Archive for December, 2009

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Top Ten Food Safety News Stories of 2009

December 31, 2009

2009 was a banner year for Salmonella and E.coli. It’s also one of the reasons we created EAT CLEANER, the only all natural line of food wipes and wash that effectively cleans harmful residue from produce, seafood and poultry.

Serious food for thought.  Please share this with everyone you love.  From Food Safety News by Dan Flynn

1.  New York Times reporter Michael Moss introduced readers to Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor from Minnesota who is partially paralyzed from E. coli O157:H7.   In Moss’s Oct. 4 story, it was this paragraph in particular that made readers burn:  “The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled ‘American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.’ Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of hamburger5.jpgslaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.”  Stephanie, whose spirit is inspirational, has sued Cargill for at least $100 million.

2.  Nevada resident Linda Rivera was among those most severely injured by Nestlé chocolate-chip cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.   Linda’s plight was described on Sept. 1 by the Washington Post, one of many times in 2009 that victims of foodborne illnesses and their families summoned the courage to tell difficult but compelling stories.  In doing so, they caught the attention of lawmakers and helped prompt the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the 2009 Food Safety Act.  However, the Senate has yet to approve S. 510, its version of proposed new federal powers and food-industry reforms.

3.  Peanut Corporation of America caused consumers pain and suffering, the government time and money, and was responsible for the most costly food recall in history – an amazing amount of damage for a small, largely invisible operation.  At least 3,918 separate products made with PCA peanut butter or peanut paste were recalled, costing food companies and the government more than $1 billion. Now in bankruptcy with its entire operation shut down, PCA has yet to provide just compensation for those it sickened with Salmonella Typhimurium.  About 150 claims have been filed with the bankruptcy court for payment from the company’s $12 million product liability policy.   PCA’s distribution of Salmonella-contaminated product led to nine deaths among the 714 confirmed cases of Salmonella in 46 states.

4.  Salmonella contamination was once unheard of in ground beef recalls, but in 2009 there were three.  The strains involved–Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Typhimurium DT104–are all resistant to commonly prescribed drugs, meaning more victims had to be hospitalized and more treatments failed.  Just two companies were responsible for a total of 1.314 million pounds of beef tainted with this dangerous Salmonella.  Denver-based King Soopers Inc., which recalled 466,236 pounds on July 22, and Fresno-based Beef Packers Inc., which recalled 825,769 pounds on Aug. 6 and another 22,723 pounds on Dec. 4.  Cargill’s repeat performance in the scary Salmonella category is especially troubling because of its involvement up and down the food chain.  For example, Cargill’s canola meal, which it sends to feedlots to fatten cattle, was banned from the United States in October because of Salmonella contamination.

school-lunch-tray-hamburger.jpg5.  If the Obama administration had gotten around to nominating a new under secretary for food safety – an important position that’s been vacant all year — perhaps the new appointee might have had something to say after USA Today reported that Jack in the Box and other fast-food outlets have higher standards than the National School Lunch program.  In a series that examined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own hype about the lunch program, USA Today showed that meat provided to school children not only does not “meet or exceed” standards for commercial products, but chains like Jack in the Box, Burger King, McDonald’s and Costco have far more rigorous standards than Uncle Sam.  The big retailers “test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day,” the newspaper reported. “And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.”  Our memories of eating in the school cafeteria are not all that pleasant and, thanks to USA Today, we now know why. USDA says it will work on the problem next year.

6.  To say “mistakes were made” during an outbreak of a Hepatitis A at a McDonald’s restaurant in Milan, IL is putting it mildly.  First and foremost, food workers must be vaccinated for Hepatitis A.  When they’re not, the potential for things to go very wrong, very quickly is enormous and that’s what happened in Milan, a community in the Quad Cities area on the Illinois-Iowa border.  The local hospital testing a McDonald’s worker for Hepatitis A mailed–rather than faxing or phoning–the positive results to the Rock Island County Health Department. Then the letter went unopened for two weeks, apparently because someone was on vacation.  Next, a McDonald’s manager did nothing after a food service worker told the franchise she had contracted Hepatitis A.  It was only when the Rock Island County Health Department figured out a McDonald’s worker had Hepatitis A that the restaurant was closed and cleaned, and the public informed.  Meanwhile, 10,000 people had been exposed.

7. Organic Pastures, the California company that has made raw milk a cause, is under a criminal plea agreement not to sell unpasteurized milk across state lines.  Late in 2009, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration essentially sought to corral Organic Pastures when it went into federal civil court to make the agreement reached in the criminal proceedings permanent.  In response, Organic Pastures says it’s got its hands full trying to supply California outlets and no longer cares about fulfilling any orders it gets from the other 49 states.

8.  Ground beef contaminated with E coli is a story that never seems to end.   In 2009, special notoriety goes to Colorado’s Greeley Beef Plant, now owned by JBS USA, and Fairbank Farms in Asheville, NY.  Each managed to offer at least a half million pounds of E. coli-contaminated ground beef to an unsuspecting public.  The June 24-28 JBS and Halloween Fairbank Farms recall were both associated with outbreaks of dangerous E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.   JBS is responsible for at least 23 confirmed cases in eight states and Fairbank Farms scored 26 confirmed cases in eight states.  Not huge by E. coli outbreak standards, but all too typical.

9.  A Chinese court officially accepted the first lawsuit seeking compensation for that country’s 2008 tainted milk scandal, opening up the possibility of a flood of legal actions. A district court in the northern city of Shijiazhuang will hear the suit filed against the Sanlu Group, the dairy firm linked to the poisoned milk controversy, by an unnamed parent of a child who was sickened.  At least six infants died and nearly 300,000 became ill last year by milk powder contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which was added to give the appearance of a higher protein content.

10. The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s release of a report on the 10 riskiest foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sparked a full-fledged food fight.  Leafy greens, eggs and tuna topped the list, followed by oysters, ice cream, tomatoes and sprouts.  The study, which analyzed 17 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources, generated significant national media interest, buzz from blogs and local news outlets and drew harsh criticism from the food industry.  Food industry groups – especially those representing foods included in the report – criticized the findings and expressed concern that the publicity would hurt the industries listed.

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248,000 pounds of beef recalled due to E.coli

December 28, 2009

**Please stay tuned – so far illnesses have been reported in 6 states, but we do not yet have the distribution list of where products were shipped.

** WASHINGTON, December 24, 2009 – National Steak and Poultry, an Owasso, Okla., establishment, is recalling approximately 248,000 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. FSIS became aware of the problem during the course of an investigation of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses. Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health and agriculture departments, FSIS determined that there is an association between non-intact steaks (blade tenderized prior to further processing) and illnesses in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. FSIS is continuing to work with the CDC and affected state public health partners on the investigation. Anyone with signs or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a physician. The products subject to recall include:

• 4-ounce “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “SC68408.”

• 6-ounce “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “SP680608.”

• 8-ounce “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “SC68808”

• 9-ounce “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “SC68908.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF TIPS,” with an identifying case code of “69108.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK” with an identifying case code of “XXSP68008.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY SAVORY SIRLOIN TIPS” with an identifying case code of “XX69008.”

• 5-ounce “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BACON WRAPPED BEEF FILLET,” with an identifying case code of “23508.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY USDA SELECT BEEF SHOULDER MARINATED TENDER MEDALLIONS” with an identifying case code of “23289.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY 75% BONELESS BEEF TRIMMINGS,” with an identifying case code of “33575.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BEEF TRIMMINGS,” with an identifying case code of “36545.”

• “NATIONAL STEAK AND POULTRY BEEF SIRLOIN PHILLY STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “88008.”

• 4-ounce “EGN BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “680425.”

• 7-ounce “EGN BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN TRI TIP STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “69725.”

• 9-ounce “EGN BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN TRI TIP STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “680925.”

• 7-ounce “KRM BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “680715.”

• 9-ounce “KRM BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “680915.”

• 12-ounce “KRM BONELESS BEEF SIRLOIN STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “680215.”

• 8-ounce “CARINO’S BONELESS BEEF OUTSIDE SKIRT STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “130874.”

• “CARINO’S BONELESS BEEF OUTSIDE SKIRT STEAK PIECES,” with an identifying case code of “13074.”

• “MOE’S BEEF STEAK,” with an identifying case code of “78027.”

Each package bears a label with the establishment number “EST. 6010T” inside the USDA mark of inspection, respective case codes cited above, and packaging dates of “10/12/2009,” “10/13/2009,” “10/14/2009,” or “10/21/2009.” These products were shipped to restaurants nationwide. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a physician. FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume ground beef or ground beef patties that have been cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to be sure ground beef is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Media and consumer questions regarding the recall should be directed the company’s hotline at (866) 439-7348.

This recall taken from: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/Recall_067_2009_Release/index.asp

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Reasons to Question The Cleaning Power of Water

December 17, 2009
Toxic WatersDecember New York Times
December 17, 2009

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy

By CHARLES DUHIGG

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.

Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.

All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.

In some cases, people have been exposed for years to water that did not meet those guidelines.

But because such guidelines were never incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, the vast majority of that water never violated the law.

Some officials overseeing local water systems have tried to go above and beyond what is legally required. But they have encountered resistance, sometimes from the very residents they are trying to protect, who say that if their water is legal it must be safe.

Dr. Pankaj Parekh, director of the water quality division for the City of Los Angeles, has faced such criticism. The water in some city reservoirs has contained contaminants that become likely cancer-causing compounds when exposed to sunlight.

To stop the carcinogens from forming, the city covered the surface of reservoirs, including one in the upscale neighborhood of Silver Lake, with a blanket of black plastic balls that blocked the sun.

Then complaints started from owners of expensive houses around the reservoir. “They supposedly discovered these chemicals, and then they ruined the reservoir by putting black pimples all over it,” said Laurie Pepper, whose home overlooks the manmade lake. “If the water is so dangerous, why can’t they tell us what laws it’s violated?”

Dr. Parekh has struggled to make his case. “People don’t understand that just because water is technically legal, it can still present health risks,” he said. “And so we encounter opposition that can become very personal.”

Some federal regulators have tried to help officials like Dr. Parekh by pushing to tighten drinking water standards for chemicals like industrial solvents, as well as a rocket fuel additive that has polluted drinking water sources in Southern California and elsewhere. But those efforts have often been blocked by industry lobbying.

Drinking water that does not meet a federal health guideline will not necessarily make someone ill. Many contaminants are hazardous only if consumed for years. And some researchers argue that even toxic chemicals, when consumed at extremely low doses over long periods, pose few risks. Others argue that the cost of removing minute concentrations of chemicals from drinking water does not equal the benefits.

Moreover, many of the thousands of chemicals that have not been analyzed may be harmless. And researchers caution that such science is complicated, often based on extrapolations from animal studies, and sometimes hard to apply nationwide, particularly given that more than 57,400 water systems in this country each deliver, essentially, a different glass of water every day.

Government scientists now generally agree, however, that many chemicals commonly found in drinking water pose serious risks at low concentrations.

And independent studies in such journals as Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; Environmental Health Perspectives; American Journal of Public Health; and Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, as well as reports published by the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that millions of Americans become sick each year from drinking contaminated water, with maladies from upset stomachs to cancer and birth defects.

Those studies have tracked hospital admissions and disease patterns after chemicals were detected in water supplies. They found that various contaminants were often associated with increased incidents of disease. That research — like all large-scale studies of human illnesses — sometimes cannot definitively say that chemicals in drinking water were the sole cause of disease.

But even the E.P.A., which has ultimate responsibility for the Safe Drinking Water Act, has concluded that millions of Americans have been exposed to drinking water that fails to meet a federal health benchmark, according to records analyzed by The Times. (Studies and E.P.A. summaries can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.)

Communities where the drinking water has contained chemicals that are associated with health risks include Scottsdale, Ariz.; El Paso, Tex., and Reno, Nev. Test results analyzed by The Times show their drinking water has contained arsenic at concentrations that have been associated with cancer. But that contamination did not violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In Millville, N.J., Pleasantville, N.J., and Edmond, Okla., drinking water has contained traces of uranium, which can cause kidney damage. Those concentrations also did not violate the law. (Contaminant records for each of the 47,500 water systems that provided data are at nytimes.com/contaminants.)

“If it doesn’t violate the law, I don’t really pay much attention to it,” said Stephen Sorrell, executive director of Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, which serves Pensacola, Fla. Data show that his system has delivered water containing multiple chemicals at concentrations that research indicates are associated with health risks. The system has not violated the Safe Drinking Water Act during the last half-decade.

The Times analysis was based on water test data collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group. The data, which contain samples from 2004 to this year, are from water systems that were required by law to test for certain contaminants and report findings to regulators. The data were verified by comparing a randomly selected sample against millions of state records obtained by The Times through public records requests.

The Times examined concentrations of 335 chemicals that government agencies have determined were associated with serious health risks. The analysis counted only instances in which the same chemical was detected at least 10 times for a single water system since 2004, at a concentration that the government has said poses at least a 1-in-10,000 risk of causing disease.

That is roughly equivalent to the cancer risk posed by undergoing 100 X-rays. (More information on data sources is at nytimes.com/water-data.)

Some local regulators say gaps in the Safe Drinking Water Act can put them in almost untenable positions. Los Angeles regulators, for instance, test more than 25,000 samples a year looking for poisons, industrial chemicals and radioactive elements. The water that the system delivers to more than four million residents is cleaner than required by law, according to state data. Dr. Parekh has lobbied for millions of dollars to build reservoirs and buy new treatment systems.

But some residents doubt his motives. People affiliated with groups protesting water rate hikes have printed leaflets accusing him and other officials of “fooling us into thinking that our city’s water is not safe to drink!”

Though the city’s water rates are among the lowest in the state — the average household pays $41 a month — other residents have included Dr. Parekh’s name on a poster naming “water officials who want to steal your money.”

In a statement, the E.P.A. said that a top priority of Lisa P. Jackson, who took over the agency in January, was improving how regulators assessed and managed chemical hazards.

“Since chemicals are ubiquitous in our economy, our environment, our water resources and our bodies, we need better authority so we can assure the public that any unacceptable risks have been eliminated,” the E.P.A. wrote. “But, under existing law, we cannot give that assurance.”

Ms. Jackson has asked Congress to amend laws governing how the E.P.A. assesses chemicals, and has issued policies to insulate the agency’s scientific reviews from outside pressures.

But for now, significant risks remain, say former regulators.

“For years, people said that America has the cleanest drinking water in the world,” said William K. Reilly, the E.P.A. administrator under President George H. W. Bush. “That was true 20 years ago. But people don’t realize how many new chemicals have emerged and how much more pollution has occurred. If they did, we would see very different attitudes.”

Accumulating Threats

The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974 after tests discovered carcinogens, lead and dangerous bacteria flowing from faucets in New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Boston and elsewhere.

At the time, so little was known about the chemicals in American waters that the law required local systems to monitor only 20 substances. (Private wells are not regulated by the act.)

Over the next two decades, researchers at the E.P.A. began testing hundreds of chemicals, and Congress passed amendments strengthening the act. Eventually, the list of regulated substances increased to 91.

In 2000, the list stopped growing. Since then, the rate at which companies and other workplaces have dumped pollutants into lakes and rivers has significantly accelerated, according to an earlier analysis by The Times of the Clean Water Act.

Government scientists have evaluated 830 of the contaminants most often found in water supplies, according to a review of records from the E.P.A. and the United States Geological Survey. They have determined that many of them are associated with cancer or other diseases, even at small concentrations.

Yet almost none of those assessments have been incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act or other federal laws. (A complete list of drinking water standards and health guidelines is at nytimes.com/water-data.)

For instance, the drinking water standard for arsenic, a naturally occurring chemical used in semiconductor manufacturing and treated wood, is at a level where a community could drink perfectly legal water, and roughly one in every 600 residents would likely develop bladder cancer over their lifetimes, according to studies commissioned by the E.P.A. and analyzed by The Times. Many of those studies can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.

That level of exposure is roughly equivalent to the risk the community would face if every person received 1,664 X-rays.

And in some places, tap water contains not just one contaminant, but dozens. More than half of the systems analyzed by The Times had at least seven chemicals in their water. But there is nothing in the law that addresses the cumulative risks of multiple pollutants in a single glass of water, as some public health advocates have urged.

In a statement, the E.P.A. said that a 2003 review of Safe Drinking Water Act standards found that advances in science or technology had made it possible to tighten regulations of some chemicals. However, at the time, “the agency decided that changes to these standards would not provide a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction.”

Another review of drinking water standards is under way, and results will be released soon, the agency says.

Because some of the diseases associated with drinking water contamination take so long to emerge, people who become ill from their water might never realize the source, say public health experts.

“These chemicals accumulate in body tissue. They affect developmental and hormonal systems in ways we don’t understand, ” said Linda S. Birnbaum, who as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is the government’s top official for evaluating environmental health effects.

“There’s growing evidence that numerous chemicals are more dangerous than previously thought, but the E.P.A. still gives them a clean bill of health.”

Skepticism From Residents

After six years of helping to build treatment systems to cleanse water of parasites and human waste in nations like Gambia and Liberia, Dr. Parekh was ready for a more relaxing life. So in 1986 he returned to Los Angeles, where he had earned graduate degrees in public health and environmental engineering, and joined the city’s Department of Water and Power.

At the time, almost all of its drinking water came from the pristine Eastern Sierra to the northeast. Until the 1970s, Los Angeles regulators hadn’t even bothered to filter it.

But when Los Angeles lost some of its rights to that water, the city began relying more on ground water from the nearby San Fernando Basin, Northern California and nearby states.

Soon, Dr. Parekh and his colleagues started seeing evidence that those new supplies were contaminated. The San Fernando Basin contains a huge Superfund site — an area so polluted by industry that the federal government has cleanup oversight — and as pollution spread underground, the city had to abandon 40 percent of the area’s wells.

Then, in October 2007, Dr. Parekh received a troubling call. A local laboratory was using tap water for experiments and had discovered compounds called bromates, which studies have associated with cancer.

Bromates are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but officials are required to test for them only when water leaves a treatment plant. Even after it was treated, Los Angeles’s water contained certain contaminants that, when combined with cleaning chemicals and exposed to sunlight in reservoirs, had formed bromates. Those bromate concentrations did not break federal rules, but city workers thought they were unhealthy and worried they could eventually violate the law unless action was taken.

Dr. Parekh’s colleagues released more than 600 million gallons of contaminated water into the ocean. Then a member of Dr. Parekh’s staff had an idea: to protect the drinking water from sunlight, cover the reservoirs with plastic balls.

The city bought 6.5 million dark balls — similar to the kind McDonald’s uses for its playground pits — for about $2 million, and dumped them into reservoirs. Angry residents began attacking the city’s regulators on blogs and leaving profane phone messages. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said he believed such complaints were not widespread.

Today, Los Angeles is drawing up plans for underground storage tanks. And Dr. Parekh and others are designing a treatment system that may cost as much as $800 million. The city has not determined how to pay those costs.

“I drink my tap water. My 86-year-old mother drinks tap water,” Dr. Parekh said. “We work very hard to give this city the cleanest water in the state. But water sources are getting more polluted. If we just do what’s required, it’s not enough.”

Polluters Push Back

Earlier this decade, scientists at the E.P.A. began telling top agency officials that more needed to be done. Dr. Peter W. Preuss, who in 2004 became head of the E.P.A.’s division analyzing environmental risks, was particularly concerned.

So his department started assessing a variety of contaminants often found in drinking water, including perchlorate, an unregulated rocket fuel additive, as well as two regulated compounds, trichloroethylene, a degreaser used in manufacturing, and perchloroethylene or perc, a dry-cleaning solvent. Research indicated that those chemicals posed risks at smaller concentrations than previously known. Links to that research can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.

But when E.P.A. scientists produced assessments indicating those chemicals were more toxic — the first step in setting a standard for perchlorate and tougher standards for the other two substances — businesses fought back by lobbying lawmakers and regulators and making public attacks.

Military contractors, for example, said that regulations on perchlorate, which has been associated with stunted central nervous system development, would cost them billions of dollars in cleanup costs. In 2003, an Air Force colonel, Daniel Rogers, called an E.P.A. assessment of the chemical “biased, unrealistic and scientifically imbalanced.” Military officials told E.P.A. scientists they were unpatriotic for suggesting that bases were contaminated, according to people who participated in those discussions.

Property owners who had rented space to dry cleaners lobbied lawmakers and top E.P.A. officials to remove government scientists from research on perc, which has been associated with some kinds of tumors, according to interviews with lobbyists. (Trichloroethylene has been associated with liver and kidney damage and cancer.)

Soon, Dr. Preuss was told by some superiors that he might be dismissed if he continued pushing for extensive assessments of certain chemicals, he said.

“It’s hard for me to describe the level of anger and animosity directed at us for trying to publish sound, scientific research that met the highest standards,” Dr. Preuss said. “It went way beyond what would be considered professional behavior.”

Today, the Safe Drinking Water Act still does not regulate perchlorate or more than two dozen other substances that Dr. Preuss’s department has analyzed over the last eight years. And standards for acceptable levels of trichloroethylene and perc have not changed in 18 years.

Those two chemicals have been detected in drinking water in more than a dozen states, including California, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. A study published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of perchlorate in every person examined by researchers.

A Department of Defense official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivities regarding perchlorate, said the military’s perspective on the chemical had changed since 2005, and it now deferred to the E.P.A.’s assessments. Colonel Rogers did not reply to e-mail messages and calls seeking comment.

“We need action,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the Safe Drinking Water Act. “E.P.A. has the authority to set new standards, but it wasn’t used over the last eight years. There are people at risk.”

In a statement, the E.P.A. said that standards for trichloroethylene and perc were under examination, and that a decision regarding perchlorate would be issued next year.

Dr. Preuss’s department has also written, but not yet published, a much tougher assessment of arsenic, the most common contaminant that companies are forced to clean up at Superfund sites. The chemical is a case study in the complexities of establishing risk levels and how industries fight regulatory efforts.

In 2000, the E.P.A. proposed setting a limit on arsenic in drinking water at five parts per billion — roughly equivalent to one drop in 50 drums of water. But water systems and industries that use arsenic complained, arguing that the science was uncertain and the chemical was expensive to remove. Regulators relented, doubling the arsenic limit to 10 parts per billion.

Since then, new studies have emerged, and interviews with more than 30 researchers as well as reports by the National Academy of Sciences indicate there is a general consensus on the dangers of arsenic at low concentrations. Those studies can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.

Dr. Parekh estimates that arsenic poses more of a risk to Los Angeles residents than any other contaminant in drinking water.

A decade’s worth of evidence also indicates that the costs of removing arsenic from drinking water have often been smaller than initially estimated.

But there is still a scientific debate over the costs and benefits of lowering the arsenic standard in drinking water. Many of the scientists opposed to new regulation receive funding from industries that use arsenic. But they raise concerns that underscore the difficulties of evaluating such risks.

“I think most people would say that, from a health perspective, setting an arsenic limit as close to zero as possible is best,” said Kenneth Cantor, who recently retired from the National Cancer Institute. “But we can’t do controlled experiments where we expose some people to two parts per billion, and other people to eight parts per billion, and see which ones get more cancer. So there is some uncertainty, just as there is uncertainty in every scientific conclusion.”

Some industry groups have financed studies that highlight that uncertainty. And industry lobbyists have urged sympathetic lawmakers and officials to complain about tougher risk assessments, according to interviews and correspondence provided by E.P.A. employees or obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Those lobbying efforts have succeeded, to a degree. Some officials from the Department of Agriculture and E.P.A. staff members have pushed back, and some said that a stricter arsenic assessment would have “disastrous impacts,” according to a confidential memo from one of the E.P.A.’s regional offices, and would present “a severe challenge in communicating risk information” to the public. The new assessment “lacks common sense” and is “unexpected and bewildering,” another memo argued.

Other critics have said that Dr. Preuss’s assessment will affect not just water regulations, but also toxicity estimates for anything containing arsenic.

“If the science is uncertain, and there are enormous costs associated with more regulation, maybe we should wait for certainty,” said Robert C. LaGasse, executive director of the Mulch and Soil Council, who has met with the E.P.A. on this issue. “Arsenic naturally occurs in soils and fertilizer. This could have a chilling effect on gardening.”

Dr. Preuss said such concerns should not shape scientific evaluations. “It is our job to follow the science, and when a preponderance of evidence indicates there is a risk, we should say so,” he said.

In May, Ms. Jackson, the E.P.A. head, announced reforms to protect agency scientists like Dr. Preuss from outside pressures. Dr. Preuss said he was an enthusiastic supporter of Ms. Jackson’s efforts, and believed the arsenic assessment would be published without interference.

“But there are still tens of thousands of chemicals we haven’t assessed,” he added. “If you don’t know what’s dangerous, you can’t write laws against it.”

Risky — and Legal

The effects of pollution are clear throughout the Los Angeles area. In Santa Monica, officials have shut wells contaminated by a gasoline additive that is not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. In Pomona, a college town to the east, water supplies contain chemicals dumped by manufacturing and agricultural companies.

And in Maywood, a city of 30,000 just southeast of downtown Los Angeles, tap water is often brown and tastes bitter, say residents. Many people don’t own white clothing, because they complain it becomes stained when it is washed.

Last month, Carlos Husman drew a bath for his 4-month-old granddaughter that was filled with what looked like particles of rust and dirt, staining the sides of the bathtub.

Maywood is only one square mile, but has three water systems. All are privately owned, so local officials have no real power except forcing them to follow federal and state regulations. About three-quarters of the nation’s water systems are private entities, beholden only to their shareholders and the law.

Laboratory tests show Maywood’s tap water has contained toxic levels of mercury, lead, manganese and other chemicals that have been associated with liver and kidney damage, neurological diseases or cancer.

But when Maywood’s residents asked for cleaner water, they were told what was flowing from the taps satisfied the Safe Drinking Water Act, and so the managers didn’t have to do more.

Indeed, some of the chemicals in Mr. Husman’s water — like manganese, which has been associated with Parkinson’s disease — are essentially unregulated, and so the water system isn’t required to remove them, even when particles float in a glass.

“When I shower in the morning, it looks like blood,” Mr. Husman said. “How can the government see this water, know it contains dangerous chemicals, and say it’s legal?”

When a city council member named Felipe Aguirre lobbied for cleaner water, anonymous leaflets arrived. “Felipe Aguirre has deceived the citizens of Maywood!” one reads. “Felipe Aguirre does not care that Maywood residents will be paying more for water already safe to drink!” another says. “Do you want this liar and corrupt politician to decide the future of Maywood and its residents?”

Water system managers say their water is safe. “If it wasn’t, the E.P.A. or the state would tell us to change,” said Gustavo Villa, general manager of Maywood Mutual Water Company No. 2. Before taking his job in 2006, Mr. Villa drove 18-wheeler trucks, and had no experience running a water system. He said the system was trying to install machinery to remove some manganese, but halted construction because of missing permits.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures have pursued options that could help Maywood and other cities. The California Legislature, for instance, this year passed a bill focused on Maywood that would revoke permits from the town’s water systems if they cannot “deliver safe, wholesome and potable drinking water.”

In May, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, which, if approved by Congress and signed by President Obama, would authorize $14.7 billion in loans to help states improve their systems.

And the E.P.A. recently said it would analyze a host of chemicals — known as endocrine disruptors — that some scientists have associated with cancer and other diseases. Congress called for such tests in 1996, but the agency failed to meet deadlines for 13 years.

In the meantime, regulators struggle to explain to residents that even legal drinking water can pose risks. Some of them have recommended that people use home water filters.

Most people don’t comprehend the complicated scientific papers that describe cancer risks, Dr. Parekh said. “And if the law is working, they don’t have to,” he added. “But in this new world, where pollution is so much more common, they may have to learn to understand it.”

Griffin Palmer contributed reporting.

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EAT CLEANER BECOMES A TRUSTED PARTNER OF NON-PROFIT HEALTHY CHILD HEALTHY WORLD

December 7, 2009

Newport Beach, CA (December 7, 2009)  – As news of food borne illness, viruses and unsafe food recalls become a regular occurrence, families are more concerned than ever about the safety of their food. Today, Grow Green Industries, Inc., the makers of EAT CLEANERTM All Natural Food Wipes + Wash, announced they have become a Trusted Partner of Healthy Child Healthy World, the nation’s leading nonprofit that educates families on preventing children from harmful chemical exposure.

For more than 18 years, Healthy Child has selectively collaborated with groups and companies that focus on reducing and eliminating chemical exposures from home products, furnishings and food. EAT CLEANERTM is now joining this prominent group of partners that have passed strict quality standards and due diligence investigations that demand ultimate transparency and integrity.

Made with FDA approved, food-safe ingredients, EAT CLEANERTM is the first all-natural, odorless and tasteless, lab tested product that removes pesticides, waxes and surface debris that can carry bacteria from produce, seafood and poultry. “Our alliance with Healthy Child Healthy World is an important step for us in being able to educate consumers about food safety.  Infants and children are most susceptible to the potentially harmful effects of food borne illness, toxins and bacteria. With our partnership, we’ll be able to reach more families interested in the preventative health and wellness of their families,” commented Mareya Ibrahim, Founder and President, Grow Green Industries, Inc. 

“Eat Cleaner’s products provide that extra level of safety and security for busy parents trying to raise happy and healthy children”, added Christopher Gavigan, CEO and Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World.  “Its really about peace of mind.  Here is an easy step parents can take at meal time to safeguard their families against pesticide exposure and potential food borne illness.” 

“As a mother of two young children, the partnership has an even deeper meaning.  We are committed to supporting families with education, awareness and products they can afford, so that they can thrive.  Our mission is perfectly aligned with Healthy Child,” added Ibrahim.

The EAT CLEANERTM line retails for $3.49-$22 online at www.eatcleaner.com, alice.com, amazon.com and at select retailers, including Wegmans. 

ABOUT EAT CLEANERTM

EAT CLEANERTM is the only all-natural, tasteless and odorless food cleaning system for produce, seafood and poultry.  With a proprietary blend of fruit acids and plant based cleaners, EAT CLEANERTM is able to strip surface waxes, debris and pesticides away that water is unable to penetrate. EAT CLEANERTM was founded by a Ph.D. and his daughter, a mother of two, as a more effective alternative to rinsing food with water.

EAT CLEANERTM is based in Orange County, California.

ABOUT HEALTHY CHILD HEALTHY WORLD
Healthy Child Healthy World is a national nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization that inspires parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals. The organization exists because more than 125 million Americans, predominantly children, now face an historically unprecedented rise in chronic diseases and illnesses such as cancer, autism, asthma, allergies, birth defects, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and learning and developmental disabilities.

Credible scientific evidence increasingly points to environmental hazards and household chemicals as causing and contributing to many of these diseases. Healthy Child Healthy World aims to educate parents, support protective policies and engage communities to make responsible decisions, simple everyday choices and well-informed lifestyle improvements to create healthy environments where children and families can flourish. Please visit http://www.healthychild.org for more info.

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Eat right and fight the flu

December 2, 2009

 

Wash hands with soap and water?  Check.  Hand sanitizer?  Check.  Covering mouth with arm instead of hand?  Check.

Eating enough grapefruit and garlic?  Hmmm.  Better get back to the store.

 In the fight against the flu, building your immunity naturally can be your best line of defense.  A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds, enjoyed raw as much as possible is a great start.  Here are a few ways to eat your way to better health.  Make it cleaner and keep yourself stronger throughout the season.  Eating refined fats, sugars and other processed foods can actually have a negative impact on your immune function – so pass on that second slice of pie.

Good stuff in means you’re not on the sidelines for the holiday festivities.  Enjoy!

Vitamin C

Why? Vitamin C strengthens your immune system by stimulating antibodies and cells in the immune system.

How do I get it?  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, including red & green sweet peppers, kiwi, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, papaya, mango, guava, pineapple and berries.

Vitamin E

Why? Vitamin E strengthens the immune system because of its antioxidant properties.

How do I get it?  Vitamin E rich foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, wheat germ oil and pine nuts.

Carotenoids

Why?  They give carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes their orangish hue and are also powerful antioxidants

How do I get them?  Foods rich in carotenoids include carrots, apricots, mangoes, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, tomatoes, guava, and pink grapefruit.

Bioflavenoids

Why?  They have super antioxidant powers and also support the performance of vitamin C.

How do I get them?  Bioflavenoid rich foods include peppers, grapes, onions, garlic, berries, green and white herbal tea and buckwheat.

Echinacea

Why? Phenol compounds in Echinacea are natural immunity boosters.

How do I get it?  Echinacea can be taken in supplement form (we like the liquid) of 300 milligrams, three times per day, at the first sign of a weakened immunity function.  Popular recommendations are not to take Echinacea for more than 10 consecutive days.

Probiotics

Why? Many naturopathic doctors believe that the health of your immune system and your ability to fight off infection is determined by the health of your digestive system.

How do I get them?  Populating your digestive system with good bacteria found in yogurt and a number of other cultured foods such as kefir and sauerkraut will boost immunity.

Eat Cleaner All Natural Food Wash + Wipes contain Citric Acid, naturally occurring in most fruit and vegetables, and are a great way to help fight virus.  Carry the wipes with you when you’re on the road and use them to clean your food, hands and utensils.
Nutrition Sources:  Prevention, Healthy Living

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