Tap Water is Not as Safe as You Think.
EPA plans to regulate cancer-causing chemicals found in America’s drinking water
A new study finds that cancer causing substances in regular tap water may increase cancer risks. In this study, recently published in Heliyon, a London based research publisher, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 22 carcinogens commonly found in tap water – including arsenic, byproducts of water disinfectants and radionuclides such as uranium and radium – could cumulatively result in over 100,000 cancer cases over the span of a lifetime.
Most of the tap water tested falls within legal standards, but the contaminants found by the researchers create a cancer risk.
“The vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards,” said Olga Naidenko, the vice president for science investigations at EWG, in a statement. “Yet the latest research shows that contaminants present in the water at those concentrations – perfectly legal – can still harm human health.”
Tap water not as safe as we’ve been led to believe
An earlier analysis found that contaminants found in tap water posed a heightened risk of cancer. Although this cancer risk has been debated for decades, the current standards set by the EPA are complicated and aim to balance cost and risks. This study found 22 contaminants, which posed a risk for cancer, were found in nearly 50,000 community water systems in the US, which EWG estimates serve about 86% of the population. The risk assessment reveals that 4 people out of 10,000 will have cancer over the span of the lifetime due to the contaminants in water.
EWG claims that 87% of the cancer risk present in tap water comes from arsenic and byproducts of common disinfectants. Long-term exposure to arsenic, per the World Health Organization, can cause skin cancer, as well as cancer of the bladder and the lungs and the byproducts of disinfectants have been classified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and EPA as known and possible human carcinogens that can cause liver and bladder cancer.
“Drinking water contains complex mixtures of contaminants, yet government agencies currently assess the health hazards of tap water pollutants one by one,” said Sydney Evans, the lead author of the paper, in a statement. “In the real world, people are exposed to combinations of chemicals, so it is important that we start to assess health impacts by looking at the combined effects of multiple pollutants.”
The majority of water systems, they add, are in compliance with EPA standards. In a statement, published by USA Today, the EPA claims that legal limits are set for over 90 contaminants in drinking water.
We Deserve Clean Water
Recent disasters in Newark, NJ, to Flint, MI, have exposed the failure of some public water systems to protect citizens from harm. Although EPA regulations are in place, they weren’t followed, or were too general for the municipalities to interpret.
What can be done?
- Cities can switch from chlorine water treatment to ozone treatment. The Water Research Center says that using ozone water treatment in lieu of chlorine reduces the risk of chemicals leaching into water supplies.
- You can Install a water filter that can remove contaminants found in an individual water source. However, filters that specifically remove arsenic, can cost a couple of thousand dollars and be cost prohibitive for some families.
- Become proactive – ultimately the balance of support for The Clean Water Act comes from the consumer. Learn how to evaluate your tap water. Regulations, testing and other educational material available at the EPAs website: https://www.epa.gov/ground-