Toxic trash in your water

By Mark Timmons
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Toxic trash in your water

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released a 22 page report called "The Toxic Trash in Drinking Water."  In case you are not aware of this organization, they are headquartered in Washington, DC and are charged with the following mission:
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.
In  the report they discussed the struggles many water treatment plants along the East Coast are having trying to recover from compromised facilities caused by Hurricane Sandy, but they also go on to discuss trihalomethanes (THM's):
The less dramatic but equally urgent story: inside those waterworks, and others across the nation, chlorine, added as a disinfectant to kill disease causing microganisms in dirty source water, is reacting with rotting organic matter like sewage, manure from livestock, dead animals and fallen leaves to form toxic chemicals that are potentially harmful to people. The unintended side effect of chlorinating water to meet federal drinking water regulations creates a family of chemicals known as trihalomethanes. The Environmental Protection Agency lumps them under the euphemism “disinfection byproducts” but we call them what they are: toxic trash. 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 officials consider it a “known” carcinogen. Three other regulated trihalomethanes are bromodichloromethane, bromoform, and dibromochloromethane. Hundreds more types of toxic trash are unregulated. Scientists suspect that trihalomethanes in drinking water may cause thousands of cases of bladder cancer every year. These chemicals have also been linked to colon and rectal cancer, birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage (NHDES 2006).
They go on to state that they tested 201 large American municipal water treatment systems in 43 states and detected trihalomethane contamination in all of them.   According to the EWC, these systems supply water to more than 100 million people. Are trihalomethanes or THM's bad for you?  You might want to consider some information from  these sources:
In 2011 a French research team, pooling data from studies in France, Finland and Spain, found that men exposed to more than 50 parts per billion of cancer risks (Costet 2011). In 2007, a scientific team in Spain associated exposure to trihalomethanes greater than 35 parts per billion with increased bladder cancer risks  (Villanueva 2007). In 2007, researchers from four Taiwanese universities reported that people faced twice the odds of dying from bladder cancer if they drank water with trihalomethane contamination greater than 21 parts per billion. This study was cited in the 2011 National Report on Carcinogens, a Congressionally-mandated report produced by the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency scientific body  (Chang 2007, NTP 2011). A 2010 study by the National Cancer Institute found that about a quarter of the human population\may have a genetic susceptibility that raises its risk of bladder cancer from trihalomethanes (Cantor 2010).
After quoting the above sources, the EWG went on to say this:
Some 168 of the systems studied by EWG, or 84 percent, reported average annual trihalomethane contamination greater than 21 parts per billion – the level at which Taiwanese researchers detected a heightened risk of bladder cancer. Concentrations greater than 35 parts per billion were found in 107, or 53 percent of these systems. In 2005, the EPA considered lowering the legal limit for trihalomethanes to 40 parts per billion, calculating that this move would prevent nearly 1,300 bladder cancer cases each year and save the U.S. between$2.9 and $7.1 billion (EPA 2005). The agency did not attempt to establish this lower standard as a regulation with the force of law. Instead it made marginal improvements in the way it would measure trihalomethanes for compliance with existing regulations and gave water treatment facilities until 2016 to comply with these modest changes.
Sounds scary doesn't it?  Well, the EWG says that trihalomethanes are just the tip of the iceberg., going on to say that there are more than 600 other unwanted chemicals created by disinfection byproducts and that chloramines are also toxic compounds affecting peoples health. In this 22 -page report they go on to outline how municipalities need clean up their water supplies and that is will be at a considerable cost.   That is a nice thought, but probably very unrealistic.  Would you be willing to pay a water bill 300 to 400% higher than your current water bill?  Upgrading water treatment plants to provide high quality drinking water is not only cost prohibitive but also downright wasteful, when you consider that over 99% of the water produced by a municipality is used for industry, fighting fires and home and business uses.  Less than one percent of the water produced by a municipality is ingested, so why treat all the water as if it were? I believe that having bacteriological pure water free of cholera, typhoid, giardia, cryptosporidium and e-coli is what a city needs to deliver to it's customers. Then it's up to the customer to treat it to the desired degree of purity at the point-of-entry into the home or the point-of-use.  Water softeners, whole house carbon filters and ultraviolet lights are examples of point-of-entry devices.  Reverse osmosis systems are examples of point-of-use devices.  Reverse osmosis, commonly called RO removes the largest spectrum of contaminants of any water treatment process including the "toxic trash" described by EWG.  What are you waiting for?  Start enjoying the taste and good health of a reverse osmosis system for as little at $149.95. Filtering your drinking water alone, is not enough however.  Dr. Mercola of Mercola.com says this:
Given the information in the EWG’s latest water report, chances are close to 100 percent that your tap water contains carcinogenic pollutants. In addition to the chemical disinfectants themselves, tap water contains disinfection byproducts that, in some cases, are 1,000 times as toxic as the contaminants they are designed to remove. These contaminants have been associated with bladder cancer, birth defects, miscarriage, and a number of other very serious health problems. Showering or bathing in contaminated tap water poses even more of a risk to your health than drinking it, so it isn’t enough to simply filter the water you drink. Optimally, you may opt to install in a whole home water filtration system. If you test your water, you’ll want to do it more than once, as DBPs can fluctuate throughout the year, depending on factors such as farming cycles.
You have choices on how to treat your water.  The technology is available and it costs a lot less than you might think.
August 22, 2013
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