About 14.1 million Americans routinely consume drinking water containing
pesticides, including the weed killers, atarzine, alachlor, and simazine.
People in 121 Midwestern towns and cities face an elevated risk of cancer as a
result of drinking water containing five farm pesticides.
Drinking Water in Midwest Has Pesticides,
report says, The New York Times, October 18, 1994. "This study is another in
a series of wake-up calls that tells us we can no longer take for granted that
our drinking water is safe all the time," says Carol M. Browner, Administrator,
Water is the foundation that human survival is
built on. Therefore, we must take all threats to our drinking water supply
seriously. Farm runoff containing agricultural chemicals and manure may lead to
contamination of drinking water supplies with fungicide, insecticides,
herbicides, and fertilizers, containing phosphorous and nitrogen.
David Ozonoff, Chairman, Environmental Health
Department, Boston University:" I think the problem today is that turning on
your tap is an act of faith, and I'm not sure that that act of faith is
particularly well- placed." If you drink from the tap, there are several recent
studies you should know about because they may change the way you think about
Emerging evidence Indicates that fertilizers in
water supplies may cause cancer. Studies in China involving populations exposed
to nitrates in their drinking water have suggested links between nitrate
contamination and stomach and liver cancer. Further study of this potential
carcinogen is strongly indicated. A study in New Jersey found evidence of
association between volatile organic compounds in drinking water and leukemia. A
national study, found evidence of increased rates of cancer in the vicinity of
hazardous waste sites. Another study in Woburn, Massachusetts, associated
hazardous waste disposal with increased rates of leukemia.
Effects Drinking Water Distribution Systems on
The chemicals used in pipes, and joints, may
contaminate drinking water after it has been treated. The many different
materials used in these delivery systems result in varied contamination sources.
Copper, tar, asphalt iron, zinc, coal, polyethylene, concrete, polyvinyl
chloride, vinyl, asbestos and lead are all possible sources of post-treatment,
contamination. Another recent study showed an association between leukemia and
trichlorethylene, which came from plastics used in the drinking water delivery
system. A 1979 study of several water systems demonstrated an increase in the
cancer causing properties of drinking water after passing through the water
A new book, "Our Stolen Future", deals with the
disastrous health effects from chemicals present in large numbers in pesticides,
plastics, and industrial processes. The book, contains a foreword by Vice
President Al Gore. It discusses the various and serious effects these industrial
chemicals have on humans and the environment. The book shifts the debate from
the chemicals' potential of causing cancer to their effect on the bodies hormone
systems. "The evidence is here, and the weight of evidence is powerful. This is
enough to wake people up," Theo Colburn, a scientist with the World Wildlife
Fund and co-author of the book, told Reuters News Service. Ten scientists from
universities and hospitals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the
National Academy of Science called for an intense research effort on these
chemicals that seem to lower sperm counts in men. Evidence shows that men's
sperm counts have dropped worldwide since these chemicals were introduced in the
late 1930s. These chemicals also seem to disrupt other human reproductive and
metabolic functions, "Given the environmental, economic and biological impact of
endocrine- disrupting chemicals, difficult decisions regarding the abatement of
health hazards are necessary," Christopher DeRosa, director of the Health and
Human Services Department's Division of Toxicology.
Another area of current concern is centered on
the potential for micropollutants to cause cancer through chemicals that mimic
naturally occurring, biologically active compounds. These substances appear to
disrupt intercellular communications. For Example: Nonyl-phenol, a common
chemical , increases proliferation in breast tumor cell cultures.
Zoologist Theo Colborn of the World Wildlife Fund
and her co-workers have compiled a list of 42 chemicals or classes of chemicals
that have been reported to affect the reproductive or hormone system.
Studies were performed in the mid-1980's after
high levels of a common industrial chemical solvent called tetrachloroethylene,
or perc was found in the water supplies of several Massachusetts towns. The
studies found the chemical increased the risk of leukemia and bladder cancer by
up to 9 times normal. This same chemical has been showing up, at lower levels,
in a quarter of the water samples around the country.
Even if a city's water passes muster,
residential supplies can be contaminated in houses with lead pipes or plastic
pipes that emit volatile compounds or in homes supplied by private well water
that is taken near a landfill site.
The contamination of water is directly related
to the degree of contamination of our environment. Rainwater flushes
airborne pollution from the skies, and then washes over the land before running
into the, rivers, aquifers, and lakes that supply our drinking-water. All of the
chemicals generated by man will eventually end up in our water supplies.
Under conditions of average temperature,
humidity, and activity, the human body loses and, therefore, must replace about
2.3 liters of water each day. Two-thirds of this consumption is in the form of
water or some other beverage. Concerns about the health risks or taste of
drinking water may induce those who consume tap water to shift to bottled water,
or other beverages. These beverages may include sweetened soft drinks and
alcoholic beverages, which can pose health risks greater than those associated
with drinking water. In addition, the production and disposal of containers for
alternative beverages, including bottled water, may lead to the release of
According to a report sponsored by Ralph Nader,
at least 2,110 contaminants have been identified in the nation's drinking water
supplies. The contaminants not regulated may be present in drinking water.
Further, contaminants such as Lead, Asbestos, and Trihalomethanes could occur in
your water supply after the water leaves the public water treatment plant.
For these reasons, millions of people throughout the world are looking for
alternatives to drinking tap water.
Health Effects of Pesticides in Drinking Water
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