The Truth About Our Drinking Water

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including
antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers
and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking
water supplies of at least 41 million Americans,
an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these
pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities
of parts per million, billion and/or trillion,
theoretically far below the levels of a medical
dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs —
and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen
and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water
is heightening worries among scientists of long-term
consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP
discovered that drugs have been detected in the
drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan
areas – from Southern California to Northern New
Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of
pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the
AP found. For example, the head of a group
representing major California suppliers said
the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the
information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some
of the medication, but the rest of it passes
through the bowel and is flushed down the toilet.
The wastewater is treated before it is discharged
into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of
the water is cleansed again at drinking water
treatment plants and piped to consumers. But
most treatments do not remove all the acidic
toxic drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the
exact risks from decades of persistent exposure
to random combinations of low level doses of
pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone
virtually unnoticed by the general public — have
found alarming effects on human body cells and

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re
taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H.
Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team
reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed
federal drinking water databases, visited
environmental study sites and treatment plants
and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics
and scientists. They also surveyed the nation’s
50 largest cities and a dozen other major water
providers, as well as smaller community water
providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained:

* Officials in Philadelphia said testing there
discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in
treated drinking water, including medicines for
pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma,
epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems.
Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were
found in the city’s watersheds.

* Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications
were detected in a portion of the treated drinking
water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.

* Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey
analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission
drinking water treatment plant, which serves
850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found
a metabolized angina medicine and the
mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.

* A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s
drinking water.

* The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and
surrounding areas tested positive for six

* Three medications, including an antibiotic,
were found in drinking water supplied to
Tucson, Ariz.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested
by the positive test results in the major population
centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn’t require any testing
and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water.
Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the
drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the
34 that haven’t: Houston, Chicago, Miami,
Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City’s
Department of Environmental Protection, which
delivers water to 9 million people.

Some providers screen only for one or two
pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility
that others are present.

The AP’s investigation also indicates that
watersheds, the natural sources of most of
the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated.
Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of
the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and
pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas
said they did not go on to test their drinking
water — Fairfax, Va.; Montgomery County in Maryland;
Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif.,
and New York City.

The New York state health department and the USGS
tested the source of the city’s water, upstate.
They found trace concentrations of heart medicine,
infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants,
a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for
an interview. In a statement, they insisted that
“New York City’s drinking water continues to meet
all federal and state regulations regarding
drinking water quality in the watershed and the
distribution system” — regulations that do not
address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or
regional water providers told the AP that
pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but
the AP obtained the results of tests conducted
by independent researchers that showed otherwise.

For example, water department officials in New
Orleans said their water had not been tested for
pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher
and his students have published a study that
found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone
estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct
clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests
were performed on drinking water supplies,
only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia
Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The
drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but
officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas,
acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical
were detected in its drinking water but cited
post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to
identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers —
one in each state, and two each in Missouri
and Texas — that serve communities with
populations around 25,000. All but one said
their drinking water had not been screened for
pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan.,
refused to answer AP’s questions, also citing
post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own
wells aren’t in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale,
Pa., has measured water samples from New York
City’s upstate watershed for caffeine, a common
contaminant that scientists often look for as
a possible signal for the presence of other
pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was
detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony
Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high
levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks,
maybe with other drugs. “Septic systems are
essentially small treatment plants that are
essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to
fail,” Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration
systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure.
Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap
water, do not typically treat or test for
pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s
main trade group. The same goes for the makers
of home filtration systems.

According to Dr. Robert O. Young, a research
scientist at the pH Miracle Living Center stated,
“the contamination of our water supply in the US
is a clear and present danger. I have personally
tested the water supplies of every major city in
the US and there is NO safe water to drink that is
clean, pure and alkaline. Even the majority of the
bottled waters being sold in the US and around the
world are questionable at best.”

To learn the truth about water read,
“You Are What You Drink” in Dr. Young’s
book, The pH Miracle for Weight Loss and
the following article that details
this clear and present danger concerning the
world’s potable water supply.

Clean drinking water is something that the public
has pretty much taken for granted for the past
hundred years. The public has little idea–perhaps
understandably–just how contaminated our drinking
water has become. Our environment has changed, new
biological transformations are emerging, drinking-
water systems are aging, and governments seem more
interested in ensuring business in the global
marketplace than in ensuring the safety and health
of the world citizens.

Acid rain corrodes copper, lead, and galvanized
pipes. There are hundreds of agricultural pollutants,
including pesticides and fertilizer, industrial
pollutants including plasticizers, solvents, and
propellants; along with chemicals added to aid in
the coagulation of water can be of great concern
to water pollution.

A National Assessment of Tap Water Quality found
260 contaminants in our nation’s tap water; 141
of these contaminants have no enforceable safety
limits. Of the 141 unregulated contaminants utilities
detected in water supplies between 1998 and 2003,
52 are linked to cancer, 41 to reproductive toxicity,
36 to developmental toxicity, and 16 to immune system
damage, according to chemical listings in seven
standard government and industry toxicity references.
Despite the potential health risks, any concentration
of these chemicals in tap water is legal, no matter
how high.

However, the EPA’s own scientists have identified
600 chemicals in tap water formed as by-products
of disinfection–they tracked 220 million pounds
of 650 industrial chemicals discharged to rivers
and streams annually. They also spearheaded research
on emerging contaminants after the U.S. Geological
Survey found: 82 unregulated pharmaceuticals,
hormones, medications, and residues of consumer
products in rivers and streams across the country.

Intensive use of highly acidic antibiotics in human
and veterinarian medicine and in industrial farming
(food additives) has resulted in the transport of
significant quantities of the active ingredients
to environmental waters. All told, EPA has set
safety standards for fewer than 20 percent of the
many hundreds of chemicals that it has identified
in our drinking water.

Many of these compounds enter the human body through
our skin when we bathe or swim.

By failing to clean up rivers and reservoirs that
provide drinking water for hundreds of millions
of Americans, EPA and the Congress have forced water
utility companies to decontaminate water that is
polluted with industrial chemicals, factory farm
waste, sewage, pesticides, fertilizer, and sediment.
In its most recent national Water Quality Inventory
EPA found that 45 percent of lakes and 39 percent
of streams and rivers are “impaired”–unsafe for
drinking, fishing, or even swimming, in some cases.

Even after water suppliers filter and disinfect
the water, scores of contaminants remain, with
conventional treatment regimes removing less than
20 percent of some contaminants. By failing to set
tap water safety standards expeditiously or require
and fund comprehensive testing, EPA allows
widespread exposures to chemical mixtures posing
known risks to human health.

A Fractional Damage Assessment from Acid Rain

Acid rain is produced when nitrous oxide, sulphur
dioxide, and carbon dioxide gas in the upper
atmosphere react with water particles to produce
nitric acid, sulphuric acid, and carbonic acid
respectively. Unpolluted rainfall normally balanced
alkaline pH of about 7.1 to 7.3, whilst acid rain
has a pH that varies from 4.1 to 5.5.

Rainwater was naturally slightly alkaline because
it contained a small amount of dissolved carbon
dioxide gas. This forms a small amount of carbonic
acid. Acid rain contains abnormally high levels
of carbonic acid (from the excessive amounts of
carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere from
burning fossil fuel).

The word equation is:

Carbon dioxide + water = carbonic acid

When we burn fossil fuels (especially coal),
sulphur dioxide is made and released into the air.
When sulphur dioxide dissolves in rainwater, it
makes sulphuric acid.

Sulphur dioxide + water = sulfuric acid

Sulphur Dioxide reacts with a wide range of
substances found in food, including various
essential vitamins, minerals and essential
fatty acids.

Sulfuric acid is actually a mixture of acids in
high concentrations. Sulfuric acid is much
stronger than carbonic acid. It is extremely
corrosive and it causes damage to rocks, animals,
and plants.

Sulfuric acid can cause severe burns to all
body tissue and may be fatal if swallowed or
contacted with skin. It is harmful if inhaled;
it affects teeth; it is a cancerous hazard.
Strong inorganic acid mists containing sulfuric
acid can lead to cancerous tissues.

Nitrous oxides react with water vapor to
form nitric acid. Nitric acid is a highly
corrosive and toxic acid that can cause severe

Nitrous oxides + water = nitric acid

Nitric acid is a cancerous-causing agent. It is
also a powerful dehydrating agent, so powerful
that much of the damage it does to the human
body is because it pulls water even out of other
molecules in chemical reactions.

Apart from emissions of sulphur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides from the combustion of fossil
fuels, there are also other substances that
contribute to acid rain formation. These include
hydrochloric acid and organic carboxylic acids.
These organic acids include acetic acid and formic
acid and are formed when volatile organic
compounds are oxidized in the air.

Acid rain causes a cascade of effects that
harm or kill individual fish, reduce fish
population numbers, completely eliminating fish
species from a body of water, and decrease
biodiversity. Damages also show up in land
animals, affecting their behavior and feeding
patterns. Acid rain kills trees, crops, and
other vegetation; damages buildings and
monuments; corrodes copper, galvanized steel,
and lead piping; damages such manufactured
things as automobiles; and reduces soil fertility.

Acid rain can raise the level of heavy metals,
many of which are carcinogenic, teratogenic,
transforming, reproductive toxins, or neurological
toxins in drinking water supplies.

Pure acid water extracted from drinking water
will burn holes in the outer membranes of
micro-forms like parasites, bacteria, yeast,
and microscopic worms. Pure acid water will
transform parasites and their eggs, bacteria,
yeast and mold. Pure acid water has a strong
oxidation potential (a shortage of electrons)
giving it the ability to ferment, spoil and
sterilize. When extracted from drinking water
about one third of the water is acid water
(and the third part of the waters became wormwood).
Think of the effects it can have on the plant,
animal or human body.

Acid rain raises the level of heavy metals, some
of which are poisonous, in drinking water supplies.
Polluted acidic waters contain higher than average
levels of heavy and toxic metals, carbon monoxide,
volatile organic compounds (VOCs), photochemical
oxidants, and a laundry list of other toxins that
pose serious health threats.

Some acidic toxins enter the human body through
air, water, and/or through our skin (when we
bathe or swim many of these toxins are absorbed
through our skin). Other poisonous metals and
toxins that are dissolved into the rain water
are absorbed by the fruit, vegetables we eat.
All of the meat we eat is saturated with acidic
toxins that were absorbed through the skin and
into the tissue of the animals. In addition,
animals eat these plants and other animals,
perpetuating the cycle. Many heavy metals
are bio-accumulative and highly acidic. They can
accumulate in the soft tissues when the body
cannot metabolize them so they end up in the
connective and fatty tissues.

Acid rain contains caustic acids that tend to make
the pH of the human body more acidic. Drinking acidic
water can cause many serious dis-eases. All of the
water we drink (including bottled, purified,
reverse osmosis, and some distilled waters) contain
these acids. It can be difficult to balance the pH
of people consuming water loaded with these poisonous
acidic wastes.

Breathing acidic air fogs (including hot shower or
bath water) can damage our respiratory system. Some
of these acids are powerful dehydrating agents, so
powerful that much of the damage they do to the
human body is because they pull water even out
of other molecules in chemical reactions.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic
acidic chemicals that adversely affect human
health and the environment around the world.
Because they can be transported by wind and
water, most POPs generated in one country can
affect people and wildlife far from where they
are used and released. They persist for long
periods of time in the environment and can
accumulate and pass from one species to the
next through the food chain.

Although scientists have more to learn about
POPs acidic chemicals, decades of scientific
research have greatly increased our knowledge
of POPs’ impacts on people and wildlife. For
example, laboratory studies have shown that
low doses of certain POPs adversely affect
some organ systems and aspects of development.
Studies also have shown that chronic exposure
to low doses of certain POPs can result in
reproductive and immune system deficits.
Exposure to high levels of certain POPs
chemicals – higher than normally encountered
by humans and wildlife – can cause serious
damage or death.

There are acids called dioxins and dioxin-like
compounds in the food supply. Dioxin and
dioxin-like compounds, or DLCs, are found
throughout the environment, in soil, water,
and air. People are exposed to these
unintentional environmental contaminants
primarily through the food supply, particularly
by eating animal fat in meat, dairy products,
and fish. Another reason to avoid eating acidic
animal flesh, dairy or fish.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, over 90% of our exposure to acidic
dioxins is through food, with major sources
including beef, dairy products, milk, chicken,
pork, fish, and eggs. Dioxins are also passed
from mother to developing infant across the
placenta and through breastfeeding. Dioxins,
PCBs, DDT and other organochlorines are among
the 200 plus chemicals found in human breast
milk today that can lead to a host of infant

Acidic dioxins and related compounds are highly
persistent in the environment and in living
organisms. PCB’s can remain in human connective
and fat tissue for decades. It is believed that
almost all living beings on earth have dioxin-
like compounds in their body tissues.

No amount of dioxin exposure can be considered
safe, as very small amounts have been associated
with impaired developmental, reproductive,
neurological, and immune function. Acidic dioxin
is one of the most toxic chemicals known to

The cancerous risk from eating animal flesh
contaminated with acidic dioxin is another
clear warning that livestock foods have a
direct impact on human food quality and safety.

The health risks posed by the levels of acidic
dioxins in human foods and animal feeds have
yet to be ascertained by government officials.
Therefore, conveniently, governments do not
recommend regulatory limits on acidic dioxins
or dioxin-like compounds in food or feed
(even though PCBs and dioxin are known endocrine

Nitrate is a chemical that enters water from
fertilizer runoff, leaching septic tanks, and
erosion of natural deposits. Potential health
impacts associated with the acid nitrite includes
cardiovascular or acidic blood toxicity, acidic
kidney toxicity, and acidic reproductive toxicity.

The acid nitrate is one of the most common
groundwater contaminants in rural areas. Fertilizer
nitrogen that is not taken up by plants, volatilized,
or carried away by surface runoff – leaches to the
groundwater in the form of the acid nitrate. Septic
systems also can elevate groundwater nitrate
concentrations because they remove only half of
the nitrogen in wastewater, leaving the remaining
half to percolate to groundwater.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of Nitrate
tests reported by 32,210 public water suppliers
in 41 states shows that between 1998 and 2003,
176 million people in 23,704 communities drank
acidic water contaminated with nitrate. In 657
of these communities, tap water was contaminated
at levels above health-based thresholds.

Nitrate occurs in the environment, in air, food
(particularly in vegetables and fruits) and
water, and is produced endogenously. It is also
used as a food additive, mainly as a preservative
and anti-microbial agent. It is used in foods
such as cheese and cheese products, raw and
processed meats, edible casings, processed fish
and fish products and spirits and liqueurs.

Since most of our produce is grown with potassium,
nitrogen, and phosphorous fertilizers, and
irrigated with water that is contaminated with
nitrate (and about 600 other contaminates),
the produce we eat contains unnaturally high
levels of nitrate. Synergistically unbalanced
and contaminated acidic food will not sustain
our health; it will actually poison us to death.

What are the health effects? Nitrates can react
with hemoglobin to reduce the oxygen-carrying
capacity of the blood. Nitrates may combine
with other substances to form nitrosamines,
which are carcinogenic, and it may have an
atrophying affect on the adrenal gland.

Short-term: Excessive levels of nitrate in
drinking water have caused serious illness
and sometimes death. In some parts of the
country, beets, turnips, carrots, collard
greens and spinach contain large amounts of
nitrates, a chemical that can cause an unusual
type of anemia (low blood count) in young infants,
referred to as methemoglobinemia or blue baby
syndrome. Symptoms include shortness of breath
and blueness of the skin. The serious illness
in infants is due to the conversion of nitrate
to nitrite by the body, which interferes
with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood;
blue baby syndrome can be an acute condition
in which health deteriorates rapidly over a
period of days.

Long-term: Nitrates and nitrites have the potential
to cause the following effects from a lifetime
exposure at levels above the maximum contaminant
level: excessive discharge of urine, increased
starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen.

Heavy metal aberrations found in our drinking water
are directly causative or associative with dis-ease
and ill health. A few examples are anemia,
cardiac conditions, depression, digestive problems,
high blood pressure, hormone imbalance, impaired
growth, infertility, insomnia, learning and
behavioral problems, osteoporosis, chronic
inflammation, and tumor proliferation.

Heavy metal toxins contribute to a variety of
adverse health effects. There are more than 65
different heavy metals and toxic acidic compounds
that impact human health.

Accumulation within the body can lead to a
decline in the mental, cognitive, and physical
health of the individual. Many of these pollutants
are carcinogenic, teratogenic, reproductive acidic
toxins, or neurological acidic toxins.

The increased acidity of rain also releases many
minerals that do not naturally occur or do not
belong in water at these disproportionate levels,
thus producing what is called hard water.

As a result, these acidic toxins are consumed
in drinking water or are ingested by plants,
animals, or aquatic life, which are then eaten
by humans.

When numerous metals are present in the body,
they have a “synergistic toxicity.” Dr. Boyd Haley,
professor and chair of the chemistry department
at the University of Kentucky, performed a study
on rats and found that the mortality rate of
rats exposed to a small dose of mercury or
aluminum killed only 1 rat in 100. However, when
the rats were exposed to both mercury and
aluminum at the same time, all 100 rats
died – a 100% mortality rate.

Here are a few more ways that acid deposition
has altered and continues to alter our soils:

Acid deposition depletes calcium, magnesium,
and other base minerals from the soil – this
depletion of base minerals fundamentally alters
soil processes, compromises the nutrition of
crops, and hinders the capacity for sensitive
soils to recover.

Acid deposition facilitates the mobilization
of dissolved inorganic minerals into soil water –
the increased acidity of rain releases many
minerals that do not naturally occur or do not
belong in water at these disproportionate levels,
thus producing what is called hard water – as a
result, they are consumed in drinking water or
are ingested by plants, animals, or aquatic life,
which are then eaten by humans.

Acid deposition increases the accumulation of
sulfur and nitrogen in the soil.

To some extent all minerals compete for
absorption, compete for the same binding sites.
Studies have shown that excesses of particular
minerals can result in deficiencies in others;
likewise, deficiencies of some minerals promote
excesses of others. This mutual dependence
means not only are minerals required in optimal
amounts but also in relative amounts.

Severe health problems arising from human contact
with acidic toxic or hazardous wastes are
increasingly common.

The seriousness of this problem cannot be
underestimated in light of findings from the
World Health Organization (WHO) who revealed
that 60-80% of heavy metal toxins found in
human bodies in urban industrial areas were
the result of consuming contaminated foods
and water rather than through air pollution.

The burning of coal releases many contaminants
into the atmosphere, among these are mercury,
cadmium, arsenic, and lead.


Mercury occurs primarily in two forms: organic
mercury and inorganic mercury. Inorganic mercury
and elemental mercury are both toxins that can
produce a wide range of adverse health affects.
Inorganic mercury is used in thermometers,
barometers, dental fillings, batteries, electrical
wiring and switches, fluorescent light bulbs,
pesticides, fungicides, vaccines, paint,
skin-tightening creams, antiseptic creams,
pharmaceutical drugs, and other ointments.

Humans have the ability to convert this
inorganic mercury to an organic form once it
has become absorbed into the bloodstream.
Organic mercury is known to bio-accumulate
due to the body’s inability to process and
eliminate it. Rain is contaminated with mercury
from coal-fired electric plants and the burning
of fossil fuel. Mercury is one of the heavy
metals that cause dangerous inflammation in
body tissues. Acidification increases bio-
conversion of mercury to methylmercury;
methylmercury is a neurotoxin, and the form
of mercury that is most easily bio-accumulated
in organisms.

Methyl mercury compounds, such as dimethyl
mercury, are among the most dangerous. Mercury
salts released into the environment may frequently
be converted by anaerobic bacteria into such
compounds, which can then be carried through
the food chain to humans. Methylmercury exposure
via food most often occurs when seafood-
containing mercury is eaten, or when mercury-
containing plants, such as rice, are consumed.
Organic mercury is often found in produce,
farm animals, processed grains, dairy products,
and surface water sources.

Potential health impacts associated with mercury
include cancerous states, cardiovascular or blood
toxicity, developmental toxicity, endocrine
toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity,
immunotoxicity, kidney toxicity, neurotoxicity,
reproductive toxicity, respiratory toxicity,
and skin sensitivity.

Occupational exposure to mercury containing
compounds presents a significant health risk
to individuals. Dentists, painters, fishermen,
electricians, pharmaceutical/laboratories workers,
farmers, factory workers, miners, chemists, and
beauticians are just some of the professions
chronically exposed to mercury compounds.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
mercury tests reported by 28,299 public water
suppliers in 40 states shows that between 1998
and 2003, 18.5 million people in 1,298 communities
drank water contaminated with mercury. In 37 of
these communities, tap water was contaminated
at levels above health-based thresholds.

Environmental Health Perspectives found that
89 percent of their female patients had
mercury levels above what most scientists
consider safe, and that high mercury levels
in adults correlated with memory loss,
fatigue, and muscle aches. Another preliminary
study this year found that mothers who delivered
prematurely were more likely to have high
mercury levels.

Unborn babies are at the greatest risk. Babies
developing in the womb seem to be most vulnerable
to the effects of mercury on their brains
and nervous systems. Mercury is poisoning an
entire generation of our nation’s children!


Cadmium emissions arise from two major source
categories, natural sources and anthropogenic
(man-made) sources. Emissions occur to the
three major compartments of the environment –
air, water, and soil, but there may be
considerable transfer between the three
compartments after initial deposition.

Man-made cadmium emissions arise either from
the manufacture, use and disposal of products
intentionally utilizing cadmium, or from
the presence of cadmium as a natural but
not functional impurity in non-cadmium
containing products. Cadmium (for industrial
use) is produced in large quantities, over
8 million metric tons in 1999. Cadmium
generated by metal smelters/refiners is
cemented and buried, stored for future
use, or disposed of in landfills as hazardous
acidic waste.

Cadmium poses a major concern to food safety
because is taken up relatively easily by
crops. What makes cadmium unique is that it
is not toxic to plants at concentrations of
concern to human health. Consumption of crops
is the main source of human exposure at
approximately 75%. Grains, leafy greens,
and root crops are associated with elevated
levels of cadmium.

Cadmium accumulates in the body; although a
person’s daily intake may be as little as 0.05
milligrams, he or she will have stored, on
average, about 50 milligrams. Cadmium is a
poison and is known to cause birth defects
and cancerous tissue. It can stay in one’s body
for years and can also change forms within
the body.

Cadmium interferes with the metabolism of copper,
iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D. An
Environmental Working Group analysis of cadmium
tests reported by 28,944 public water suppliers
in 41 states shows that between 1998 and 2003,
9.5 million people in 1,364 communities drank
water contaminated with cadmium. In 1,040 of
these communities, tap water was contaminated
at levels above health-based thresholds.


According to a 1999 study by the National Academy
of Sciences, arsenic in drinking water causes
a cancerous bladder, lung, and skin, and may
cause a cancerous kidney and liver. The study
also found that arsenic harms the central and
peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and
blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems.
It can cause birth defects and reproductive problems.

Arsenic is a natural element of the earth’s crust.
It is used in industry and agriculture, and for
other purposes. It also is a byproduct of copper
smelting, mining, and coal burning. U.S.
industries release thousands of pounds of
arsenic into the environment every year.

The use of this toxic element in numerous
industrial processes has resulted in its
presence in many biological and ecological
systems. Ground, surface, and drinking water
are susceptible to arsenic poisoning from
the use of arsenic in smelting, refining,
galvanizing, and power plants; environmental
contaminants like pesticides, herbicides,
insecticides, fungicides, desiccants,
wood preservatives, and animal feed additives;
and human made hazardous waste sites, chemical
wastes, and antibiotics.

Arsenic suppresses iodine and selenium. It
is a carcinogen that inactivates sulfhydryl
groups leading to cell death, increases
bleeding time, reduces thyroid function by
interfering with iodine metabolism, depresses
bone marrow involved in methionine metabolism.
Low serum arsenic is correlated with central
nervous system disorders, vascular disease,
and cancerous tissue.

Data compiled by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency on arsenic in drinking
water in 25 states found conservative
estimates indicate that more than 34
million Americans drink tap water supplied
by systems containing average levels of
arsenic that pose unacceptable cancerous
risks. We consider it likely that as many
as 56 million people in those 25 states
have been drinking water with arsenic
at unsafe levels–and that is just the
25 states that reported arsenic information
to the EPA.

Some plants are arsenic-resistant or can
block arsenic uptake by their root systems.
Still other food crops accumulate arsenic
at levels that raise human health concerns.
Since plants take up arsenic primarily by
their roots, the highest level of arsenic
accumulation is usually in roots and tubers,
such as carrots and potatoes.

Studies have shown close associations
between both inhaled and ingested arsenic
and cancerous rates. Cancerous conditions of
the skin, liver, respiratory tract, and
gastrointestinal tract are well documented
in regards to arsenic exposure.


Lead is the 5th most utilized metal in the
U.S. Human exposure to lead occurs primarily
through drinking water, airborne lead-containing
particulates, and lead-based paints. The primary
source of lead in drinking water is from
lead-based plumbing materials. The corrosion of
such materials will continue to increase
concentrations of lead in municipal drinking
water. The EPA actually allows small amounts
of lead to be present in our tap water due
to this insurmountable problem. Grounding
of household electrical systems to plumbing
may also exacerbate corrosion. Corrosion of
plumbing is by far the greatest cause for
concern. All water is corrosive to metal
plumbing materials to some degree.

Lead from water and airborne sources have
been shown to accumulate in agricultural
areas leading to increased concentrations
in agricultural produce and farm animals.
Cigarette smoke is also a significant source
of lead exposure.

A certain amount of lead is always in our
bodies because of the background presence
of lead in food, water, and sources in
the soil. The EPA estimates that drinking
water can make up 20 percent or more of
a person’s total exposure to lead.
Atmospherically derived lead is a widely
distributed contaminant that can inhibit
a range of essential ecosystem processes
in soils. Lead has made its way into food,
animals, and humans.

Because of the possibility of permanent
impairment, lead poisoning is particularly
dangerous during the critical development
periods of infants and young children under
the age of 7 years. Young children, those
6 years and younger, are at particular risk
for lead exposure because they have frequent
hand-to-mouth activity and absorb lead more
easily than do adults. Children’s nervous
systems are still undergoing development and
are therefore more susceptible to the effects
of toxic agents. Lead is also harmful to the
developing fetuses of pregnant women.

Lead in drinking water is a significant
contributor to overall exposure to lead,
particularly for infants whose diet
consists of liquids made with water, such
as baby food or formula.

Lead is one of the most toxic elements
naturally occurring on Earth. High
concentrations of lead can cause
irreversible brain damage, seizure,
coma, and death if not treated immediately.
Evidence suggests that lead may cause fatigue,
irritability, memory problems, reduction
in sensory and motor reaction times,
decision making impairment, and lapses
in concentration. In adults, lead is
very detrimental to the cardiovascular

Occupationally exposed individuals tend to
have higher blood pressure and are at an
increased risk for cardiovascular disease,
myocardial infarction, and stroke. The
kidneys are targets of lead toxicity and
prone to impairment at moderate to high
levels of lead concentrations. Other
signs/symptoms of lead toxicity include
gastrointestinal disturbances, abdominal
pain, cramps, constipation, anorexia and
weight loss, immunosuppression, and some
liver impairment. Lead can affect almost
every organ and system in our body.

No safe blood lead level in children has
been determined. Children absorb lead much
more efficiently than adults do after
exposure and are susceptible to the most
damaging effects of lead toxicity. Lead
not only appears to affect cognitive
development of young children but also
other areas of neuropsychological function.
Low levels of lead in blood have been
associated with reduced IQ and attention
span, learning disabilities, poor classroom
performance, hyperactivity, behavioral
problems, impaired growth, and hearing loss.
Very high blood lead levels can cause severe
neurological problems such as mental
retardation, coma, convulsions, and even
death. Lead has been determined by many
health experts to be the #1 threat to
developing children in our industrial

The most sensitive is the central nervous
system (brain), particularly in children.
Lead also damages kidneys and the reproductive
system. The effects are the same whether it
is breathed or swallowed.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
lead tests reported by 21,997 public water
suppliers in 35 states shows that between
1998 and 2003, 50.4 million people in 7,942
communities drank water contaminated with lead.
In 2,275 of these communities, tap water was
contaminated at levels above health-based


Inorganic iron is one of the most troublesome
elements in water supplies. Making up at least
5 percent of the earth’s crust, iron is one of
the earth’s most plentiful resources. Acidic
rain water as it infiltrates the soil and
underlying geologic formations excessively
dissolves iron, causing it to seep into
aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater
for wells. This is one reason that there
is a high prevalence of increased iron
stores in the general population of western

Inorganic iron is almost indigestible. When
people suffering from anemia are given
supplements of inorganic iron, these supplements
are poorly absorbed in the gut and can have
many unpleasant side effects.

Excess iron accumulates in the pancreas causes
tissue injury. Iron affects glucose metabolism.
Iron stores are associated with insulin
sensitivity, insulin secretion, and insulin
resistance. High inorganic iron causes excessive
sodium retention. Tissue iron excess contributes
to produce and amplify the injury caused by acidity
as well as to modulate various steps involved in
the inflammatory lesion. It should not be ignored
that chronic inflammation caused by dietary and/or
metabolic acid, to some extent, to increase ferritin concentration.


Chromium is abundant in the earth’s crust and is
widely dispersed in the environment. It is used
extensively in refractory materials and chemicals,
as a plating to produce hard and smooth surfaces,
to prevent corrosion, and in manufacturing stainless
and alloy steels. Major atmospheric emissions of
chromium arise from metal producing industries,
coal-fired plants, municipal incinerators, and
cooling towers.

Chromium-6 or Hexavalent chromium is an inorganic
chemical that can be toxic. Chromium-6 has been
in the news lately because it has been found in
groundwater due to industrial contamination. It
was the focus of the popular movie Erin Brockovich.

Hexavalent chromium in the workplace is suspected
of being carcinogenic. Excessive exposure to dusts
or mists of hexavalent chromium compounds produces
dermatitis, skin lesions, and ulceration and
perforation of the nasal septum, as well as liver
and kidney damage. With long-term exposure to
hexavalent chromium compounds, incidence of
human lung cancer increases.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
hexavalent chromium tests reported by 1,111
public water suppliers in 3 states shows that
between 1998 and 2003, 33.4 million people in
519 communities drank water contaminated with
hexavalent chromium.


Barium is a heavy metal released into the air
by human activities, mainly barium mines, metal
production facilities, and industrial boilers
that burn coal and oil. When coal and oil are
burned to generate electricity, an ash is
produced which contains more than 99% of their
barium content. Barium released into the soil
and water comes from copper smelters and oil
drilling waste disposal sites. Industries
reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) released 159 tons of barium into
the environment in 1995. More than half was
released to the soil. Some foods, such as
Brazil nuts, seaweed, fish, and certain
vegetables, may contain high amounts of barium.

Barium and barium compounds are used for many
commercial processes. Barium sulfate is mined
and used in oil and gas production, medical
procedures, and the manufacture of paints,
bricks, tiles, glass, and rubber. Other barium
compounds are used in the manufacture of
ceramics, pesticides, and oil and fuel additives.
In addition, physicians often instruct their
patients to swallow a barium compound solution
as part of certain medical test procedures.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
barium tests reported by 29,280 public water
suppliers in 41 states shows that between
1998 and 2003, 147 million people in 20,626
communities drank water contaminated with

Barium interferes with natural immune system
functioning. Barium compounds are extremely
poisonous. At low doses, barium acts as a
muscle stimulant, while higher doses affect
the nervous system, causing cardiac
irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxiety,
dyspnea, and paralysis. This may be due to
its ability to block potassium ion channels
that are critical to the proper function of
the nervous system.

As barium weakens the immune systems of the
masses, we should expect to see statistically
significant increases in various dis-eases
that might normally be minimally occurring
in a population with a fully-activated immune


Beryllium is a metal from metal refineries,
coal burning, and pollution from electrical,
aerospace and defense industries. Potential
health impacts associated with beryllium
include cancerous conditions, cardiovascular
or blood toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver
toxicity, immunotoxicity, kidney toxicity,
reproductive toxicity, respiratory toxicity,
and skin sensitivity.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
beryllium tests reported by 29,913 public
water suppliers in 41 states shows that
between 1998 and 2003, 6.9 million people
in 720 communities drank water contaminated
with beryllium.


Molybdenum is a by-product of copper and
tungsten mining. It is used as an alloy for
various metals, and it occurs naturally in
soil and rock. Potential health impacts
associated with molybdenum include
neurotoxicity and reproductive toxicity.
Plants can, under certain conditions
accumulate large concentrations of molybdenum.
Molybdenum uptake by plants increases with
increased soil pH. Molybdenum can cause
acute clinical disease and subsequent
death by interfering with copper metabolism.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
molybdenum tests reported by 1,183 public
water suppliers in nine states shows that
between 1998 and 2003, 24.6 million people
in 134 communities drank water contaminated
with molybdenum. In 84 of these communities,
tap water was contaminated at levels above
health-based thresholds. Molybdenum remains
unregulated in tap water, without a maximum
legal limit.

Molybdenum is mobile in plants and in soil.
It is less available in soils with a lower
pH. Acid-leached forest and sandstone soils
are generally low in molybdenum. Acid rain
causes molybdenum to be released from the
soil, which contaminates our water and food


Phosphorus is a component of fertilizer and
manure, and a pollutant in municipal wastewater
discharges. Potential health impacts associated
with phosphorus include cardiovascular or
blood toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver
toxicity, kidney toxicity, musculoskeletal
toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity,
respiratory toxicity, and skin sensitivity.

Organic phosphate fertilizers contain
radionuclides (such as radium, radon,
radioactive lead, polonium, thorium, etc),
toxic metals, and fluorine.

Phosphate fertilizers are manufactured from
phosphate rocks and, according to their origin,
may contain various micronutrients
(cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum,
nickel, zinc) and heavy metals considered toxic
(arsenic, aluminum, beryllium cadmium, lead,
mercury, and vanadium) (Camelo et al., 1997
and Mirlean et al., 2001). The build up of
toxic heavy metals and fluorine in soils as
a result of continuous application of phosphate
fertilizers has never been mentioned to the
general public.

The phosphate rocks are also enriched in
uranium, thorium and their daughters,
deposited as calcium phosphate minerals
by isomorphic substitution (Pfister et al.,
1976), since the natural uranium can
substitute calcium in the phosphate rock
structure due to the similarity in ionic
size between U4+ and Ca2+ (Guzman, 1992).

Depending on geographic location where the
phosphate rock is mined, it can contain
from 50 – 200 ppm of uranium. Phosphate rock
is the major source of ‘yellow cake’
(uranium oxide) for nuclear weapons and
the nuclear power industry.

Where there is uranium in natural rock
formations, there will also be all its
carcinogenic decay rate products; such
as radium, radon, radioactive lead,
polonium, thorium, etc.

The tailings from phosphoric acid production
(phosphate fertiliser), phosphorgypsum, are
so radioactive that they are not allowed to
be used for wall-board or road beds in the
US and Canada – because it is considered a
radiation hazard. However, organic growers
are allowed to treat their fields with the
raw, unprocessed product once every six years,
with none of the contaminants processed out.

Taking a closer look at this ‘natural’ phosphate
rock mix, we find for example polonium-210:

One particle of polonium-210 gives off 5,000
times more alpha radiation than the same amount
of radium. Damage occurs in the body from
complete tissue absorption of the energy of
the alpha particle. Polonium-210 can be
carcinogenic to people exposed to more than
0.03 microcuries (6.8 trillionths of a gram).
There are also high levels of Radium and
Polonium-210 in granite dust, which is used
by organic farmers, is some parts of the
world as a soil conditioner.

Polonium is carried throughout the body in
the blood. It has been linked to more soft-
tissue cancers than cancerous bones; typical
sites are the liver, spleen, and kidney. The
most important pathway for radionuclide
contamination of the food is the uptake by
plant from the ground through the roots.
Once the contaminated foods have been
ingested by man or animals, the radionuclides
produce an internal radiation dose in the
specific organs where they accumulate.

Polonium is found in tobacco grown with
phosphate fertilizers. Studies have suggested
that radioactive polonium may be the primary
cause of smoking-related cancers.

Our water supplies are being flooded with
radioactive elements, especially radon.
It is important to note that these do not
simply dissipate in a few days, months,
or years – these radioactive elements will
emit radon for many thousands of years.

The long-continued application of phosphate
fertilizers and their by-products can
redistribute and elevate heavy metal
concentrations in soil profiles, and,
consequently, their availability for plants
and subsequent transfer to the human food
chain, mainly in acid soils.

Additionally, the long-continued application
of phosphate fertilizers can also raise the
heavy metal concentrations in irrigation
runoff/drainage from fertilized lands, and,
then, their application in agricultural soils
constitute another source for workers and
members of the public. One ounce @ 5.0% phosphate
(about the amount used to fertilize one organic
tomato plant as recommended by some organic
growers) contains about 1.4 grams of fluoride,
which is enough to kill a small child.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
phosphorus tests reported by 162 public water
suppliers in 7 states shows that between
1998 and 2003, 3.3 million people in 113
communities drank water contaminated with
phosphorus. In all of these communities,
tap water was contaminated at levels above
health-based thresholds. Phosphorus remains
unregulated in tap water, without a maximum
legal limit. Water suppliers reporting tests
for phosphate (1998-2003): 258 of 39,751.


25 APR 2007 | A bill to set national safety
standards for toxic rocket fuel perchlorate,
found in drinking water supplies in more
than 20 states, is moving in Congress.
However, perchlorate is currently an
unregulated contaminant. Officials found
the rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate at
up to 1,300 parts per million in the fall –
roughly 166 times higher than acceptable limits.
Perchlorate is a toxic chemical from military-
industrial activities and the use of Chilean
nitrate fertilizer.

Production and use estimates of perchlorate
are hard to come by: the military considers
the numbers secret, and fertilizer producers
will not share them, saying they are proprietary

Perchlorate can affect thyroid function –
because perchlorate is an ion that inhibits
the transport of iodide into the thyroid.
Scientists have found that a significant
number of people are at risk of thyroid
depression from perchlorate exposure.
Extensive data indicate that thyroid-
pituitary disruption is the sole mode
of action for the observed thyroid
tumors caused by perchlorate in rodents.

A series of critical new studies by
scientists at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention show that the
EPA’s proposed safe exposure level
for the contaminant “perchlorate”
is not protective of public health. To
add insult to injury, the California
Environmental Protection Agency
recently raised the limit on the
amount of perchlorate allowed in
drinking water by 50%. Currently
there are no enforceable perchlorate
safety standards, but Environmental
Working Group (EWG) argues that a
national safety standard should be
no higher than one-tenth the EPA’s
currently recommended level.

Preliminary data from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention show
that the amount of perchlorate in
urine is too high to be from drinking
water alone. Studies have found perchlorate
in rainwater and common foods produced
in the U.S., such as dairy products and
produce. Perchlorate is also found in
produce worldwide.

In the first-ever tests of perchlorate
in off-the-shelf supermarket produce,
EWG found contamination averaging 4
times more than what the EPA says is
safe in drinking water. The chemical
has also been found in prenatal vitamins
and seaweed. Perchlorate can remain in
food even after it is cooked.

Blast from the past: billions of kilograms
of Chilean nitrate fertilizer contaminated
with perchlorate left a lasting impression.
Between 1909 and 1929, the U.S. imported
an estimated 19 million tons of Chilean
nitrate. The United States still uses 75,000
short tons of Chilean nitrate annually.

Overall, fresh fruits and vegetables from
California and Central and South America had
the highest levels of perchlorate. Just one
serving of some fruits can contain enough
perchlorate to exceed the National Academy
of Sciences safe daily dose by 25%, and
wines and beers pack a bigger perchlorate
punch than waters, according to a new study
that measures perchlorate concentrations
in fruits, wines, and beers from around
the world. The food contribution to daily
perchlorate exposure looks to be a horrendous
disaster attributed to intensive farming,
irresponsible agricultural practices,
and military-industrial activities.

Perchlorate’s interference with iodide
uptake by the thyroid gland can decrease
production of thyroid function, which is
needed for prenatal and postnatal growth
and development, as well as for normal
metabolism and mental function in the adult.

Perchlorate is present in virtually all
milk samples; the average concentration
in breast milk is five times higher than
in dairy milk. Studies testify that high
levels of perchlorate in breast milk put
the nation’s infants at risk for
developmental problems. Thyroid function is
critical for development of the fetal and
neonatal brain, as well as for many other
aspects of fetal growth. The high levels
of perchlorate in breast milk are cause for
serious concern and should lead to immediate
government action to protect the public health.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
perchlorate tests reported by 982 public
water suppliers in 7 states shows that
between 1998 and 2003, 26.2 million
people in 86 communities drank water
contaminated with perchlorate. In 8 of
these communities, tap water was contaminated
at levels above health-based thresholds.
Perchlorate remains unregulated in tap water,
without a maximum legal limit. Perchlorate
is a known endocrine disruptor.


Asbestos is a mineral fiber from decay of
asbestos cement in water mains. Potential
health impacts associated with asbestos
include cancer, immunotoxicity, and
respiratory toxicity.

An Environmental Working Group analysis
of asbestos tests reported by 2,533 public
water suppliers in 26 states shows that
between 1998 and 2003, 8.6 million people
in 147 communities drank water contaminated
with Asbestos. In 2 of these communities,
tap water was contaminated at levels
above health-based thresholds.

Contaminants Index

Drinking water, including most bottled, reverse
osmosis, and distilled water may reasonably be
expected to contain some contaminants. U.S.
EPA sets standards for approximately 90
contaminants in drinking water.

The following are common contaminants found
in public water, their potential health effects,
and the type of water filters that are capable
of removing them:

2,4,5TP: This is an herbicide that is used
on crops and right-of-way areas. It can
cause liver and kidney damage. The maximum
contaminant level is 0.05mg/L. A water
filter that removes Volatile organic
chemicals (VOCs) will remove this compound.
NSF standard 53.

2,4-D: This is an herbicide used on wheat, corn,
range lands and lawns. The maximum amount allowed
in public water is 0.07mg/L. Like the above
herbicide it causes liver and kidney damage.
A charcoal/carbon filter (Standard 53) that
removes VOCs will remove this contaminant.

Alachor: This is an herbicide used on corn,
soybeans, and other crops. The maximum amount
allowed in public water is 0.002 mg/L. It
is a carcinogen (i.e. it causes cancer).
A carbon/charcoal filter Standard 53,
that removes VOCs will remove this contaminant.

Arsenic: This is a heavy metal. It comes from
smelters, glass and electronic wastes as well
as from orchards and natural deposits. The
maximum contaminant level for arsenic is
0.010 mg/L. Its potential health hazards
include skin and nervous system toxicity.
Arsenic is found in water in two different
forms: pentavalent (also known as Arsenic
5 or arsenate) and Trivalent (Arsenic 3
or Arsenite). Chlorine converts trivalent
to pentvalent arsenic. Carbon/charcoal,
reverse osmosis filters as well as
distillation will remove this contaminant.
Distillation will remove trivalent and
pentvalent arsenic, while reverse osmosis
will remove pentvalent only. Look for
Standards 53, 58, or 62.

Asbestos: This contaminant comes from natural
deposits and asbestos cement used in water
systems. The maximum contaminant level is 7
million fibers per liter. It is a serious
carcinogen. Carbon/charcoal and reverse
osmosis remove this contaminant.

Atrazine: This is an herbicide used on corn
and on non crop land. It can cause mammary
gland tumors. Its maximum contaminant level
is 0.003 mg/L. Carbon/charcoal standard 53
filters will remove this contaminant. It is
part of the VOC category.

Bacteria: Bacteria are not supposed to be found
in our public waters. But occasionally they may
contaminate the water we drink. Sources are
naturally occurring or from human or animal
wastes. Most of them cause gastrointestinal
disorders. Ultraviolet treatment is usually
necessary for removal of these contaminants,
or look for NSF standard 55 filters. Class A
inactivates or removes micro-forms from
contaminated water (not raw sewage) and
Class B disinfection systems remove naturally
occurring organisms found in public waters
that are deemed non-pathogenic.

Barium: This is a found in natural deposits,
epoxy sealants, pigments and spent coal. Its
maximum contaminant level is 2 mg/L. It can
potentially affect the circulatory system.
Cation exchange softeners, reverse osmosis
and distillation will remove barium. Look
for standards 44, 58 and 62.

Cadmium: This is found in galvanized pipe
corrosion, natural deposits, batteries and
paints. It primarily effects the kidneys.
Its maximum contaminant level is 0.005 mg/L.
Reverse osmosis, distillation remove it.
Standards 58 and 62

Carbufuran: This is a soil fumigant used on
corn and cotton. It effects the nervous
reproductive systems. Its maximum contaminant
level is 0.04 mg/L. Carbon/charcoal standard
53 remove this. It is part of the VOC category.

Chloramine: The effects of this contaminant are
unknown. It is used as a disinfectant. The
maximum recommended usage level is 4 mg/L.
Carbon/charcoal filters, standard 42 remove
this contaminant. Systems certified for
reduction of chlorine will not necessarily
be effective against chloramines.

Chlordane: This is used for treating termites.
Maximum contaminant level is 0.002. It can
cause cancerous conditions. Carbon/charcoal
filters, Standard 53 will remove this contaminant.

Chlorides: Cause water to taste salty.
Maximum contaminant level is 250 mg/L.
These come from natural deposits. Reverse
osmosis and distillation may remove these.

Chlorine: This is used for disinfection of
drinking water. The chlorination by-products
(trihalomethanes) have potential health effects.
Carbon/charcoal standard 42 filters will remove
chlorine. Contact your local water utility to
determine if chlorine or chloramines are used
to disinfect your water.

Chlorination by-Products (trihalomethanes):
These are by-products of chlorination in
drinking water and they are carcinogenic.
The maximum contaminant level is 0.08 mg/L.
Carbon/charcoal standard 53 filters are
effective at reducing these contaminants.

Chromium: This is a by-product of mining,
electroplating, pigments and from natural
deposits. It can be present in water in
forms: hexavalent (chromium 6) and trivalent
(chromium 3). It can cause liver, kidney and
circulatory disorders. Reverse osmosis and
distillation Standards 53,58 and 62 remove

Copper: From natural and industrial deposits,
wood preservatives, and plumbing. It may leach
from residential plumbing. The maximum
contaminant level is 1.3 mg/L. It can cause
gastrointestinal irritation. Charcoal/carbon,
reverse osmosis, and distillation, Standards
42, 58 and 62 remove this contaminant.

Crytosporidium: This is a parasite that is
found in food or water contaminated with
human or animal waste. It can cause
gastrointestinal illness. Although public
water should not have any cryptosporidium
in it, it is not uncommon to see people
in the Portland area test positive on stool
test for it. Standard 53, 58 and 55 water
filters should remove it. Look for a filter
capable of removing spores < 1 micron.

-dichlorobenzene: part of the VOC category.
From paints, engine cleaning compounds, dyes,
chemical wastes. Causes liver, kidney and
blood cell damage. Carbon block standard
53 removes.

Hepatochlor Epoxide: A degradation product of
heptachlor which is used in insectides,
particularly for termite eradication. It is
a carcinogen. Allowable amount is 0.0002 mg/L.
Carbon block, standard 53 removes this.
This contaminant is part of the VOC category.

Hydrogen sulfide: causes the rotten egg odor in
water. It is a naturally occurring chemical
in water. Carbon block, standard 42 filters
remove it.

Iron: Maximum allowable amount is 0.3mg/L.
It can stain laundry, plumbing and appliances.
It is from natural deposits in the water.
Carbon/charcoal filter, standard 42 will
remove it.

MTBE: From gasoline spills, underground gas
tank leakages. The potential health effects
include cancer, developmental toxicity,
gastrointestinal or liver toxicity, kidney
toxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin sensitivity.
Carbon block, standard 53 will remove it.

Nitrite: Can cause methemoglobulinemia
(blue baby syndrome). From animal waste,
fertilizer, natural deposits, septic tanks,
sewage. Maximum allowable level is 1 mg/L.
It rapidly converts to nitrate. Reverse
osmosis, standard 53, 58, 62 remove this

PCBs: from the coolants used in electrical
transformers and plasticizers. PCBs are known
carcinogens. Maximum allowable amount is
0.0005 mg/L. Carbon block filters, standard
53 remove this contaminant.

Radium: This is a naturally occurring carcinogen.
It can cause cancerous bones. Filters that remove
it are reverse osmosis and cation exchange
softeners, standard 44 and 58.

Radon: Another naturally occurring contaminant,
it is also a carcinogen and is a risk factor
for cancerous lung. Carbon/charcoal and aeration
devices remove it. Look for a standard 53.

Selenium: maximum contaminant level is 0.05 mg/L.
It is from natural deposits, mining, smelting,
coal/oil combustion. Too much selenium can
cause liver damage. Standard 58, 62 reverse
osmosis filters will reduce selenium.

Sulfates: can cause gastrointestinal irritation.
They are naturally occurring. Reverse osmosis
or distillation may be effective at removing.

Sulfuric acid and nitric acid: acid rain occurs
when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are
emitted into the atmosphere, undergo chemical
transformations. Reverse osmosis, distillation,
carbon/charcoal filters will not remove them –
the water needs to be ionized.

Styrene: Maximum allowable amount 0.10 mg/L.
Styrene is from plastic, rubber, resin and
drug industries. It also can leach from
landfills into the ground water. It causes
liver and nervous system damage.

Taste and odor: From natural sources and
additives. Carbon/charcoal standard 42.

Total dissolved solids: Come from the erosion
of naturally occurring mineral deposits. TDS’s
antagonizes the assimilation of other minerals
and causes secondary mineral deficiencies. They
can also cause gastrointestinal irritation in
some people. Maximum level should not exceed
500 mg/L. Standard 42, 58, 62 distillation,
reverse osmosis remove these.

Toxaphene: A carcinogenic insecticide that was
used on cattle, cotton, and soybeans. Standard
53, carbon/charcoal filter to remove it.

Trichloroethylene: A carcinogen found in textile,
metal and adhesive degreasers. Carbon/charcoal
standard 53 removes it. This is part of the
VOC category.

Turbidity: from soil run off, it can interfere
with disinfection and filtration. Charcoal/carbon;
reverse osmosis standards 53, 58 can remove.

Uranium: Causes kidney problems, cancer. Maximum
allowable amount is 0.03 mg/L. Filtration systems
are not currently certified to remove uranium
although reverse osmosis, distillation or anion
exchange resins may.


Coliform bacteria are common in the environment
and are generally not harmful. However, the
presence of these bacteria in drinking water
is usually a result of a problem with the
treatment system or the pipes which distribute
water, and indicates that the water may be
contaminated with germs that can cause disease.

Fecal Coliform and E coli are bacteria whose
presence indicates that the water may be
contaminated with human or animal wastes.
Micro-forms in these wastes can cause
short-term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps,
nausea, headaches, or other symptoms.

Turbidity has no health effects. However,
turbidity can interfere with disinfection
and provide a medium for biological transformation.
Turbidity may indicate the presence of dis-ease
causing organisms. These organisms include
bacteria, yeast, mold and parasites that can
cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea,
and associated headaches.

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that enters
lakes and rivers through sewage and animal
waste. It causes cryptosporidiosis, a mild
gastrointestinal disease. However, the dis-ease
can be severe or fatal for people with severely
weakened immune systems. EPA and CDC have
prepared advice for those with severely
compromised immune systems who are concerned
about Cryptosporidium.

Giardia lamblia is a parasite that enters lakes
and rivers through sewage and animal waste.
It causes gastrointestinal illness (e.g.
diarrhea, vomiting, cramps).


Alpha emitters.

Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit
a form of radiation known as alpha radiation.
Some people who drink water containing alpha
emitters in excess of EPA’s standard over
many years may have an increased risk of
increased acidity leading to cancerous
tissue and tumor formation.

Beta/photon emitters. Certain minerals are
radioactive and may emit forms of radiation
known as photons and beta radiation. Some
people who drink water containing beta and
photon emitters in excess of EPA’s standard
over many years may have an increased risk
of cellular transformation, increased acidity
leading to cancerous tissue.

Combined Radium 226/228. Some people who
drink water containing radium 226 or 228
in excess of EPA’s standard over many years
may have an increased risk of cellular
transformation and increased acidity leading
to cancerous states.

Radon gas can dissolve and accumulate in
underground water sources, such as wells,
and in the air in your home. Breathing radon
can cause the fermentation of lung tissue
and cancerous lungs. Drinking water
containing radon presents a risk of
developing cancer. Radon in air is more
dangerous than radon in water.

A few more inorganic contaminants:

Antimony, Beryllium, Cyanide, and Thallium


Some people who drink water containing
arsenic in excess of EPA’s standard over
many years could experience skin damage
or problems with their circulatory system,
and may have an increased risk of cellular
fermentation and cancerous states.

Lead typically leaches into water from
plumbing in older buildings. Lead pipes
and plumbing fittings have been banned
since August 1998. Children and pregnant
women are most susceptible to lead health
risks. For advice on avoiding lead, see
the how to remove lead in your drinking
water fact sheet prepared by EPA.

Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOCs) benzene,
carbon tetrachloride, chlorobenzene,
o-Dichlorobenzene, p-Dichlorobenzene,
Dichloromethane, 1,2-Dichloroethane,
1,2-Dichloropropane, Ethylbenzene,
Styrene, Tetrachloroethylene,
1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Trichloroethylene,
Toluene, Vinyl Chloride, and Xylenes.

Chlorine. Some people who use drinking water
containing chlorine well in excess of EPA’s
standard could experience irritating effects
to their eyes and nose. Some people who drink
water containing chlorine well in excess of
EPA’s standard could experience stomach

Chloramine. Some people who use drinking water
containing chloramines well in excess of EPA’s
standard could experience irritating effects to
their eyes and nose. Some people who drink
water containing chloramines well in excess
of EPA’s standard could experience stomach
discomfort or anemia.

Total Trihalomethanes. Some people who drink
water containing trihalomethanes in excess of
EPA’s standard over many years may experience
problems with their liver, kidneys, or central
nervous systems, and may have an increased risk
of cancerous tissue.

Haloacetic Acids. Some people who drink water
containing haloacetic acids in excess of EPA’s
standard over many years may have an increased
risk of cancerous tissue.

Bromate. Some people who drink water containing
bromate in excess of EPA’s standard. Bromate is
a disinfection by-product of ozonation. Potential
health impacts associated with Bromate include
cancerous tissue and kidney toxicity.

An Environmental Working Group analysis of
Bromate tests reported by 73 public water
suppliers in 16 states shows that between
1998 and 2003, 3.9 million people in 20
communities drank water contaminated with
Bromate. In 11 of these communities, tap
water was contaminated at levels above
health-based thresholds. Water suppliers
reporting tests for Bromate (1998-2003):
73 of 39,751.

MTBE is a fuel additive, commonly used in the
United States to reduce carbon monoxide and
ozone levels caused by auto emissions. Due to
its widespread use, reports of MTBE detections
in the nation’s ground and surface water supplies
are increasing. The Office of Water and other
EPA offices are working with a panel of leading
experts to focus on issues posed by the continued
use of MTBE and other oxygenates in gasoline.
EPA is currently studying the implications of
setting a drinking water standard for MTBE.

Potential health impacts associated with MTBE
include cancerous conditions, developmental
toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity,
kidney toxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin

An Environmental Working Group analysis of MTBE tests
reported by 16,866 public water suppliers in 30
states shows that between 1998 and 2003, 32.7
million people in 632 communities drank water
contaminated with MTBE. MTBE remains unregulated
in tap water, without a maximum legal limit.
Water suppliers reporting tests for MTBE (1998-2003):
16,866 of 39,751.

As part of the Drinking Water and Health pages,
this informational article is part of a larger
U.S. EPA publication: EPA National Primary
Drinking Water Regulations.

For more information of the published articles on
alkaline water and the chemistry of acid/alkaline
water go to:

One thought on “The Truth About Our Drinking Water”

  1. This was an incredibly thorough and well put together article about our drinking water. Thank you for sharing it with us!Linda Symonds< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Compare Water Filters<>


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s