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Emerging Contaminates, What Are They?

Chemicals that were undetected or previously found in far less concentrations in our water supplies. These chemicals are known as “Contaminants of Emerging Concern”. While many of the Contaminants have been in our waters for a long time; our ability to discern the contaminant, and measure its amount has only come about recently due to technological advancements.

 

  

 How many and what kind of contaminants are we talking about? Oh about 80,000 common chemical compounds used worldwide. Just a few of the contaminants in our water are; Pharmaceuticals,  Personal Care Products(PCP’s), and Endocrine Disrupting Compounds(EDC’s).

 *Up to 90% of Oral drugs pass through the human body.

 *Personal Care Products such as soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, etc. also make their way into our water sources.

 *Endocrine Disruptors are substances that may interfere with the function of hormones in the human body, and are being discovered across the country.                          

 *And Micro-plastics come from cosmetics, toothpaste, detergents, and discarded plastic pollution in our waterways. Also, Micro-plastics have been found in virtually every living thing on the planet including bacteria, and is in 98% of Americas tap water.

 

   Then we have the Industrial Contaminants; chemicals, compounds, and heavy metals released from factories and plants from spills, waste discharge, and smoke stacks. Some of the more notable contaminants are MTBE’s, PFOA’s, Perchlorates, Hexavalent Chromium, 1,4 dioxane, Atrazine, and a host of others.

 *MTBE’s was a fuel additive back in the ‘70’s that leeched from fuel storage tanks. And leaves a turpentine like taste and odor to the water.

 *PFOA’s are a group of chemical compounds used for Teflon, Scotch-Gard, and Firefighting foam products. These compounds do not like to break down and readily migrate to water.

 * Perchlorates are products used for solid rocket propellants and fireworks production.

 *Hexavalent Chromium (the Erin Brockovich movie) comes from many different sources, Metal & Paint production, Refineries, etc. and contaminates about 250 million Americans water. Also, Chromium 6 is not found naturally occurring.

 *1,4 dioxane is an unregulated industrial solvent used in cosmetics, insecticides, and to dissolve greasy and oily substances. Also 1,4 dioxane contaminates approximately 90 million Americans water.

 *Atrazine is an herbicide used to control broad leaf weeds in agriculture, golf courses, and residential lawns. It is the most commonly used herbicide and contaminates about 7.6 million Americans water.  

 

  This is the short list on Municipal tap water. Those on personal wells are responsible for their own water quality. Depending on your locale; your water could have natural or man-made contaminants, such as Nitrates, Uranium, Arsenic, Bacteria, or any number of the contaminants listed here.

 

  Most of the contaminants listed are considered possible carcinogens; including the byproducts of the very disinfectants used in our Municipal drinking water, Chlorine/Chloramine. Our Water Treatment Plants attempt to provide their Communities with safe supplies of water, and usually meet or exceed the EPA’s standards. But, it is the Government and EPA’s responsibility to reassess the Maximum Contaminant Levels in our water, based on recent research and testing capabilities. The EPA has not added any new contaminants to their Primary Maximum Contaminants list in over 20 years, and only recently reduced the MCL for PFOA’s(which researchers feel is still too high). We do not yet know what other chemical compounds may occur through interaction in nature or by the treatment processes.

 

  There are ways in which people can still improve the water their family consumes. Different Carbon Filters can help remove some contaminants, while a quality Reverse Osmosis System will remove up to 99% of elemental and chemical contaminants. By contacting your local Health Department or a Reputable Water Treatment Professional, you can find out what may be in your water, how to get a Certified Laboratory Water Analysis, and treatment options.

 

By; Terry Hughes CWS CI       

 

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