Making beauty for
Making beauty for
There will be a Medicine Water Wheel ceremony in Frenchy’s Park for the Full Moon on Sunday 19th June at 6 PM to bless the Full Moon, Summer Solstice and Father’s Day. Hope you can make it. Please join us. Here is the schedule for the upcoming water wheel ceremonies for the rest of the year:
The California Drought Is Just the Beginning of Our National Water Emergency
For years, Americans dismissed dire water shortages as a problem of the Global South. Now the crisis is coming home.
July 15, 2015 in The Nation
A tire rests on the dry bed of Lake Mendocino, a key Mendocino County reservoir, in Ukiah, California February 25, 2014. (Noah Berger/Reuters)
The United Nations reports that we have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis and that, by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. Five hundred renowned scientists brought together by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that our collective abuse of water has caused the earth to enter a “new geologic age,” a “planetary transformation” akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. Already, they reported, a majority of the world’s population lives within a 30-mile radius of water sources that are badly stressed or running out.
For a long time, we in the Global North, especially North America and Europe, have seen the growing water crisis as an issue of the Global South. Certainly, the grim UN statistics on those without access to water and sanitation have referred mostly to poor countries in Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia. Heartbreaking images of children dying of waterborne disease have always seemed to come from the slums of Nairobi, Kolkata, or La Paz. Similarly, the worst stories of water pollution and shortages have originated in the densely populated areas of the South.
But as this issue of The Nation shows us, the global water crisis is just that—global—in every sense of the word. A deadly combination of growing inequality, climate change, rising water prices, and mismanagement of water sources in the North has suddenly put the world on a more even footing.
There is now a Third World in the First World. Growing poverty in rich countries has created an underclass that cannot pay rising water rates. As reported by Circle of Blue, the price of water in 30 major US cities is rising faster than most other household staples—41 percent since 2010, with no end in sight. As a result, increasing numbers cannot pay their water bills, and cutoffs are growing across the country. Inner-city Detroit reminds me more of the slums of Bogotá than the North American cities of my childhood.
Historic poverty and unemployment in Europe have also put millions at risk. Caught between unaffordable rising water rates and the imposition of European-wide austerity measures, thousands of families in Spain, Portugal, and Greece have had their water service cut off. An employee of the water utility Veolia Eau was fired for refusing to cut supplies to 1,000 families in Avignon, France.
As in the Global South, the trend of privatizing water services has placed an added burden on the poor of the North. Food and Water Watch and other organizations have clearly documented that the rates for water and sewer services rise dramatically with privatization. Unlike government water agencies, corporate-run water services must make a profit for their involvement.
And, as in the Global South, aging pipes and leaking water systems are not being repaired or upgraded by Northern municipalities, which have become increasingly cash-strapped as public funds dry up. It is estimated that the United States needs to spend $1 trillion over the next twenty-five years for water infrastructure. To pay for this in a time of tax-cutting hysteria, it is likely that the burden will fall on families and small businesses, pushing water rates even higher.
Climate change is another equalizing phenomenon. Melting glaciers, warming watersheds, and chaotic weather patterns are upsetting the water cycle everywhere. Higher temperatures increase the amount of moisture that evaporates from land and water; a warmer atmosphere then releases more precipitation in areas already prone to flooding and less in areas prone to drought. Indeed, drought is intensifying in many parts of the world, and deserts are growing in more than 100 countries.
Additionally, the relentless over-extraction of groundwater and water from rivers has caused great damage in the Global South and is now doing the same in the North. A June 2015 NASA study found that 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers—in locations from India and China to the United States and France—have passed their sustainability tipping points, putting hundreds of millions at risk. Stunningly, more than half the rivers in China have disappeared since 1990. Asia’s Aral Sea and Africa’s Lake Chad—once the fourth- and sixth-largest lakes in the world, respectively—have all but dried up due to unremitting use for export-oriented crop irrigation.
We need to change our relationship to water, and we need to do this quickly.
In Brazil, almost 2 trillion gallons of water are extracted every year to produce sugarcane ethanol. Cutting down the Amazon rain forests has dramatically reduced the amount of rain in the hydrologic cycle. Healthy rain forests produce massive amounts of moisture that are carried on air currents called “flying rivers” and supply rain to São Paulo thousands of miles away. The destruction of the rain forests and groundwater mining for biofuels has created a killing drought in a country once considered the most water-rich in the world. Not surprisingly, large-scale cutoffs and water rationing are taking a toll on millions of poor Brazilians.
The story repeats itself in the North. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the Ogallala Aquifer is so overburdened that it “is going to run out…beyond reasonable argument.” The use of bore-well technology to draw precious groundwater for the production of water-intensive corn ethanol is a large part of this story. For decades, California has massively engineered its water systems through pipelines, canals, and aqueducts so that a small number of powerful farmers in places like the Central Valley can produce water-intensive crops for export. Over-extraction is also putting huge pressure on the Great Lakes, whose receding shorelines tell the story.
* * *
There is some good news along with these distressing reports. An organized international movement has come together to fight for water justice, both globally and at the grassroots level. It has fought fiercely against privatization, with extraordinary results: Europe’s Transnational Institute reports that in the last 15 years, 235 municipalities in 37 countries have brought their water services back under public control after having tried various forms of privatization. In the United States alone, activists have reversed 58 water-privatization schemes.
This movement has also successfully fought for UN recognition that water and sanitation are human rights. The General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing these rights on July 28, 2010, and the Human Rights Council adopted a further resolution outlining the obligations of governments two months later.
Working with communities in the Global South, where water tables are being destroyed to provide boutique water for export, North American water-justice activists have set up bottled-water-free campuses across the United States and Canada. They have also joined hands to fight water-destructive industries such as fracking here and open-pit mining in Latin America and Africa.
THE NATION IS READER FUNDED. YOUR SUPPORT IS VITAL TO OUR WORK.
The most important defining feature of this movement is that it is based on solidarity. The same mix of issues confronts the Global North and South alike, and it’s only through respect and the sharing of resources, tactics, and information that we will bring water justice to communities around the world. Water activists increasingly understand that many of the assaults target indigenous lands, and that indigenous leadership and solidarity are key to the success of this movement.
It has now become time for governments around the world to step up and take serious action. It is utterly astonishing to me that, with the many (and growing) water crises across the United States, the issue of water does not come up in presidential campaigns. Energy, yes—water, no.
We humans have used the planet’s fresh water for our pleasure and profit, and created an industrial model of development based on conquering nature. It is time to see water as the essential element of an ecosystem that gives life to us all, and that we must protect with vigor and determination. We need to change our relationship to water, and do it quickly. We must do everything in our power to heal and restore the planet’s watersheds and waterways.
In practice, this means we need a new ethic that puts water and its protection at the center of all of the laws and policies we enact. The world would be a very different place if we always asked how our water practices—everything from trading across borders to growing food and producing energy—affect our most valuable resource.
Water must be much more equitably shared, and governments must guarantee access by making it a public service provided on a not-for-profit basis. The human right to water must become a reality everywhere. Likewise, water plunder must end: Governments need to stand up to the powerful industries, private interests, and bad practices destroying water all over the world. Water everywhere must be declared a public trust, to be protected and managed for the public good. This includes placing priorities on access to limited supplies, especially groundwater, and banning private industry from owning or controlling it. Water, in short, must be recognized as the common heritage of humanity and of future generations.
The global water crisis now unites us in a common struggle. Will its scarcity lead to conflict, violence, and war? Or it is possible that water will become a negotiating tool for cooperation and peace? Can it be nature’s gift to teach us how to better live with one another and tread more lightly on Mother Earth?
I surely hope so.
Maude Barlow, who chairs the boards of Food and Water Watch and the Council of Canadians, served as senior adviser on water to the 63rd president of the UN General Assembly. Her latest book is Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.
Please join us on Sunday March 22nd at El Museo Cultural from 4 – 9 PM as we celebrate World Water Day with a variety of presentations and performances focused on water. The evening ends with the first Santa Fe showing of the movie “Last Call at the Oasis” about the global water crisis, directed by Jessica Yu. (105 minutes). An art exhibit and information/product tables are also featured. Program will be posted on FaceBook and at https://waterawarenessgroup.wordpress.com/events-and-calendar/ Please call David to volunteer or if you are interested in a table ($25 donation) (505-231-0221). Call Joseph Sanchez to display your art. (505) 795-4365 General Info: Raphael 575 770 1228. Partially sponsored by Green Fire Times, Paper Tiger (posters) and The Printers, NA. LLC (printing)
Promoters of fluoridation repeat ad nauseam the mantra that fluoridation is “safe”, “effective” and “cost effective.” In part 2 I discuss the 6 KEY PAPERS that challenge the mantra of fluoridation’s “safety.” Or to be more precise – since there is no question that fluoride is very toxic and damages health – we will demonstrate that there is no adequate margin of safety to protect all citizens drinking artificially fluoridated water (and getting fluoride from other sources) from known health effects.
STUDIES ON THE TOXICITY OF FLUORIDE AND SAFETY OF FLUORIDATION
5. National Resource Council of the National Academies. 2006. Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.
A landmark report on the toxicology of fluoride is available to read and search for free online. It is one of the very few reviews of fluoride for which the panel was balanced. It contained both pro and anti-fluoridation scientists. The report concluded that the current U.S. maximum contaminant level for fluoride (4 ppm) in drinking water is an unsafe level for human health. The panel recommended that the EPA conduct a new risk assessment to establish a goal for a safe level of fluoride in drinking water (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, MCLG) and thence a new Federally enforceable standard (or MCL). After over 8 years the EPA has not completed this determination and so for 8 years the US continued to operate under unsafe standards for fluoride in water.
BONE DAMAGE. Among many health concerns the panel noted that fluoride damages the bone and accumulates there with a significantly long half-live. The first symptoms of bone damage are indistinguishable from arthritis and with further accumulation (fluoride’s half life in bone is at least 20 years) it makes the bones more brittle and prone to fracture.
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTER. The panel also concluded that fluoride is an endocrine disrupter. It lowers thyroid function and accumulates in the pineal gland (see paper 6 below).
NEUROTOXICIY. Many animal studies indicate that fluoride can enter and damage the brain via a number of mechanisms. At thetime this review was published only 5 IQ studies were available. Since publication this total has risen dramatically. Including new studies and older Chinese studies that have been translated by FAN, there are now (as of Dec 2014) 49 studies, of which 42 show an association between exposure to fairly modest doses of fluoride and lowered IQ (see papers 7-9 below). For those who want more details of all the animal and human studies on fluoride’s toxicity see FAN’s health database
OSTEOSARCOMA.At the time of publication the NRC panel had been informedbyFAN of a doctoral thesis by Elise Bassin from Harvard, whichindicated an association between exposure to fluoridated water at a critical age range in young boys (6-8 years) and succumbing by the age of 20, to osteosarcoma, a frequently fatal bone cancer. The NRC did not take a definitive position on this study preferring to wait for the study to be published. Bassin’s publication came in May of 2006 (discussed below, see paper 10). However the same edition of the journal also contained a letter from her pro-fluoridation thesis advisor Chester Douglass claiming that his larger study would show that her thesis did not hold. However, he has never published this promised rebuttal of her thesis.
Subsets of US population exceeding EPA’s safe reference dose. While the NRC review did not study fluoridation as such (either its risk or benefits), the authors did provide an exposure analysis (see Chapter 2). The panel showed that several subsets of the population drinking fluoridated water at 1 ppm fluoride (including bottle-fed infants) are exceeding the EPA’s safe reference dose of 0.06 mg/kg/day (see the diagram on page 85). This finding makes nonsense of the claim by both ADA and the CDC that this very important review was not relevant to water fluoridation.
No margin of safety. Based on this review it is abundantly clear that fluoride damages health and that for several end-points (including lowered IQ), there is no adequate margin of safety to protect all individuals in a large population drinking fluoridated water. This critical conclusion is often lost on promoters of fluoridation who confuse concentration with dose. They simplistically compare the concentration of fluoride in the water of the community examined with the concentration of fluoride in artificially fluoridated water. Such a comparison does not provide a margin of safety. For that one needs two things:
First, one has to ascertain the range of dosesin the fluoridated population. This takes into account how much water citizens drink (which can be very large because there is no control on the amount of water consumed) and how much fluoride they get from other sources.
Second, in order to determine a safe dose (sufficient to protect everyone) one also has to take into account the full range of sensitivity to a toxic substance anticipated in a large population. It is the failure to do this that has been the biggest and most reckless mistake of the fluoridation program since it began and fluoridation promoters today.
6. Luke J. 2001. Fluoride Deposition in the Aged Human Pineal Gland.Caries Research 35(2):125-128. See also Luke’s PhD thesis click here.
Luke showed that fluoride accumulates on the calcified deposits in the human pineal gland and lowers melatonin production in animals. No health agency in any fluoridating country has attempted to repeat Luke’s work despite the fact that melatonin levels have been related to many health problems. For example, Autistic children produce no melatonin.
7. Xiang Q, Liang Y, Chen L, et al. 2003a. Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride 36(2):84-94, and Xiang Q, Liang Y, Zhou M, and Zang H. 2003b. Blood lead of children in Wamiao-Xinhuai intelligence study [letter]. Fluoride 36(3):198-199.
Of the 42 (out of 49) studies (as of Dec 2014) that have found a relationship between fluoride exposure and lowered IQ, the Xiang study is one of the most important.
In the Xiang study, the authors controlled for key confounding values such as lead, and iodine (and arsenic retrospectively), parental income and educational status. In addition to comparing the mean IQ of children between the high-fluoride and low-fluoride village (a drop of 5-10 IQ points across the whole age range) they also sub-divided the children in the high-fluoride village into 5 groups with mean fluoride concentrations ranging from 0.7 to 4.3 ppm (see Table 8 in their study).
By focusing on one village they eliminated any other environmental differences between the two villages. They found that as the fluoride concentration in the five sub-groups increased two things happened: 1) the mean IQ systematically decreased and 2) the percentage of children with an IQ less than 80 (borderline mentally handicapped) dramatically increased from 0% to 37.5%.
Lowest level where IQlowered. The lowering of IQ is first observed in the sub-group at 1.53 ppm, and bearing in mind the range of fluoride concentration for that sub-group, one has to conservatively assume that some children in this study would have had their IQ lowered at the lower end of the range fluoride concentrations in this group 1.26 ppm.
Such a result leaves absolutely no margin of safety to protect all children in an artificially fluoridated community (fluoride levels between 0.7 to 1.2 ppm) from this serious outcome. Please note there is no margin of safety to protect:
A) Against the full range of exposure, especially when you consider the different amounts of water drunk by children and their exposure to other sources such as toothpaste. It should also be added that in two respects the Chinese children in the Xiang study would have had less exposure to fluoride from two key sources than American children. Children living in rural Chinese villages are less likely to be using fluoridated toothpaste and less likely to be bottle-fed (bottle-fed babies, where the formula is made up with fluoridated water, get about 200 times more fluoride than breast-fed babies).
B) Nor does it protect against the full range of sensitivity expected in a large population (as discussed in 5 above).
The last children that need a further lowering of IQ are children from low-income families, whose IQ has already been compromised by so many other factors (e.g. poorer diet, poorer educational opportunities and more exposure to pollution). Yet it is these children who are the primary target of fluoridation programs.
8. Choi AL, Sun G, Zhang Y, Grandjean P. 2012. Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10):1362–1368.
This Meta-analysis of 27 IQ studies was conducted by a team from Harvard including world-famous neuroscientist Philippe Grandjean (an expert on mercury and author of the recent book, “Only One Chance”). This team acknowledged weaknesses in many of the studies but also noted the remarkable consistency of the finding that IQ was lowered in 26 out of the 27 studies reviewed. The average lowering was 7 IQ points, which is substantial, considering that at the population level even an average lowering of one IQ should be avoided.
9. Choi AL, Zhang Y, Sun G, et al. 2015. Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot study.Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 47:96–101.
This Pilot study in China was carried out at fluoride levels, which overlap levels used in US fluoridation programs. They didn’t measure IQ specifically in this study but reported the results of a very simple test: the child’s ability to repeat a sequence of numbers both forwards and backwards. Even children with very mild dental fluorosis performed less well on this specific mental development test, than children without fluorosis. One of the experts involved in this study was Dr. David Bellenger who is world famous for his studies on lead’s neurotoxicity.
Another co-author was Dr. Philippe Grandjean and in an editorial on his website “Chemical Brain Drain”he used this study to counteract the claim from proponents that the IQ findings were not relevant to the fluoride levels used in water fluoridation. For the children in this study, Grandjean writes:
“Their lifetime exposures to fluoride from drinking water covered the full range allowed in the US. Among the findings, children with fluoride-induced mottling of their teeth – even the mildest forms that appears as whitish specks on the enamel – showed lower performance on some neuropsychological tests. This observation runs contrary to popular wisdom that the enamel effects represent a cosmetic problem only and not a sign of toxicity. At least one of five American children has some degree of mottling of their teeth…Prevention of chemical brain drain should be considered at least as important as protection against caries.” (my emphasis, PC).
10. Bassin EB, Wypij D, Davis RB, Mittleman MA. 2006. Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma (United States). Cancer Causes and Control, May;17(4):421-8.
This is the only study of osteosarcoma (a frequently fatal bone cancer in children), which studied the age at which exposure to fluoride was experienced. The authors write:
We observed that for males diagnosed before the age of 20 years, fluoride level in drinking water during growth was associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma, demonstrating a peak in the odds ratios from 6 to 8 years of age. All of our models were remarkably robust in showing this effect, which coincides with the mid-childhood growth spurt.
The finding that there may a critical window of vulnerability in young men has never been refuted – or even investigated – since Bassin’s paper was published in 2006. The shocking fact is that with this paper comes the possibility that a few young men each year may be dying from osteosarcoma because they have been exposed to fluoridated water at a critical age. Even though this has not been refuted the practice of fluoridation continues to be pushed by health authorities. Where is the precautionary principle here?
Between them the TEN KEY PAPERS (listed in part 1) invalidate all three claims of the pro-fluoridation mantra.
Fluoridation is not effective.
The largest US study (Brunelle and Carlos, 1990) and the most precise study of children’s tooth decay (Warren et al., 2010) provide little evidence that swallowing fluoride reduces tooth decay. Featherstone, 2000 (and others) have provided the probable reason for these problematic results. The predominant (if any) benefit of fluoride is topical not systemic. There is no need to swallow fluoride to fight tooth decay and there is no justifiable reason to force people to drink fluoridated water against their will.
Fluoridation is not safe.
There is no disputing the fact that fluoride damages health but what about fluoridation? The landmark 500-page review by the National Research Council (NRC, 2006) showed that certain subsets of the US public are exceeding the EPA’s safe reference dose for fluoride, including bottle-fed infants. The NRC (2006) reviewed many health impacts for which there is no adequate margin of safety to protect all individuals drinking fluoridated water. These include lowered thyroid function, accumulation in the pineal gland (Luke et al., 2001), bone damage, and lowered IQ (Xiang at al, 2003a,b). Xiang found that some children had their IQ lowered at fluoride levels as low as 1.26 ppm. Xiang’ study was one of 42 studies that have found this effect. A Review by a Harvard team (Choi et al, 2012) found an average lowering of 7 IQ points in 26 out of 27 studies. Choi et al, 2015 found learning disabilities in children with very mild fluorosis, which impacts many US children. Thus fluorosis at any level can no longer be considered merely a cosmetic affect. A study by Bassin et al., 2006 has disturbingly shown that some young boys may be losing their lives each year from being exposed to fluoridated water at 1 ppm in their 6th, 7th and 8th years. This study remains unrefuted.
Fluoridation is not cost-effective.
Lo and Thiessen(2014) have demolished the claim by CDC economist Susan Griffin that for every dollar spent on fluoridation $38 is saved on dental treatment. This claim by Griffin has been used Ad Nauseam by promoters of fluoridation including many state public health officials. Will they continue to do so?