Is our water safe to drink or our food safe to eat?

How safe is the water we drink and the food we eat? I guess it depends on who you ask.

My grandma told me that “you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die” after I inadvertently got some mud in my mouth. After all these years I suppose I have “eaten” more than a pound as I made my way through life. I am told that our immune system requires exposure to certain contaminates to build up immunity to diseases, and so far I haven’t had any major illnesses.

Water and food are essential to life; without either for very long you die. Preserving food, even for short periods, and then preparing a meal requires special packaging to assure it stays fresh until you need it.

Now, if we believe current government hysteria, we find out that some of the materials used in packaging and cooking utensils may be slowly killing us.

Why? Because so called “PFAS forever chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)” are found in many common products that are used daily.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, “PFAS can be present in our water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes or workplaces, including in public drinking water systems and private drinking water wells; at landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites such as those that fall under the federal Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act programs. 

In aqueous film-forming foams (or AFFFs) used to extinguish flammable liquid-based fires. Such foams are used in training and emergency response events at airports, shipyards, military bases, firefighting training facilities, chemical plants, and refineries.

At chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.

In food; for example in fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS and dairy products from livestock exposed to PFAS; in grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers.

In household products and dust—for example in stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other fabrics; cleaning products; non-stick cookware; paints, varnishes, and sealants. In personal care products—for example in certain shampoo, dental floss, and cosmetics.”

This sounds bad, but how bad is it?

During my 20 years as a military firefighter, I was frequently covered in AFFF during firefighting operations. Over the years, thousands of gallons were used during hot fire training sessions on military bases and civilian airports all over the world. There I drank the water, and once again I have suffered no health issues.

In Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace standards, the government uses time-weighted-averages (TWA) to gauge when workers need to use personal protective equipment to avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals. TWAs are based on 8-hour exposure for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to determine “exposure to high levels.” This is several magnitudes greater than the general public is exposed to daily.

The EPA says, “Current scientific research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain PFAS may lead to adverse health outcomes. However, research is still ongoing to determine how different levels of exposure to different PFAS can lead to a variety of health effects. Research is also underway to better understand the health effects associated with low levels of exposure to PFAS over long periods of time, especially in children.”

So, it looks like they really have no idea of the level of risk. But never mind, the “government is here to help you” and they will save you whether they know definitively what the problem or solution is or not. You can’t be too safe, you know, as we discovered with all the COVID-19 hysteria when tens of thousands of people who took all the precautions the government mandated got sick anyway, but a number who didn’t take any precautions did not get sick.

The EPA has recently changed the action levels for PFAS substances in drinking water systems even though “research is still ongoing.” They have lowered the acceptable levels to 4 parts-per-trillion, well below the current standards. To put this in context, paint four ping pong balls blue and put them in a box containing a trillion red ping pong balls and try to find them. The cost to local water districts to test and treat is unknown, but you can bet it will be substantial.

I am going to heed my grandma’s suggestion that “you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die” and not worry about this latest government concern.

Ron Fink wrote to the Sun from Lompoc. Respond with a letter to the editor by emailing [email protected].

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