Clean drinking water is something that the public has pretty much taken for granted for hundreds of years. The public has little idea—perhaps understandably—just how contaminated our drinking water has become.
In the past century, one of the greatest threats to North America’s water system has been the alarming and pervasive increase of acid rain, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, and chemicals found throughout thousands of waterways. These pollutants affect the accumulation and the rates decomposition of organic and inorganic matter in water.
There are scores heavy metals, trace elements, and chemicals being discharged into the environment by a number of industries including mining, nuclear, and electronic industries; hundreds of other pollutants are also discharged such as plasticizers, solvents, and propellants. Copper, lead, and galvanized pipes along with chemicals and minerals added to aid in the coagulation of water and are of great concern as sources of drinking water pollution.
“Of the 141 unregulated contaminants utilities detected in water supplies between 1998 and 2003, 52 are linked to cancer, 41 to reproductive toxicity, 36 to developmental toxicity, and 16 to immune system damage …”
A National Assessment of Tap Water Quality found 260 contaminants in our nation’s tap water; 141 of these contaminants have no enforceable safety limits; therefore, despite the potential health risks, any concentration of these chemicals in tap water is legal, no matter how high. Of the 141 unregulated contaminants utilities detected in water supplies between 1998 and 2003, 52 are linked to cancer, 41 to reproductive toxicity, 36 to developmental toxicity, and 16 to immune system damage, according to chemical listings in seven standard government and industry toxicity references.
However, the EPA’s own scientists have identified 600 chemicals in tap water formed as by-products of disinfection—they tracked 220 million pounds of 650 industrial chemicals discharged to rivers and streams annually. They also spearheaded research on emerging contaminants after the U.S. Geological Survey found 82 unregulated pharmaceuticals, hormones, medications, and residues of consumer products in rivers and streams across the country. Intensive use of antibiotics in human and veterinarian medicine and in industrial farming (as food additives) has resulted in the transport of significant quantities of the active ingredients to environmental waters. That is 600 + 650 + 82 = 1,332 different chemicals in water. All told, the EPA has set safety standards for fewer than 20 percent of the many hundreds of chemicals that it has identified in tap water.
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