Maurice A. Ramirez, DO, PhD and Alyssa Middleton, PhD
In 2014, the United Nations declared December 5th as World Soil Day to raise awareness of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a determinant of human and animal health. Sadly, ignorance and disregard have led to poor soil quality and dangerous soil pollution across the globe. PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) can be found throughout our environment in every community, park, school yard and the soil in which we raise our food. In this article, we will review mechanisms for soil contamination and remediation.
Our last article in this series discussed PFAS in the water supply. Contaminated water is one of the leading pathways for PFAS to accumulate in the soil. PFAS in water used for plants, lawns or crops repeatedly introduces soil contamination. Likewise, contaminated rainwater contributes to PFAS accumulation in the soil. But contaminated water is not the only source of PFAS soil contamination. PFAS spills, whether accidental and intentional, and leakage of stored PFAS are major industrial contributors to soil contamination. Everyday consumer trash is just as guilty. Landfill disposal of PFAS-containing products results in the leaching of PFAS into the soil in and around the landfill. The soil not only absorbs the PFAS but, because PFAS chemicals repel water by design, the PFAS becomes embedded in the particles that make up the toxin-laden soil. Wind-blown soil spreads PFAS contamination.
Think you are avoiding PFAS by buying certified organic products? Think again. Agricultural soil around the world is fortified using biomass-derived fertilizers, including animal manure and other biosolids. Certified organic farms make heavy use of these biosolids-based fertilizers. PFAS in the food chain accumulates in plants, animals and people that, in turn, produce the biosolids. When contaminated biosolids are used as organic fertilizer, PFAS soil contamination is compounded with each application. (The challenges of PFAS in the food chain will be discussed in our next article.)
Government agencies, agricultural producers, industrial facilities and environmental organizations have used various technologies in an attempt to remediate PFAS-contaminated land. The field scalable technologies used for decades (soil incineration and solvent washing) have been shown in the scientific literature to be both too costly and generally ineffective. Existing small-scale technologies are promising but have not been successfully scaled to a viable environmental clean-up method.
Nearly every neighborhood, farm, municipality, and nation have some degree of PFAS soil contamination. However, regulatory or legislative mandates for PFAS monitoring or remediation are rare. Not only is there a lack of monitoring for these dangerous contaminants, but there are also no regulatory safe limits for contamination or community exposure to PFAS. Without monitoring of PFAS contamination levels and benchmarks for remediation, it is inevitable that PFAS will continue to accumulate in our air, water, and soil.
As the world celebrates the importance of healthy soil, what can be done to make the soil safe? Public awareness of the PFAS problem and advocating for PFAS regulations are foundational to creating mandates for PFAS remediation. In addition to remediation, PFAS sources must be reduced or eliminated. Consumers have the power and responsibility to force manufacturers to find and use alternatives to PFAS. Finally, environmental groups and environmentally minded companies working for the removal of PFAS need both moral and financial support. Together we are stronger and we can save our natural resources.
About the Authors:
Maurice A. Ramirez, D.O., Ph.D. is the Co-Founder of the High Alert Institute, a 501c3 not-for-profit educational public charity dedicated to providing disaster readiness education and resources to unserved and underserved communities, industries and charitable organizations in an All Hazards, One Health/One Nature, One Framework paradigm. Learn more about the High Alert Institute at www.HighAlertInstitute.org
Alyssa Middleton, Ph.D., has over 20 years of experience working with cancer patients and their families and conducting cancer research. She is the co-author of Five Bugles Institute’s PFAS remediation and replacement educational program. Learn more about Five Bugles Institute’s research at www.fivebuglesinstitute.com/pfas.
Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.
Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS).
The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.
The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.
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Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.
Have you always wanted a Koi pond but don’t have the space one? Sponsor a Koi in our community shelter pond and we send you photos of your sponsored animal. Coming soon are live Koi Cameras above and below the water to enjoy your sponsored Koi anytime.
Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.
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Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.
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Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.
Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.
Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.
Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.
We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.
The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.
When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.
Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency plans for natural and manmade disasters.