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  • BPS, a Common BPA Substitute, is Just as Harmful to Humans

    If you are aware of the dangers of BPA and are actively taking precautions to avoid exposure by selecting food and beverages packed in BPA-free packaging, you may still be vulnerable to the toxins associated with BPA, as well as the health hazards.

    Bisphenol S (BPS), commonly used to replace hazardous bisphenol A (BPA) in household products, may be just as detrimental to cardiovascular health as BPA, according to the results of a new study, which were recently presented at a joint meeting held in Chicago by the Endocrine Society and the International Society of Endocrinology (ICE/ENDO 2014).

    Since research has shown BPA to have many potentially harmful effects on humans, in recent years many manufacturers of hard plastics and other consumer products have chosen to switch from BPA to a chemically similar compound, BPS, marketing these products as BPA-free.


    However, according to lead author of this study, Hong-Sheng Wang, from the University of Cincinnati, while some BPA-free products are free of bisphenols, "BPS is one of the substitutes used in BPA-free products. There is implied safety in BPA-free products. The thing is, the BPA analogs—and BPS is one of them—have not been tested for safety in humans."

    BPA is a known hormone disrupter that can disrupt estrogen as well as other hormones, however, it is unclear whether BPS also interferes with hormones.

    For this study -- which Wang refers to as an initial assessment of the effect of BPS on the primary cells and/or organs of mammals -- Wang and his colleagues tested a dose of BPS similar to that found in urine samples of humans in other studies, on the hearts of a sample of 50 rats.

    When comparing the results of rats that were exposed to BPS to the control group that were not, female rats that were exposed to BPS exhibited a rapidly elevated heart rate, which led to abnormalities in heart rhythm under stress, which far exceeded that of the control group of rats that were not exposed to BPS. Electrocardiograms showed that for female rats, exposure to BPS resulted in additional heart beats and caused the heart to race. BPS did not reportedly have the same effect on the hearts of male rats.

    To better understand the cause of these effects on the hearts of female rats, the research team looked at the muscle cells of affected rats. They discovered that BPS exposure led to abnormal cycling of calcium, which according to Wang, is a primary cause of an irregular heart beat. It is also very similar to the toxic effect that BPA has on the heart, as Wang and his team showed in an earlier study.

    The researchers attempted to prevent the heart rhythm anomalies induced by BPS in the female rats by blocking an estrogen receptor. According to Wang, their results showed that "the BPA analog BPS is not necessarily free of endocrine-disrupting activity."

    "Our findings call into question the safety of BPA-free products containing BPS," Wang concludes. "BPS and other BPA analogs need to be evaluated before further use by humans."

    Bottled water is one consumer item that is packaged in plastic bottles that often contain BPA. These chemicals can potentially leach into the contents, especially when stored for long periods. To avoid long term exposure to Bisphenol toxins we advise drinking filtered water rather spring water supplied in plastic bottles.

  • New Study Highlights the Hazards of Ingredients in Fracking Fluids

    With the oil and gas industry rapidly expanding across the country, there is rising concern regarding the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract these natural resources from deep within the ground. Environmentalists and local residents are particularly concerned about the fluids used in the extraction process, and more specifically the contents that make up these fluids.

    A new study that examines the contents of fracking fluids raises concerns regarding various ingredients contained within. The researchers who presented the results of their study at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) last week, found that of the approximately 200 compounds that are typically used in fracking fluids, we have very little knowledge of the potential health hazards of a third of these compounds, except that eight are known to be poisonous to mammals.

    Fracking pond

    While hydraulic fracturing has led to a boom in the natural gas industry in the US, the process, which involves pumping a solution of water mixed with a wide variety of chemicals deep into underground rock formations to force the gas and oil out of the ground, is extremely controversial. Supporters of fracking say that it is the answer to our energy woes and provides employment opportunities, and consequently offers huge economical benefits. Those against fracking, are concerned about the environmental and health consequences associated with pumping vast amounts of chemically-laden fluids into the ground, with the biggest fear being contamination of drinking water resources, particularly contamination of groundwater in subterranean aquifers.

    "The industrial side was saying, 'We're just using food additives, basically making ice cream here,'" says Stringfellow. "On the other side, there's talk about the injection of thousands of toxic chemicals. As scientists, we looked at the debate and asked, 'What's the real story?'"

    The research team conducted an extensive search of reports and databases to draw up a list of substances that are commonly added to fracking fluids. These substances include gelling or thickening agents, biocides to prevent microbial growth, sand to force open tiny fissures within the rocks, and rust inhibiting chemical compounds to prevent corrosion of pipes.

    Their analyses of this extensive list of ingredients reveals that both views are true to a certain extent -- but with some notable limitations. Fluids used in the fracking process do indeed contain many non-toxic and/or food-grade substances as the oil and gas industry proclaims, however, just because a substance is biodegradable or edible, it doesn't necessarily mean that it can be readily disposed.

    "You can't take a truckload of ice cream and dump it down the storm drain," says Stringfellow, echoing the analogy used by the fracking industry. "Even ice cream manufacturers have to treat dairy wastes, which are natural and biodegradable. They must break them down rather than releasing them directly into the environment."

    The researchers found that the majority of chemical ingredients will need to be treated before they can be released into the environment. And while the substances considered toxic were not as extensive as certain critics propose, the team identified eight ingredients, including biocides, which they consider to be of grave concern, as they are known to be especially poisonous to mammals.

    "There are a number of chemicals, like corrosion inhibitors and biocides in particular, that are being used in reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects," Stringfellow notes. "Biocides, for example, are designed to kill bacteria — it's not a benign material."  Upon assessing the impact that fracking fluids are having on the environment, the researchers have determined that some ingredients are also toxic to aquatic organisms.

    Furthermore, for approximately a third of the roughly 190 fracking substances listed, there is very little information available regarding their chemical and physical properties or toxicity -- information that should be included on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of potentially hazardous compounds.

    "It should be a priority to try to close that data gap," Stringfellow says.

  • New Water Borne Disease Caused by Brain-Eating Amoeba

    The dry conditions that are prevalent across the US are not only having a negative impact on the landscape and suburban lawns, it is also thought to be the cause of the sudden proliferation of a deadly pathogen, Naegleria fowleri, that thrives in warm aquatic conditions. With the hot and dry conditions experienced this summer, the water in freshwater bodies such as rivers and lakes is much warmer than it normally is, which could explain the spike in numbers of these parasites.

    The recent death of a 9-year-old girl in Kansas, who succumbed to an infection caused by the aquatic parasite after having swum in several freshwater lakes in the area, highlights the dangers of this pathogen.


    The parasite, Naegleria fowleri, is considered a sapronosis, which is an infectious disease that is caused by microscopic free-living pathogens that are found in soil and/or aquatic habitats rather than in a live host organism. The pathogen is a parasitic amoeba that enters the human body via the nose, traveling along the nasal passages and nerve fibers until it reaches the brain. It then starts to eat brain cells, resulting in primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which affects the central nervous system. Children and young adults who have been exposed to the parasite through recreational activities in freshwater aquatic systems tend to be most vulnerable to the disease.

    A team of researchers from UC Santa Barbara whose work focuses on the transmission of infectious disease examined this infectious agent in detail; the results of their findings were recently published in the scientific journal Trends in Parasitology.

    What is a Sapronosis?

    "Sapronoses do not follow the rules of infectious diseases that are transmitted from host to host," said lead author Armand Kuris, a professor in UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB). "They are categorically distinct from the way we think infectious diseases should operate." This study focuses attention on this group of emerging pathogens and aims to increase our understanding of how they function.

    Legionnaires' disease -- which is caused by Legionella pneumophila, a bacterium that is transmitted in contaminated soil or aerosolized water -- is a better known example of a sapronotic disease. Legionnaires' disease is named after an outbreak of the disease among a group attending an American Legion convention being held at a hotel in Philadelphia in 1976. There were 29 fatalities out of the 182 cases reported, most of which were men.

    Sapronotic pathogens are able to survive independently in an aquatic system or even a reservoir such as a water tower that feeds an air-conditioning system. Some such pathogens, such as cholera, depend on insects to find a disease host for them. Zoonotic diseases by comparison, require a human host.

    What's the Difference Between Sapronotic and Vector Borne Diseases?

    According to Kuris, vector borne diseases that result when infectious pathogens are carried and transmitted from one living organism to another -- which could be a microorganism, an animal, or another person -- tend to be more or less virulent depending on how efficiently they are transmitted. "As a result, virulence evolves to a level where it is balanced with transmission in order to maximize the spread of the virus." However, Kuris points out that sapronotic pathogens are not restricted by such a virulence trade-off. "Transmission of a sapronosis pathogen is able to persist regardless of any changes in host abundance or transmission rates."

    To compare differences between sapronotic and conventional diseases, the research team modeled the population growth rate of 150 human pathogens. From the random selection of diseases examined in the study, a third were sapronotic -- more specifically, 12.5% of protozoan pathogens, 28.6% of bacteria, and a whopping 96.8% of fungal pathogens selected in the study were sapronotic. Kuris considers the fact that practically all the fungi are sapronotic as something worth noting.

    "You can't model a sapronosis like valley fever with classic models for infectious diseases," said co-author Kevin Lafferty. "To combat sapronoses, we need new theories and approaches. Our paper is a start in that direction."

    How to Prevent Infection

    But as climate and local freshwater systems continue their warming trend, this emerging pathogen is likely to proliferate further, posing a risk to swimmers who cool off in local rivers and lakes. To reduce the risk of infection from this rare, yet fatal pathogen, swimmers can use nose plugs to prevent the parasite entering the body.

    Journal Reference:
    Armand M. Kuris, Kevin D. Lafferty, Susanne H. Sokolow. Sapronosis: a distinctive type of infectious agent. Trends in Parasitology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/

  • Algae Bloom and Microcystin Removal – Berkey FAQ

    Below is some information that might be helpful, with respect to the recent Algae Bloom and resulting contamination of the water supply to Toledo, Ohio: “…Cyanobacterial cells range in size from 0.5-1 μm to 40 μm in diameter…” In other words, it's a long skinny bacteria.


    Toxic microcystin bacteria float, along with a dead fish, on the surface of this lake. Toxic microcystin and cyanobacteria float, along with a dead fish, on the surface of this lake.

    Internet research seems to indicate that cyanobacteria are even larger, typically on the scale of 150 micrometers in size. While we have not tested the specific microbes associated with Algae Blooms, we have tested other pathogenic bacteria and two viruses, which are a small fraction of the size of these microbes.
    To understand the difference between the size of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, we suggest the following web link as it will give you a great visual of the difference.

    The University of Utah Cell Size and Scale Chart:

    Slide the scale at the bottom to see the size of virus vs bacteria vs other potential contaminates and magnify to greater levels. Black Berkey purification elements have been tested to remove both pathogenic bacteria and viruses to greater than the EPA purification standards.

    This suggests that larger bacteria, such as cyanobacteria, should also be effectively removed. Without test data on that specific microbe however, NMCL does not make that specific claim. The MS-2 virus is 24-26 nm in size. The Fr Coliphage virus is 25nm in size. In other words, they are over 1,000 times smaller than  Cyanobateria. Additionally Microcystins, which are the chemical contaminates resulting from cyanobacteria are an organic chemical. Testing of Black Berkey elements has demonstrated they are extremely efficient at removing organic chemicals.

    The EPA defines Microcystins as: “…toxins produced by cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are also known as blue-green algae and are ubiquitous in surface water when conditions are favorable for growth and formation of algal blooms. Cyanobacteria release toxins upon cell death or lysis. When released, toxins may persist for weeks to months. Toxins of most concern are microcystins. Microcystins take their name from the
    genera Microcystis. Most microcystins are hepatotoxins (liver toxins). Hepatotoxins are produced by species of the genera Microcystis, Anabena, Nodularia, Oscillatoria among others. Most microcystins are associated with Microcystis aeruginosa. While the liver is the primary target of microcystins, it is also a skin, eye and throat irritant…”


    Further, the EPA states that: “…The following processes are considered effective for the removal/oxidation of microcystin:…. powdered activated carbon (up to 100% for some microcystins but less so for others), granular activated carbon (time-dependent from 100% near start up to 38 to 73% at 3.5 months…”


    Finally, the EPA states that: “…Removal of total microcystins, M-LR, and M-LA, in water by granular activated carbon (GAC) can be very effective where the effectiveness is based on the empty bed contact time, the carbon's age, and possible biodegradation of the toxin. Time-dependent monitoring in a full-scale plant ranged 43 to 60 percent removal for M-LR. Time-dependent monitoring in pilot-scale studies ranged from greater than 99 percent at one month to 73 percent at 3.5 months for M-LR, and from greater than 99 percent at one month to 38 percent at 3.5 months for M-LA…”


    Based upon the above Internet research, Black Berkey element microbe and organic chemical removal test data and the information provided by the EPA in their reference material cited above; these all suggest that Berkey water purification systems should be extremely effective at removing and reducing contaminates resulting from the current algae bloom. NMCL also highly recommends that whenever possible, the cleanest source water available should always be utilized.

  • Corroded Underground Gas Tanks Pose Water Contamination Threat

    Lab tests have shown that underground gas tanks at over 150,000 US gas stations pose a potential water contamination hazard. Many of the underground gas tanks have corroded parts that could lead to failure or leaks that may contaminate groundwater, from where much of US drinking water supplies originate. Field inspections conducted across 9 states have revealed that key components of gas storage tanks, such as sump-pumps, are commonly corroded. In most of the reported cases the corroded tanks stored a mixture of gasoline-ethanol fuels, together with the existence of Acetobacter aceti -- a strain of bacteria that is able to convert ethanol to acetic acid, a highly corrosive agent.

    gas tank

    Upon conducting a follow up laboratory study, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that corrosion of steel alloy components was severe when exposed to the combination of ethanol and vaporized acetic acid, often eating 1mm of steel per annum. Considering these findings, researchers from the NIST recommend that gas stations should consider replacing casings of submersible pumps constructed from cast iron or steel at much shorter intervals. However, at a cost of anywhere between $1500 - $2500 per storage tank, these retrofits could be costly, especially tanking into account that there are over 500,000 underground gas storage tanks dotted around the US.

    The NIST assessment only looked at components of sump-pumps, which are found immediately below tank access covers and thus were readily accessible. The sump-pumps pump fuel from the gas storage tanks below, to the gas pumps at filling stations. While only the sump-pumps were tested, researchers are concerned that pipes, and even the gas storage tanks themselves, could be constructed from steel, which would make them vulnerable to corrosion too.

    "We know there are corrosion issues associated with the inside of some tanks. We're not sure, at this point, if that type of corrosion is caused by the bacteria," says NIST co-author, Jeffrey Sowards.

    Most of the gas storage facilities across the US were designed to contain unblended gasoline. Now, ethanol, a fuel derived from corn, is being widely used as a fuel additive due to the benefits it offers. An earlier NIST study showed that pipeline cracking was accelerated when ethanol-loving bacteria were present.

    For their latest study, the NIST research team studied the effect on samples made of steel and copper alloys exposed to conditions similar to those found at sump-pumps -- samples were either placed in a solution of ethanol and water to which bacteria was added, or exposed to vapors above this mixture. They then measured the rate of corrosion over a 30-day period. Their results echoed the findings reported by field inspectors.

    Steel components exposed to vapors experienced the most damage, with copper components experiencing some damage, albeit slower, both when immersed in the fuel and when exposed to vapors. Immersed steel corroded slowly, which the authors suggest may be attributed to a protective biofilm coating produced by the bacteria.

    Even though corrosion on copper was slow and could take approximately 15 years for holes to form in copper tube with a wall thickness of 1.2mm, the researchers observed localized corrosion on cold-worked copper, as used in tubing for sump-pumps. Consequently, stress-corrosion cracking is an area of concern where copper tubing is bent, as it would substantially reduce the lifetime of the tube and lead to leaks.

    Journal Reference:

    J.W. Sowards and E. Mansfield. Corrosion of copper and steel alloys in a simulated underground storage tank sump environment containing acid producing bacteria. Corrosion Science. July, 2014. In press, corrected proof available online. DOI: 10.1016/j.corsci.2014.07.009.

  • Groundwater is Rapidly Being Depleted in the Parched West

    A recent study conducted by NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Irvine has found that more than 75% of the water lost in the parched Colorado River Basin originated from groundwater resources. The researchers are concerned that the loss of such a large percentage of the groundwater resources could pose a far graver threat to water supplies in the western states than initially thought.

    water canyon

    This study, which was recently published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first scientific study to quantify the contribution of groundwater in satisfying the water requirements of the western USA. The Colorado River Basin has been severely water-stressed for a prolonged period, having suffered the driest 14 year spell over the past hundred years.

    Using data gathered by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite project, the scientists recorded monthly changes in water volume of both surface-water and groundwater resources. Data recorded between 2004 to 2013 have shown that the approximately 65km3 of freshwater reserves equates to nearly twice the capacity of the largest freshwater reservoir in the US -- Lake Mead in Nevada. More than 75% of this total (50 km3) has been attributed to loss of groundwater.

    "We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."

    The US Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for managing surface water resources in the Colorado River Basin, and this management body records these water losses. However, water extraction from underground sources is controlled by individual states, and in many cases losses are rarely if ever recorded.

    According to Jay Famiglietti, a senior water cycle scientist at JPL and senior author of the study, satellites provide the only solution for observations of such a wide scale, as is the case in this study. GRACE acts like a massive airborne scale that is able to measure changes in mass in the land below. Fluctuations in water levels affect the strength of local gravitational forces, so by regularly recording these gravitational measurements GRACE provides information on regional water fluctuations over any given period.

    As the single major river supplying water to the 40 million residents and 4 million acres of agricultural land across 7 states in the southwest, the Colorado River is essential for the survival of millions of people -- both for drinking water and for food.

    Considering that water levels in Lake Mead are currently at record low levels, the research team wanted to assess whether the Colorado River Basin, lake many other regions across the world, is relying on its underground reserves to supplement the surface-water shortfalls. This study shows that there is indeed a strong and long-term dependence on groundwater to meet the shortfall between water supply and water demand.

    According to Famiglietti, this rapid rate of water depletion will exacerbate the water woes of the nation by further reducing the rate of stream flow of the Colorado River. "Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico," Famiglietti notes.

  • Researchers Provide Guidelines for Conserving Water in the Home

    More and more families are trying to do their bit to save water, and in so doing, bring down their household utility costs. If this includes you, a research article titled: 'The Water Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Water Use', which was recently published in the scientific journal Environment, may help you in your quest.


    The article, authored by Benjamin Inskeep and Shahzeen Attari, outlines how you can substantially reduce water consumption in the home by implementing simple measures such as changing your day-to-day water consumption habits and installing appliances that are water-efficient. While much of the advice is old news, the paper is the first to actually provide quantitative estimates of how much water can be saved in the household by implementing the suggested measures. The researchers also reveal that many of the commonly proposed water conservation measures actually save less water than what they consume.

    As water is likely to become increasingly more scarce in the future, it is encouraging to learn that there are readily available measures that US households can take to drastically cut their water consumption.

    The article looks at measures households can take to reduce water consumption both indoors and outdoors, and focuses on enhancing water-efficiency by curtailing water use and upgrading technology that utilizes water to perform its function, or supplies water to the household. Using data obtained from the USGS and the Water Research Association, the researchers estimate that by implementing simple measures such as upgrading dishwashers and washing machines with water-efficient replacements and installing water-efficient faucets, showerheads and toilets, indoor household water consumption can be drastically reduced by as much as 45%.

    A household can cut their water consumption by a whopping 18% just by installing a WaterSense certified toilet that meets EPA standards for water efficiency. Water consumption can be reduced by a further 30% by curtailing water use through actions, for example reducing the number of toilet flushes by 25%, spending less time in the shower, and only using the washing machine when you have a full load of washing.
    Outdoor water consumption can be drastically reduced, or practically eliminated by installing a rain-harvesting system such as rain barrels to collect rainwater for watering the garden, installing a drip irrigation system, watering the garden early in the day before the sun is high in the sky, to reduce evaporation, and opting for warm grass over cool-season grass.

    They also note that some previously proposed 'water-saving' tips are in fact counter productive, such as brushing your teeth or washing your face while taking a shower, as much less water flows from an average bathroom faucet than a normal showerhead.

    This article expands on Attari's previous paper published in PNAS in March, which showed that Americans were typically clueless with regards to the water consumption rates of different activities, and therefore not in a position to make effective changes.

    The authors acknowledge that water availability is an area of growing concern, with many cities across the US anticipating water shortages in the future ahead. Yet, because the cost of water is relatively cheap, US citizens have little incentive to reduce their consumption, which is currently 98 gallons per day on average -- seven times greater than what they actually require for their daily needs. However, while replacing water-hungry home appliances and plumbing fittings with more efficient technology may produce financial savings, for many households the upfront costs are a major deterrent. The authors suggest one way around this stumbling block is to offer financial incentives, such as larger rebates on water-efficient household appliances, that would encourage consumers to upgrade.

    The full article can be found online at:

  • Berkey Water Filters and TDS Readings

    Many customers experience an increase in TDS readings during the initial break-in of the black berkey filters. Since we often get the question asking why this occurs, we decided to provide a more in-depth and scientific explanation.

    Total dissolved solids (TDS) is the combination of all inorganic and organic contents contained in a liquid having a molecular, ionized, or micro-granular (colloidal sol) dissolved form. Total dissolved solids are normally only discussed for freshwater systems, since salinity comprises some of the ions constituting the definition of TDS. The principal application of TDS is in the study of water quality for streams, rivers and lakes, although TDS is not generally considered as a primary pollutant (e.g. it is not deemed to be associated with health effects), but it is rather used as an indication of aesthetic characteristics of drinking water and as an aggregate indicator of presence of a broad array of chemical and mineral contaminants that could be in water.


    The Black Berkey element formula utilizes two ingredients that will add TDS to any water passing through the elements. Firstly, all filters that utilize any form of carbon in their formulation increase TDS, as carbon fines (invisible) will attach to water as it passes through the element. Many filters utilize nano-sized particulate in high quality carbon micro fines to create the outer "mean porosity" and interior tortuosity of the block or cross section of the filter elements. Several tests are performed on automated lines to insure exact porosity and final destructive tests determine the durability of the element. Two of these tests purge or remove most of these fines, which enable the flow of water through the element through open micropores. Additional fines are removed during purging, however there may still be some non-harmful nano size carbon micro fines present in the water after filtration.

    The Drinking Water Regulations in the United States typically regulate TDS not to discover micro fines of carbon but rather unsuspecting organic and inorganic chemicals along with other micro pollutants. TDS cannot help define any one category of constituent detected in liquids or water, only the presence of a total amount of dissolved solids, whether harmful or not.

    The second and probably most common reason for increased TDS in water run through a Black Berkey element is the ion exchange media. Ions are a form of TDS, and as indicated above, are found in sea water and in water subject to any substance that ionizes liquids and or air (air ionizers) etc. There are millions of ions in the air and they are essential to life. Ions do not comprise a health risk but rather, a health benefit. While TDS will likely be on the very low should continue to exist for the life of the filter.

    Another simple test would be to test water before and after a pass through an inexpensive Carafe style water filter. You will observe the same increase in TDS.

    We hope this helps with any questions or concerns. TDS is actually the least effective type of test to determine whether water is suitable to drink. In actuality, most involved in this type of discussion are unaware and don't understand the variety of sciences concerning water filtration. Typically this type of discussion arises from those promoting the use of RO and Distillation methods, which drastically reduce TDS. Unfortunately, such water is acidic, is never found in nature, and therefore can confuse the body, which typically will attempt to re-mineralize such water by robbing essential minerals from the body. For more information on this issue please see the below references:

  • Are Antibacterial Soaps Doing More Harm Than Good?

    Triclosan, an antimicrobial additive commonly used in toiletries (including hand soaps and some toothpastes), cleaning agents and other household products, is causing concern amongst some health officials. In Minnesota they have even taken the drastic step of banning this germ-killing agent from hand soaps that are produced for the consumer market effective 2017.  An article titled 'Triclosan Under the Microscope', which was recently published in the American Chemical Society's weekly magazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), investigates whether these concerns are justified.

    soap and hands triclosan

    When triclosan was first introduced onto the market it was used exclusively in hospitals and other health care environments as an antimicrobial agent to kill germs and prevent the spread of disease. Triclosan is in fact a pesticide -- it kills tiny critters that could potentially make us ill. But it was considered a more harmless option for use as a surgical scrub compared to the biocides that were being used before it was available. However, once it became the standard antimicrobial agent in hospitals, it was marketed to consumers and soon become available to the masses. Today it is added to a wide range of toiletries, including toothpastes, deodorants, cosmetics, hand soaps and detergents, as well as general household products that we use on a daily basis, such as cutting boards, tooth brushes, toys and carpets, to name a few. In one study 75% of the studies participants had triclosan in their urine samples. So what?

    According the EPA, triclosan is unlikely to pose a health threat to most people who come into contact with it. However, triclosan may accumulate in the system of certain individuals who are unable to metabolize the compound, who would then have higher levels of triclosan in their blood. Studies on animals have shown that triclosan can cause hormone disruptions and negatively affect the heart and muscles. The most vulnerable members of the population are breastfeeding babies and developing fetuses in the wombs of pregnant women with high exposure levels. Concerns of breast cancer have also been raised as a result of some lab tests.

    Triclosan can also potentially lead to antibiotic resistance, which is another area of concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) questions whether triclosan actually plays a significant- if any role in reducing infections, and has proposed stricter regulations that require manufacturers of antibacterial body wash and hand soap to prove that their products are more beneficial than ordinary soap and water in reducing the spread of infection and preventing illness.

    “Antibacterial soaps and body washes are used widely and frequently by consumers in everyday home, work, school, and public settings, where the risk of infection is relatively low,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in a statement. “Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.”

    Considering that after washing your hands with antibacterial soap or using an antimicrobial body wash in the shower, this soapy water -- now laced with the antibacterial agent (read pesticide) triclosan -- then flows down the plughole and enters the sewer, freshwater systems and/or soils, it also has environmental implications. Furthermore, as it may not break down readily in the environment, it is becoming increasingly likely that you may also be exposed this pesticide as a drinking water contaminant.

  • Fracking Wastewater Disposal Induces Earthquakes in Oklahoma

    Natural gas may be hailed as the next big thing, and is considered by some to be the answer to our energy problems. But it brings with it its own set of problems, many of which are far greater than energy/fuel shortages. Problems associated with fracking and fracking wastewater disposal include health and safety concerns, largely as a result of groundwater/drinking water contamination and methane leaking into the atmosphere, which happens to be one of the worst greenhouse gases. The recent spike in seismic activity and associated earthquakes in some states where fracking activity is prolific, has also been blamed on fracking activities.

    earthquake damage

    Oklahoma has seen a dramatic rise in the number of earthquakes since 2009, which according to a recent study published in Science (3rd July, 2014), is likely the result of subsurface injection of fracking wastewater at only a few wastewater disposal wells.

    According to lead author, Katie Keranen, a professor of geophysics at Cornell University, approximately half of all seismicity recorded in eastern and central USA between 2008-2013 occurred in Oklahoma; many of the quakes recorded occurred in areas where there is a high rate of subterranean wastewater disposal.

    Induced seismicity is one of the primary challenges for expanded shale gas and unconventional hydrocarbon development. Our results provide insight into the process by which the earthquakes are induced and suggest that adherence to standard best practices may substantially reduce the risk of inducing seismicity," said Keranen. "The best practices include avoiding wastewater disposal near major faults and the use of appropriate monitoring and mitigation strategies.

    According to the study's findings:

    • After analyzing pore pressure increase models for relocated earthquake hypo-centers, the study concludes that just four of Oklahoma's wastewater disposal wells (roughly 0.05% of wastewater disposal wells) that account for the highest volumes of wastewater could be responsible for triggering around 20% of earthquakes experienced in central USA over an area of around 1240 square miles.
    • Earthquakes can be triggered at distances more than 20 miles from wastewater disposal wells, which far exceeds the current criteria of 3 miles from wastewater disposal wells for diagnosing induces seismic activity.
    • The area of pressure increase relating to these wastewater disposal wells is continually expanding, thus increasing the likelihood of converging with a large geological fault, which further increases the danger of inducing an earthquake of higher magnitude.

    Earthquake and subsurface pressure monitoring should be routinely conducted in regions of wastewater disposal and all data from those should be publicly accessible. This should also include detailed monitoring and reporting of pumping volumes and pressures," said Keranen. "In many states the data are more difficult to obtain than for Oklahoma; databases should be standardized nationally. Independent quality assurance checks would increase confidence.3

    Journal Reference:
    K. M. Keranen, M. Weingarten, G. A. Abers, B. A. Bekins, and S. Ge. Sharp increase in central Oklahoma seismicity since 2008 induced by massive wastewater injection. Science, 3 July 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1255802

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