Our nation’s drinking water has become a surprising chemical soup.
Not too many months ago a New York Times article unveiled unwanted substances in our drinking water. According to the article, more than one-fifth of the nation’s water treatment systems have broken the Safe Drinking Water Act, leading to about nine million Americans being sickened.
Here are some of the substances the EPA has already found in our drinking water:
• Arsenic: A pesticide and wood sealant, arsenic can be deadly if ingested at high levels, while intakes of lower levels can put a person at risk for skin, liver, bladder and lung unhealth. More than 3 million Americans have been exposed to arsenic in their water since 2005.
• Uranium: Large amounts of uranium can lead to unhealthy kidneys. Three million Americans were also exposed to illegal amounts of this radioactive substance.
• Radium: At high levels, radium is carcinogenic and can affect bones, liver and breasts. Radium levels were 2,000 times the legal limit in some areas.
• Tetrachloroethylene: High exposure can lead to headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, unconsciousness and even menstrual problems for women. Drinking water in Ramsey, N.J. has allegedly had illegal concentrations of this substance since 2004.
• Lead: Lead-tainted water can lead to physical and mental developmental problems for kids and high blood pressure and kidney problems for adults. You may want to check your water for lead content. The EPA’s threshold for lead is 0.015 parts per million.
• Prescriptions and Personal Care Items: Prozac, birth control, makeup and shampoo all make their way to our water supply, too, causing ecological harm and possibly threatening human health.
Additionally, atrazine, an herbicide widely sprayed on corn fields in Midwestern states like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Ohio, is said to cause human birth defects. "Atrazine ... appears to have effects during critical stages of fetal development," said Suzanne Fenton of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a former EPA researcher.
Atrazine can also cause reproductive defects in amphibians and fish, including lowered testosterone levels and fertility in male frogs—many of which were chemically castrated or even turned into females following exposure to the chemical. The EPA says a “safe” level for atrazine is 3ppb (parts per billion), but studies say that levels as low as 0.1 ppb can cause developmental and reproductive problems. You can see why levels of 30 ppb—ten times the “safe” level—would have some Illinois residents up in arms.
Who wants to drink these? Not me.
If you’re curious about how your drinking water measures up, you can go to the EPA web site at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo/index.html and check it out.
And in the meantime, get an inexpensive water filter. It can filter the “whacky” from your water.