Daily News Archive
From January 9, 2006
Pollutants Contaminate U.S. Tap Water
Of the 260 contaminants
found in water, 114 were controlled under the maximum contaminant levels
(enforceable health limits) set by the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). Five were non-enforceable. The remaining 141 chemicals without
any regulation contaminate tap water served to 195 million people in
42 states. Nineteen of those chemicals exceeded the EPA's unenforced
safety guidelines for tap-water systems serving at least 10,000 people,
according to EWG.
"Our analysis clearly demonstrates the need greater for protection of the nation's tap water supplies, and for increased health protections from a number of pollutants that are commonly found but currently unregulated." said Jane Houlihan, Vice President for Science at EWG. "Utilities routinely go beyond what is required to protect consumers from these contaminants, but they need more money for testing, and for protection of vital source waters."
"The Agency's own scientists have identified 600 chemicals in tap water formed as by-products of disinfection; tracked some 220 million pounds of 650 industrial chemicals discharged to rivers and streams each year; and spearheaded research on emerging contaminants after the U.S. Geological Survey found 82 unregulated pharmaceuticals and personal care product chemicals in rivers and streams across the country that provide drinking water for millions of Americans," EWG states.
"All told, EPA has set safety standards for fewer than 20 percent of the many hundreds of chemicals that it has identified in tap water."
Among the 141 unregulated contaminants, 52 are associated with cancer, 41 with reproductive toxicity, 36 with abnormal development and 16 with damaging immune system. In spite of the potential health risks, presence of these chemicals in tap water is legal, no matter how high their concentration.
The chemicals found include the gasoline additive MTBE, the rocket fuel component perchlorate, a variety of industrial solvents, and a number of pesticides (both agricultural and home/garden pesticides).
The states that are most heavily contaminated are California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
TAKE ACTION: Find out which chemicals contaminant the water in your state using EWG’s National Tap Water Testing database, which is available at www.ewg.org/sites/tapwater/. Also, look out for the upcoming Winter 2005-2006 issue of Pesticides and You, which will include an article about pesticides in water.