Three decades after the passage of the Clean Water Act, new chemicals continue to pollute our water. And now hormone disrupting chemicals are feminizing male fish and frogs, causing them to produce eggs in their testes. Sounds a bit like a sci-fi story, huh? Unfortunately, this is reality.
Hormone disruptors, or endocrine disruptors, mimic natural hormones in the body. They can disrupt estrogen and testosterone levels as well as thyroid function, reproductive function, and immune system function.
Most of the new hormone disrupting chemicals are petroleum-based chemicals, and in a perfect world, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would protect us from these toxins. Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors are all around us - in cleaning products, personal care products, plastic products - and water.
In fact, according to Poisoned Waters, the EPA doesn’t even know how to measure, much less regulate these chemicals, and nobody really knows what long-term effects may lie ahead.
“The long-term, slow-motion risk is already being spelled out in epidemiologic data, studies – large population studies,” said Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
“There are 5 million people being exposed to endocrine disruptors just in the Mid-Atlantic region, and yet we don’t know precisely how many of them are going to develop premature breast cancer, going to have problems with reproduction, going to have all kinds of congenital anomalies of the male genitalia, things that are happening at a broad, low level so that they don’t raise the alarm in the general public.”
Since the EPA doesn’t even know how to measure these chemicals, public water treatment is not intended to remove them. While the treatment process eliminates some of the chemicals, tests show that two-thirds of endocrine disruptors make their way to tap water. A 2005 study by the Environmental Working Group found over 140 additional unregulated tap water contaminants for which there are no public health safety standards.
Why Is Fluoride in My Tap Water?
Not only do we have toxic chemicals flowing into our water supply from the environment, but most water treatment facilities actually add toxic chemicals to the tap water during the treatment process! Fluoride, for example, has been getting a lot of attention in the past couple of years.
President of the New York Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation Paul Beeber explains, “Fluoride, the most consumed drug in the USA, is deliberately added to 2/3 of public water supplies theoretically to reduce tooth decay, but with no scientifically-valid evidence proving safety or effectiveness.”
For decades, people who spoke of fluoride concerns were typically labeled as paranoids or kooks. But in January 2008, Scientific American revealed that “some recent studies suggest that over-consumption of fluoride can raise the risks of disorders affecting teeth, bones, the brain and the thyroid gland.” For instance, ingestion of fluoride at an early age may cause fluorosis, in which the toxic chemical damages teeth.
Then in May 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they had found traces of toxins, including arsenic, in the chemicals used to fluoridate tap water between 2000 and 2006. The EPA classifies arsenic as a likely carcinogen and recommends a maximum contaminant level of zero for arsenic in water.
Dr. John Colquhoun, author of Why I Changed My Mind About Water Fluoridation, said, “Common sense should tell us that if a poison circulating in a child’s body can damage the tooth-forming cells, then other harm is also likely.”
Why Is Chlorine in My Tap Water?
Chlorine is another toxic chemical added to virtually all tap water supplies in our country. As defined by the EPA, chlorine is a pesticide, and it’s added to tap water to kill germs. The problem is that it’s a poison that also damages human cells.
According to the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.
Dr. Lance Wallace of the EPA explains, “As chlorine is added to kill pathogenic microorganisms, the highly reactive chlorine combines with fatty acids and carbon fragments to form a variety of toxic compounds, which comprise about 30% of the chlorination by-products. During the mid-1970s monitoring efforts began to identify widespread toxic contamination of the nation’s drinking water supplies, and epidemiological studies began to suggest a link between ingestion of toxic chemicals in the water and elevated cancer mortality risks.”
So why is this poisonous chemical added to our water supply? Because it’s the cheapest way to kill germs, and the public hasn’t complained enough to affect a change in policy. For all intents and purposes, Americans have been drinking bleach since the 1800s.
Chlorine is a problem in your shower water as well as your drinking water. When chlorine combines with common organic molecules, it forms known carcinogens like chloroform and trichloroethylene (TCE). And whenever you take a long, hot shower, you’re inhaling these chemicals… unless you have a shower filter, that is.
Shower filters remove chlorine and other contaminants from the water. As an added bonus, shower filters will also give you softer, healthier hair and skin. Appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Mehmet Oz said, “The best thing you can do for your hair costs less than 9 cents a day. Get a charcoal filter and put it on your shower head.”
Is Bottled Water Any Better?
In a word - No! In fact, nearly half of all bottled water is nothing more than tap water. Some of the water goes through an additional filtering process, and some does not. The rest of bottled water comes from springs, and it’s often even more contaminated that tap water. We, as the consumers, simply don’t know.
Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rather than the EPA, and as the National Resources Defense Councils (NRDC) states, bottled water is “subject to less rigorous testing and purity standards than those which apply to city tap water.”
The other big problem with bottled water is that the bottles themselves pollute the water. Plastic, made from petrochemicals, is a major source of endocrine disruptors. Just last month, research at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that people who drank from plastic bottles showed a 69% increase in bisphenol-A (BPA) levels after two weeks. BPA mimics estrogen and has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and possibly humans. It has also been linked to breast cancer, low sperm count, growth problems, and birth defects.
What Kind of Water Should I Drink?
The only way to be certain that you’re drinking quality, healthy water is to invest in a home water filter. Look for a filter that has been certified and tested, and make sure that it removes all contaminants of concern.
When you’re heading to the gym or the beach, don’t buy a plastic bottle of water. Instead, invest in a reusable, non-toxic glass water bottle or metal canteen. As truly green products, reusable bottles are better for you as well as the environment.
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