[permaculture] trihalomethanes : 100 Million+ Americans Exposed to Toxic Drinking Water – EcoWatch: Uniting the Voice of the Grassroots Environmental Movement

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Sun Mar 3 19:14:07 EST 2013

100 Million+ Americans Exposed to Toxic Drinking Water – EcoWatch: Uniting
the Voice of the Grassroots Environmental Movement

A new Environmental Working Group analysis
<http://www.ewg.org/research/water-treatment-contaminants>of 2011 water
quality tests by 201 large U.S. municipal water
serve more than 100 million people in 43 states has determined that
all are polluted with unwanted toxic chemicals called trihalomethanes.
These chemicals, an unintended side effect of chlorination, elevate the
risks of bladder cancer, miscarriages and other serious ills.

“Many people are likely exposed to far higher concentrations of
trihalomethanes than anyone really knows,” said Renee Sharp, a senior
scientist at EWG and co-author of the analysis. “For most water systems,
trihalomethane contamination fluctuates from month to month, sometimes
rising well beyond the legal limit set by the federal Environmental
Protection Agency.”

Trihalomethanes are formed when chlorine, added to treated water as a
disinfectant, reacts with rotting organic matter such as farm runoff,
sewage or dead animals and vegetation. Their concentrations tend to rise
when storms increase organic pollution in waters that serve as sources for
tap water.

Scientists suspect that trihalomethanes in drinking water may cause
thousands of cases of bladder cancer every year. These chemicals also have
been linked to colon and rectal cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and low
birth weight.

Only one of the systems studied by EWG—Davenport, Iowa—xceeded the EPA’s
upper legal limit of 80 parts per billion of trihalomethanes in drinking
water. Since that regulation was issued in 1998, a significant body of
scientific research has developed evidence that these chemicals cause
serious disorders at much lower concentrations. Among the research are two
Taiwanese studies conducted in 2007 and 2012 that associated increased
risks of bladder cancer and stillbirth to long-term consumption of tap
water with trihalomethane contamination greater than 21 parts per billion.
Some 168 of systems, or 84 percent of the 201 large systems studied,
reported average annual concentrations greater than that level.

California public health officials reviewed the research around
trihalomethane contamination in 2010 and determined that to reduce the risk
of bladder cancer to no more than one in a million, the drinking water
standard would need to be set at 0.8 parts per billion, which is 100 times
lower than the current legal limit set by U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA).

“New science makes a compelling case for stronger regulations and a
stricter legal limit,” Sharp said.

The EPA regulates four members of the trihalomethane family, the best known
of which is chloroform, once used as an anesthetic and, in pulp detective
stories, to knock out victims. Today, the U.S. government classifies
chloroform as a “probable” human carcinogen. California health officials
consider it a “known” carcinogen. The EPA does not regulate hundreds of
other types of toxic contaminants formed by water treatment chemicals.
Among these unregulated but dangerous chemicals are nitrosamines, which are
formed when a chloramine, a chlorine compound used for water treatment,
reacts with organic matter. In 2010, then-EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
launched a drinking water
committed the agency to investigate nitrosamine contamination. The
U.S. government considers some chemicals in the nitrosamine family to be
“reasonably anticipated” to be human carcinogens.

Clean source water is critical to breaking this cycle. The EPA has found
that every dollar spent to protect source water reduced water treatment
costs by an average of $27 dollars.

“We must do a better job of keeping farm runoff, sewage and other
pollutants from getting into our drinking water in the first place,” said
Sharp. “By failing to do so, Congress, the EPA and polluters leave no
choice for water utilities but to treat dirty water with chemical
disinfectants. Americans are left to drink dangerous residual chemicals
generated by the treatment process.”

Environmental Working Group (EWG) is calling on federal officials to:

   - Reform farm policies to provide more funds to programs designed to
   keep agriculture pollutants, such as manure, fertilizer, pesticides and
   soil out of tap water.
   - Renew the conservation compliance provision by tying wetland and soil
   protection requirements to crop insurance programs and requiring farm
   businesses who receive subsidies to update their conservation plans.
   - Strengthen and adequately fund conservation programs that reward
   farmers who take steps to protect sources of drinking water.
   - Fund more research on the identity of and toxicological profiles for
   hundreds of water treatment contaminants in drinking water.
   - Reevaluate the measurement of water treatment contaminants so that
   consumers cannot be legally exposed to spikes of toxic chemicals.
   - Expand source water protection programs to prevent and reduce
   pollution and to conserve land in buffer zones around public water supplies.

To reduce exposure to trihalomethane and many other pollutants in drinking
water, EWG recommends consumers use a water filter system. EWG has released
its online water filter
which helps consumers figure out which filter is best for themselves and
their families.

*Visit EcoWatch’s WATER <http://ecowatch.org/p/water/> and
BIODIVERSITY<http://ecowatch.org/p/biodiversity/>pages for more
related news on this topic.

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