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Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water Leave Military Families Reeling (nytimes.com)
226 points by longdefeat 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

Blood testing has emerged as a sticking point. Specifically, a growing movement of veterans and others, united in advocacy groups with names like Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and Need Our Water, are asking the military test their blood for the chemicals, hoping to bring results to their doctors or use them in lawsuits.

Strange that the article is being so cagey about why this might be the case.

Every human blood sample tested since the 1950s has shown detectable perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA aka C8, a member of the PFAS class of chemicals mentioned in the article). The problem was so bad that DuPont had to search high and low for blood samples that weren't contaminated with PFOA. They did eventually find clean samples - archived from a group of recruits for the Korean War.

A little about the chemistry. Think of most forms of grease as a greasy, long, water-repellant chain of carbon-hydrogen bonds attached to a small water-attractive "polar" head. PFASs replace all of the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the greasy tail with carbon-fluorine bonds. This makes the molecule repel grease (great for non-stick coatings throughout the house). But the carbon-fluroene bond is quite inert, thus the name "forever chemical." There are few environmental mechanisms that can degrade them - either exposed or inside a body.

This article fails to put the problem into proper context - making it sound unique to military bases. That not true. PFOA is a problem at numerous sites. Nobody knows the long-term consequences of releasing this much highly-inert, carcinogenic material into the environment. What is known is that those unfortunate enough to have worked on PFOA production and who received high exposure to it developed horrific problems including cancers.

The Intercept did a massive series on this:


The Netflix documentary "The Devil We Know" is also worth watching:


That's a nice explanation. But what I don't get is: if the chemical is highly inert that means it doesn't react easily with other substances, so how then can it be carcinogenic?

Even if not reactive in the sense of forming chemical bonds with cellular material, interactions through mechanisms like Van der Walls forces could change 3D shapes of enzymes, altering their reactivity. If those enzymes participate in cellular replication, the effect could be carcinogenic.

Poor car analogy: tossing a ball bearing into the open oil fill cap in your car will probably not cause the ball bearing to bond with the lifters, valve springs & stems, etc. But it will probably damage your engine.

Yes, there are many ~inert enzyme inhibitors. And receptor agonists and antagonists.

I think that's a perfectly accurate analogy.

Another analogy could be to introduce tens of thousands of pink balloons into a basketball game. The players are able to see each other and they know what to do the ball but the balloons get in the way and sometimes make the ball bounce in unexpected ways.

Anything that promotes cell death, and/or division it probably carcinogenic.

Figure cellular membranes are sensitive to intracellular volume, ergo, pack a cell with inert space filling molecules that never leave, and are not evacuated, and the cell splits more readily, faster than usual.

Also, because it doesn't react, it probably creates obstacles and cytoplasmic traffic jams, as objects traverse the endoplasmic reticulum, if timing is thrown off for critical functions, the cell probably dies, due to improperly tuned pathways that don't signal each other properly, leading to flame-outs, stalls and caustic burns or wasted energy inside the cell.

It doesn't react chemically but is useful for its physical properties, which means it does influence the environment it's in in that manner. I wouldn't rule it out as carcinogenic because it's mostly chemically inert because of the same reasoning, namely that there are other ways it may change the environment than chemically.

Asbestos causes cancer like this, more or less, I think. It's not like silica is inherently toxic.

Asbestos causes cancer because of repetitive trauma to the pleural space with subsequent chronic inflammation acquired by breathing.

Here's a simple example, showing how "doesn't react with" doesn't imply "doesn't interact with": CO poisoning. In the normal course of things, hemoglobin in our blood binds O2 in our lungs, and releases it downstream. But if we breath CO, it also binds to hemoglobin. Very tightly. A lot more tightly than O2 does. So eventually, there's too little free hemoglobin for carrying O2. And we die.

Something doesn't need to react to influence the environment; it can act as a catalyst, cause damage physically, or bring smaller things with it pass defenses.

> This article fails to put the problem into proper context - making it sound unique to military bases

From the article:

> While the military has used the chemicals extensively, it is far from the only entity to do so, and in recent years, companies like DuPont have come under fire for leaching PFAS into water systems.

Another very interesting long-form article on the C8 thing:


Yes. It's not just military bases.

But it's worse, because it's not just PFAS. There are probably 10^5-10^6 chemicals in commercial use. Many of them are persistent. Maybe not "forever chemicals", but persistent enough to be problematic. And we're all carrying them in our fat.

Rather like global climate change, it's just too late.

The military has a long history of dumping toxic crap and handling substances with at best negligence.

I wonder if there's a way to democratize inexpensive health testing and see these trends faster? Imagine a world where you're testing your blood/sweat/saliva/vitals daily and semi-anonymously sending the results to be analysed using statistical methods. A doctor can give you a one time use current diagnoses voucher to add into the system for serious diseases. The whole thing is voluntary. There's definitely some dystopian abuse potential, but in the US healthcare is already a disaster for a large portion of the population, and this could lessen that. Is it possible for something like this to be created?

I so wish states were massive scale testing device machines/manufacturer.

ps: a lot of systemic issues are due to lack of information and trust. To exemplify, there was a story about people electricity consumption. Those with a counter in the basement used a lot more than those with the counter near the front door.

Counter? Electricity meter?

Yeah sorry, very lazy french loan~

The US health care system is dystopian. These are just challenges that are not possible to ignore.

have to weigh your benefits against the ballooning number of false positives and negatives.

If only there were a medical device company capable or cheap blood test processing to disrupt and innovate this field:^)

Is that the actual constraint on the system though? Are existing technologies not up to the task? Or are we failing to build a system like this with existing technology even though it's possible. Would a robotic assembly line with existing medical testing technologies be possible?

He's making a funny joke about Theranos.

That said most routine tests are pretty cheap. A stool culture with isolation where I am is $135 if you're paying cash at the lab. A lipid panel was well under $50. It's just that you'd need to see a gastroenterologist, pay for her services, hope that she gives you a referral, and see a new one if not. This drives the price in time and money.

A- that's still quite a bit of money B- The proposal was to get thousands (millions?) of volunteers to do these tests regularly and speculatively, price won't stay the same

A lot of the constraints are social ("political").

Historically, if you got VD -- back when it was called that -- they took the names of all your recent sex partners, tracked them down and notified them and treated them.

It was a system that was fairly effective.

Then AIDS came along and was associated with homosexuality and IV drug use. For understandable reasons, such people didn't want to name names. So the mantra became "we need better drugs."

That general line of reasoning seems to be a trend. We can't do x, y or z because reasons, and then we don't actually have an answer, basically. Hopefully, that will change.

There's one general point that has to always be considered in these sort of ideas. Resources are not infinite. Of course you realize this, but I think we who come from the software world can fail to appreciate how severely restricting a problem this actually is. There are 325 million people in the US. Let's imagine a very high participation rate and just exclude infants and some outliers, just so see what would happen. So we'll call it 300 million.

That's 300 million tests per day or about 110 billion per year. The cost there is already going to be extreme. Even if you can get the tests down to $10/person, which you probably cannot, that's more than a trillion dollars a year -- upwards of 5% of the GDP. But the bigger issue here is what money represents: resources.

Machinery, maintenance, operation, even the strain on the transportation system would be intolerable. For instance think about the little kit you send over with your sample. I mean you'd think just getting it there would be negligible, but it'd be anything but. The USPS currently handles 20.2 million pieces of mail per hour. [1] Just handling these packages alone would increase the entire postal system's burden by more than 60%!

Or even consider the simple packaging that needs to be produced and disposed of. How small of a kit can we get to ensure sterility, sufficient sample size, and transportation safety? Let's say 100 grams. That doesn't seem like that much, but again think about it at scale. That's 30 million kilograms. For some sort of scale, The Statue of Liberty weighs about 200,000 kilograms. So each day you're talking about 150 Statues of Liberty of packaging and material that needs to be manufactured, distributed, delivered, processed, and disposed.

Big ideas in the physical world have quite tremendous barriers.


As one interesting aside, imagine you took the market value for literally every single consumed good and service in the US, the sum total of money invested by businesses, and all government expenditure on top of it. And then you divided that equally among every man, woman, and child. How much would it be? It's interesting to compare expectation versus reality there. Conveniently what I described is really easy to measure - it's the GDP/capita. And it's less than $60,000. I always find that number quite bemusing when thinking about it contrasted against our economic ideals in various matters.

[1] - https://facts.usps.com/one-day/

Well, considering how the U.S. (where I live) spends about 1 trillion + on war or war-related stuff each year, and, considering all the people in the country with crappy jobs that can't pay the bills, seems like shifting even say $500 billion (plenty enough left to bomb people) to hire or train folks to solve these problems would be a good investment.

Don't be so pessimistic. Show some innovative thinking! What about "The Internet of Things" (down there)? Imagine something like these japanese super potties with integrated bidet function. Make it smart with all sorts of sensors which ANALyze urine, stool and for good measure add an anal probe. Couple this with something from Apple like iHealth and call it iShit, connect it to some insurer and everyone's a winner! Almost instant feedback from INPUT to OUTPUT, even the ability to prove how badly something on your daily commute has influenced some level of something because of course you have constant gps-coverage of your whereabouts, like everybody else too? Think Big Data! CACC™ = comfortably autoclaim compensation

/me vanishes whinnying into the off... (sorry, for some reason i really couldn't resist)


I grew up drinking and bathing in the toxic waters around a military base in North Carolina. Thirty years later, I went back to investigate.:


From the 1950s until at least 1985, the drinking water was contaminated with toxic chemicals at levels 240 to 3400 times higher than what is permitted by safety standards. ... Camp Lejeune has been characterized as a candidate for the worst water contamination case in U.S. history—and I am one of up to a million people who were poisoned. The tragedy, though, is hardly all in the past.

According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the military's failures are continuing today; mistakes are being repeated at our bases overseas, and, in foreign cases, it took a whistleblower to prompt action on contaminated water. A 2013 investigative report produced by the Navy inspector general, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals "shortfalls in the oversight and management of drinking water for Navy personnel stationed overseas—even in wealthy, developed countries." The report concludes that "not a single Navy overseas drinking water system meets U.S. compliance standards" or the Navy's own governing standards," according to POGO.

I don’t know where the ‘foreign’ place referred to is, but this is playing out in New Zealand too. The slow moving shambles is shameful. https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/amp.rnz.co.nz/article/80fdd24...

In general, overseas millitary based have no concern for the health or well-being of the people around them without US passports.

They won't deliberately give them all cancer, but they also won't raise a finger to prevent it.

This is really bad. Most bad things in life are reversible but this degree of health damage isn't.

May everyone responsible for this be exemplarily punished to deter this kind of disregard for human life from happening again.

> Since then, the Defense Department has admitted that it allowed a firefighting foam to slip into at least 55 drinking water systems at military bases around the globe, sometimes for generations. This exposed tens of thousands of Americans, possibly many more, to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals known as PFAS that have been linked to cancers, immune suppression and other serious health problems.

They will not be punished. They never are.





The "problems" kill people. From the governments perspective this soft, civilian side, collateral damage is a required cost of our military machine. Inside of the military you have no real chance unless it is egregious beyond comprehension to ever get any kind of remedy.

The government will poison you and your family and then look at you with dead eyes and pat your survivors on the head and tell you to move on. EVERY one of those sites have a history of medical issues in the nearby community. A little "light" water table poisoning is nothing to the government if people can't pursue the vast history and documented scope of nuclear weapons production poisoning people.

Unfortunately we have an issue where we don't learn until the effects become unbearable. The sad part is that the effects that we're inducing on the environment are largely undoable. When we finally learn our lesson and decide that money and power shouldn't be able to override not just local health, but global health, it'll be too late and we'll just need to learn to live with the shitty world we've left for ourselves.

This isn't just the military. Corporations rarely are held 100% accountable for the damage they do. The only person who cares about individuals are individuals.

It's important to note that 'the government' you mention, is doing the poisoning, is actually through private companies.

True. But they gained tremendous protection via the govt. There is at least a small chance a company is fined if they do something egregious. (Exxon Valdez). It is rare though.

One of my favorite things about NYC are the quarterly water resevoir updates. They test constantly (more than bottled water is required to) and release detailed reports about the state of things [0]

Not only that but they'll send you water bottles to fill up and then test your water for lead and give you results which is neat too.

The United States as a whole has done some incredible things in regards to air quality, and water quality. We should keep it up. Travesties like these and Flint are not okay.


How do you know that this testing isn't anything other than a facade?

Where I live, they do the same thing. You get a water quality report in the mail a couple of times a year. However the level of the one thing that's most likely to be a problem here (PCBs) is not included.

The curious thing is, it takes a lot of money to train military personnel. You’d think the military would hesitate to inflict an injury on itself such as this. If a terrorist organization did this then the USA would go to war.

Personnel doesn't last long, no more than ~10 years for infantry. So if the damage doesn't impede combat function over the expected useful lifetime of the person...

+1, I actually had a Lt. Col. use the same math on me when one of my Marines was worried about chemical exposure.

What year was this?

When I was a kid, every year the firefighting department would flush a meadow full of that foam, for all the kids to play in.

Oh well.

I was a military wife for a lot of years. I have very serious health problems. Doctors officially blame that on my genes, which can't be changed, so it's a de facto means to throw their hands in the air and call me unfixable.

I think environmental factors are a big part of the problem and that those can be addressed.

I lived on a military base for 2.75 years where there was one tap in the house labeled "potable water." You weren't supposed to drink water from the bathroom sink while brushing teeth, yet we bathed in this stuff and washed our dishes with it, etc.

The house was not very far from Hinkley, CA, location of the hexavalent chromium plume made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich."

When I have said on the internet that I believe hexavalent chromium poisoning is one of my problems, I have been dismissed as a nutter and conspiracy theorist by internet strangers who are confident they know all about my life better than I do.

I actually spent some years on an antivaxxer email list. They had a lot of interesting and useful information that helped me begin turning my health around while my doctor expressed zero curiosity about my improvement, advised me other patients needed him more and scheduled me fewer appointments.

YouTube recently demonitized anti vax channels (seemingly part of general trend to shut down such views). Most people seem to think that's a good thing. It leaves me wondering where people like me are supposed to go in a world where "fringe" views cannot be discussed in good faith on the internet. Are we supposed to just quietly die because that's the PC answer when doctors tell you "People like you don't get well. Symptom management is the name of the game."?

If you make zero effort to get me well and write me off for dead because of the label you gave me, wouldn't my decline and death be a form of self-fulfilling prophecy?

And when I defy that prediction, I'm written off as a crazy person and thrown off of one forum after another.

Insert some quote about "And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak."

Seems your condition is very different from that of a newborn baby with an under developed and fragile immune system, who's mothers are fed mistruths about how harmful vaccines are.

I don't see how your story relates in any way about harmful anti-vax groups (and vaccines in general) other than "I got some unrelated help at one point". So yes, we can absolutely be happy they are being demonitized.

That being said I am sorry that your doctor treated you like that and I am glad you did manage to help yourself.

The person you're responding to is a decade-long HN commenter. Currently, her comment is sitting at [dead].

I myself don't necessarily agree with her chain of implications, but it was her journey. This isn't directly solely at your comment (but I can't respond to the top one directly, as it's dead) - When you latch on to it simply to beat the anti-anti-vax dead horse, you're doing everyone a disservice.

IMHO if you want to know why online discourse has turned into such shite, then examine this. The noble ethos of judging words on their own merit has devolved into a tyranny - when you remove the "inertia" of individual reputation, each comment stands in isolation. Rather than seeing a larger pattern of a person being generally reasonable, giving the benefit of the doubt to a questionable comment, and perhaps extracting something worthwhile from it... we instead quickly judge it as "other" and move on.

The fact it is sitting at [dead] has nothing to do with my comment and the length of her time here on HN bears no relevance to this discussion. I fail to see why you can latch onto that fallacy and try to beat me with it as if it is my fault that her comment has been flagged. If it helps you sleep at night I have vouched for her comment as I don't think it should be flagged.

If you would take the time to re-read my original comment, which was replying to a comment which has since been edited to be a bit more explicit about it's message, you would find that I'm simply questioning first what anti-vax groups have to do with the original post (or really her original comment at all) because vaxxines have nothing to do with her apparent on-base drinkwater poisoning, and also why her journey should make us feel bad about them being demonetized.

Nobody is labelling her as "other" and moving on. I would say that you are pretty quick to judge my comment and to lambaste me for the ills you perceive, which is a bit ironic given the content of your message.

> the length of her time here on HN bears no relevance to this discussion

It's directly germane to my larger point about the results of eschewing personal standing.

> lambaste me for the ills you perceive, which is a bit ironic given the content of your message

From your earlier comment:

> So yes, we can absolutely be happy they are being demonitized

The difference is that you are starting to go on the group-offensive, celebrating the winning against one flavor of Youtube nutter.

The original comment did tangentially bring up anti-vax, yes. But my point is we should aim to tolerate that, as it's tangential. Focusing on that single aspect then either results into re-arguing whether the censorship is good (which can only go more meta, because obviously the immediate anti-vax phenomenon itself is bad), or simply left to sit and form a tacit consensus that censorship is worthwhile.

(I apologize for having focused on you by virtue of you being the only commenter, and good on you for vouching - directly opposing the main symptom).

>The original comment did tangentially bring up anti-vax

the literal original comment brought up how demonetization of anti-vaccination youtubers is a "first they came for me" slippery slope, what definition of "tangential" are you operating on?

I didn't bother to reply to your original comment because I agree with mindslight's criticisms of it. I will reply here. Thank you for vouching for my comment.

Seems your condition is very different from that of a newborn baby with an under developed and fragile immune system

I'm going to guess you have no idea what my condition is, or didn't when you left that remark. I'm quite open about my diagnosis, while trying to not state the diagnosis too frequently because that tends to be drama, yet it is easily found if one wishes to find it.

The assumption that my condition is very different from that of a newborn baby with an under developed and fragile immune system is very much in error. I have a genetic disorder that causes me to have a permanently impaired immune system. Standard treatment for it involves lots of vaccines and other strong drugs.

I have gradually gotten better in part because I concluded that such a harsh approach may win the battle, but lose the war because the body is the battlefield. So when you bombard it perpetually with strong medications, you leave it a shelled out husk.

Then doctors take credit for winning the latest battle against your latest infection by prescribing you such harsh drugs. When you die young, they don't take the blame for that (never mind the multi-page foldout warning you of possible harmful side effects for such drugs, especially when used frequently over a long period of time). Instead, they blame it on your genes when it comes to people like me.

I fundamentally disagree with this current foundational tenet of Western medicine.

I think there's a relationship but it's tenuously stated. Anti-vax is in part due to an erosion of trust in our experts and institutions. This case is a prime example. You have people that have been poisoned for decades by their government. It's no surprise to me that a person who can't trust the safety of her own drinking water is reluctant to receive government-sponsored injections.

It's no surprise to me that a person who can't trust the safety of her own drinking water is reluctant to receive government-sponsored injections.

I'm not an antivaxxer. I've had my vaccines, though I no longer get annual flu shots and lots of people are very quick to demonize me as an antivaxxer over that detail.

it's tenuously stated.

I've tried to improve the clarity of that one paragraph in my above remark.

Sorry to hear about your circumstances and I wish you luck. Just wanted to say my intention wasn't to criticize you personally or to make any assumptions. I think it's unfair how you're being flagged. I'll try to clarify my point as well for anyone else: We should probably be more open to discussing the experiences that motivate anti-vaxers rather than attacking or dismissing them in a way that serves to strengthen their convictions.

> though I no longer get annual flu shots and lots of people are very quick to demonize me as an antivaxxer over that detail.

I assume you are american? Here on the other side of the pond (I'm in Denmark) the flu shot is only being recommended for weakened and old people and is not generally something that people get.

Translated from https://www.ssi.dk/vaccinationer/influenzavaccination/sporgs...:

> Why is vaccination not recommended for everyone?

> Vaccination against influenza is given for the prevention of serious influenza disease or complications. In younger, healthy adults, vaccination will also prevent disease caused by the specific influenza strains in the vaccine. However, influenza does not pose a serious threat to the health of younger healthy people.

"the flu shot is only being recommended for weakened and old people and is not generally something that people get."

This is correct and normal. The influenza shot is for specific populations of immune-compromised people. Normal, healthy children and adults do not need the influenza shot.

The influenza shot has nothing to do with the (ridiculous) anti-vaccine "debate". It does not belong in the same conversation as, for instance, the MMR or whooping cough vaccines, etc.

I assume you are american? Here on the other side of the pond (I'm in Denmark) the flu shot is only being recommended for weakened and old people and is not generally something that people get.

I happen to be American, yes. But, I think we have the same policy here.

However, given my diagnosis, it is recommended for people like me. I handle my vulnerability to infection by working from home, avoiding large crowds and so forth. (I can't remember the last time I had the flu.)

Correction: We used to have the same policy here. From the CDC website:

CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older


When I was growing up, vaccination levels were talked about in terms of success. "We have successfully vaccinated 90 percent of people."

These days, they are talked about in terms of failure. "We have failed to vaccinate 10 percent of people." This is often followed up by classifying that last 10 percent as antivaxxers, nutters, holdouts, etc.

The reality is that there can be legitimate medical reasons why one chooses to not vaccinate. But this has become such a politicized topic that such people tend to get lumped in with "crazy antivaxxers."

Having spent time in the antivax community, I feel they largely exist because of that. If families with a known history of problems or simply personal concerns had their choices respected without so much public outcry and so many strangers butting into their (HIPAA protected) medical choices, I think you would probably see a lot less antivax propaganda. People who feel that vaccines are a problem for them and their kids would handle it a lot more quietly.

FWIW, I get demonized by both camps. You can't currently have a moderate position on this topic. Antivaxxers hate me and vilify me just as much as anti-antivaxxers.

The vaccination is also recommended for some professional groups, eg healthcare workers.


Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season

Embracing the anti-vax movement because the standard healthcare system has failed this individual isn't something I considered before, but it makes a lot of sense. Our healthcare system is expensive, difficult to navigate, and the quality of care is wildly inconsistent.

I'm by no means an anti-vaxer, but there have to be millions of Americans that are fed up with the state of healthcare and looking for an alternative.

> there have to be millions of Americans that are fed up with the state of healthcare and looking for an alternative.

The popularity of Chiropractic "doctors" is another symptom of the same problem.

"...turning my health around while my doctor expressed zero curiosity about my improvement, advised me other patients needed him more and scheduled me fewer appointments."

I can relate.

Noobs should also know that few doctors will escalate if they don't know how to help you.

USA healthcare providers are playing twenty question lightning rounds. Ask as many questions as your 15 minute time window permits. Oops, time's up. Next!

Medicine has changed dramatically the 20+ years since my transplant. Patient care is no longer the norm.

Which is why I now pay extra for "concierge" style healthcare from my primary doctor. She can now afford (time, money) to do whatever it takes to fix each new problem.

Ask as many questions as your 15 minute time window permits.

Yeah. When I was having my big health crisis and having about two medical appointments per week, I came to hate the 15 minute appointment vastly more than anything else about modern medicine.

The anti vax channels were not silenced. They just don't make money off you anymore.

I'm saddened it sounds like you've apparently fallen victim to a doctor who has more "important" things to do than see you. I've been in that position before, and have found that there is nothing more dangerous to society than a physician that simply can't be bothered. It undermines the credibility of every other practitioner out there, and makes the already non-trivial task of maintaining Public Health even more difficult.

However, a couple points.

A) Don't get discouraged. Tricare us one of the most widely accepted insurances, and I can guarantee there are physicians worth their salt out there that can help you. You might have to travel further than you like if you do have legitimate genetic conditions, but I can guarantee the extra travel will be worth it for the expertise. Many doctors entered the field for the paycheck, and will balk at difficult patients. If you are one, it is upon you to become an expert on yourself and find the physician who can work with you. It's tough, believe me, but the right physician is worth the trouble.

B) Anti-Vaxxers: I'm not going to say you're a crank. When you've been burned by someone who purportedly took an oath to do no harm, yet is doing so through inaction and uncaring, you start looking for help anywhere you can get it. That's just human nature. Please understand though that distinguishing the hokey, and the harmful from what might be the truth is extremely difficult. Alternative medical practices will require you to be your own scientist, and I don't recommend approaching anything with blind trust. You have to become your own expert, which means figuring out how to read the few relevant studies the occasional researcher can cobble together the resources to do.

But for the love of all that is good, don't buy into "don't vaccinate". It's one of the biggest public health threats out there. The diseases that are prevented are crippling, if not lethal, and can be easily prevented through vaccination.

Don't let a medical asshat turn you off of medicine. It just means you need to look elsewhere.


Personal attacks are not allowed on HN. We ban accounts that do this. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and post civilly and substantively, or not at all.

FWIW, I found the EPA [1] and CDC [2] sites on these chemicals to be extremely informative. Definitely gives me an appreciation for the "good" parts of government.

1. https://www.epa.gov/pfas

2. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html

I am affected by the Camp LeJeune water issue. I have cancer because of it. I am on my appeal process with the VA over it. It sucks and it's still going to be a long fight.

Camp Lejeune is more known for cheap dry cleaners using PERC and dumping it rather than perfluorinated contaminants https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune. https://www.popsci.com/dry-cleaning-chemicals points out newer water-detergent machines, but states they cost $40~80k. Best cheap solution has been to use hydrocarbon solvents and incinerate the waste. I do not know of any list of dry cleaners that do so.

Sorry, to hear that, good luck, and I'm very glad you're sharing your story. It makes things more real for people and matters a lot.

I'll stick to my distilled water. I still don't understand why they aren't more popular. Here they add a chemical to our tap water that bonds to lead so that there will be less (hopefully no) lead from the lead water pipes/solder/fittings. No thank you.

You can get an undercounter reverse osmosis system for not much more than $100 that would save you a lot of trouble and expense. If you want to get really crazy hook up a deionizing filter after it to get <10 ppm water.

RO systems are excellent for water purification as well and certainly more convenient if you own your home. So I will restate, I don't understand why RO or distillation systems aren't far more common.

they are expensive, require an expensive plumber to install, potentially another source for leaks, and require regular cleaning. i'd rather just pay $10/month for gallons and gallons of bottled water.

I haven't found that to be the case.

https://www.amazon.com/Whirlpool-WHER25-Reverse-Osmosis-Filt... that is $130 and the kits are very easy to install. In 13 months you'd have it paid off and you can make all the water you want.

They've definitely come down in price but you're still talking 130 + installation + $80 in filters per year + leak potential. It's almost break even. Unfortunately there's still the problem that my wife being from a 3rd world country won't drink anything out of the tap that hasn't been boiled no matter how much it's been filtered due to no rational reason.

Basic systems will waste 4 gallons of water for every gallon of purified water depending on input pressure and temperature. Lower input temperature and pressure will increase waste and lower output.

I just searched for RO systems and found it interesting that their storage tank is made of plastic.

I wonder if drinking water stored in that plastic tank is healthier than using one of the on-faucet systems like Pur.

RO water has to stored in plastic be because it is acidic. Most people don't realize that after you RO filter your water you need to add alkalinity back to it. Also if you get the ppm too low, it will leach nutrients from your body when you drink it. It's not healthy to RO/ deionize water then just drink it without adding some CaCO3 to bring the ppm and pH back to a reasonable level. Some multistage filters do this to some extent, but it really needs to be tested to confirm the levels are acceptable and that the filter system is working as expected. The brief interaction with a polypropylene liner is not a problem at all at room temperature though.

Doesn't drinking distilled water in significant quantities remove important minerals from your body?

No that is a common myth. Food has plenty of minerals etc compared to what you get via tap water.


From the very article you linked to:

"Because it doesn’t contain its own minerals, distilled water has a tendency to pull them from whatever it touches to maintain a balance.

So when you drink distilled water, _it may pull small amounts of minerals from your body, including from your teeth._"

How does this contradict lr4444lr's claim "drinking distilled water in significant quantities remove important minerals from your body"?

Are you arguing it is a matter of degree, that while distilled water does remove minerals from your body, the "myth" is that it is significant?

> Food has plenty of minerals etc compared to what you get via tap water.

How many minerals do you receive from food and how do you know this is sufficient?

There is research showing a (weak) correlation between hard water (high in mineral content, as opposed to the low/zero mineral content of distilled water) and cardiovascular health, eczema, and dermatitis:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896978... Studies of water quality and cardiovascular disease in the United Kingdom

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001393510... Ecological association of water hardness with prevalence of childhood atopic dermatitis in a Japanese urban area

https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(16)30187-7/ful... Association between domestic water hardness, chlorine, and atopic dermatitis risk in early life: A population-based cross-sectional study

Upon further research I have changed my stance, I had never seen this WHO report before. It’s old but they recommend not drinking water less than 100 ppm.


The minerals you can get elsewhere, but it seems some people get surprised by the taste of demineralized water and dislike it.

Correct. I remember seeing a show about how Dasani (IIRC) drinking water is made. The person leading the show around said something along the lines that 'at this stage the water is so pure it does not taste good, so next we add minerals back in.'

Not true, but misinformation is probably a major factor.

We really need to switch to a regime under which we first establish the safety of a compound and then mass-produce it.

I wish there were established means by which institutions and individuals could admit fault in order to expedite problem solving. So much energy is wasted trying to conceal blame and responsibility. The problem becomes harder to tackle because nobody can acknowledge it.

I grew up on a military base and we were told on certain days not to drink the water but on other days it was "fine"

I wonder about the after effects.

> That was 2016. Since then, the Defense Department has admitted that it allowed a firefighting foam to slip into at least 55 drinking water systems at military bases around the globe, sometimes for generations.

Where's the list of locations for the 55 systems?

At least 91 per Northeastern University - https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/2017_pfa/

Here's a different one: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-3M-groundwater-pollu...

All public landfills can be added to those maps.

Once again we see that government doesn’t have regard for doing the best for its citizens. It’s only regard is doing what is best to keep itself alive.

How do you eplain all the instances of when government has shown regard for doing the best for its citizens? Do you apply the same logic you used here for government on corporations? Instead of focusing on the fact that it was a government agency in this instance let’s focus on the fact that without proper oversight bad things can happen. This is true for corporations, individuals, government agencies, non-profit agencies, and all other organized groups of people.

> Do you apply the same logic you used here for government on corporations?

Obviously not, since the article says DuPont did the same, but that elicited no anti-corporate criticism: "While the military has used the chemicals extensively, it is far from the only entity to do so, and in recent years, companies like DuPont have come under fire for leaching PFAS into water systems."

People like to blame capitalism for creating incentives for bad behavior when in fact the problem is just humans in general. Faced with certain incentives they will make decisions that hurt people even if there is no financial incentive.

Is this because military bases aren't held to the same standard a house next door to the base would be?

>But the military has said it continued to use firefighting foams containing the compounds because companies have continued to produce them and the E.P.A. doesn’t regulate them.

Isn't the point of capitalism that if 'x' company isn't doing 'y', you can take your dollars to company 'zed' and drive the market to the desired result[s]?

They make it sound like no one in the history of ever has produced a firefighting foam without those chemicals. Erring on the side of caution (e.g.: if that were truly the case), couldn't they have used their research arms (e.g.: DARPA) to come-up with an alernative, on their own? After all, it's been 28 years since the Army Corps of Engineers sent the warning out, according to the article, yeah?

I find the thought incredulous, at best, that they had no alternative but to keep using the same foams.

I think this is the big weakness in our current implementation of capitalism/market economy. It's supposed to depend on perfect information about producers and products, but how can the average person know what's in a firefighting foam, and how it will affect them?

Even if you take the government aspect out of it - consider if your bought this foam for your own use. How would anyone know what it would do to them and their family, in time to make an educated decision to avoid poisoning themselves? Are we supposed to all get a degree in chemistry, build a lab in the basement, and analyze every product we bring into our homes?

If no one knows it's poison, or if the only ones who know are the producers, or if the purchaser is separated from whoever gets poisoned (i.e. govt purchasing personnel -> people drinking the water at the bases), then there's no incentive for anyone to make an alternate foam, especially if the most effective/cheapest version is the poisonous one.

A less effective or more expensive foam would be a hard sell when the people buying are not the people getting poisoned.

Without a requirement to verify that a compound is safe for long-term exposure before being sold, this is going to keep happening, no matter who is buying or selling. Unfortunately, you can't say regulation in the USA without getting shouted down as "anti-capitalist" or worse, "socialist."

Governments are not subject to capitalism this is exactly the reason we need smaller governments so the damage they can do to society is also smaller.

Are US military bases overseas doing the same to other countries?

If jet fuel is stored on base, then it is part of the standard fire suppression operating procedure. https://www.afcec.af.mil/WhatWeDo/Environment/Perfluorinated... I cannot fault that given the cost of the jets, but if they use any fire retardants and a good job of cleaning any mess up is not done, then the users need to be given a stern talking to as everyone will be drinking the stuff in a few years.

This is terrible. Why do we treat people that protect our freedoms this way?

We don't set out to. Mistakes, however, do happen. Sometimes the cause is preventable, sometimes it's a lapse in protocol, or maintenance. Sometimes it's just a calculated risk. Sometimes we just don't know until after the damage is done.

And sometimes we did know, but the damage gets done anyway because no one knew to ask the question or do the test, or were afraid of the repercussions of being the one to call out the problem.

The military/government service is a whole bunch of things. Perfect is never and sufficiently equipped for the job at hand are frequently not one of that bunch.

It's what makes work in those sectors kind of interesting when Congress can get their stuff together.

Change the world on pocketchange.

This is your freedom.


People often seem to think I am being unreasonably paranoid for saying that you have to look out for yourself and your family when it comes to exposure to dangerous chemicals, and not just trust the Environmental Pimping Agency (or your local equivalent) to do it for you...

You're not paranoid in the least. My family always went to great lengths to ensure we never had to drink tap water. Always buying and stocking mineral water from respectable brands.

In my generation I'm going a bit further and using filters for shower/tap water. And I plan to test the mineral water brands we consume at least once a year.

> And I plan to test the mineral water brands we consume at least once a year.

How do you conduct these tests out of curiosity?

Don't know exactly what labs I'll use yet. It depends on where you live.

This is the article that got me interested: http://blogs.worldbank.org/water/how-test-water-quality-chem...

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