H2ouch

A NEW TOOL HELPS AMER­I­CANS KNOW WHAT HARM­FUL CHEM­I­CALS LURK IN THEIR DRINK­ING WATER

Newsweek - - CONTENTS - BY JES­SICA WAPNER @jes­si­cawap­ner

THE EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL Work­ing Group re­cently re­leased a new on­line tool that al­lows users to check the safety of their drink­ing water. With just a ZIP code, the data­base de­liv­ers in­for­ma­tion about the con­tam­i­nants in the water util­ity serv­ing that re­gion. EWG has also is­sued a guide­book and a sum­mary of the state of drink­ing water in Amer­ica.

Many kitchen sinks across the U.S. pour water with chem­i­cals that may pose health

risks. In­ves­ti­ga­tions by the non­profit EWG found that many water util­i­ties are de­liv­er­ing in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural con­tam­i­nants in ev­ery glass of tap water. Whether the amounts of th­ese chem­i­cals are rea­son for con­cern is a mat­ter of de­bate. The lev­els that fed­eral and state reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties deem safe do not al­ways match the sci­en­tific data on health risks.

To as­sess the safety of drink­ing water through­out the coun­try, the EWG ob­tained data from state agen­cies and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency for test­ing con­ducted from 2010 to 2015. A to­tal of 48,172 util­i­ties from all 50 states were in­cluded in the study.

In the EWG anal­y­sis, water sam­ples from across the coun­try tested pos­i­tive for 267 of the 500 con­tam­i­nants in the search. The chem­i­cals in­cluded 93 the EWG says are linked to an in­creased risk of can­cer, 78 that have been tied to brain and ner­vous sys­tem dam­age, 63 as­so­ci­ated with de­vel­op­men­tal harm to chil­dren and fe­tuses, and dozens of oth­ers that may be im­pli­cated in fer­til­ity or hor­monal prob­lems. The lev­els of the con­tam­i­nants in our ev­ery­day water sup­ply are not nec­es­sar­ily high enough to cause this po­ten­tial harm, how­ever. And sci­en­tists aren’t sure whether all of th­ese chem­i­cals are di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the ail­ments to which they’re linked or if the con­nec­tion is looser.

But there is rea­son to be con­cerned. As is well known, high lev­els of lead in the drink­ing water for res­i­dents of Flint, Michi­gan, caused a wide­spread and long-last­ing cri­sis. Lead is un­safe at any level. Ac­cord­ing to the EWG, nearly 19,000 pub­lic water sys­tems it sur­veyed con­tained lead ex­ceed­ing 3.8 parts per bil­lion, which is con­sid­ered risky for for­mula-fed ba­bies.

Some of the lesser-known com­pounds found in the tested water in­clude the in­dus­trial chem­i­cal chromium-6; 1,4-diox­ane, an in­dus­trial sol­vent and byprod­uct of some de­ter­gents and sham­poos; and ni­trates, which are used in agri­cul­tural fer­til­iz­ers.

The EWG also found a cor­re­la­tion be­tween in­come lev­els and water qual­ity. Ar­eas with a higher av­er­age in­come of­ten had fewer con­tam­i­nants than lower-in­come ar­eas. The East Los An­ge­les Water Dis­trict had the high­est num­ber of con­tam­i­nants of all the re­gions tested. It serves 115,000 peo­ple and has a me­dian in­come 20 per­cent be­low the na­tional av­er­age. Those wish­ing to find out how safe their drink­ing water is can en­ter their ZIP code on­line at Ewg.org/tap­wa­ter.

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