The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US organization that ensures environmental solutions, has identified dozens of new contaminants in drinking water over the past two years, according to the last update from its database, which compiles reports from nearly 50,000 water utilities across the country since 2014.
EWG found that the detected compounds mostly belong to the so-called perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), which can remain in the drinking water of tens of millions of households for a long time.
In addition, the “invisible toxic cocktail” includes pesticides, lead, arsenic, disinfection by-products, radioactive elements (uranium and radium), nitrates, and “many other substances that are often found in drinking water at potentially unsafe levels.” warns the organization.
Thus, Americans who drink tap water “are potentially receiving a dose of industrial or agricultural pollutants”, which are linked to multiple diseases such as cancer, damage to the nervous system and the brain, as well as fertility problems, hormonal disorders. A 2019 study using EWG data found more than 20 carcinogens at levels that could put the public at risk, even when the drinking water “met federal standards.”
In this context, Tasha Stoiber, Principal Scientist at the EWG, assures that US regulations they are not “strong enough”. If monitoring the water supply were efficient, the list of contaminants, which is already alarming, would be much longer. Many of them have been produced and used for years, but are only now being tracked, as their impact on health is increasingly evident.
One example is HAA-5, a by-product of the drinking water disinfection process that the industry had rated safe, but which recent studies linked to fetal harm. That forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pay more attention to it.
“The US tap water system is rife with aging infrastructure and rampant contamination from sources, while outdated EPA regulations, which are often based on archaic science, allow excessive levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water “, asserts the EWG.
The last time the EPA established a new legal limit for a contaminant in drinking water was in 2000. Since then, the precious liquid has suffered widespread contamination, particularly from emerging toxins. According to the agency, it is “low-income and underserved communities” that generally suffer the consequences.
EWG insists on the need for “stricter federal water quality standards and a massive injection of funds to improve infrastructure. “Meanwhile, and with the goal of” addressing the gap in federal oversight and better protecting public health, “its updated database allows consumers to see a report on toxic chemicals detected in your local drinking water.
At the same time, the body has created standards for various contaminants based on recent scientific data and advises the public to use water filters to reduce the levels of many of them and provides guidance on how to choose the most effective ones.
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