Drinking water has been on all of our minds lately. Our government’s inability—or unwillingness—to protect us has become glaringly clear as we’ve watched the tragic story unfold of our fellow citizens in Flint, Michigan being exposed to toxic levels of lead in their water.
The truth is our water quality can no longer be trusted, having been contaminated with…
- pesticide runoff,
- illegal dumping,
- leaky industrial storage and
- governmental programs.
12 drinking water toxins you need to know about
Let’s take a look at twelve of the worst hidden water contaminants you need to worry about running out of your faucet and into your water glass.
Lead is the main toxin behind the tragedy in Flint. Corroded pipes are releasing up to ten times the allowable amount of lead into the water. Lead is toxic to almost every organ and affects children the worst. Developmental issues, stunted growth, deafness, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and brain damage can all result from exposure to lead.5
If ingested during pregnancy, lead can cause premature birth.6 Lead exposure has even been linked to autism, prostate cancer, and reproductive problems for both men and women.7 It’s damaging to the cardiovascular system and kidneys, too.8
Our government started dumping fluoride into our drinking water back in the 1940’s to help reduce tooth decay. On the surface it may sound like a good idea. That is until you learn the real truth. Fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor.
The compound can harm your thyroid gland and calcify your pineal gland. Fluoride has also been linked to
- lower IQ’s,
- deposits in bones,
- and, ironically, pitting of tooth enamel
It’s so toxic that several countries have banned water fluoridation. Even some U.S. cities have caught on and started rejecting the process of fluoridation.1
Chlorine has disinfectant properties that make it useful for cleaning products and swimming pools. It’s even used to sanitize sewage and industrial waste.
Chlorine is added to drinking water as a purification technique, despite not being completely safe.2
Chlorine is a reactive chemical that bonds with water, including the water in your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid. Chlorine exposure can cause respiratory problems and damage cells. Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.3,4
Although mercury is a naturally occurring element, but remember natural doesn’t always mean safe. Mercury is extremely toxic and can cause…
- brain damage,
- nerve damage,
- cognitive disability,
- impairment of motor functions,
- muscle atrophy,
- mood swings,
- memory loss, and
- skin rashes.
A byproduct of mining and industrial practices, mercury vapor can linger in the atmosphere and ride the winds halfway around the globe.9
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemicals used for industrial purposes such as insulation, machinery, oil, paints, adhesives, electronics, and fluorescent lights.
Although PCBs were banned in 1979, they’re still present in landfills and pose a danger to the environment. PCBs break down slowly and infiltrate the environment. They have been found in snow and sea water thousands of miles from where they were produced.10
Animal tests have found PCBs to cause cancer and negatively affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.11
Arsenic, despite being poisonous, is used in a multitude of industrial processes. Environmental contamination may result from improper waste disposal, or from poorly-planned wells that hit a natural source.12
Arsenic poisoning can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even death in severe cases. Long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. In Taiwan, arsenic causes “blackfoot disease,” a type of gangrene that causes blood vessels to die and rot.12
Perchlorates are a key ingredient in rocket fuel and explosives. They dissolve easily and seep into groundwater from military and industrial sites.
It’s believed that perchlorates have contaminated much of the Colorado river.13 The problem is severe; almost all humans will test positive for perchlorates, which attack the thyroid.
Dioxins are released during combustion, such as burning of hazardous waste, forest fires, cigarette smoke, and burning oil and coal.
They settle in the environment and destroy water sources.14 Short term exposure can cause lesions and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can affect the immune, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared dioxins are carcinogenic. In developing fetuses, dioxin poisoning can cause birth defects or stillbirth.15
DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) was used as an insecticide in the 1940s to combat insect-borne diseases like malaria and typhus. It was widely used as an agricultural insecticide here in the United States until it was banned in 1972 due to environmental concerns.16
DDT remains in use in other parts of the world and is still a major health concern for all of us. DDT molecules are persistent so they remain in the environment here and can travel vast distances in the atmosphere as well.17
Animal testing has found DDT causes reproductive problems and liver damage. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared DDT a cancer risk.18
Until 1965, HCB, or Hexachlorobenzene, was used as a pesticide. Production has now been banned, but it’s still formed as a byproduct of the production of other chemicals.
A large dose of HCB can result in death. Smaller doses can lead to liver disease and skin lesions. The EPA has classified HCB as a probable cancer source.19
In Anatolia, Turkey in the late 1950’s, over 4500 people suffered HCB poisoning as a result of tainted grain. Over 500 people died, including children. Frighteningly, 30 years later, follow-up studies found that the breast milk of women in the area still contained up to 150 times the amount of HCB allowed in cow’s milk.20
Dacthal (dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate, or DCPA) is an herbicide that contaminates soil and water sources. Unlike HBA and DDT, Dacthal is still in use today.
Animal tests have found dacthal damages the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, thyroid, and spleen.21,22
MtBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a gasoline additive that can render large quantities of groundwater completely undrinkable. In 1996, the city of Santa Monica, CA found this out the hard way and the city had to shut down 50 percent of its water supply and pay for replacement water.23
The health effects of MtBE are not fully understood yet. Animal tests have linked it to kidney damage, seizures, and problems with fetal development.24
Water quality should be a concern for all of us
This is by no mean a complete list of all the toxins that might be in drinking water. Please keep informed of water quality issues in your area.
I also want to clear up a common misconception. Some people are under the impression that they can remove toxins from water by boiling it. Boiling water kills harmful organisms but does nothing to remove toxic chemicals, compounds, salts and metals.
If poor-quality tap water is a problem for you, I recommend investing in a quality water filter or glass-bottled distilled water.
Do you have any water quality horror stories? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us.
1.“Are You Fluoridated? – Kelly Brogan MD.” 2015. 8 Mar. 2016.
2.“Toxicological Profile for Chlorophenols.” ATSDR’s Toxicological Profiles Web Version (2002): n. pag. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
3.Facts about Chlorine.” CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
4.O’Malley, Gerald F., DO. “Chlorine Toxicity.” : Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology. Medscape, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
5.Cecil, Kim M., Christopher J. Brubaker, Caleb M. Adler, Kim N. Dietrich, Mekibib Altaye, John C. Egelhoff, Stephanie Wessel, Ilayaraja Elangovan, Richard Hornung, Kelly Jarvis, and Bruce P. Lanphear. “Decreased Brain Volume in Adults with Childhood Lead Exposure.” PLoS Medicine. Public Library of Science, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
6.“Learn about Lead.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
7.“Relationship between chronic lead toxicity and plasma neurotransmitters in autistic patients from Saudi Arabia.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
8.Telisman, Spomenka, Bozo Colak, Alicia Pizent, Jasna Jurasovic, and Petar Cvitkovic.Lead Toxicity May Be Associated with Reproductive Toxicity and Prostate Cancer Initiation in Men.” GreenMedinfo, 16 June 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
9.“Basic Information about Mercury.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
10.“Polychlorinated Biphenyls:Basic Information.” EPA.gov. EPA, 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
11.“Polychlorinated Biphenyls: Health Effects of PCBs.” EPA.gov. EPA, 13 Jun. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
12.“Arsenic.” World Health Organization, Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
13.“Technical Fact Sheet – Perchlorate.” EPA United States Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.): n. pag. EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency, Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
14.“Learn about Dioxin.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 10 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
15.“Dioxins and Their Effects on Human Health.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, June 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
16.“DDT – A Brief History and Status.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 5 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
17.“DDT.” Eco-USA. Eco-USA, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
18.“IARC Monographs Evaluate DDT, Lindane, and 2,4-D.” International Agency for Research on Cancer (n.d.): n. pag. IARC. World Health Organization, 23 June 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
19.“Hexachlorobenzene.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Jan. 2000. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
20.“Issues: Health. Healthy Milk, Healthy Baby: Chemical Pollution and Mother’s Milk: Hexachlorobenzene.” NRDC. National Resources Defense Council, 22 May 2001. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
21.Us Epa, Office Of Water (Ow). “Summary from the Health Advisory (HA) for Dacthal and Dacthal Degradates (Tetrachloroterephthalic Acid and Monomethyl Tetrachloroterephthalic Acid).” Summary from the Health Advisory for Dacthal and Dacthal Degradates (Tetrachloroterephthalic Acid (n.d.): n. pag. EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
22.Cox, By Caroline. “DCPA (Dacthal).” Journal of Pesticide Reform 11.3 (1991): 17-20. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
23.“Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE): Drinking Water.” EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
24.“MTBE: What Is MTBE?” Cancer.org. American Cancer Society, 17 July 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
Dr. Edward F. Group III has his Naturopathic Doctorate, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist certifications, and is a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition and the American Board of Functional Medicine. He founded Global Healing Center Inc. in 1998 which has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.
A dynamic author and speaker, Dr. Group focuses solely on spreading the message of health and wellness to the global community with the philosophy of full body cleansing, most importantly colon cleansing, consuming pure clean organic food, water, air, exercise and nutritional supplementation. Visit GlobalHealingCenter.com to learn more about living green and healthy!
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