Fraudulent Risk Assessments Threaten Public Health

Neurodegenerative disease is the fastest-growing cause of death around the world. The gross mismanagement of infectious waste is contributing to the epidemic.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” 

President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we all are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence and reckless disregard for public health. The risk assessments for wastewater reclamation and the recycling of sewage sludge (biosolids) were prepared before the world of science ever heard about unstoppable prions in sewage.

TSE is a spectrum disease also known as prion disease. The spectrum includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and an extremely aggressive version known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Prusiner claims that all forms of TSE are caused by infectious proteins known as prions (PREE-ons). Prions are unstoppable. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency.

The prion spectrum varies in severity. It also varies depending on which region of the brain is impacted first. When the presenting symptom is memory loss, the diagnoses flow along the following chart.

prion disease spectrum

Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them because infectious prions are in the urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva of each victim. These infectious bodily fluids are contributing to the rapid spread of Alzheimer’s and other mutations of prion disease.

“There is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins (prions).”

In June 2012, Prusiner confirmed that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and even ALS are prion diseases similar, if not identical, to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). The primary difference being which part of the brain the disease attacks first. The other variable is that there are now an unknown number of prion mutations. Mutations of these deadly prions are the common denominator between all forms of TSEs. Most of the carnage is being swept under the rug as the problem escalates.

Alzheimer’s and CJD are often indistinguishable to neurologists and general practitioners. Misdiagnoses are common. It appears that CJD is caused by a more aggressive mutation of prion than Alzheimer’s, but a deadly prion is a deadly prion. There is no reason to believe that some prions behave differently than others in disease transmission and progression. There should be no difference in disease management.

According to neuroscientists Dr. Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are not Alzheimer’s disease. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones. Millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of patients and caregivers are being misinformed, misguided and exposed to an aggressive disease. Misdiagnosis and misinformation regarding prion disease is a matter of life and death. The mismanagement doesn’t end here.

Although there are many causes contributing to prion disease, many people and animals are contracting it from environmental exposure (food, water and soil) and then contaminating the environment even more with their own bodily fluids. Communities and watersheds are at risk of permanent contamination from just a single victim, not to mention thousands of infectious victims. Alzheimer’s disease is an environmental nightmare–it’s a real-world version of Pandora’s box.

Not only are homes, hospitals and entire communities exposed to the prion pathogen, so are entire sewage treatment systems. Wastewater treatment plants are prion incubators and distributors. Wastewater reclamation is reckless.

The sewage sludge and wastewater released are spreading disease far and wide. Victims of prion disease are walking time bombs. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the most deadly form of prion disease in humans. Without dispute, it is a very contagious disease that kills rapidly. There is no cure for CJD and other forms of prion disease. 

Unfortunately, as more people contract these brain diseases, the more deadly wastewater streams become. Meanwhile, wastewater reuse is surging around the world in response to growing populations and dwindling water resources. Other by-products from the wastewater stream known as biosolids (sewage sludge) also are being used to fertilize crops, pastures for livestock, golf courses, playgrounds and gardens. Millions of people, including your family, are in harm’s way because wastewater treatment plants can’t stop prions. Regulators and industry are playing dumb as the body count keeps rising. It’s a deadly circle enabled by an outdated risk assessment. Modern science is being ignored.

sewage treatment plant and prion disease

The largest prion pathway in the world is wastewater (infectious waste) from homes, hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses, dental offices and other high-risk sources. The problem is that prions are in all bodily fluids and cell tissue of millions of victims who often go undiagnosed. Their mucus, saliva, feces, and urine are flushed down millions of toilets and rinsed down sinks every day.

Wastewater treatment plants are collecting points for prions from infected humans. The sewage treatment process can’t stop prions from migrating, mutating and multiplying before being discharged into the environment where they can kill again. Wastewater treatment plants are spreading infectious waste far and wide because they are incapable of stopping prions. As such, all by-products and discharges from wastewater treatment plants are infectious waste, which are contributing to the global epidemic of neurodegenerative disease among humans, wildlife and livestock. Sewage treatment plants can’t detect or stop prions.

Reckless risk assessments enable wastewater treatment plants to spread these deadly agents far and wide. Deadly prions are building up and incubating in sewage treatment plants and then dumped openly on land. They are swept into the air by the wind. Now, water contaminated by prions is migrating into our rivers, lakes and oceans. It’s being injected into groundwater and it’s being recycled as tap water.

biosolids and public health

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to it’s antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions an “emerging contaminant of concern.” (The EPA National Water Research Compendium 2009-2014 lists prions eight times as an emerging contaminant of concern in sewage sludge, biosolids, wastewater and manure).

According to the EPA, “Prions are extremely resistant to inactivation by ultraviolet light, irradiation, boiling, dry heat, formaline, freezing, drying and changes in pH. Methods for inactivating prions in infected tissues or wastes include incineration at very high temperatures and alkaline hydrolysis.” As it turns out, even these forms of inactivation are not foolproof and such aggressive measures are not happening at the wastewater treatment plant.

Dr. Claudio Soto prion research

Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the George and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Related Illnesses at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues are the latest to find prions in urine. The study appeared in the August 7, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Studies performed earlier by Ruth Gabizon in 2001 and Reichl in 2002 also detected deadly prions in bodily fluids.

Recent studies are confirming the presence of prions in blood. The U.S. EPA and other regulatory bodies around the world are ignoring these risks in the wastewater treatment and reuse process.

Wastewater Reuse and Prions

Both the EPA and the Wastewater Effluent Federation (WEF) admit that there is no way to detect prions in wastewater or to stop them (the urine test mentioned above debunks this myth about detection). As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within sewage processing plants. This deliberate lack of directive allows budget-strapped states and counties to regulate the practices in a variety of ways that best suit local industries. Corruption at all levels has shut down all attempts to reform wastewater treatment policies and practices, including the reuse of all discharges.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Centers for Disease Control should reclassify prions as a select agent again that threatens public health. It should regulate prion pathways accordingly. It should enforce the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to force these reforms immediately and to demand updated risk assessments. Similar measures should be enacted around the world immediately.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment or pellet production processes can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

As many hospitals have learned the hard way, deadly prions are unstoppable in the sterile confines of an operating room that has been exposed to someone with prion disease. Prions are totally unaccounted for in the high-volume streams at wastewater treatment plants. Prions migrate, mutate and multiply as they move through the environment and up the food chain. Prions from humans are the most aggressive and deadly. Wastewater treatment plants have been prion incubators and distributors for decades. Once unleashed on the environment, prions remain infectious. They migrate, mutate, multiply and infect crops, water supplies, wildlife, livestock, sea mammals and humans.

Sewage treatment plants and their discharges are permanently infected. Once a prion reaches the soil, the soil is permanently contaminated and the entire watershed below that point is at risk forever. If your food and water is generated in that watershed, you and your family are exposed. We can’t afford to further contaminate entire watersheds with reclaimed wastewater and sewage sludge, which increases prion pathway to humans, livestock, and wildlife downstream and up the food chain.

land application sewage sludge

Because of these factors and others, we have an epidemic of prion disease around the world right now. The epidemic is worse in some regions than others. For example, the death rate for Alzheimer’s disease is higher in Finland than any other country. Iceland and the United States are runners up. In fact, the death rate for Alzheimer’s is higher in North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington state than any other known region in the world.

The urine and sewage connection helps explain why the global epidemic is exploding. More than 50 million people around the world are known to have these infectious neurodegenerative diseases today. Millions more have the disease, but don’t know it, yet. In addition to these people, millions of infected people around the world who have already died used our sewage systems over the past century. Millions more are using them today. Prions become more aggressive as they work their way up the food chain, which is why those shed from humans are the deadliest mutations.

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, also has studied the dynamics of prions in sewage. He found that prions become 680 times more infective in certain soils. Pedersen’s research also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. As such, sewage by-products are clearly a deadly form of infectious waste.

prion research Joel Pedersen

“If prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

Unfortunately, farmers are spreading tons of biosolids (sewage sludge) and reclaimed wastewater on farmland every day to produce our food. Surface water runoff is contaminating our streams, lakes, rivers and oceans. Organic food operations, including fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy are not immune to prion exposure thanks to migration via wind and water.

Thanks to misinformation and mismanagement, infectious waste, toxic waste and nuclear waste found in wastewater are contributing to cancer, neurological disease, respiratory disease and other maladies in humans, wildlife and livestock. The battle against Zika virus also is off target. The battle against mosquitoes is missing the war against infectious waste.

In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that 860 billion gallons of sewage escapes sewer systems across the country every year. That’s enough to flood all of Pennsylvania ankle-deep. It’s enough for every American to take one bath each week for an entire year.

TSEs also include mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in the deer family. Few, if any, mammals are immune. Thanks to the mismanagement of infectious waste, including sewage, the animal world is contracting prion disease from humans. They also are passing it among themselves via their own bodily fluids. Species barriers are a myth.

CWD Norway reindeer

With these risks in mind, we need many reforms to safeguard human health and environmental pathways. The first step is to conduct thorough risk assessments that are not influenced by industry or corrupt government agencies. Toilet-to-tap projects are not based on modern science. The land application of sewage sludge is not a form of fertilizer. Answers to prion management and containment begin with the truth. It’s time to reclassify prions as select agents and enforce the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to defend our food and water supplies from nerve agents known as prions. It’s time to classify sewage and its by-products as infectious waste. It isn’t a safe source of water. It isn’t fertilizer and it isn’t biofuel.

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