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Tap water toxicity- Risk assessment

by Milos Pokimica ND

by Milos Pokimica ND

Learn About Nutrition

"If we are living in a city where we are sure that the tap water is pure this still does not mean that the water is “pure”. "

Water purification is a big business especially in countries that do not have clean sources and tap water toxicity is a big issue. More than a billion people even to this day drink filthy water and do not have any form of sanitation. Diarrhea to this day due to poor sanitation kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally. By 2025, 1.8 billion people are projected to be living in regions with absolute water scarcity. Water is big business, and the business will grow.

On the other hand, even if we have tap water in our homes tap water toxicity can be one of the contributing factors to our toxic overload. People who are in the business of water purification often don’t do good science and are more interested in profit.

There are a couple of ways we can try to lower our toxic load. A natural toxic chemical that we are exposed to and mane made POPs (persistent organic pollutants) are here to stay and there is little we can do to avoid exposing ourselves to environmental pollution except eating organically grown food that is low on a food chain and moving to more unpolluted cities, but there is another line of actions we can take.

Water pollution mural Punta Arenas Chile
Water pollution mural Punta Arenas Chile

First, we can start with the most basic stuff like the water we drink. If we cannot escape chemicals in our food, we can try to eliminate them from the water we drink.

If we are living in a city where we are sure that the water source is pure this still does not mean that the water is “pure”. It just means that it is in the range of accessible toxicity for the chemicals that they do measure. Bottled water for that matter also might not necessarily be safer, cleaner, or of higher quality just because it is bottled than water straight out of the faucet. It is a more complex issue that depends on individual case to case scenarios. As a consumer, you should know that there in some cases bottled water can be even more polluted than tap water. All of the sodas, beverages, and all of the other items you will find in the grocery store are made with regular tap water. And there are hundreds of chemicals and pollutants in tap water that are there and are not tested for safety levels and some are toxic and are added deliberately like fluoride or chlorine.

The CDC considers fluoride as one of the ten public health achievements of the 20th century. It is viewed as a triumph over tooth decay. Today most of the toothpaste sold contains fluoride and 72% of all water in the US is fluoridated. The first use of fluoride was for the eradication of vermin and ever since it was a crucial ingredient in rat poison and insecticides. In the early days of fluoride use, it was only known as a poison not just for men, but for the environment as well. It was a crucial ingredient in the Manhattan project and nuclear weapons too. It was added to Auschwitz’s water supply and water of Siberian gulags for his effect on the human mental state. It is hazardous waste from the phosphate fertilizer industry which cannot be dumped into the streams or sea by international law and cannot be used locally because it is too concentrated.

nazi fluoride

Because of public awareness, most of the fluoride is removed in most of the countries in the world and it is illegal but chlorine is not. But wait, chlorine itself is proven to be a toxic cancer-promoting mutagen. It is not a well-known fact outside of the research community but there was a line of research that lasted for decades into this matter. People who drink chlorinated water for a prolonged period have an increased risk of cancer especially bladder cancer. The number that studies have shown is around 27 percent. If you drink tap water you have a 27 percent more risk for bladder cancer. There is also some evidence of increased risk of certain types of birth defects. In these types of studies is hard to prove cause-and-effect meaning if The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that between 2 to 17 percent of bladder cancer cases in the United States is just because of the drinking water does that mean that those people would be alive if they didn’t drink tap water. Even if you want to avoid it you are most like to be unsuccessful because tap water is used everywhere in the food industry as a standard. For example, all sodas are made from tap water. No food company is going to use deep spring water or even just regular filtered water as source water because that would be economically unsustainable practice.

Adding rat poison fluoride and then chlorine to our water to fight against microbial contaminants have created new contamination in the form of “disinfection by-products.” The chlorination of drinking water for microbiological safety also interacts with organic matter in the water’s source that results in the creation of chlorinated compounds. These disinfection byproducts pose a health risk and so far there are more than 600 of them been identified.

There are ways to reduce the risk of the creation of these toxic byproducts in the first place through the better initial removal of source water’s natural organic matter. The cost of upgrading and the infrastructure to running these types of drinking water systems is very high and in most of the countries, it would be not implemented. Even in the US government in some cases have a hard time just keeping heavy toxins out of tap water. All we have to do is to remember the Flint tragedy.

Flint tap water pipes
Flint tap water pipes

However, there are still other pollutants in tap water that water plants do not test like inorganic metals and microplastic fibers (83% of the samples were contaminated worldwide), and other nanoparticles that we cannot measure. When a substance is in the nanometer range what that actually means is that the substance is small enough to penetrate a cell and that means it can penetrate all organs including the brain. There are some studies done, and it has been proven that microplastic has an effect on wildlife but human studies are not here yet.

microplastics

Microplastics have the ability to absorb toxic chemicals as well, and research on wild animals shows that they are released in the body. Microplastic was also found in a few samples of commercially bottled water tested in the US. The problem is that they cannot exceed safety levels because there are none. No safety level regulation, only guidelines.

Ever hear of trihalomethanes (TTHMs), which are linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer, and fetal development issues, and hexavalent chromium made notorious by the film Erin Brockovich or Radium-226 and Radium-228. All of these contaminants I just mention always had been detected above legal guidelines.

For hundreds of other contaminants, the government does not impose any requirements at all. One of the most prevalent toxins such as perchlorate and PFOA/PFOS (chemical cousins of Teflon) occurs in millions of Americans tap water. Because the EPA does not regulate them, they do not show up in any statistics. Sensitive groups of people, like pregnant women and children, are at higher risk for health complications, especially from the list of following contaminants that are regularly detected in tap water like lead (this is a bigger problem in towns with older water systems), and atrazine (endocrine-disrupting substance is one of the most regularly detected pesticides in US waters) and vinyl chloride (used to make PVC plastic products).

I will not list all of the detected pollutants it would be a long read. Logically in my mind, only clean water in our current environment and the only water that I use for cooking and drinking is distilled water.

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Sources:

Passages selected from a book: “Go Vegan? Review of Science: Part 1” [Milos Pokimica]

  1. Meta-analysis of Studies on Individual Consumption of Chlorinated Drinking Water and Bladder Cancer doi: 10.1136/jech.57.3.166
  2. Water Chlorination and Birth Defects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis doi: 10.3200/AEOH.58.2.83-91
  3. Assessing the Human Health Impacts of Exposure to Disinfection By-Products–A Critical Review of Concepts and Methods doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.02.003
  4. Natural Organic Matter as Precursor to Disinfection Byproducts and Its Removal Using Conventional and Advanced Processes: State of the Art Review doi: 10.2166/wh.2018.032

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Arsenic exposure and meat consumption- The “Poison-Free” Poultry Act

If we analyze arsenic pollution geographically, the U.S. is the number one most polluted place in the entire world. This is because arsenic-containing pesticides have been used in the farming industry for decades. Rice is not the main exposure source in the US. In the US around three-quarters of arsenic exposure comes from animal products directly and mostly from the chicken that is considered to be a "healthier" meat source. In second place is beef, then pork, hot dogs, eggs, milk.

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October 21, 2021

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