (UCS). This map analysis shows community risk, impact and the hardest-hit places.

Americans should be sure their livelihoods are considered during environmental crises. Coastal gentrification is a possible threat.

WHISTLEBLOWERS PUNISHED

People fighting for justice have been poisoned themselves or otracized. Marc Edwards testified to the House of Representatives in 2010. He demanded answers about CDC indifference.

"The lead levels in DC drinking water from 2001-2004 were unprecedented in modern history. Some samples exceeded “hazardous waste” criteria (>5,000 ppb).


Debris on the Potomac River, near the Kennedy Center in D.C.

And the contaminated water was present in tens of thousands of DC buildings including homes, apartments, offices, schools, daycare facilities and even the US Congress." (Flint Water Study)

Acidity in the Potomac increased with lead-based solder alone (x). When Edwards rightfully challenged D.C. water agencies, the CDC claimed there were no risks from chloramine treatment. So they did not fix the issue until 2004.

Additional treatment as a "fix" has its drawbacks. Although chloramine may no longer dissolve in water mains, chemical testing and treatments are rife with problems. Edwards also discovered the fatal levels of lead in Flint. He combats water poisoning wherever the need arises.

Edwards makes his assessment of D.C.'s political intent known, after EPA cut ties and WASA diverted his research funding.

"To the extent that my experiences with individuals in the CDC Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch and the CDC Office of Science are any indication, there is a culture of scientific corruption." (Flint Water Study)


SOLUTIONS

Let's petition Wall Street for their share of water systems donations. They are responsible for the loopholes in regulation.

Contaminated water will take billions to replace if each state wants taxpayers to drink safe, unleaded water. The Trump administration, governmental bodies and water agencies must stand firmly on policy.

Emissions, natural gas and oil extraction, industry waste burdens and lead poisoning have to be part of a national conversation on health. Will the EPA have support this time?

LEGISLATION

The Safe Chemical Act could slap current health-hazard initiatives out of the way.

(D-NJ) Late Senator Frank Lautenberg proposed this progressive bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2013 (EWG).

It'd ensure Americans know which priority chemicals to avoid. It provides a sure way to get health information. Most importantly, the Safe Chemical Act's water system would be based on risk and science...not profit margins.

Maximize support for Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All bill, supported by 15 Democrats. This is life-or death (WFF Report). The GOP tax plan completely ignores the possibility for Americans' improved health.

Single-payer insurance might save $6 trillion annually, costing $1.38 trillion. National health expenditures are $3.35 trillion (NHE). Low-income families (-$50,000) spend $4,955 in premiums. $466 for universal care could save a family of four $5,800 a year.

 Businesses see a decrease of $9,400 for an employee's medical costs if they pay a 6.2% income-based health premium, which may generate $630 billion each year. Progressive income taxes for high-income individuals ($250,000+) would raise $110 billion. So infrastructure could be vitally restored. Wasteful tax cuts won't fix the U.S. health crises.

Our environment will not last in such adverse conditions. Scott Pruitt himself said "We can and we will achieve clean air and clean water" (EPA). Eco-sustainable action is the way to accomplish those standards. We will succeed together, and only together.

The current solution is not elimination for climate change or weather protections. American leadership has an obligation to support existing environmental groups and laws. Otherwise there is no line of defense against this national emergency.


FURTHER READING

The Climate Responsibilities of Industrial Carbon Producers (UCS, April 2016)