If there is one word that strikes fear in the minds of many Americans it is the word cancer. That our bodies have the ability to turn on themselves is both frightening and fascinating. In its official 240-page report, entitled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risks: What We Can Do Now, The President’s Cancer Panel provides some insight into our water supply. We all understand that we live in a toxic world and many people choose bottled water and or home water filter systems to help insure their health in so far that we know our environment harbors dangerous chemicals at nearly every turn. Bottled water, specifically water from pristine sources, helps our bodies fight disease and grants us the knowledge that our bottled water is not laden with poisons leaching though ground water.
Reducing Environmental Cancer Risks: What We Can Do Now states in part: “Individuals and families have many opportunities to reduce or eliminate chemical exposures. For example, filtering home tap water or well water can decrease exposure to numerous known or suspected carcinogens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” The Panel is a three-person body that reports to the president on the development and execution of the National Cancer Program. Members serve three-year terms, and at least two of the three members must be distinguished scientists or physicians. (Get the full report here)
“This reaffirms what independent testing shows,” said Peter Censky, executive director of the Water Quality Assn. reviewing the report. “Home water treatment is a barrier against many harmful chemicals.” All that is good and well but as the report shows threats come from all sides and even home filtration cannot respond to the stunning number of chemicals in our water. The report lays out several different and culpable sources that are polluting our water, such as:
Public Water Supplies: “Disinfection of public water supplies has dramatically reduced the incidence of waterborne illnesses and related mortality in the United States, but research indicates that long-term exposure to disinfection by-products such as trihalomethanes may increase cancer risk,” the report says. That’s not the news you want to hear as you bathe in, cook with, and drink your tap water. Trihalomethanes are a group of four chemicals that are formed when chlorine, or other disinfectants are used to control microbial contaminants in water supplies.
Agricultural Sources: “In addition to pesticides, agricultural fertilizers and veterinary pharmaceuticals are major contributors to water pollution, both directly and as a result of chemical processes that form toxic by-products when these substances enter the water supply,” the report states. It’s long been known that pesticides, including DDT which was banned in the 1970s, continue to show up even to this day. Little to no research has even been conducted to study long term effects of these substances and we are paying a price for it. Professor Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley studied the findings and, as an expert in development endocrinology, cut to the point about the obsessive use of pesticides in this country and their ability to compromise out water. “We use 80 million pounds [of atrazine] annually in the United States,” he says. “It’s the number-one pesticide contaminant of ground water, surface water, and drinking water. It’s used in more than 80 countries but it’s now outlawed in all of Europe or, as the company likes to say, has been denied regulatory approval. The main point here is that here’s a compound that we use 80 million pounds of, and it’s illegal in the home country of the company that makes it.”
The Medical Industry: “Pharmaceuticals have become a significant water pollutant nationwide. Water filtration plants generally are unable to remove dissolved medications that enter water systems after being excreted or poured into household drains or toilets.” Certainly municipal systems across the country do an admirable job of cleaning water, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of chemicals infiltrating water supplies. The panel also calls out our general society: “Although human activities such as mining, ore processing, use of arsenic-containing pesticides, and burning of fossil fuels are major contributors to waterborne arsenic in the U.S., most inorganic arsenic in drinking water is from natural sources. Inorganic arsenic in drinking water has been linked to skin, lung, bladder, and kidney cancer in both sexes and with prostate cancer in men, as well as numerous non-cancerous conditions including endocrine, reproductive, and developmental effects.” And the list goes on. The bottom line is that the worlds’ water supply is under siege and there seems to be no real solution to solving the multiple issues facing the industry. Even the financial issue is bad enough. It would apparently take $6.5 trillion for the U.S. and Canada alone to update their water infrastructure by 2030, according to a 2007 study by Booz Allen Hamilton as reported in The Economist.
So when people claim that bottled water is harmful to the environment, too expensive, or a luxury and not a necessity, perhaps the President’s Cancer Panel can serve as a wake up call that bottled water remains one of the few untainted, pure and clean expressions of what water is supposed to be. If bottled water is not your choice then consider, at the very least, some type of home filtration system, one designed to reduce and remove the contaminants found in your regional water supply. (Watch my appearance on FoxNewsHeath as I discuss home water filters) We must be our own advocates for better health – and that begins with the water we consume every day.