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Sick wildlife, tip of CWD iceberg

By Gary Chandler Special to the Courier

Courtesy photo
Few, if any, mammals are immune to prion disease. There is no species barrier. The disease also has been found in sea mammals thanks to sewage runoff and sewage dumped at sea.

(Editor's note: Sources and credits for some of the information contained in the article "CWD-What we just don't know!" by Lauren Langford, MD, were inadvertently left off the end of the submission. Consequently, the Courier is publishing the original source by Gary Chandler in its entirety. More information is available in Chandler's articles, http://crossbowcommunications.com/sewage-mismanagement-killing-millions-of-people-annually/ and http://alzheimerdisease.tv/alzheimers-disease-related-to-chronic-wasting-disease/.)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is ravaging wildlife in many regions across North America. It's part of a larger epidemic of neurological disease that is killing millions of people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Once again, wildlife is serving as the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
CWD is part of an incurable spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is "transmissible." Mismanagement of pathogens associated with the disease is contributing to a broader epidemic of neurological disease among wildlife, livestock and people.
TSEs include Alzheimer's disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no species barrier and there is no cure.
Ignore prions at peril
TSEs, including chronic wasting disease, are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). Prion disease is unstoppable. Prions defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Victims can spread the disease even further via their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Victims often are contagious long before they appear sick. Their saliva, urine, blood and feces, for example, spread the pathogen further every day. Prions linger in the environment and on objects infinitely. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Because of the dynamics, Canada has declared CWD unstoppable.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering, naming and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Barack Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the rising importance of his research. Unfortunately, US policy on many fronts ignores the perils of prions. Most countries are guilty of the same offense.
Prion diseases are killing humans, wildlife and livestock around the world today. It's been gaining momentum over the past century. So has mismanagement by government, some researchers and industry.
The prion problem is getting worse with rising populations, rising concentrations of people, intensive agriculture, reckless sewage disposal policies and other mismanaged pathways. As the epidemic strikes more people, the pathways for prion exposure explode and intensify. Reckless sewage disposal policies and practices alone are putting billions of innocent people in the crossfire right now. Entire watersheds are endangered thanks to a deadly pathogen that migrates, mutates and multiplies.
Prions linger
in environment
The problem with prions is that they linger in the environment infinitely because they defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Unlike viruses or bacteria, prions are not alive. Therefore, they can't be killed.
When the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, it included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories. It classified prions as select agents that pose an extreme risk to food, water and more. It was a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, industry pressure convinced the Center For Disease Control and Prevention to quietly take prions off the list of special agents two years ago. Keeping prions listed threatened to outlaw several multi-billion dollar industries. This reversal kept the floodgates open to the prion threat - especially regarding sewage, agriculture and water reclamation industries.
Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to CWD and the prion disease epidemic, many pathways are being mismanaged around the globe. Thanks to sewage, biosolids, reclaimed sewage water and feedlot waste, we're recycling the prion pathogen that causes neurological disease right back into our watersheds, which we share with deer, elk, moose, livestock and other creatures that are vulnerable to prion disease.
Rain, wind and irrigation spread deadly prions further everyday. Healthy wildlife are being exposed to deadly prions through food, water, air and contact with infected animals.
Since prions are in the bodily fluids of its victims, sewage mismanagement is a top concern. Wastewater treatment plants can't detect or stop prions - just ask the US EPA. Therefore, putting biosolids on crops and dumping sewage sludge throughout our watersheds is a very bad idea. Dumping sewage from billions of people on land and at sea creates deadly prion freeways.
Every sewage system in the world has been used by a person - if not millions of people - with Alzheimer's disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Sewage systems have become prion incubators. Biosolids, water reuse and sludge disposal have made them potent prion distributors. The waste from feedlots is likely contributing to the epidemic.
Prions spread uncontrollably and contaminate everything that they touch - much like radiation. Unlike radiation, however, prions do not deplete themselves. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen.
Curb reckless policies
Although there are multiple causes of prion disease, including CWD, reckless policies are contributing to an environmental nightmare. Sick deer, elk, moose and other wildlife and marine life are just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Putting these Pandora-like pathogens back in the box is impossible. Injecting them into the lifecycle is reckless and a form of bioterrorism.
Unfortunately, misinformation distributed by government agencies about the risks associated with chronic wasting disease are reckless, incompetent and criminally negligent at best. Claiming that there is no known risk associated with handling or consuming wildlife with CWD is laughable. Just look at the guidance issued regarding mad cow disease. Just look at the guidance issued to people with the most severe form of the disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
The bodies of prion victims, regardless of species, are highly toxic and contagious. Hunting knives and saws used on sick wildlife are infected forever. Processing plants that cut and grind wildlife carcasses for hunters - before CWD tests are complete - are contaminated forever. Every animal processed after an infected carcass will become infected. Pickups and trailers that transport infected animals are hopelessly contaminated. The prion pathways created by one hunting trip can explode exponentially within hours.
Just walk away
Hunters should just walk away from a carcass that looks suspicious and one should treat all game that looks healthy as suspicious, until proven otherwise. Hunters that kill and dress deer with CWD expose themselves and their families to prion disease in many ways thanks to misinformation from state and federal regulators.
If it's impossible to stop prions in an operating room, it's impossible to stop them in the challenging environment of a high-volume wastewater treatment facility. It's ludicrous to think that treated sewage water or biosolids are prion-free. Especially since prions from people are much more infectious than those found in other species (prions become more aggressive as they work their way up the food chain).
It's also ludicrous to think that game processing plants are prion-free. Regulations in this arena are criminal. Thousands, possibly millions, of innocent people have been exposed to the prions from someone else's sick deer. That's because many are processed before testing or no testing is done at all.
According to the EPA: "Prions are extremely resistant to inactivation by ultraviolet light, irradiation, boiling, dry heat, formaline, freezing, drying and changes in pH. Methods for inactivating prions in infected tissues or wastes include incineration at very high temperatures and alkaline hydrolysis."
Gary Chandler, president of Crossbow Communications, is a veteran communications strategist with more than 30 years of experience in marketing, public affairs and issue management. He also writes books and develops projects that promote sustainability and conservation. Prior to forming Crossbow, Chandler worked for Tracy-Locke/BBDO Advertising & Public Relations, Team Advertising & Public Relations and the National Cattlemen's Association, among others.
This warning applies to the sewage plants that are contaminating our favorite hunting grounds. It also applies to game processing plants. It's impossible to sterilize either once infected with prions.
The EPA National Water Research Compendium 2009-2014 lists prions eight times as an emerging contaminant of concern in sewage sludge (biosolids), water and manure.
The EPA issued what it calls the "Sludge Rule," which basically disclaims any responsibility for its risk assessments regarding biosolids. The EPA reserves the right to adjust these risk assessments, however, as the test of time disproves its pseudo-science.
Dr. Joel Pedersen is another prion pioneer for his research on prions in soils and sewage sludge.
Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infective in certain soils. Pedersen's research also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage and it's byproducts are dumped.
"Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids," Pedersen said. "Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables." (Now, we know that plants uptake prions, too.)
Sewage management companies pay farmers to take this crap. Otherwise, they must spend millions of dollars to send it to a certified toxic waste dump. Thanks to wind, rain runoff and direct grazing, wildlife are exposed to the prions and other toxins. Humans face the same risks of exposure and many more.
Sewage sludge dumped in the upper watersheds of Washington State. Washington State has what could be the highest rate of Alzheimer's disease in the world (photo via Richard Honour). Alzheimer's disease and chronic wasting disease are both forms of TSE.
Even the EPA's own internal audit found that the agency is dropping the ball on sewage regulation and management. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (OIG) sewage regulations are weak, outdated and not enforced. In September 2014, the OIG offered the following summary of its findings:
"Management controls put in place by the EPA to regulate and control hazardous chemical discharges from sewage treatment plants to water resources have limited effectiveness. The EPA regulates hazardous chemical discharges to and from sewage treatment plants, but these regulations are not effective in controlling the discharge of hundreds of hazardous chemicals to surface waters such as lakes and streams.
Sewage treatment plant staff do not monitor for hazardous chemicals discharged by industrial users. This is due to a general regulatory focus on the priority pollutants list that has not been updated since 1981, limited monitoring requirements, limited coordination between EPA offices, a lack of tracking hazardous waste notifications required for submittal by industrial users, or a lack of knowledge of discharges reported by industrial users under the Toxics Release Inventory. Except for EPA Region 9, sewage treatment plant permits generally include very few monitoring requirements or effluent limits, which can limit enforcement actions. The EPA developed whole effluent toxicity test results as a mechanism to identify toxic chemicals such as hazardous discharges to sewage treatment plants. However, these are not required for all permits, and are not tracked by the EPA to verify that sewage treatment plants are reporting results as required. Moreover, exceedances of chemical limits in permits and toxicity tests do not trigger notification to enforcement programs. Consequently, the EPA may not be aware of chemical discharge or toxicity exceedances that should be addressed to minimize potentially harmful contamination of water resources."
The TSE epidemic represents an environmental nightmare that threatens every mammal on Earth. Related diseases are killing wildlife and livestock around the world. Marine mammals also are vulnerable. Mismanaged sewage is a confirmed pathway to all of them.
Join us in our campaign to reform policies and procedures around the world to protect us all from the perils of prion disease. Please contact me at gary@crossbow1.com
Crossbow Communica-tions has influenced public opinion and public policy around the world on health and environmental issues. The company is based in Denver, Colorado. The company has offices in Phoenix, Arizona and New York, New York. It has won state and national awards, while setting state and national records for our clients.
Read more about TSEs and the prion epidemic: http://crossbowcommunications.com/sewage-mismanagement-killing-millions-of-people-annually/