Cancerous chemicals such as lead and copper are just some of the contaminants found in the drinking water of some 27 million Americans, revealed a damning new report by the National Resources Defense Council (NDRC), calling to question the safety of water systems in the country. According to the report, over 18,000 community water systems across the country were found to commit violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act, exposing 77 million Americans to compromised tap water.
Violations involved failures to test or report contamination levels in water. Additionally, 27 million Americans were being served by systems that committed health-based violations; water which were tested to have alarming levels of lead, copper, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals called disinfection byproducts along with coliform bacteria. The report further stated that other health violations covered the failure of programs to treat surface and groundwater to eliminate dangerous pathogens, such as various nitrates and nitrites that cause a heart defect called “blue baby syndrome”.
Texas recorded the most violations based on population. It was followed by Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Washington, Ohio, California, Arizona, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Maryland. Almost 70 percent of violations can be traced to small systems in rural areas with small populations. To make matters worse, most of these violations were not sanctioned. No formal action was taken on about nine of 10 violations, and financial penalties were slapped on only 3.3 percent of the cases.
“This research confirms our own findings at CWC Labs where we tested hundreds of municipal water samples from across the nation, finding an alarming pattern of heavy metals contamination,” added Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, lab science director of CWCLabs.com. Adams published the results of the CWC Labs testing in the Natural Science Journal. “Tens of millions of Americans are right now drinking not just toxic fluoride and chlorine in their water, but also consuming alarming levels of lead, copper and other toxic metals,” Adams added.
“America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination,” NRDC Health Program Director Erik Olson said in the report. “The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure. We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”
Drinking contaminated health water has led to catastrophic health outbreaks, such as the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan that exposed residents to high levels of lead. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), water contamination can happen not only in the source water, but in the distribution system after treatment. Natural chemicals and minerals such as arsenic, radon, and uranium can be a source of water contamination. Local land use practices, manufacturing processes, sewer overflows, and wastewater release all lead to contamination as well.
Contaminants can cause a range of health problems including those that affect the gastrointestinal, reproductive, and neurological systems. Particularly vulnerable to contaminant-caused illnesses are infants, small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems due to AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications.
The CDC named the top causes of outbreaks in public water systems. These include:
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