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A dairyman’s dilemma — How chemicals threaten a farm’s future

By Don “Doc” Sanders

You may remember that I’ve written a few times in this column about false claims made against Roundup — namely, that it causes cancer. In my most recent column on the topic, I wrote about how several respected health and environmental organizations have cleared the popular herbicide of these charges, like the Environmental Protection Agency, Health Canada, the European Food Safety Authority and the German consumer health agency BfR.

Now I want to share with you a news report I recently ran across about how a New Mexico dairy operation is being threatened by cancer-causing nonagricultural chemicals that have contaminated the groundwater.

The chemicals in question are perfluoroakyl and polyfluoroakyl substances, a group of manmade chemicals that I’ll refer to by their acronym, PFAS. Since 1940 PFAS chemicals have been incorporated into products used all over the world. Some compounds in this group are familiar, such as Teflon, which keeps food from sticking to frying pans. Other PFAS compounds are used in fabrics. Still others, to make carpet waterproof and stain resistant. Some of these substances have been used in food packaging to stop grease absorption.

A couple of PFAS chemicals are used in firefighting, as fire retardants, and for fire prevention. There’s particular concern over the adverse human health effects caused by this subset of PFAS compounds. These are the types of chemicals that are putting the dairy farm I mentioned in grave danger.

When humans and animals consume certain PFAS in their food, or by coming into contact with them through water, the chemicals accumulate in their bodies over time. Animal studies demonstrate that specific fire retardant PFAS can cause cancer. Human studies demonstrate that PFAS also raise blood cholesterol.

There’s a potential goldmine here for the attorneys of Moose & Moose, as PFAS lawsuits have far more merit than legal cases against Roundup. So, don’t be surprised if Moose & Moose starts interrupting more of your favorite TV shows to sign up with them over new cancer alarms.

Now, here’s the rest of the story about the dairy farm in New Mexico. The dairy farm is just a couple of miles from Cannon Air Force Base where PFAS fire retardants were used in training firefighters to extinguish aircraft fires, using mock or junk planes. Apparently, this was standard procedure for many years. Consequently, groundwater used by the dairy was contaminated by these PFAS chemicals.

A cows’ digestive system protects it somewhat from PFAS. The microflora in the rumen neutralizes some PFAS contamination, which reduces the resulting toxicity of milk and tissue. Yet, PFAS residue has been detected in the milk and tissue of this farm’s cows.

The dairyman and his wife also have been tested for PFAs. They have 10 times the considered safe level of PFAs in their bodies.

The cows’ milk has been declared unmarketable — as it should be. And the cows are in quarantine with the recommendation that they be euthanized. Can you imagine being in this dairyman’s place? You’ve given your life to your herd and now you’re being ordered to shoot all of them.

One of the quandaries is where to dispose the cows, as no one has a clue about the long-term implications of PFAS residues in animal carcasses. I would recommend Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a disposal site. That’s a site designated for disposal of spent nuclear rods and associated radiation waste.

And by the way, Congress was mandated to establish rules for Yucca Mountain’s use more than 10 years ago. And guess what? The rules haven’t been written! Until Congress establishes rules for nuclear waste disposal, it has cost taxpayers $24 billion in additional hidden fees over the past 10 years. This does not show up in the budget that Congress fights over every year because Congress doesn’t want to ‘fess up.

If the cows were buried in Yucca Mountain, no one would ever know the mountain also contained some dead cows. Certainly, Congress would never admit to it.

In the meantime, the government pays damages to the dairyman for his discarded milk. And the dairyman continues to await the government’s final resolution of this sad state of affairs – to euthanize the cows and close the dairy.

Dairy farmers are a unique group of people. They’re animal lovers, just like pet owners. Their cows are their mission in life and their source of survival and inner peace.

I truly feel for this dairyman and what he and his wife are going through.

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