Norway and the greater Scandinavian region are experiencing some of the highest rates of neurodegenerative disease in the world. The human epidemic is fueling a related epidemic among wildlife. Norway will slaughter hundreds of reindeer to tackle a mere symptom of a bigger problem. Mismanagement is pouring fuel on the fire in Norway and North America.
As explained below, many forms of neurodegenerative disease are infectious and contagious. In fact, many are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Norway’s sick reindeer are canaries in a coal mine.
Studies confirm that people and animals dying of TSE contaminate the environment around them with deadly prions (PREE-on), which are in the urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva of each victim. Victims are contagious long before they appear sick. Prions don’t die because they aren’t alive. Prions migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. That’s why Norway wants to kill hundreds of reindeer—to keep them from generating and spreading more infectious fluids. Meanwhile, Norway’s plan ignores the source of the prion problem—infectious waste from humans.
The infected bodily fluids from millions of humans have turned wastewater treatment plants into incubators and distributors of deadly prions. Since Norway dumps about 90 percent of its sewage sludge on open spaces, this infectious waste is fueling a public health disaster. Norway and most other countries are recycling an aggressive brain disease back into the food chain with every load of sewage sludge dumped on crops, parks and gardens. Millions of people are caught in the crossfire. So are reindeer and other mammals.
A prion is a deadly and unstoppable form of protein. Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing prions and prion disease. President Obama honored Prusiner with the National Medal of Science in 2010. Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we’re facing a public health disaster because of the negligence and the mismanagement of infectious waste.
Prusiner claims that all TSEs are caused by prions. He says that all TSEs are on the prion disease spectrum.Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is at the extreme end of the spectrum and is highly infectious. It’s often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, which is lower on the prion disease spectrum. Norway estimates that only half of its citizens with neurodegenerative disease are being diagnosed and even fewer are treated. It still scores as a top-five nation for Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosed or not, many of these people are spreading prion disease in many ways.
TSEs also include mad cow disease (BSE) in cattle and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no species barrier. Prions don’t discriminate.
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 to quietly take prions off the list of special agents a few years ago. Keeping prions listed threatened to outlaw several multi-billion dollar industries, including the biosolids and wastewater reclamation industries. This reversal kept the floodgates open to the prion threat. Especially regarding sewage, agriculture and water reclamation industries.
Because of prion dynamics, Canada declared CWD unstoppable. They’re right. Especially when we dump tons of infectious waste on farms, ranches, in forests and beyond every day. Other mammals are contracting the disease from humans and they proceed to infect each other through their own bodily fluids.
CWD has ravaged deer, elk and moose in many regions across North America since it was first identified at a Colorado State University research facility in the 1960s. Now, CWD is in Norway’s reindeer and moose, which blows holes in the theories and containment plans across North America. Suffice it to say, sick deer didn’t jump the Atlantic Ocean, which means that other prion pathways are at work. These sick mammals are a canary in the proverbial coal mine. Although there are several ways for CWD to take hold and spread, government and stakeholders are ignoring the biggest prion pathway in the world—human sewage.
Infectious Waste and Sewage Sludge
Human sewage in itself is a deadly cocktail, but wastewater treatment plants also receive tons of infectious waste from slaughterhouses, dental offices, clinics, hospitals, morgues, nursing homes, veterinarians and many other industrial sources. If it flushes, it’s in the waste stream. If it flushes, it’s being recycled on public and private land. Such thinking is recycling brain disease and contributing to the surge in autism.
According to neuroscientist Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are wrong. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers, loved ones and entire communities. It’s drastically misdiagnosed and under-reported, which means that millions of highly infective people don’t even know that they have prion disease. Their caregivers don’t know it. Their families are not cautioned about transmissibility.
Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen. Victims are contaminating their homes and hospitals with prion. The human prion is resistant to both heat and chemicals. Prions released from humans are up to a hundred thousand times more difficult to deactivate than prions from most animals. Prions shed from humans are the most aggressive mutation, which is why prions in sewage are so devastating to wildlife and humans alike. Potent prions are contaminating entire sewage treatment systems and their by-products, including biosolids and reclaimed wastewater. The sewage sludge and wastewater released are spreading disease far and wide.
Wastewater treatment plants are collecting points for prions from infected humans. The sewage treatment process can’t stop these proteins, which means that they are serving as prion incubators and distributors. When released back into the environment, prions kill again.
Norway dumps 90 percent of its infectious sewage sludge on land—a practice that it has promoted aggressively since the 1970s. One-third of it is applied on parks, sporting fields and roadsides, while two-thirds of the waste is dumped on farms as a sick form of fertilizer—full of deadly prions, carcinogens, pharmaceuticals and more. Norway conducted a new risk assessment for the land application of biosolids in 2009 (Eriksen, et al.), but it failed to account for prion risks.
Prions become more aggressive as they work their way up the food chain and back and forth among humans. Prions released from humans in sewage are extra strength versions. Sick reindeer are the latest canary in the coal mine. Norway won’t solve the problem by killing the deer, but there will be fewer canaries to remind us all about the real problem caused by human sewage—in Norway and beyond.
Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues again confirmed the presence of prions in urine. Soto also confirmed that plants absorb prions through the roots and become infectious and deadly to those who eat them. Therefore, humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via plants grown on land treated with sewage sludge and reclaimed wastewater water.
Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain soils. Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped. Most mammals don’t stand a chance.
“If prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage 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 possible 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 (absorbed) by plants and vegetables.”
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.
Thanks to sewage mismanagement, prion diseases are killing humans, wildlife and livestock around the world. As more people are contracting TSEs, sewage systems are more contaminated with prions than ever. Infectious waste is becoming more infectious every day. Infectious waste is not fertilizer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within, or beyond, wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to its antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions an “emerging contaminant of concern.” Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are promoting a public health disaster.
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, low-tech wastewater treatment facility. It’s ludicrous to think that treated sewage water or biosolids are prion-free when the last line of defense in the most sophisticated systems is a little hydrogen peroxide.
Exposing crops and livestock to prions is a very bad idea. Plants absorb prions from the soil along with water and nutrient uptake, which makes the prions bioavailable and infectious to humans, wildlife and livestock via the food chain.
The prion problem is getting worse with rising populations, rising concentrations of people, more sick people, intensive agriculture, reckless sewage disposal policies, contaminated sewage treatment infrastructures 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.
CWD In Norway
The modern practice of dumping sewage sludge on land has created a public health crisis around the globe. Autism and Alzheimer’s disease are just two of the symptoms. Chronic wasting disease mysteriously appeared in Norway’s reindeer last year. Instead of managing the real prion threat from sewage, the nation plans to exterminate more than 2,000 reindeer to eliminate the symptom of this environmental nightmare.
Norway’s first CWD case was detected after wildlife biologists working in the rugged mountains of Nordfjella found a sick young reindeer in March 2016. After its death, tests at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute (NVI) in Oslo pointed to CWD. International reference labs confirmed her diagnosis.
After the initial discovery, Norwegian officials began looking for other cases. A local hunter found two moose with CWD near the town of Selbu, 40 kilometers southeast of Trondheim, in May 2016. During last fall’s hunting season, thousands of hunters and other volunteers collected about 8,000 brain samples from all over the country, turning up two more cases of infected reindeer near Nordfjella. The cases in Nordfjella and Selbu are likely not linked, says Benestad, as the reindeer and moose have different types of prions.
“CWD in Norway’s reindeer and moose—the first cases in Europe—is a very serious situation for the environment and for our culture and traditions,” says Bjørnar Ytrehus, a veterinary researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Trondheim.
Last week, Norway’s minister of agriculture and food gave the green light for hunters to kill off the entire herd in which three infected individuals were found, about 2000 reindeer, or nearly 6 percent of the country’s wild population. “We have to take action now,” says Karen Johanne Baalsrud, director of plant and animal health at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority in Oslo. The deer’s habitat will be quarantined for at least 5 years to prevent reinfection, but water that runs off from this watershed will threaten all mammals, especially if sewage is still being dumped there. The odds of a successful eradication, experts say, will depend on the management of all prion pathways, especially those from humans.
Culling the entire herd would be “drastic,” the panel acknowledged, but should be attempted as soon as possible. The slaughter, to start in August, will be carried out by amateur hunters, who can eat the meat if prion tests come back negative. Professional sharpshooters will be used to find any elusive survivors. “We will do whatever it takes,” says Erik Lund, a senior wildlife adviser at the Norwegian Environment Agency in Trondheim.
Until the operation begins, wildlife rangers are patrolling to prevent animals from leaving or entering the herd’s 2000-square-kilometer habitat. The area is ringed by paved roads, which reindeer don’t like to cross, but if any do, the rangers have orders to track down and kill them. Repopulation won’t begin until at least 2022. Benestad says testing old feces may be a way to check whether prions lingering in the environment have degraded. Based on the prevalence in Nordfjella—estimated at 1%—Lund guesses that CWD may have been present for only 5 to 7 years, which could mean contamination is minimal.
“There’s a good chance they can solve the problem,” says wildlife ecologist Michael Samuel of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Quick response has been shown to work before: In 2005, routine testing revealed CWD on two deer farms in western New York. Strict regulations prevented the disease from spreading. The state has seen no cases since.
It’s possible that CWD is elsewhere in Norway, the panel noted. The agencies will collect another 20,000 samples in the coming hunting season. They will continue testing wildlife for years to come. The European Food Safety Authority recommended that seven nearby countries begin testing programs.
Ironically, Norwegian officials admit how infectious the bodily fluids and excrements of the reindeer and moose are. But they don’t acknowledge the greater problem of infectious bodily fluids and excrements of humans who have prion disease. Sick deer, elk, moose and reindeer are further proof of the deadly and infectious nature of prion diseases in humans, including Alzheimer’s and CJD. Sick deer also are further proof of the infectious nature of sewage sludge (biosolids). Livestock are not immune.
The sick reindeer in Norway and the shortsighted plan to kill them speak volumes about the mismanagement of prion disease globally and in Norway. Government, industry and researchers alike are ignoring the human contribution to prion buildup in the environment. Infectious waste isn’t fertilizer. The risk assessments for such policies and practices are outdated and negligent, if not criminal. The global spike in brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s, autism and chronic wasting disease all spiked when governments around the world began endorsing and promoting the land application of sewage sludge.
Since humans are at the top of the food chain and downstream from these infected farms, ranches and forests, our food and water supplies are at risk of prion recycling (contamination). Wind and tornadoes transport the infectious waste even further. It’s time to end the land application of sewage sludge in the name of homeland defense and public health.