Tags: Health Topics | Cancer | cancer | tap water | chernobyl

Cancer May Be Lurking in Your Tap Water

Filling a glass with tap water
Filling a glass with tap water (Tab1962/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 20 September 2019 09:32 AM

One of the worst consequences of the horrific Chernobyl radiation disaster in 1986 was widespread groundwater contamination that threatened millions of people.

Now, a blockbuster study shows that more than 100,000 cancer cases could stem from contaminants in tap water right here in America.

The report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals that a toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants in U.S drinking water could increase your risk of cancer. The group identified 22 carcinogenic contaminants found in drinking water nationwide.

“Drinking water contains complex mixtures of contaminants, yet government agencies currently assess the health hazards of contaminants one by one," says Sydney Evans, a science analyst at EWG who is lead author of the paper. "In the real world, people are exposed to a combination of chemicals, so its important that we start to assess health impacts by looking at the combined effects of multiple pollutants."

EWG says that 87% of the cancer risk found it tap water comes from arsenic and byproducts of common household disinfectants. Long-term exposure to arsenic, according to the World Health Organization, can cause skin, bladder, and lung cancers.

The byproducts of disinfectants have been linked to liver and bladder cancers by the NIH and EPA.

The EWG scientists say that the water systems that are riskiest tend to serve smaller communities and rely on groundwater. These communities, say the experts, often need improved infrastructure and resources to provide safe drinking water to their residents.

"The vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards," says Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG's vice president for science investigations. "Yet the latest research shows that contaminants in the water at perfectly legal concentrations can still harm human health."

Naidenko adds that we need to prioritize water protection and ensure that dangerous chemicals do not get into our water supply in the first place.

One solution is to install water filters to help remove the offending contaminants. The EWG offers a guide to help choose the right filter for your home.

To verify the safety of your tap water by zip code, the EWG has a simple tool.

The EPA takes the position that it's up to consumers to ensure that local water suppliers keep their water safe.

"The public is responsible for helping local water suppliers to set priorities, make decisions on funding and system improvements, and establish programs to protect drinking water sources," the EPA writes.

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A blockbuster study shows that more than 100,000 cancer cases could stem from contaminants in tap water in the United States.
cancer, tap water, chernobyl
Friday, 20 September 2019 09:32 AM
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