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22 Carcinogens Found in U.S. Tap Water

USA Today reported on a study where the Environmental Working Group (EWG) cited 22 carcinogens commonly found in tap water — including arsenic, byproducts of water disinfectants and radionuclides such as uranium and radium — that could cumulatively result in over 100,000 cancer cases over the span of a lifetime.

Most community water systems meet legal standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yet the study listed 22 contaminants with carcinogenic risks present in 48,363 community water systems in the United States — estimated to serve about 86% of the U.S. population. Based on a cumulative risk assessment, EWG found that for every 10,000 people, four will have cancer over the span of their lifetime due to contaminants in water.

When you drink water from the tap, you expect it to be safe. But just because it’s clear and tastes normal does not mean it’s pure.

The Safe Drinking Water Act was put into place in 1974 to keep Americans’ tap water safe, but the EPA has not added a new contaminant to the list of regulated drinking water pollutants in more than 20 years. This means that there are no legal limits for the more than 160 unregulated contaminants in the nation’s tap water.

EWG analyzed data from U.S. agencies and the EPA on drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015. In tests from nearly 50,000 water utilities in 50 states that were tested for 500 different contaminants, 267 were detected, including:

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems
  • 45 linked to hormonal disruption

EWG’s analysis revealed many alarming trends, like the fact that nearly 19,000 public water systems detected lead at levels above 3.8 parts per billion, which would put a formula-fed baby at risk of elevated blood lead levels.

Several Michigan state and local officials are facing criminal charges over their involvement in the Flint lead water crisis.

Between 2000 and 2004, Washington, D.C. was also plagued with lead-contaminated water. As in Flint, some of the lead levels in the water were high enough to be classified as hazardous waste. At least 350 schools and day care centers across the U.S. test above the EPA’s action level for lead content in water.

Each year, red flags over toxic drinking water are raised across the U.S., with reasons varying from location to location. One major problem is aging water pipes. The American Water Works Association estimates it would cost more than $1 trillion to update and replace all the water pipes in the U.S.

Another concern is water pollution. Water treatment plants cannot filter out all of the toxins now entering the water, from firefighting chemicals and agricultural chemicals, to drugs and microcystins, nerve toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria.

If you care about your family’s health, filtering your household water is more a necessity than an option these days.