So…What’s In Your Water?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter
and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column
Published on 6/15/16, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: With all of the recent concerns about the water crisis in Flint Michigan and in Newark New Jersey, one must wonder, “so what’s in your water,” as we take a look at the chemicals usually found in municipal water supplies; the chemicals used to purify and filter water supplies, giving one a complete picture of the real threats that exists in positioning our water supply.

So, what’s in your water? It’s the million dollar question as it relates chemicals commonly found in drinking water supplies. Many of these chemicals are introduced to water supplies by man in order to help purify water supplies. Some minerals and chemicals are natural to water supplies, depending of the region in which your home/well is located. We review each chemical, the purpose it serves, and the danger it poses.

Water fluoridation is a process in which controlled amounts of fluoride chemical is added to municipal water supplies for the purposes of reducing dental issues and tooth decay. This practice was first introduced to the United States, and spread to other countries, where fluoride is now added to water supplies in twenty-five other countries artificially. Fluoride is naturally found around the world in some water supplies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over a half a billion people whom consume water that is fluorinated, 200 million of them right here in the United States. The WHO advocates for fluorination of public water supplies as they claim health benefits.

This practice does not go unnoticed without controversy. Since the 1940’s community activist have raised concerns about the true nature and safety of the fluorination process. Dr. Paul Connett, whom has come out against the practice, shared his professional views of why the general public should oppose this practice and demand for a change in policy. He claims that fluoride is classified as a drug by the FDA, and adds no extra benefit in enhancing drinking water supplies. Beyond just a decision, it has been argued the ethical boundaries in which have been violated in adding a known drug to water supplies in the name of social good, when this known chemical has far more damaging consequences over time.

In his study, released on September 2012, Dr. Paul Connett reveals the harmful effects of fluoride. He claims that fluoride is not an essential nutrient to the human body, and that fluoride can accumulate in the human body, especially in vital organs such as the kidneys. His largest hot button, aside that there are no actual health benefits to humans by digesting this chemical, is that many young children are over exposed to fluoride and  the chemical does more harm to discolor a child’s teeth then good. It has also been found by the National Research Council that too much fluoride exposure over time will have a profound effect on the brain, damaging tissue that effect functions of the brain. Even the US EPA has listed fluoride among the top 100 list of chemicals in which there is “substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”

Another familiar chemical to public water sources is chlorine. Chlorine in itself is a chemical agent that is a corrosive, poisonous, greenish-yellow gas that has a suffocating odor and is 2 ½ times heavier than air. Chlorine is part of the group of elements known as halogens, and when combined with metals, the become halides. When Chlorine is processes, and manufactured commercially, it produces free chlorine, hydrogen, and sodium hydroxide. This manufactured product is then compressed into a liquid and packaged to be added to drinking water, fountains, swimming pool, and other water sources in which make human contact for the purposes of controlling and destroying bacteria.

It has been argued that chlorine exposure contributes to the risk of getting cancer.  The American Journal of Public Health has published a report conducted by medical researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin, located in Milwaukee, discovered that people whom drank tap water on a regular basis containing high levels of chlorine and chlorine by-product, have a greater risk of showing signs of development of bladder and rectal cancers than those individuals whom steered away from such water supplies. The study links eight to ten percent of all bladder cancer cases and up to eighteen percent of rectal cancer cases are a result of long term consumption of these chemical agents.

Lead is at the center of controversy in both Flint Michigan’s water supply crisis and its failure to supply clean fresh drinking water to its residents; and in the case where lead was found in water supplies that flowed to City Schools in the City of Newark, New Jersey. In both cases lead deposits and lead contamination was a result of aging infrastructure, where lead was exposed to water supply chain delivery systems that leaked and bled into water pipes from the aging water pipes themselves. Lead is a heavy metal, and can affect the blood of a person (blood poisoning and/or lead positioning) which was a leading cause of so many young children whom had to seek medical attention in both cities due to the lead exposure. Lead can also negatively affect the brain and nervous system.

PCB’s is short for polychlorinated biphenyls, which was commonly used as a coolant for various types of equipment’s, cutting fluid for machining operations, and also found in heart transfer liquids. This chemical was banned in the US by 1979, and then by other international regulatory bodies in 2001. Rivers are one of the most contaminated and effected by PCB’s, which are highly toxic. PCB’s are known to affect the function of the thyroid. The US EPA has linked PCB to cancer causing issues when PCB’s are found in soil and/or water and transfer to humans either by way of contaminated drinking water and/or dirty soil used for farming. The Great Lakes, a source of drinking water, was found with high concentrations of PCB’s due to industrial manufacturing nearby which had released the chemical which made it into the lake’s sludge.

Chemical fertilizers are also another major attributor to the challenge in managing clean drinking water. Within nearly every lake community where a number residents call home, manicure their property, the use of fertilizers on their lawn make their way into lakes, rivers, and streams as the fertilizer leaches its way into water supplies. Natural run off effect causes the fertilizers to enter the water. Many of these common lawn fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphates, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and petrochemicals. These chemicals create an increase in vegetation growth in lakes and streams, compromising the natural eco-system. When this happens, the presence of oxygen in the water is choked out, and replaced by other chemical by-products.

Another common item found in municipal and/or recycled water supplies are trace pharmaceuticals. So how did that prescription medicine end up in the water supply? Well a common practice until just a few years ago, was by many to dispose of their old or expired prescription medication down the toilet or garbage disposal. These pills would eventually dissolve in the waste water supply; where such water is treated and recycled for other uses. In a study conducted by Associated Press revealed that drinking water to over 41 million Americans were effected due to high levels of trace pharmaceuticals found in their water supplies. Even though water is required to be filtered, there is little in the way of regulation that mandates processes and/or systems to also filter out trace pharmaceuticals. Currently, there is no federal law that requires public water to be tested, monitored, and/or treated for trace pharmaceuticals. Even some bottled water, which comes from municipal public water sources, has been found to contain drug contaminates.

Then there are the pollutants and chemicals which are added to water supplies because of the natural processes and atmospheric circumstances.  Air pollution and air pollution contributors can find themselves making way into clean lakes and streams when such pollutants are captured by rain cloud molecules. For instance, acid rain is a result of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide mixing together to form a light acid mix. When rain water molecules begin to mix with these acidic chemicals, in the atmosphere, acid rain is created. The acid rain then falls to the ground, also landing in lakes and rivers.

It’s important to know exactly what’s in your water. If you get your tap water from a municipal public water source, you can obtain a yearly report from your local Municipal Utilities Authority, which should have on file and available upon request all test results of those public water sources.

If you have your own private well, you can hire a company to conduct a primary and secondary well water quality test. These tests are only a few hundred dollars and can provide significant information to data about your own ground water source. This test in some states is now mandatory when selling-buying a home.