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Veterinary Group Reaffirms Support for Antibiotics Use

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April 23  |  antibiotics, Beef, Dairy, Editorial, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, Livestock, Nutrition, Pork, Poultry, Research  |   Webmaster

While there are many sides and opinions to this ongoing debate, we are in full agreement with the following article. As stated in the AVMA statement, it  supports the prudent use of antibiotics: “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.” 

In other words, prudent use of antibiotics and other microbial products, should be made only when necessary, and not indiscriminately in feeds or in any other attempt to prevent illness and disease.  As medically and scientifically proven, the over-exposure to antibiotics eventually increases our resistance to them, thus diminishing their effectiveness and leaving us even more susceptible to infection and disease.  The key here is the definition of “productive uses” and the need for more direct involvement of the AVMA in advising and regulating the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials.

As mentioned in previous posts, any wide-encompassing and long-term policies should be “based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.” (sic)  (as evidenced by the recent uproar of LFTB).

Following is the full text of the statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association …

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reaffirmed its support of the responsible use of antibiotics in food animals after a federal court ruling demanded that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) start proceedings to withdraw approval of certain uses of antibiotics used in food production.

United States Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz ruled March 22 that the FDA must start proceedings to withdraw approval of what the FDA currently refers to as “production uses” of penicillins and tetracyclines in food-producing animals. As part of the withdrawal process, manufacturers of the products can request hearings to allow them to provide scientific evidence that the production use of antimicrobial products does not pose a threat to public health.

“The AVMA acknowledges the growing concern regarding antimicrobial use and resistance in animals and people, and supports the judicious use of antimicrobials to maximize public and animal health benefits while minimizing risks,” says AVMA Chief Executive Officer Ron DeHaven. “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.”

DeHaven cautions, however, that any decision to withdraw approval or ban any antimicrobial uses should be based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.

“It is crucial that safe and effective antimicrobials remain available for use in veterinary medicine to ensure the health and welfare of animals and, consequently, the health of humans,” DeHaven says. “The AVMA will continue to work closely with the FDA to formulate a sound, science-based strategy to deal with this complex issue.”

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. For more information about the AVMA, visit www.avma.org.


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Animal Antibiotics Over-use

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April 22  |  antibiotics, Beef, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, News, Pork, Poultry, Reports, Tests  |   Webmaster

Following is one of the first major media stories exposing the threat to human health of the over-use of antibiotics in livestock, presented by Katie Couric with CBS. It is still compelling, in light of the recently announced FDA guidelines.

“It’s scary, I mean, you just can’t describe it really,” said Bill Reeves.

Two years ago, 46-year-old Bill Reeves, who worked at a poultry processing plant in Batesville, Arkansas, developed a lump under his right eye.

“It went from about the size of a mosquito bite to about the size of a grapefruit,” he said.

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports doctors tried several drugs that usually work on this potentially deadly infection: methicillin resistant staph or MRSA – before one saved his life.

WebMD: MSRA

“You go from a just regular day to knowing you may die in a couple of hours,” Reeves said.

He wasn’t the only worker from this farming community to get sick. Joyce Long worked at the hatchery, handling eggs and chicks. She got MRSA at least a dozen times, and had to try several drugs as well.

“It was real painful. Shots don’t help, because it’s so infected, it don’t help much,” she said.

Within weeks, 37 people at the hatchery got sick. They’ve filed personal injury claims against the company, Pilgrims Pride, which has no comment.

This is not an isolated incident and chickens aren’t the only concern. A University of Iowa studylast year, found a new strain of MRSA — in nearly three-quarters of hogs (70 percent), and nearly two-thirds of the workers (64 percent) — on several farms in Iowa and Western Illinois. All of them use antibiotics, routinely. On antibiotic-free farms no MRSA was found.

To read the rest of the story and view the CBS video, follow this link:

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18563_162-6191530.html

 

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FDA guidelines for antimicrobial use

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April 21  |  antibiotics, Beef, Dairy, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, Nutrition  |   Webmaster

FDA Publishes Guidances to Limit Use of Antimicrobials (antibiotics) in Livestock Production

Apr. 13, 2012 12:48pm

    • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a series of three documents in the Federal Register today as part of an effort to alter the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. 

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National Pork Board

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a series of three documents in the Federal Register today as part of an effort to alter the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.

In a statement prior to today’s publication, FDA indicated that the issuance of three new documents will help veterinarians, farmers and animal producers use medically important antibiotics judiciously in food-producing animals by targeting their use to only address diseases and health problems. Under a new voluntary initiative, certain antibiotics would not be used for so-called “production” purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency in an animal. These antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian. There will be a three-year “phase in” period before these changes will become effective, but the exact dates of the phase-in period currently remain unspecified.

“It’s critical that we take action to protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available.”

The three documents published in today’s Federal Register include:

·         A final guidance for the industry, Guidance 209, “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals,” that recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in  veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of these drugs.

·         A draft guidance, Draft Guidance 213, open for public comment, which will assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.

·         A draft proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, open for public comment, that outlines ways that veterinarians can authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.

FDA’s guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities. Instead, guidance documents are meant to describe the FDA’s current thinking on a topic. As the American Association of Swine Veterinarians pointed out in a news release, it should be noted that FDA intends to work with drug manufacturers to remove label indications for growth promotion and feed efficiency from products considered important for human health. Once these products are no longer labeled for production uses, it will be illegal for veterinarians or producers to utilize medicated feeds for these purposes.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is concerned that lost and restricted access to antimicrobial products expected to result from these steps likely will disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health, and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health.  NPPC makes the point that this action is a move to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans, which opponents of modern animal agriculture blame on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. 

However, numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one by FDA, show a “negligible” risk to human health of antibiotics in food-animal production, according to NPPC.

Tom Talbot, a California beef producer, veterinarian and current chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, issued a statement that raises key points on this issue. “Antimicrobial resistance is a multifaceted, extremely complex issue that cannot be adequately addressed solely by focusing on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Prudent and responsible evaluation of this issue must consider animal, human and industrial use of antibiotics. While we appreciate the agency working with industry on the implementation of Guidance 209, we remain committed that a strong science foundation is critical before moving forward with this guidance,” he states.

John Clifford, DVM, USDA Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, says, “USDA worked with FDA to ensure that the voices of livestock producers across the country were taken into account, and we will continue to collaborate with the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association and livestock groups to ensure that the appropriate services are available to help make this transition.”

FDA is currently accepting comments on Draft Guidance 213 and on the Veterinary Feed Directive document. Submit comments on these documents by the date provided in the Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the Draft Guidance (July 12, 2012). Submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Submit electronic comments on the draft guidance to http://www.regulations.gov. Identify all comments with the docket number listed in the notice of availability that publishes in the Federal Register.

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LFTB

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April 21  |  Beef, Editorial, food safety, Latest News, Nutrition, Opinion, Research  |   Webmaster

Lean Finely Textured Beef vs. Pink Slime

 

So, what’s all the fuss about “Pink Slime”?  Lean Finely Textured Beef has been used as an additive to ground beef for years, without so much as a whimper or whisper from the politicians, watchdogs, or general public.   Unfortunately, an opinionated poorly-researched blog went viral and the media got hold of it, combined with even more misinformation, escalated this non-story into a major headline that lasted for days.  In the old days, exaggerated, persistent gossip and innuendo (“nudge, nudge, wink, wink”) could eventually lead a person or company to ruin and disrepute.  Nowadays, we have the power of the internet and social media to spread gossip and opinionated misinformation as if they were on super steroids. 

Here is a well-balanced article from a beef industry advocate.  We hope that you enjoy this and the additional links at the bottom of the page.  Your comments are always welcome and we encourage all of you to do your own research and investigation before jumping on the “Doomsday Bandwagon”.   – ed.

 

Make Room For A Bigger, Badder Foe

by Troy Marshall in My View From The Country

Apr. 20, 2012 9:25am

Anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

Boxed-beef prices rallied substantially early this week, bringing some stability back to the beef markets as the peak grilling season gets underway. Analysts say the rally was confirmation that the media-fueled frenzy over lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is waning.  

I haven’t seen any official estimates of what this PR disaster cost the industry, but we do know that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars were sucked out of the system in the last few weeks. This wasn’t an accident, either; it was a well conceived and orchestrated campaign that utilized an unwitting media to whip the firestorm.   In fact, the campaign’s success probably greatly exceeded the wildest expectations of a faction that’s quickly becoming one of the most threatening alliances against agriculture. This faction encompasses a passel of anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups masterful at creating buzzwords and narratives that obscure their true agenda while rallying well-intentioned consumers and voters to their side.  

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) used to be the master of this strategy; that is, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from people who actually believe their contributions support animal shelters and help abused animals. Instead, they fund a war chest to battle livestock production.   The animal welfare movement also is masterful at using groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to paint an extreme view. That way, a more mainstream group like HSUS can appear more center-based when it pushes for radical policy.  

The anti-market, anti-modern folks do it a little differently, however. They believe in government control of the marketplace, and replacing the market and industry institutions they view as supportive of the industry. To do this, they understand they must affect policy, which entails shaping public opinion. They do this by using the media and populist rhetoric to create “moral” perceptions in order to shape policy that is continually evolving in their direction.   Stepping back, one has to admire their success. They’ve used words like “pink slime” and “factory farming” masterfully.  

• The fact is that most people aren’t opposed to a product like LFTB, which reduces costs to consumers, raises prices for producers, and improves the safety and healthfulness of beef; but everyone can hate the concept of “pink slime.”  

• In addition, nearly everyone can line up to oppose factory farming and multinational large-scale food production entities. Most of these same people, however, don’t understand that these groups define a “factory farm” as any entity large enough to be economically viable, or that uses modern technology to produce a higher-quality product more efficiently.  

These groups champion the little guy, and even get some producers to stand with them. They also castigate the government and government involvement on issues they believe will increase the competitiveness of the industry while, at the same time, pleading for government intervention, rather than letting the marketplace function.   It’s the same concept that the Occupy Wall Street movement employs, which is to create an enemy that is perceived to be a dramatic minority or that is part of the “establishment.”  

In fact, these anti-meat groups are successful enough that their message is almost becoming mainstream in the minds of consumers in regard to animal production. Packers are held up to be inherently evil; confined animal feeding units are immoral; and large-scale production is wrong, as is the implementation of modern technologies in food production.   These groups will ally themselves with any group that opposes animal production; yet, they’re not perceived as affiliated with those groups, which increases their credibility. They’ve even been successful in attracting to their cause some producers who don’t understand that they are working for their own demise.

It’s for these reasons that these anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

As a fulltime rancher, Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how various consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

Click here for the original article  http://beefmagazine.com/blog/make-room-bigger-badder-foe

Following are links from various sources covering differing viewpoints …

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/03/28/chris-selley-pink-slime-is-benign/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/pink-slime-outrage-goes-viral

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Pink+Slime+controversy

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/

http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Science-must-guide-ag-policy

 

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Water Report double-speak

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April 17  |  Case Studies, Latest News, Reports, Tests, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

Water test reports leave homeowners in need of a translator

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)  

Published: April 16, 2012
 

In a recent study by Penn State University researchers about Marcellus Shale drilling and rural water supplies, 75 percent of homeowners surveyed said their water test reports were either somewhat or very difficult to understand.

The tools provided by laboratories to help residents interpret their water tests range from very thorough to none at all.

 

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/gas-drilling/water-test-reports-leave-homeowners-in-need-of-a-translator-1.1300620#ixzz1sEoWybxf

 

Contact the writer: llegere@timesshamrock.com

U.N. Water Report

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April 17  |  Latest News  |   Webmaster

 WHO, U.N.-Water Report Examines Access To Safe Drinking Water, Improved Sanitation

Monday, April 16, 2012

“Nearly 780 million people are deprived of safe drinking water — and 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation — all because governments aren’t spending scarce resources wisely, according to a joint report [.pdf] of the World Health Organization and U.N.-Water,” VOA News reports. Though “more than two billion people gained access to safe drinking water and 1.8 billion gained access to improved sanitation” between 1990 and 2010, billions of people still lack these basic services, the report noted, according to the news service.

“The data, collected from 74 developing nations, show countries suffering from a chronic lack of technicians, skilled labor and staff to operate and maintain sanitation and drinking water infrastructure,” VOA writes, adding, “The report says the total amount given in development aid for sanitation and drinking water increased by three percent — to $7.8 billion — from 2008 to 2010, but only half of that amount is allocated to regions where 70 percent of those lacking these services actually live: sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South-Eastern Asia” (Schlein, 4/12). According to a U.N.-Water press release, “Nearly 80 percent of countries recognize the right to water, and just over half of them the right to sanitation. Realizing the rights to water and sanitation may help targeting resources to unserved population and avoid discrimination in the provision of [water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)] services” (4/12).

 

For the full report (pdf), click here

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FDA ruling on Antibiotics in Feed

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April 15  |  antibiotics, Case Studies, Dairy, Farm, Latest News, Livestock, Pork, Poultry, Research  |   Webmaster

We have posted several articles about concerns of the over-use of antibiotic additives in feed for various farm operations.  This past week the FDA finally weighed in with a decision to hava a “voluntary ban” on this practice, while gathering information, comments, and results from operators, consumers, and the differing factions of the medical and scientific communities.  

There have been many differing views on this subject, but this FDA ruling seems to be seeking the middle ground.  We will continue  to follow developments on this story.  In the meantime, here are some links from different sources:

http://nationalhogfarmer.com/

http://beefmagazine.com/

http://www.latimes.com/

http://articles.latimes.com/

www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/GuidanceComplianceEnforcement/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/animal-antibiotics

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/244022.php

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Contaminated Water

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March 26  |  Immune System, Latest News, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

Washington, Mar 24 (ANI)

Recent widespread news coverage indicated the success of a United Nations’ goal of significantly improving access to safe drinking water around the world.

But while major progress has been made, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that far greater challenges persist than headline statistics suggested.

Earlier this month (March 6), UNICEF and the World Health Organization issued a report stating that the world had met the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of a deadline.

That goal aimed to boost access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells, between 1990 and 2015.

However, the new UNC study estimates that 1.8 billion people – 28 percent of the world’s population – used unsafe water in 2010.

That figure is 1 billion more than the official report’s estimate that 783 million people (11 percent of the globe) use water from what are classified as unimproved sources by WHO and UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Program.

The new study’s lead author, Jamie Bartram, Ph.D., professor of environmental sciences and engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, said the WHO/UNICEF report highlighted the progress that could be achieved through concerted international action, but left outstanding the needs of millions of people who only have access to dangerous contaminated drinking water.

“If you look at the water people use and ask ‘Is this contaminated?’ instead of ‘Is this water from a protected source?’, the world would still be well short of meeting the Millennium Development Goal target,” said Bartram, also director of the Water Institute at UNC.

“In many parts of the world, water from ‘improved sources’ – like protected village wells and springs – is likely to be microbiologically or chemically contaminated, either at the source or by the time people drink it,” he said.

“In developing countries, whether you live in small village or a big city, safe water can be hard to come by: pipes and taps break, clean springs and wells become contaminated or people have to carry or store water in potentially unsanitary ways.”

Bartram and colleagues analyzed water quality and sanitary risk information from an earlier study of five countries, and extrapolated the data to estimate global figures.

Their study suggested that of the 5.8 billion people using piped or “other improved” water sources in 2010, 1 billion probably received faecally contaminated water.

Adding that tally to the nearly 800 million people who collect water from unimproved sources would mean 1.8 billion people are drinking unsafe water.

Furthermore, Bartram and colleagues estimated that another 1.2 billion people got water from sources that lack basic sanitary protection against contamination.

“All told, we estimate 3 billion people don’t have access to safe water, if you use a more stringent definition that includes both actual water quality and sanitary risks,” Bartram said.

He highlighted that the recent WHO/UNICEF announcement confirmed how much had been achieved since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000, and that this progress should lead to a progressive shift towards ensuring that every home, workplace and school has reliable water supplies that are – and remain – safe.

However, he said the magnitude of the UNC study’s estimates and the health and development implications suggest that greater attention needs to be paid to better understanding and managing drinking water safety.

The study has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. (ANI)

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Antibiotic Use in Food Animal Production

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November 2  |  antibiotics, food safety, Latest News, Livestock, Newsletters, Nutrition, Research  |   Webmaster

Antibiotic Use Increased in 2010 Food Animal Production

by Helena Bottemiller | Nov 01, 2011

Sales of antibiotics intended for domestic food animals increased from 2009 to 2010, according to new data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Pew Health Group analyzed the numbers in the report, the second-ever issued by FDA, which showed a boost of 6.7 percent, from 28.8 million pounds in 2009 to 30.6 million pounds in 2010.

If ionophores, which are used exclusively on animals, are excluded from the analysis, the increase is 8.6 percent.

Pew points out that the increase in antimicrobial sales is greater than the 1.3 percent increase in meat production, which was up by 1.2 billion pounds to 92.1 billion pounds.

Laura Rogers, project director for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming said the report backs up their calls for reforms.

“This report confirms what we already know: industrial farms are using antibiotics on a massive scale that far exceeds what doctors are using to treat sick people,” said Rogers. “As a result, infections are becoming more difficult and expensive to treat.  The time for the Administration to protect our health is long overdue.”

Ron Phillips, vice president for legislative and public affairs for the Animal Health Institute, which represents the animal pharmaceutical industry, said the numbers do not necessarily illustrate a trend.

“In the eight years that AHI voluntarily collected and released this data, we saw many year-to-year changes — both up and down — in this range,” said Phillips. “These two limited data points are not sufficient to draw any conclusions.”

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist serving in Congress, continues to push for a bill that would restrict farmers from using seven classes of antibiotics, deemed important for human health, unless needed to treat sick animals. In the Senate, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced similar legislation last summer.

foodanimaldrugs-480.jpg

 

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Unsafe Drinking Water in Schools

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October 26  |  Latest News, News, Nutrition, Reports, Tests, Research, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

 

Drinking water unsafe at thousands of schools

Federal government has done little to monitor the problem, AP finds

Gary Kazanjian  /  AP

 

At Lovell High School in Cutler, California, signs posted above the kitchen sink, warn students not to drink from the tap because the water is tainted with nitrates, a potential carcinogen, and DBCP, a pesticide that scientists say may cause male sterility.

The Associated Press

CUTLER, Calif.
Over the last decade, the drinking water at thousands of schools across the country has been found to contain unsafe levels of lead, pesticides and dozens of other toxins.

An Associated Press investigation found that contaminants have surfaced at public and private schools in all 50 states— in small towns and inner cities alike.

But the problem has gone largely unmonitored by the federal government, even as the number of water safety violations has multiplied.

“It’s an outrage,” said Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech University who has been honored for his work on water quality. “If a landlord doesn’t tell a tenant about lead paint in an apartment, he can go to jail. But we have no system to make people follow the rules to keep school children safe?”

The contamination is most apparent at schools with wells, which represent 8 to 11 percent of the nation’s schools. Roughly one of every five schools with its own water supply violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in the past decade, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency analyzed by the AP.

In California’s farm belt, wells at some schools are so tainted with pesticides that students
have taken to stuffing their backpacks with bottled water for fear of getting sick from the drinking fountain.

Experts and children’s advocates complain that responsibility for drinking water is spread among too many local, state and federal agencies, and that risks are going unreported. Finding a solution, they say, would require a costly new national strategy for monitoring water in schools.

Schools with unsafe water represent only a small percentage of the nation’s 132,500 schools. And the EPA says the number of violations spiked over the last decade largely because the government has gradually adopted stricter standards for contaminants such as arsenic and some disinfectants.

Children at risk

Many of the same toxins could also be found in water at homes, offices and businesses. But the contaminants are especially dangerous to children, who drink more water per pound than adults and are more vulnerable to the effects of many hazardous substances.

“There’s a different risk for kids,” said Cynthia Dougherty, head of the EPA’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water.

Still, the EPA does not have the authority to require testing for all schools and can only provide guidance on environmental practices.

In recent years, students at a Minnesotaelementary school fell ill after drinking tainted water. A young girl inSeattle got sick, too.

The AP analyzed a database showing federal drinking water violations from 1998 to 2008 in schools with their own water supplies. The findings:

* Water in about 100 school districts and 2,250 schools breached federal safety standards.

* Those schools and districts racked up more than 5,550 separate violations. In 2008, the EPA recorded 577 violations, up from 59 in 1998 — an increase that officials attribute
mainly to tougher rules.

* California, which has the most schools of any state, also recorded the most violations with 612, followed by Ohio (451), Maine (417), Connecticut (318) and Indiana (289).

* Nearly half the violators in California were repeat offenders. One elementary school in TulareCounty, in the farm country of the Central Valley, broke safe-water laws 20 times.

* The most frequently cited contaminant was coliform bacteria, followed by lead and copper, arsenic and nitrates.

The AP analysis has “clearly identified the tip of an iceberg,” said Gina Solomon, a San Francisco physician who serves on an EPA drinking water advisory board. “This tells me there is a widespread problem that needs to be fixed because there are ongoing water quality problems in small and large utilities, as well.”

Schools with wells are required to test their water and report any problems to the state, which is supposed to send all violations to the federal government.

But EPA officials acknowledge the agency’s database of violations is plagued with errors and omissions. And the agency does not specifically monitor incoming state data on school water quality.

Critics say those practices prevent the government from reliably identifying the worst offenders — and carrying out enforcement.

‘Just no excuse’

Scientists say the testing requirements fail to detect dangerous toxins such as lead, which can wreak havoc on major organs and may retard children’s learning abilities.

“There is just no excuse for this. Period,” said California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “We want to make sure that we fix this problem in a way that it will never happen again, and we can
ensure parents that their children will be safe.”

The problem goes beyond schools that use wells. Schools that draw water from public utilities showed contamination, too, especially older buildings where lead can concentrate at higher levels than in most homes.

In schools with lead-soldered pipes, the metal sometimes flakes off into drinking water. Lead levels can also build up as water sits stagnant over weekends and holidays.

Schools that get water from local utilities are not required to test for toxins because the EPA already regulates water providers. That means there is no way to ensure detection of contaminants caused by schools’ own plumbing.

But voluntary tests in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Seattleand Los Angeles have found dangerous levels of lead in recent years. And experts warn the real risk to school children is going unreported.

“I really suspect the level of exposure to lead and other metals at schools is underestimated,” said Michael Schock, a corrosion expert with the EPA in Cincinnati. “You just don’t know what is going on in the places you don’t sample.”

Stomach aches, nausea

Since 2004, the agency has been asking states to increase lead monitoring. As of 2006, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control found nearly half of all schools nationwide do not test their water for lead.

Because contaminant levels in water can vary from drinking fountain to drinking fountain, and different children drink different amounts of water, epidemiologists often have trouble measuring the potential threats to children’s health.

But children have suffered health problems attributed to school water:

* In 2001, 28 children at a Worthington, Minn., elementary school experienced severe
stomach aches and nausea after drinking water tainted with lead and copper, the result of a poorly installed treatment system.

* In Seattleseveral years ago, a 6-year-old girl suffered stomach aches and became disoriented and easily exhausted. The girl’s mother asked her daughter’s school to test its water, and also tested a strand of her daughter’s hair. Tests showed high levels of copper
and lead, which figured into state health officials’ decision to phase-in rules requiring schools to test their water for both contaminants.

Many school officials say buying bottled water is less expensive than fixing old pipes. Baltimore, for instance, has spent more than $2.5 million on it over the last six years.

After wrestling with unsafe levels of arsenic for almost two years, administrators in Sterling, Ohio, southeast of Cincinnati, finally bought water coolers for elementary school students last fall. Now they plan to move students to a new building.

In California, the Department of Public Health has given out more than $4 million in recent years to help districts overhaul their water systems.

But school administrators in the farmworker town of Cutler cannot fix chronic water problems at Lovell  High School because funding is frozen due to the state’s budget crisis.

Signs posted above the kitchen sink warn students not to drink from the tap because the water is tainted with nitrates, a potential carcinogen, and DBCP, a pesticide scientists say may cause male sterility.

As gym class ended one morning, thirsty basketball players crowded around a five-gallon cooler, the only safe place to get a drink on campus.

“The teachers always remind us to go to the classroom and get a cup of water from the cooler,” said sophomore Israel Aguila. “But the bathroom sinks still work, so sometimes you kind of forget you can’t drink out of them.”

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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