•FACT: Millions of private and public wells have never been tested for contaminants, but a five-year, $12 million, nationwide survey was conducted by the EPA and released in 1990. Based on that survey, the EPA estimates that 10.4 % of community wells and 4.2 % of rural domestic
wells have detectable levels of at least one pesticide.
•FACT: The U.S. Geological Survey has pinpointed sources of contamination in every state.
•FACT: Every bottled water isn't necessarily without contamination. Some bottled water isn't regularly monitored. In 1990, a bottled water survey by the Suffolk County, New York, health department tested bottled water sold in the county and found that 9 of 88 brands tested did not meet state and federal drinking water standards.
•FACT: Approximately 75 % of U.S. households have chlorinated water. In 1987 a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration, and the EPA found increased risk of bladder cancer with long-term consumption of chlorinated drinking water. This is
believed to be associated with the formation of disinfection byproducts in water from chlorine, such as THMs.
•FACT: According to EPA estimates, 40 million Americans are exposed to levels of lead in water well above the EPA's proposed maximum contaminant allowances.
•FACT: Virtually everyone has some level of radon in their water. The national average is 200 to 600 picocuries per liter. At these levels, scientists estimate the risk of developing cancer from radon ingestion is greater than the risk of cancer from most other regulated contaminants found in drinking water at the maximum levels allowed by the EPA!
•FACT: Giardia lamblia cysts have become the most common cause of waterborne disease in the United States. Although reporting is voluntary, more than 23,000 cases of Giardia lamblia caused disease were reported between 1960 and 1980. It also appears that the rate of outbreaks is increasing.
•FACT: Major outbreaks of disease caused by Cryptosporidium oocysts were reported in Texas in 1985, in Georgia in 1987, England in 1989 and Wisconsin in 1994. A limited sampling of western U.S. waters found Cryptosporidium oocysts in 28 % of treated drinking water samples evaluated. A study of eastern U.S. waters showed these oocysts present in 11 of 28 of the treated
"Assuring safe drinking water will not be cheap. As public water systems build new treatment facilities to meet more-stringent standards, most families will find their water bills rising. Meeting expected federal requirements will cost the nation's water suppliers more than $18 billion, the EPA estimates. Ultimately, the only sure way to guarantee safe water is to protect the source. But only a handful of communities nationwide have tough ordinances protecting their water supplies. Dade
County, Fla., for instance, now prevents new businesses that use hazardous materials, like dry-cleaners and auto repair shops, from locating right over water-well fields. Several towns northwest of Boston are planning similar zoning laws. These communities acted only after they had poisoned vital wells. One can only hope that other American communities will recognize the value of their drinking-water before their wells and reservoirs go bad.
Health Effects of Selected Drinking Water Contaminants
|CONTAMINANT||PROBABLE HEALTH EFFECTS*|
|Arsenic||Malignant tumors of skin and lungs, cramps, spasms, effects to nervous system|
|Barium||Prolonged stimulant action on muscles, nerve block|
|Benzene||Associated with cancer, leukemia, anemia|
|Cadmium||Bronchitis, anemia, gastrointestinal upsets, cancer in rats|
|Carbon tetrachloride||Central nervous system depression, gastrointestinal effects, liver and kidney damage, coma, death|
|Chlordane*||Carcinogen, liver and kidney damage|
|Chlorobenzene||Irritation to respiratory system, central nervous system depression|
|Chloroform||Possible liver, kidney and heart effects; carcinogenic in at least one animal species|
|Chromium||Kidney damage, cancer|
|Copper||Gastrointestinal tract irritant, possible infant fatality, Wilson's disease|
|1,1-Dichloroethane||Central nervous system depression, liver damage, suggested animal carcinogen|
|1,2-Dichloroethane||Nausea, mental confusion, liver and kidney damage|
|Ethylenedibromide (EDS)||Decreased fertility|
|Fluoride||Skeletal damage when present in high levels|
|Heptachlor||Possible tumor induction, carcinogenic in test animals|
|Lead||Damage to nervous system, kidneys, reproductive system; cancer in rats|
|Lindane||Chronic liver damage, anemia, leukemia|
|Mercury||Kidney impairment, possible death|
|Nickel||Signs of hyperglycemia and gastrointestinal and nervous disorders|
|Pentachlorophenol (PCP)||Loss of appetite, respiratory difficulties, anesthesia, coma, death|
|PCBs||Damage to skin and liver; nausea, loss of weight, jaundice, coma, death|
|Selenium||Carcinogen; irritation to mucous membranes, dermatitis|
|Tetrachloroethylene||Central nervous system effects; confirmed animal carcinogen, anesthesia, death|
|Toluene||Narcosis, irritation to eyes and respiratory system|
|Toxaphene||Possible liver damage|
|1,1,1-Trichloroethane||Narcosis, depression of central nervous system, unconsciousness, death|
|1,1,2-Trichloroethane||Possible liver and kidney effects, possible carcinogen in animals|
|Trichloroethylene||Central nervous system depression, loss of coordination, unconsciousness; strong irritant and carcinogen|
|Trihalomethanes (THM's)||Effects to nervous system and muscles, loss of consciousness|
|Vinyl chloride||Central nervous system depression, dulling of visual and auditory responses, possible death|
|Xylene||Mucous membrane irritant, lung congestion, impairment of kidney functions|
|Zinc||Muscular stiffness and pain, loss of appetite, nausea|
and what you can do to have fresh, clean water for your family.