Thursday, August 29, 2013

What the Hell is the FDA & EPA Letting Us Eat and Drink and Why?

Would you drink this?

   We all love Jennifer Love Hewitt. Just love her. She’s so talented, pretty, and perky (she’d hate me for saying that. It’s been a long time since anyone’s called her “perky,” especially since she’s appeared in ”The Client List.”). I even wrote a short story that she magically appears in that can be found right here.
   And when she appears in films we all scramble to see them.
   And when I say we I mean me.
   However, when I saw the opening scene of “The Tuxedo,” the movie she starred in with the infamous Jackie Chan, I knew the film was in trouble. I mean who starts a major Hollywood production which is produced and distributed by DreamWorks, with a close up of a deer urinating into a mountain stream? And when I say close up I mean really close up. Some would think that would be in bad taste even though the film’s plot dealt with poisoning the general water supply with bacteria that spills electrolytes into the blood of those who drink it, which totally and ironically dehydrates them until they look like little raisins left out in the sun in the middle of a ferocious dust storm. I wouldn’t begin a film that way, but Kevin Donovan, the film’s director thought differently about it.
    "The movie is silly beyond comprehension, and even if it weren't silly, it would still be beyond comprehension," our late friend Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote of the film. Still he declared it did have it’s good moments, and I’ll posit that those good moments were all of the scenes with Jennifer Love Hewitt in them.
   “The Tuxedo,” cost $60 million to make and made $104 million worldwide, so it probably lost money upon it’s initial release considering marketing and distribution costs, which I’m sure was made up with rentals and re-broadcasts.
   Be that as it may this discussion of the film and the Lovely Jennifer does nothing to further our discussion about what the hell is the FDA and EPA is letting us eat and drink and why?
   Except, that sometimes we may be drinking water with deer piss, or bear piss, or squirrel piss, or fish piss, or worst of all, Blue jay piss in it.
   I like water. I drink it all of the time. I’m going to drink some right now as a matter of fact, please excuse me a moment... boy, that was good!
   I keep several bottles of it in my refrigerator in anticipation of getting thirsty. The refrigerator keeps my water nice and cold. I like it that way.
   When one of my bottles of water gets empty after I drank all of it, I don’t despair. I just fill it up again with water from the tap on my sink, then stick it back in my refrigerator to get it cold again.  It’s an endless cycle.
   I don’t mind drinking water from the tap. It tastes alright to me... it tastes good even. I’m going to have another drink right now...
   I make coffee with tap water, Top Ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes, rice, tea, and a whole bunch of other things.
   I wash my hands, brush my teeth, and even go so far as to shower with it occasionally.
   My dear sister doesn’t care for tap water and buys it in bottles from her local super market. Many do.
   The last time I visited her she took one of my bottles of tap water by mistake and began drinking it. I looked in her refrigerator for my bottle of water and couldn’t find it.
   “Cheryl, did you take my bottle of water,” I asked her.
   “Your bottle? I might have, why?”
   “You know it’s tap water, right?”
   “Oh... that’s why it tastes so terrible.”
   Apparently she doesn’t like the taste of tap water. I’m just the opposite. Bottled water tastes sterile to me, without taste.
   But is tap water safe to drink? Is bottled water safe to drink?
   I found that question asked on the Internet, especially concerning tap water here in Los Angeles where I live. Here’s a couple of answers:
  “The water is completely safe to drink any place in the US from the tap. Some areas the water tastes better than others, but it is all safe.
   But it seems everyone in LA drinks bottled water anyway. You can get cheap water at almost any grocery store or Walmart and premium brands as well, Fiji water is my choice for bottled water.”
   “Bottled water companies are masters at advertising - they have convinced people to purchase water (at many times the cost of gasoline) when perfectly good water is available practically for free out of the tap.
   Water in LA is perfectly safe. If you want to be able to take water with you, get/bring a reusable bottle and just refill from the tap as needed.”
   I do that already, so I feel extra clever not paying money for bottled water.
   But is it really safe, and where does it come from?
   In L.A.,  the Los Angeles Aqueduct, supplies water and electricity to 3.8 million residents. I’m probably one of them. The Metropolitan Water District imports water from the Colorado River and State Water Project and supplies it to member agencies and cities. Many cities also rely on groundwater, especially those along the coast.
   “In 1960, California voters approved financing for construction of the initial features of the State Water Project (SWP). The project includes some 22 dams and reservoirs, a Delta pumping plant, a 444-mile-long aqueduct that carries water from the Delta through the San Joaquin Valley to southern California. The project begins at Oroville Dam on the Feather River and ends at Lake Perris near Riverside. At the Tehachapi Mountains, giant pumps lift the water from the California Aqueduct some 2,000 feet over the mountains and into southern California.” -Water Education Foundation
   Okay, so a lot of our water here in L.A. comes from the Colorado River. But wait a second... the Colorado River originates in the Rocky Mountains.
   “The Rocky Mountains are an important habitat for a great deal of well-known wildlife, such as elk, moose, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, lynxes, and wolverines.” -Wikipedia
   I’m willing to bet they’ve got Blue jays up there as well. What’s to stop all of these animals from taking a leak in the streams that feed the Colorado River, and therefore straight into my tap water?
   Nothing. Nothing at all.
   What’s to stop people who swim or ski in the Colorado River, like at Lake Havasu, close to where my sister lives, from taking a leak in it as well. I would if I were them.
   Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing to stop them from doing so.
   So am I drinking a lot of pee laced water? Who’s responsible for monitoring the nation’s water supply.
   The Environmental Protection Agency is.
   According to the Center for Disease Control, “The United States has one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. Over 286 million Americans get their tap water from a community water system. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates drinking water quality in public water systems and sets maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants.”
   Maximum concentration levels for water chemicals and pollutants? Does that mean the EPA will allow a little pee in the water until it reaches a certain level?
   I suppose it does.
   There are other things besides pee that can be in our tap water as well.
   The CDC continues: “Sources of drinking water are subject to contamination and require appropriate treatment to remove disease-causing contaminants. Contamination of drinking water supplies can occur in the source water as well as in the distribution system after water treatment has already occurred. There are many sources of water contamination, including naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium), local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations), manufacturing processes, and sewer overflows or wastewater releases.
   The presence of contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.”
   Specifically examples include source microbial contaminants such as Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Norovirus.
   Contamination from Sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife (freaking deers!).
   Inorganic chemical contaminants like arsenic, copper, fluoride, and lead.
   Naturally occurring contaminants, or those resulting from urban stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, soil and gas production and mining or farming.
   Disinfectants such as Chlorine, chloramine, water additives for inactivating microbial contaminants.
   Byproducts of drinking water chlorination like haloacetic acids and  trihalomethane..
   Plus organic chemical contaminants such as pesticides and herbicides, benzene, toluene, agriculture storm runoff, byproducts of industrial processes and petroleum production, gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, and septic systems.
   Radioactive contaminants like radium and uranium that occur  or result from oil and gas production and mining activities.
   And let’s not forget good old methane, or natural gas, if you happen to live near a fracking operation (see picture and video above).        
   No wonder tap water tastes so good.
   Soooo, there is a possibility that our drinking water could be contaminated.
   But just a little bit.
   Yet we can still take some measure of solace in knowing “The United States as one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world.”
   So is my sister right in buying all of that bottled water? Is she better off? Healthier and safer?
   "Bottled water isn't any safer or purer than what comes out of the tap," says Dr. Sarah Janssen, science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, which conducted an extensive analysis of bottled water back in 1999. "In fact, it's less well-regulated, and you're more likely to know what's in tap water."
   "Bottled and tap water come from essentially the same sources: lakes, springs and aquifers, to list a few. In fact, a significant fraction of the bottled water products on store shelves are tap water -- albeit filtered and treated with extra steps to improve taste." - Los Angeles Times
   Alright, alright, I’ve learned enough. No more water for me. From now on it’s nothing but Pepsi Light.
   How about our food supply? Surely the Food and Drug Administration is looking out for us.
   And I’m not even going to bring up genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that have been in our food supply for about 20 years now, and which will most likely be the cause of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. No, I won’t say a word about them.
   The FDA itself says this: “FDA regulates food from GE (genetically engineered) crops in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and disease, including making sure that all new GE plant varieties pose no pest risk to other plants. EPA regulates pesticides, including those bioengineered into food crops, to make sure that pesticides are safe for human and animal consumption and do not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment.”
   Cool. So we don’t have to worry about those at all. (until Uncle Hector and Aunt Judy rise from the grave).
   But let’s pick some staple foods that Americans eat on a regular basis and see how the FDA and USDA, and EPA are doing their jobs and protecting us from unhealthy practices, like eating them. Oh, let’s say salmon for instance.
   I have some salmon in my refrigerator right now. Here, let me get it out. “Smoked Nova Salmon,” the package says, brought to me by Lasco since 1921. It’s America’s favorite salmon, the package also tells me. It’s hardwood smoked and premium quality.
   Okay, this looks pretty good. I might have some for lunch even.
   This appears to be wild salmon, that was frozen before being placed in my refrigerator.
   The FDA allows farm-raised salmon to be sold in the United States. Farm-raised fish are usually fed a diet of genetically engineered grains, antibiotics and chemicals unsafe for humans. To mask the resulting grayish flesh, they’re given toxic and potentially eyesight-damaging synthetic astaxanthin.
   You know what? Australia and New Zealand have the good sense to ban farm-raised salmon, one would think in a precautionary measure to protect their citizens from genetically engineered grains, antibiotics and chemicals  that are unsafe for humans (not to mention that synthetic astaxanthin).
   How about our pigs, cows, and turkeys? Well according to MSN Healthy Living, about 45 percent of US pigs, 30 percent of cattle, and an unknown percentage of turkeys are plumped with the asthma drug ractopamine before slaughter. Up to 20 percent of ractopamine is still there when you buy it. Since 1998, more than 1,700 US consumers of pork have been “poisoned” this way. It damages the human cardiovascular system and may cause hyperactivity, chromosomal abnormalities and behavioral changes (like zombiism). Currently, US meats aren’t even tested for it. For this very health threat, ractopamine-laced meats are banned in 160 different countries! Russia issued a ban on US meat imports, effective February 11, 2013, until it’s certified ractopamine-free.
   Mountain Dew and other drinks in the US contain the synthetic chemical brominated vegetable oil, originally patented as a flame retardant, and is banned in Japan and Europe.
   Arsenic-based drugs are approved in US-produced animal feed because they cause animals to grow quicker and meats products to look pinker and “fresher.” The FDA says arsenic-based drugs are safe because they contain organic arsenic … But organic arsenic can turn into inorganic arsenic, and run through contaminated manure and leach into our drinking water. The European Union has never approved using arsenic in animal feed, and environmental groups here at home  have sued the FDA to remove them.
   It’s kind of sad when we need to sue the agency responsible to protect out food, which in turn protects us, to do their job.
   Bread, hamburger and hotdog buns are “enriched” with potassium bromate, or bromide, linked to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort and cancer. I suffer from hypothyroidism and I’m thinking now it’s because of all of those hamburgers I ate at Jack In The Box and McDonalds when I was a kid.
   And the Filet-of-Fish sandwiches.
   God damn it!
   If I had been born in Canada, or Europe, or even China where it’s okay to pollute everybody to death, I wouldn’t have had to worry about it because bromides are banned there. Jeeez.
   On and on...
   Oh yeah, about those GMOs I wasn’t going to talk about, “The US government subsidizes the very crops identified as being the most harmful to human health and the environment; the top three being corn, wheat, and soybeans. And nearly all of the corn and soybeans grown are genetically engineered varieties.
   By subsidizing these, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated soybean oil, and meats loaded with antibiotics – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic disease. These junk-food subsidies make it much cheaper to buy a burger, fries and soda from a fast-food restaurant than it is to buy grass-fed beef and veggies. It's not that these foods necessarily cost more to grow or produce; rather the prices for the junk foods are being artificially reduced by the government.
   According to the report,* Americans die earlier and live in poorer health than people in other developed nations, which included Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the U.K.
   Of these 17 affluent countries, the US ranks last overall, and near the bottom in nine key areas of health, including low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and general disability. At 75.6 years, American men have the lowest life expectancy among the countries reviewed, and American women ranked second-to-last at 80.7 years. The infant mortality rate in the US is equally abysmal, with 32.7 deaths per 100,000, while most others range between 15 and 25 deaths per 100,000.”
   Why would the U.S. government subsidize these foods and practices, and turn a blind eye to their utilization in our national food supply (money, money, money, money, campaign contributions, money, money, money, money in politics, money)?
   I have no idea.

*US Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, -Steven H. Woolf and Laudan Aron, Editors; Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries; Committee on Population; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Institute of Medicine

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