Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Worst Reporting Ever (III)

Now, many of you are aware of my great loathing of the Associated Press.  An acquaintance sent me this gem:

An American life worth less today

WASHINGTON – It’s not just the American dollar that’s losing value. A government agency has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be. The “value of a statistical life” is $6.9 million in today’s dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago.

The first thing I want to bring to your attention is the immediate bias.  “…has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be…” Don’t judge by nationality.  Pollution poured into an American waterway that pours into Canada or Mexico will effect those nations.  Further one presumes that the EPA is tasked with protecting the lives of legal and illegal immigrants as well.  By opening the article this way the AP has already began with with a suspect lack of professionalism.

The Associated Press discovered the change after a review of cost-benefit analyses over more than a dozen years. (Way to be on the ball guys!) Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences. When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution. Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted.

Some environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of changing the value to avoid tougher rules — a charge the EPA denies. Conveniently, for the AP, neither the accusers, nor the defenders are named.  It makes it very hard to check sources.

“It appears that they’re cooking the books in regards to the value of life,” said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents state and local air pollution regulators. “Those decisions are literally a matter of life and death.” Dan Esty, a senior EPA policy official in the administration of the first President Bush and now director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said: “It’s hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation.”

Agency officials say they were just following what the science told them. (Man, I wonder which officials.  Its really hard to check sources if the AP won’t name them.)

The EPA figure is not based on people’s earning capacity, or their potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family — some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits. Instead, economists calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys. According to the EPA, people shouldn’t think of the number as a price tag on a life.

“…potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family…” Wow.  I wasn’t aware that an algorithm existed to determine that.  OH WAIT, it doesn’t.  Calling potential income “potential contributions” sorts of muddies the issue a bit, since potential income is mathematically predictable number, whereas “contributions” has no objective value.  “…loved and needed by their friends and family…” There is no algorithm for that.  The money awarded in a wrongful death case is not to pay the loved ones for their lose, it is to PUNISH the wrong doer for their negligence.  The only purpose of this paragraph is to demonize the EPA for doing the job it has been tasked with.

The EPA made the changes in two steps. First, in 2004, the agency cut the estimated value of a life by 8 percent. Then, in a rule governing train and boat air pollution this May, the agency took away the normal adjustment for one year’s inflation. Between the two changes, the value of a life fell 11 percent, based on today’s dollar.

Refer back to second sentence in this piece: “..A government agency has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be…”  How surprising!  The EPA decides economic policy for the Federal Reserve. You see, by saying decided the second sentence says that the EPA acted purposefully with foreknowledge to reduce the value. Yet 3% of the reduction was inflation adjustment, which they have NO control over.  3% out of 11%.  Well, 3 is 27% of 11.  The EPA had no control what so ever over more than a quarter of the reduction.

EPA officials say the adjustment was not significant and was based on better economic studies. The reduction reflects consumer preferences, said Al McGartland, director of EPA’s office of policy, economics and innovation. “It’s our best estimate of what consumers are willing to pay to reduce similar risks to their own lives,” McGartland said. But EPA’s cut “doesn’t make sense,” said Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi. EPA partly based its reduction on his work. “As people become more affluent, the value of statistical lives go up as well. It has to.” Viscusi also said no study has shown that Americans are less willing to pay to reduce risks.

Here, when quoting some one who knows what they are talking about, the AP actually does OK.

At the same time that EPA was trimming the value of life, the Department of Transportation twice raised its life value figure. But its number is still lower than the EPA’s. EPA traditionally has put the highest value on life of any government agency and still does, despite efforts by administrations to bring uniformity to that figure among all departments.

What does this paragraph mean? a – b – c is greater than x + y + z.  So what?  This paragraph is just a chance to say, “trimming the value of life”  When and by whom were these so called efforts undertaken?

Not all of EPA uses the reduced value. The agency’s water division never adopted the change and in 2006 used $8.7 million in current dollars.From 1996 to 2003, EPA kept the value of a statistical life generally around $7.8 million to $7.96 million in current dollars, according to reports analyzed by The AP. In 2004, for a major air pollution rule, the agency lowered the value to $7.15 million in current dollars.

Now, that is interesting.

Just how the EPA came up with that figure is complicated and involves two dueling analyses. (I love dueling analysts!)

Viscusi wrote one of those big studies, coming up with a value of $8.8 million in current dollars. The other study put the number between $2 million and $3.3 million. The co-author of that study, Laura Taylor of North Carolina State University, said her figure was lower because it emphasized differences in pay for various risky jobs, not just risky industries as a whole.

EPA took portions of each study and essentially split the difference — a decision two of the agency’s advisory boards faulted or questioned.”This sort of number-crunching is basically numerology,” said Granger Morgan, chairman of EPA’s Science Advisory Board and an engineering and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “This is not a scientific issue.”Other, similar calculations by the Bush administration have proved politically explosive. In 2002, the EPA decided the value of elderly people was 38 percent less than that of people under 70. After the move became public, the agency reversed itself.

Again, the AP does OK quoting others.

So the breakdown is this.

(1.) The EPA is trusted to regulate environmental risk.  Life is full of risk.  Death is risk free.  So, the EPA has the very unenviable job of compromising risk for the greatest benefit and least cost for all players. (2.) To prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, the EPA has to have some kind of metric to make these decisions.  The logical metric is to assign a value to human life. (3.) The EPA used a bullshit process to arrive at their current value.  Somehow, the AP manages to make it seem like this the EPA’s fault rather than leaders who can put the squeeze on the EPA top brass.  From the article, the EPA’s own Science Advisor said this was an awful idea.  What did we learn?

(1.) The AP does crappy reporting again.

(2.) The EPA as a bureaucratic rather than elected group.  As such its policies are subject to a greater and lesser forms of control from overhead, in defiance of its own advisors advice.

Possible solutions (Not comprehensive):  Change American Congress to proportional appointment.  Have EPA heads be elected in free nationwide elections.  To the existing checks and balances in the American system add a fourth leg of Welfare, the head of which is elected the same as congressmen and presidents.  The EPA would then fall with the other alphabet soup of federal agencies under an elected head who competes with the other 3 branches of government for resources and approval.   Make the state governours function as the primarmy stock holders of the US, and let them appoint a CEO for the EPA to serve as the head in business fashion.

July 15, 2008 Posted by | Ecology, Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Geo Metro reflections

When I was a 11 years old my dad bought a brand new Geo Metro.  He had to get something to replace his wheezing Chevette.  He had, at that time, a 120 mile round trip to work everyday.  The Metro was the highest fuel mileage vehicle he could find.  Now, in the 1990s there were small cars and then there were tiny cars.  The Metro was tiny.  It had tiny 12″ wheels, a tiny backseat, and under the tiny hood something I didn’t even know existed.

I started working on cars when I was eight, so most of the cars I worked on were late 70’s early 80’s full size sedans. Beneath the hood was an engine so small you could actually work on it. When you looked down the engine you could see the ground on every side of the engine. You could get a wrench to any part of the engine without taking out 2 belts, a shroud, 15 vacuum hoses, and a wiring loom.

It’s not that the engine compartment was big, it was as tiny as the rest of the car.  It was just that the engine was that small. One liter displacement, smaller than my uncles’ motorcycles. It had a watch-like 5-speed manual transmission.   It would drag me, my dad, my mom, my sister, and all of our crap for a trip down the road at 70 mph and getting 50 mpg.  Since my dad put a lot of miles on it, I got to work on it a lot.  It got me thinking about mileage, and the environment.

It also introduced me to something that I had remained blissfully ignorant of until then: the power of stupid people in large numbers.  People hated that car.  People at gas stations would insult the driver.  My parents were told by other drivers that they were criminally irresponsible for allowing their kids to ride in that death trap.  Strangers would call it a roller skate, a go-kart, or a beer can with wheels.  Tire store employees would refuse to sell us tires until we brought a tire into the store and proved to them it really did take 12″ tires.  On the rare occasion that my dad and I could not fix it and we had to bring it into a shop the people would try and sell us a new car that was “safer”.  Once, a shop refused to work on it.  (My dad and I took fantastic care of the car.  With it’s freakishly overloaded little 3 cylinder engine we put over 300,000 miles on it.  The shop said that they would not work on small cars with a lot of miles on them.)

Which in turn introduced me to skepticism. Conventional wisdom said the car was dangerous. Yet my mother and father felt it was safest car they ever owned? Why?  If our little car could get 50 mpg, why couldn’t other cars do better?  Why did (does) the EPA require expensive catalytic converters, but not require cheap manual transmissions, which reduce pollution as well?  What was the real secret to good gas mileage?

And this is what I learned.  Some of it relates to cars directly.  Some not so much.

(1.) Don’t make technological solutions to social problems.  The problem with pollution is not that engines pollute.  Its that the owners’ of those engines don’t give a damn.  Seriously.  No process is 100% efficient. There is always irreclaimable energy released and usually byproducts created.  The problem isn’t the technology.  The problem is that people don’t care what consequences their actions will have on other people or even themselves.  When we try to solve social problems technologically, we end up with more complicated problems to solve.

Case in point: coal power plant.  The problem is that people waste too friggin’ much power.  That means they burn a lot of coal.  That means the coal puts out a lot of waste.  “Solution” clean the coal waste gas.  Now, coal plants don’t have huge plumes of stinky smoke.  Nope, now they radioactive solid waste to dispose off. (Coal contains radioactive isotopes in fractional quantities. Burn enough coal, and scrub enough of the exhaust and you will have radioactive solid waste.) Again for clarity.  Technological solutions to social problems will make the problem more complex and expensive, not solve it

(2.)There is no free lunch.  Like most kids I didn’t really learn much in school. Real learning comes from the things you decide you want to know, not what a textbook writer decides you should know.  My early science education came from investigating 100 mpg carburettor scams.  My dad said they didn’t work.  I wanted to know why.  Had to learn some chemistry to understand fuel/air ratios.  Had to learn some thermodynamics to understand the amount of energy the engine can make.  Had to learn some physics to understand why the engine has to store some of it’s energy in the momentum of the crank and flywheel to be able to finish the next cycle.  I learned that engines waste around 80% of the energy that they make because they must, not because of a global oil company conspiracy.

(3.) Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers. American cars get crappy gas mileage and handle like bloated whales because that is what people want enough to pay for.  There may be many things that people want.  Most people want a car for free if possible. It is not the car companies job to give you what you want. It is the car companies duty to it’s stock holders to make money by giving you what you want more than your money. If Americans wanted electric cars more than they wanted money, they would have them.  But they don’t.  Americans DO want big V8s more than they want their money.  So they have them.   Remember I am not saying people don’t want electric cars.  They do.  They just don’t want electric cars more than they want $30,000.

Case in point:The BMW mini.  Things people like the most: sporty but with good fuel economy. Things people dislike the most: to small and not good enough fuel economy.  The cause of the things people like is the things they dislike.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

(4.)Government agencies (and other large groups of people who aren’t paid to produce anything) are more interested in next year’s budget than their stated mission. The EPA mandated catalytic converters.  But not manual transmissions.  In the 70’s when they mandated that automatic transmission mechanical efficiency was about 85%.  Remember that cars are only about 20% efficient on a good day?  That takes it down to 17%.  That’s a 15% reduction!  (A properly made manual tranny will have losses equal to a plain shaft of the same length when in road gear.)

(5.)Not all sciencey stuff is scientific. Case in point: Hydrogen economy.  We need a hydrogen economy to save us.  How do we get the hydrogen? Electrolysis of water, which wastes 60% of the energy that goes in.   Well, how else can we get hydrogen?  Cracking of natural gas.  Who owns the natural gas?  The same oil companies who own the gasoline. The hydrogen economy talk is bread and circuses to keep you from noticing that rich and powerful have you by the soft bits.  But psudeo-science is a magic totem for the stupid.  Hold up sciencey words and “smart” people will line up behind you like Crusaders behind a cross.

April 15, 2008 Posted by | Government, Microcar, Politics, skepticism, Small Car, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Associated Press: 100 Years of pure, unadultrated crap.


The following is a article of the AP newswire. This is pure swill. The skeptics thoughts in red

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

“at least 41 million” But as many as 42 million? Or as many as 150 million? Or as many as 41.5 million. Also, US population is 301 million. So 7%.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

“Parts per billion or parts per trillion” Well its only a 10,000% difference. Besides, which chemicals are measured in parts per billion, and which ones are measured in parts per trillion?

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

Who are these scientists, and what long-term consequences are they worried about?

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

24 major metropolitan areas out of how many studied? What specifically was studied for 5 months?

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

“researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals.” So, they found something and have no idea if it has any significance or not. “Recent studies” by who?
“Alarming effects…” like what?

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation’s 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

_Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.

At what concentration?

_Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

At what concentration?

_Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

Again, at what concentration?

_A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco‘s drinking water. The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals. Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.

For crying out loud, at what concetrations?

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

Uh, isn’t “undoubtedly worse” pretty strong language when you don’t say why it would be worse?

The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven’t: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City‘s Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

The federal government doesn’t set any limits on eating sardine and peanut butter sandwiches either. Just because something sounds gross doesn’t mean it impacts human health negatively.

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

It also leave the possibility that the water is full of little purple men, after all they don’t test for them. Many things are possible, vastly less are likely. If the drugs are occurring at parts per trillion levels, it just doesn’t even matter. One part per trillion (ppt): Denotes one part per 1,000,000,000,000 parts, one part in 1012, and a value of 1 × 10–12. This is equivalent to 1 drop of water diluted into 20, two-meter-deep Olympic-size swimming pools (50,000 m³), or one second of time in approximately 31,700 years. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The AP’s investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

You mean the places we pour our sewage contain the things that are in our sewage? Sacré bleu!

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

Again, if there is no demonstrative hazard, why WOULD you test it?

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city’s water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.


City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that “New York City’s drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system” — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.


In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Ok, lets use Naproxen as an example. Naproxen is the active chemical in Aleve, 200 mg per tablet. How much water do you need to mix one tablet of Aleve at a 1 part per billion level? Well, 200 billion mg of water. which is 200 million grams. Which is 200 thousand kilograms, which is (one liter equaling one kilogram of water) 200,000 liters. Which is 52,480 gallons. So, if you follow FDA recommended 64 oz of water a day (1/2 a gallon) it will take you 287 years to take one Aleve tablet. Hope you don’t get a headache any time over the next 3 centuries!

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

Ok, thats just sad.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP’s questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren’t in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City‘s upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

My tea is contaminated with caffeine? How odd. I thought it was an organic alkaloid found in therapeutic dosages in more than 6 major plants.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. “Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail,” Aufdenkampe said.

He suspects it, but has no evidence whatsoever. I’d really like to see some statistics on septic tank failure rates.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

You mean over priced consumer goods and table top science kits can’t compete with a multi-billion dollar water treatment industry? No!

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

I like “even Swiss lakes”. Because you thought before you read this that there is no pollution in Switzerland
For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

*sigh* What drugs? At what concentrations?

In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation’s water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Watch the 40% carefully. That’s not 40% are contamined. Thats contamination in the type that exists in 40% of the areas. So now that we know that 40% of the US gets its water from aquifers, what percentage of those aquifers are “contaminated”? They don’t say.

Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

Perhaps, but not necessarily!

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

If we are just shitting all this out, maybe we shouldn’t be taking so much?

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

Really? no methods to eliminate an imaginary problem with no symptoms? Shocking!

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable. Another issue: There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

And this evidence was authored by who?

Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. “Based on what we now know, I would say we find there’s little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health,” said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: “There’s no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they’re at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms.”


Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Affected how? Define small amounts

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Who authored this research?

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

“Some scientists” who shall remain nameless, least you check a source document.

“It brings a question to people’s minds that if the fish were affected … might there be a potential problem for humans?” EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. “It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven’t gotten far enough along.”

Hey! A named researcher. And her official statement, “We don’t know yet.”

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

AHHHHHH! The request for a handout.

“I think it’s a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health,” said Snyder. “They need to just accept that these things are everywhere — every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It’s time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental.”

Ah, yes, if we just give more money to the federal agencies who protect us we will be juuuuuust fine.

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to “detect and quantify pharmaceuticals” in wastewater. “We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations,” he said. “We’re going to be able to learn a lot more.”

Suddenly growing levels of chemicals and SURPRISE! Newer more sensitive test methods are being used. It almost as if these chemicals had been there for years and we just didn’t have the technology to test for them at the “minuscule” amounts they exist in.

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it’s being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

Your dang right much is unknown.

There’s growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

You know if Aleve was in the water at parts per million instead of parts per million, you will still have to drink 1/2 a gallon a day for 3 months to get a single tablet.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

They might! Monkeys might write Shakespeare too. Might is a mighty big word.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics. For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

But lets distact ourselves from that with sensational nonsense!

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body. “These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That’s what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects,” says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

Define ” low concentrations”

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That’s why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

Its over months at BILLIONS of times the dosages they are talking about.

“We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,” says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

Join me tommorow when the AP reveals Batboy’s secret tryst with Senator Clinton.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Government, Pharmacology, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments