The National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa is accused of dumping liquefied animal remains into that city's wastewater system. The reporting on this story is unhelpful:
When this waste breaks down it creates complex proteins called "prions." Prions are listed as an environmental hazard by the EPA. Prions can cause potenially [sic] fatal diseases in humans and animals. Prion diseases include chronic wasting disease, which is found in deer and elk populations, and mad cow disease (BSE). So far no cases of either disease has ever been found in Iowa.Prions aren't a breakdown product of animal remains; they occur naturally in mammalian cells. If there are prions in the remains at NADC, they probably result from experiments like this one.
And prion diseases aren't "potentially fatal." They're always fatal, without exception.
Here's the really odd part:
The problem, is when the NADC disposes of waste from animals they test for various diseases these employees say they have allegedly not been burning all that waste. Inceneration [sic] is the safest way to dispose of the potentially hazardous waste. The employees say the NADC has been using a bleaching process on the liquid remains of animals.Well, that's as it should be, since bleach deactivates prions.
The concern, it seems, is that prions might contaminate the sewage sludge that gets spread on fields used to grow human and animal crops. But if they're using bleach to deactivate the prions - as the whistleblowing employees themselves claim is the case - that shouldn't be an issue.
I don't get this story at all.
UPDATE: This article says the whistleblowers are complaining that the NADC isn't using bleach:
Officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the lab, said the heat treatment used in Ames is an approved method that deactivates the protein that causes the disease. The workers maintain that other labs use a safer system - bleaching, then cooking.