Invisible Toxins

Pause for a moment to consider how many ways our families use tap water. We mix it with oatmeal & brush budding teeth with it. We run the dishwasher and the washing machine, rinse lettuce for salads, & bathe our kids in it. And every day, Americans drink 1 billion glasses of water from the tap—and we're fortunate here, where we enjoy some of the highest-quality drinking water in the world.

Invisible Toxins

Even in the U.S., that clear liquid contains a hidden threat: toxic contaminants from sources such as agriculture, industry, and ironically, water-treatment itself. Many of these pollutants have been linked to cancer, and some are associated with negative cognitive, developmental, and reproductive effects. Kids are generally at a higher risk from these toxins than adults because they're still growing and developing.

Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health says, "Babies and toddlers also may not be as good at detoxifying as adults," this Oakland California based organization, is working to eliminate the threat from toxic chemicals.

All public water that comes through your tap has been treated to remove toxins & bacteria. Above that, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires water treatment plants to test periodically for toxins, including asbestos, lead, & mercury, as well as less-familiar toxins, like disinfectant byproducts. The plants are also required to test the levels of regulated contaminants according to a schedule set by the EPA (the timing varies on the location and size of your public water system).'That means your water is treated every day, but not actually tested as often.

Nneka Leiba, research analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization devoted to public health & the environment, located in Washington, D.C. says, that the bigger concern is unregulated toxins. In 2009, the EWG published a landmark report identifying more than 200 unregulated contaminants in drinking water based on 20 million tap water quality tests from around the country. One of the pollutants they found is perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuels, fireworks, and airbags.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Council on Environmental Health says that the chemical interferes with the function of thyroid hormones and has the potential to cause brain damage. Although as many as 16.6 million Americans may be exposed to the chemical through their drinking water, it isn't regulated—yet.

In February, the EPA announced that it had initiated the process of creating a standard to regulate perchlorate levels in drinking water. 'That's not the only good news. The EWG report also found the vast majority of regulated contaminants-92 percent—to be within legal limits. "It's important to take the steps to improve the quality of our water over time, but it's not necessary to panic over what we're drinking today," Cox says.

This past March, the EPA proposed monitoring 30 unregulated contaminants, including perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. These toxins originate in products such as nonstick pots and Pans and have even been found in infant cord blood. Earlier this year, the EPA took steps to help water utilities monitor cancer-causing chromium-6, the so-called Erin Brockovich chemical. The agency is also looking at lowering the amount of fluoride in our drinking water to prevent fluorosis, a condition that causes white spots on kids'teeth.

18 August 2011