Water is one of the most vital resources for human life. Water gets even more critical when you consider all its uses, drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, and many more. But did you know many Americans don’t get clean water for daily needs?
According to a study from Consumer Reports, almost 25 million Americans are subjected to the worst quality water in the US.
This unclean and contaminated water can lead to numerous health issues. This blog post will explore contaminants in our drinking water sources and how they impact our health.
Types of Water Contaminants
The following are some of the most common types of water contamination:
- Chemical contaminants: These include metals, pesticides, and herbicides. They can be found in surface and groundwater sources and have been linked to severe health problems like cancer or birth defects. Pesticides have been commonly reported to have resulted in health concerns, especially in farmers. According to an article from Herald Journal, 200,000 deaths occur yearly due to pesticide poisoning.
- Biological contaminants: These include bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and algae, all of which can make you sick if you ingest them. They’re often found in drinking water supplies with low levels of chlorine disinfectant present to kill them off before reaching your tap.
- Radiological contaminants: Radioactive material gets into our drinking supply when nuclear power plants release radioactive waste into rivers or lakes that feed into municipal reservoirs. It can also come from mining operations near drinking wells or natural deposits underground where groundwater is extracted for use by humans.
- Heavy metals: Heavy metals like lead and arsenic are also significant contaminants found in many sources of uncleaned water. In fact, a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that an estimated 140 million people in at least 70 countries have been drinking water having arsenic at levels above ten μg/L.
Health Impact of Water Contamination
Water contamination can have serious health impacts, including the following:
Gastrointestinal illness is also a health impact of water contamination. It occurs when your digestive system becomes irritated and inflamed, which can lead to vomiting or diarrhea.
Gastrointestinal illnesses are common in children and the elderly because their immune systems aren’t as strong as those of adults who haven’t reached maturity yet.
Causes of gastrointestinal infection include:
- Eating food contaminated by bacteria from feces or other animals’ waste products spread around near where people live or work. This happens when there’s no sewage system for disposing of human excrement properly, such as when someone throws their trash into an open dumpster instead of taking it to a landfill site as they should.
- Drinking water with harmful germs in it. This happens when there isn’t enough chlorine added during treatment processes before being sent out into pipes throughout homes across America so that everyone can enjoy clean drinking water while living here.
Cancer is a significant health impact of water contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that contaminated water is among the top reasons for cancer. Water contamination can also increase your risk for cancer because some chemicals in drinking water cause DNA damage that leads to abnormal cell growth, called carcinogenesis.
Cancers caused by toxic chemicals in drinking water include:
- Breast cancer: Trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride have been linked with increased risks for breast cancer. TCE has also been associated with an increased risk for uterine cancer.
- Colon/rectum cancer: Benzene causes mutations in colon cells, chloroform damages DNA repair genes, and hexavalent chromium damages genes that suppress tumors.
- Leukemia: Nitrate has been linked with acute myeloid leukemia.
Exposure to contaminated water can lead to several types of cancer. One of the biggest examples is the Camp Lejeune water contamination incident.
According to the lawsuit, veterans, their family members, and staff exposed to the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune between August 1953 and December 1987 are at a higher risk of developing various cancers.
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to the contaminated water for at least 30 days during the said period, you can file a lawsuit, too. You can learn about the latest Camp Lejeune lawsuit update and plan your actions accordingly. It is also advised to seek help from a professional attorney who can guide you through the lawsuit process and help you win compensation for your difficulties.
If you were stationed at Camp Lejeune but didn’t see any health condition symptoms, you can get checkups through the toxic exposure screening program. TorHoerman Law states this program is available for all veterans covered under VA Healthcare. Specifically, it scans for exposure to toxic contaminants for the Camp Lejeune water contamination exposure and others.
Neurological disorders are another health impact of water contamination. Several factors, including genetics and age, can cause neurological disorders. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that some neurological diseases are linked to environmental exposures, such as chemicals in drinking water. The CDC also notes that “the majority of these diseases are treatable.
To prevent neurological disorders from developing as a result of drinking contaminated water:
- Do not drink unfiltered tap or well water if it has been contaminated with pesticides or other harmful substances.
- Use only filtered or bottled water free from harmful contaminants when cooking food or making baby formula; do not use unfiltered tap water or well water when preparing these items because they may contain dangerous bacteria such as E-coli.
Reproductive and Developmental Problems
Reproductive and developmental problems are a health impact of water contamination.
- Infertility is a condition in which it is difficult to become pregnant or maintain a pregnancy. Women with fertility issues may have trouble getting pregnant, while men might have reduced sperm count or production.
- Birth defects are physical conditions that occur during the development of an embryo or fetus, often before birth. They can affect any body part and result from anything interfering with normal pregnancy development. Some common types include cleft lip/palate, clubfoot, congenital heart disease, and Down syndrome.
- Pregnancy complications are physical changes that occur during pregnancy that require additional medical attention for either mother or baby, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes mellitus, and preexisting medical conditions such as asthma or epilepsy.
Developmental problems are primarily associated with the presence of heavy metals like mercury. Hence, you should drink water with no mercury in it. Even little mercury presence can be hazardous. According to the EPA, the safe mercury level in water has been ascertained at 2 micrograms per liter.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but it’s important to remember that water contamination is a serious issue. Water is essential for life, and we all need to know how pollution or other contaminants can affect our water supply.