Guide to Common Water Contaminants

Kitchen water faucet, running water.
Photo by Silvan Schuppisser on Unsplash

In my article, What’s In Your Water? Part 1, I covered the contaminants in my own water at home. In Part 2, I covered water treatment, pollution, and rises in cancer.

But there are far more potential pollutants in tap water, so I’ve made a list of all of the most common water contaminants.

These are not completely in alphabetical order; I’ve listed those that are related together for sensibility.

 

Common Contaminants

You can click on the following names to quickly jump to a specific contaminant:

1,4-Dioxane

Alachlor (Lasso)

Aluminum

Asbestos

Atrazine

Barium

Benzenes

Dichlorobenzenes

Trichlorobenzenes (TCBs)

Cadmium

Carbofuran

Carbon tetrachloride

Chlorate

Perchlorate

Chlordane

Chlorine, Ammonia, and Chloramine

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Copper

Endrin

Fluoride

Fracking chemicals

Haloacetic Acids

Hexavalent Chromium

Lead

Lindane

Manganese

Mercury

Methoxychlor

Microplastics

Nitrate

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs, PFAS, PFOS)

Radium

Strontium

Thallium

Toluene

Toxaphene

Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

Vanadium

 

Water running in faucet.
Photo by Tosab Photography on Unsplash

1,4-Dioxane

1,4-Dioxane is a solvent classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a likely human carcinogen. A few states have set limits for it, but there is no national standard for it. It contaminates groundwater through industrial wastewater discharges, plastic manufacturing runoff, and landfill runoff. Besides cancer, animal studies show that 1,4-dioxane targets the liver, kidneys, and respiratory system. Worse, prenatal exposure harms the developing fetus. 1

Alachlor (Lasso)

Alachlor is a widely used agricultural herbicide that is harmful to the liver, kidneys, and spleen. It is also a suspected carcinogen.2

Aluminum

Aluminum has many uses, from the construction of buildings and airplanes to cooking utensils and food packaging. Companies that produce antacids, antiperspirants, and food additives also use aluminum compounds. “Aluminum salts are also widely used in water treatment as coagulants to reduce organic matter, color, turbidity, and microorganism levels.”3 There is no national drinking water standard. Some studies link high aluminum exposure to neurological problems and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Overexposure can impair children’s brain and nervous system development.4

Asbestos

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, causing lung cancer and especially mesothelioma, a devastating and rare form of cancer that develops 20-50 years after exposure. While this is usually a respiratory issue, ingested asbestos fibers can become embedded in the lining of the abdomen. This can cause peritoneal mesothelioma.5

Asbestos was used in the cement water pipes across the country. The decay of asbestos cement in water mains allows asbestos fibers to enter tap water.6 The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that has not banned asbestos despite the evidence that it is carcinogenic, because corporations lobbied against legislation outright banning the substance.7

Atrazine

Atrazine, an herbicide used primarily in agriculture, enters the environment and water supply through runoff. It is used on corn, sorghum, and sugarcane, but also on residential lawns and golf courses, especially in the Southeastern U.S. Atrazine is a member of the triazine chemical class, which includes simazine and propazine.8 According to the Environmental Working Group, this chemical is a hormone disrupter that harms the reproductive systems of both sexes in people and animals. It also harms the developing fetus, causes changes in the nervous system and brain, and causes cancer (especially breast cancer).9

Barium

Barite, a natural barium sulfate ore, is most commonly found in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, and Tennessee. It is used as a weighting agent in natural gas and oil field drilling. It is also used in making a wide variety of electronic components, metal alloys, bleaches, dyes, fireworks, ceramics, and glass. Barium gets into the water from the discharge and disposal of drilling wastes, copper smelting, and the manufacture of motor vehicle parts and accessories. Barium in drinking water causes difficulties in breathing, increased blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm, stomach irritation, brain swelling, muscle weakness, and damage to the liver, kidney, heart, and spleen.10 High concentrations of it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.11

Benzenes

Benzenes are carcinogenic and are perhaps most dangerous from inhalation. But they do get into our water supply, mainly from petroleum and chemicals spills and leaks. “Drinking liquids containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, coma, and death.”12 They cause harm to bone marrow and affect the immune system, increasing the chance of infection. Benzenes cause anemia, excessive bleeding, and leukemia. They pass from the mother’s blood to a fetus and cause reproductive problems.

Dichlorobenzenes

Dichlorobenzenes are used for making agricultural herbicides, insecticides used in mothballs, and added to deodorant blocks made for trash cans and toilets. They are carcinogenic and toxic to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.13

Trichlorobenzenes (TCBs)

Trichlorobenzenes are mainly used as solvents in chemical manufacturing industries, but they can also be used as degreasing agents, septic tanks and drain cleaners, and as an ingredient in wood preservatives and abrasive formulations.14 When ingested as they irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. But they harm the adrenal glands and are likely carcinogenic.15

Cadmium

Cadmium occurs naturally in zinc, lead and copper ores, coal and other fossil fuels, and shales. It comes from industrial discharges, waste disposal and spills, and leaching from hazardous waste sites. It can also enter the water through the corrosion of galvanized pipes. Cadmium causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, sensory disturbances, liver injuries, convulsions, shock, and renal failure. But long-term exposure causes kidney, liver, bone, and blood damage, cancer, and it can cause damage to developing fetuses.16

Carbofuran

Carbofuran is “a highly toxic insecticide phased out from use in the U.S. since 2009 due to the risks it posed to children and the environment.”17

Carbon tetrachloride

This is a volatile organic compound that was widely used as a dry cleaning ingredient, fire extinguishing chemical, pesticide, and chemical intermediate for manufacturing refrigerants. It is no longer allowed to be used in items intended for use in the home in the U.S. It is carcinogenic, harms the liver,  causes central nervous system depression, irregular heart rate, and kidney damage. Carbon tetrachloride in drinking water has been associated with a risk of birth defects.18

Chlorate

Chlorate is a disinfection byproduct. But a number of compounds can react to release chlorate in water as well, including those in herbicides, fireworks, and other explosives. It causes hormone disruption and impairs thyroid function, making chlorate exposure most harmful during pregnancy and childhood.19 High levels of chlorate also damages the kidneys and red blood cells.

Perchlorate

Perchlorate is an inorganic chemical used in the manufacturing of fireworks, explosives, and rocket propellants, though low levels may occur naturally. It inhibits the absorption of iodine by thyroid glands, leading to developmental and learning disabilities in children. “Children and the developing fetus are most at risk from perchlorate contamination, because their brains are still developing, and their bodies are highly sensitive to smaller fluctuations in iodide levels. Changes in thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy can have a lasting impact, since the thyroid system governs fetal brain development.”20

High levels of contamination are found in the soil and groundwater near manufacturing facilities, defense contracting sites, and military operations. The defense and aerospace industries use and store 90% of domestically produced perchlorate.21 Crops and vegetables grown on contaminated soils may have higher concentrations of perchlorate, so it gets into our food too.22

Chlordane

Chlordane is a carcinogenic pesticide that was banned in 1988. It is persistent and bioaccumulative. It is still found in the environment, and in adults’ and newborn babies’ bodies.23

Chlorine, Ammonia, and Chloramine

Many water treatment facilities have switched from chlorine to chloramines for disinfection. Chloramines are a mixture of chlorine and ammonia. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans drink water with chloramine disinfectant. While it provides increased protection from bacteria, it is less effective at controlling taste and odors in water. Chloramines are cheaper, but they do not dissipate quickly and cause deterioration in municipal infrastructure. For example, in lead pipes, the chemical reaction causes lead and other heavy metals to leach into drinking water. Both chloramines and chlorine cause harmful disinfection byproducts to form, but chloramines are unregulated, far more toxic, and carcinogenic.24

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Total trihalomethanes refer to a group of harmful contaminants known collectively as disinfection byproducts, which are found in all treated water. These are formed when chlorine or other disinfectants used to treat drinking water react with plant and animal waste in drinking water supplies. But drinking water must be treated to prevent microbial diseases and pathogens. Disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer, pregnancy problems (including miscarriage), cardiovascular defects, neural tube defects, changes in fetal development, and low birth weight.

The four trihalomethanes include chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and dibromochloromethane. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) legal limit for these is 80.0 ppb. But the healthy limit is 0.15 ppb, recommended by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The EPA classified two of these, bromodichloromethane and bromoform, as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”25 They are found in water in all 50 states.

Chloroform

Though a disinfection byproduct, chloroform also comes from pollution, such as industrial discharges from pulp and paper mills and urban wastewater effluent (liquid waste or sewage discharged into a body of water). Chloroform damages the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. In animals, chloroform causes infertility, birth defects, and cancer.26

Bromoform

Bromoform increases the risk of cancer. It causes problems during pregnancy, causes changes in fetal growth and development, and is harmful to reproduction and child development.27 It is also associated with heart defects and abnormalities, autism spectrum disorder, and rectal cancer.28

Bromodichloromethane

Bromodichloromethane increases the risk of cancer. It causes problems during pregnancy, causes changes in fetal growth and development, and is harmful to reproduction and child development.29 It can also affect the liver, kidneys, and bladder.

Dibromochloromethane

Dibromochloromethane increases the risk of cancer and causes harm to fetal growth and development.30 It is associated with heart defects and abnormalities, as well as rectal cancer.31

“Instead of spending the money to fix old pipes and update our systems, money-crunched municipalities are adding chemicals like ammonia to drinking water as a quick fix, which only causes more issues.” -Erin Brockovich32

Copper

Copper occurs naturally in drinking water supplies. But it can also get into tap water by dissolving from copper pipes in household plumbing. “Corrosive water conditions, such as acidity or a high concentration of aluminum or chlorine in water, can increase copper leaching.”33 While essential to human health, copper is most dangerous to children in high or poisonous amounts. In adults, it causes gastrointestinal distress, liver issues, anemia, and kidney damage.34

Endrin

Endrin is a banned organochlorine insecticide that is persistent and bioaccumulation; it causes cancer and damages the nervous, immune, and reproductive systems in people and animals.35

Fluoride

Fluoride, an additive in drinking water, has been promoted for decades as a chemical that reduces dental cavities and tooth decay. “Yet it is now well-established that fluoride primarily exerts its protective effects through topical mechanisms, such as sodium fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash,” as the Environmental Working Group noted. Long-term ingestion of fluoride in water increases dental fluorosis, which includes the mottling, pitting, and weakening of the teeth.36 Worse, long-term exposure to drinking water levels above the legal limit of four parts per million (ppm) may result in cases of crippling skeletal fluorosis, a serious bone disorder resembling osteopetrosis.37 Other studies show connections to thyroid problems.

Fracking chemicals

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses many chemicals. Many wells drilled and fractured are near drinking water sources, schools, playgrounds, and homes. Fracking uses up to 700 chemicals that end up in the water. “When you pump a brew of substances containing man-made chemicals into the environment (through underground water aquifers), you can absolutely taint the water.” Some of these chemicals include arsenic, benzene, cadmium, lead, formaldehyde, chlorine, and mercury. There are more than a thousand cases documented cases of water contamination from fracking operations, including toxic wastewater, well blowouts, and chemical spills. “Although fracking produces billions of gallons of this toxic waste each year, it remains exempt from our nation’s hazardous waste laws.”38

People who live near fracking areas report health issues such as migraines, fatigue, and sinusitis, but extend to cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.39

Fracking graphic
Image from freesvg.org

Haloacetic Acids

Haloacetic acids are disinfection byproducts. HAA5 refers to 5 of those in this subset: monochloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid, and dibromoacetic acid. HAA9 includes four additional: bromochloroacetic acid, bromodichloroacetic acid, chlorodibromoacetic acid, and tribromoacetic acid.

The EPA’s legal limits for these are 60 ppb. But the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recommended a limit of 0.10 ppb. In 2018, the National Toxicology Program classified six haloacetic acids as likely carcinogens.40 They are harmful during pregnancy and may increase the risk of cancer. “Haloacetic acids are genotoxic, which means that they induce mutations and DNA damage.”41

Haloacetic acids are found in tap water in all 50 states and affect the water of approximately 260 million Americans.

Hexavalent Chromium

Chromium is an odorless, tasteless, metallic element that occurs naturally. Hexavalent chromium compounds are a group of chemicals with properties like corrosion resistance, durability, and hardness. These compounds have been used in the manufacture of pigments, metal finishing and chrome plating, stainless steel production, leather tanning, and wood preservatives. They have also been used in textile-dyeing processes, printing inks, drilling muds, fireworks, water treatment, and chemical synthesis.42 It may even be present at low levels in cement, which is used in concrete, mortar, stucco, and grouts.43

Also known as Chromium-VI, it was commonly used as a coolant and anti-corrosive at natural gas plants and electrical power stations. If not handled or discharged properly, it can seep into the groundwater and poison those who use the water, as was the case in the Erin Brockovich lawsuits. It can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed through the skin.

It is a known carcinogen, causing stomach cancer, lung cancer, nasal and sinus cancers, kidney and liver damage, malignant tumors, nasal and skin irritation and ulceration, dermatitis, eye irritation and damage.44 It also causes all manner of reproduction problems to both males and females. Worse, it can cause developmental problems in fetuses. Other reported effects include mouth ulcers, diarrhea, abdominal pain, indigestion, vomiting, leukocytosis, presence of immature neutrophils, metabolic acidosis, acute tubular necrosis, kidney failure, and death.

“The EPA’s national survey of chromium-6 concentrations in drinking water revealed that the contaminant was found in more than three-fourths of water systems sampled, which supply water to more than two-thirds of the American population,” or approximately 232 million Americans.45

EPA has a drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion (ppb) for total chromium. This includes all forms of chromium, including trivalent (non-toxic) and hexavalent chromium.46 Based on a 2008 study by the National Toxicology Program, the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment set a public health goal in 2011 for chromium-6 in drinking water of 0.02 parts per billion. However, “the safety review of the chemical by the Environmental Protection Agency has been stalled by pressure from the industries responsible for chromium-6 contamination.”47 In other words, hexavalent chromium is allowed to be in our tap water in great quantities.

Reddish brown body of polluted water.
Water pollution from mining, Bolivia. “Near the mines, in the presence of certain chemical compounds, the water becomes acidic, dissolving the metals present in the ores or the mining waste to form acid mine drainage. These waters are poisonous. A large mining region in the Bolivian Altiplano, the Oruro zone is affected by the pollution of its waters contaminated by metals (notably lead and arsenic).” Photo by indigo.ird.fr/Jacques Gardon on Flickr, Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Lead

Lead is a cumulative poison and is one of the most researched neurotoxins because of environmental crimes such as those that occurred in Flint, Michigan.48 Lead poisoning causes delays in physical and mental development in children, and children under 6 are especially vulnerable. It causes premature births and miscarriages. At very high levels, lead poisoning can even be fatal. In adults, it causes kidney problems, high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headaches, abdominal pain, mood disorders, and reduced sperm counts.49

“Sadly, it took years of media scrutiny to finally lead to a settlement for the Flint community, which had to survive off bottled water for years and whose children will be forever impacted by lead poisoning.” -Leah Thomas50

Lindane

Lindane, also known as gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (gamma-HCH), is a neurotoxin and carcinogenic insecticide that the U.S. phased out of agricultural use in 2002. It was used on crops, seeds, forestry, livestock, and pets. It is also available as a prescription (lotion, cream, or shampoo) to treat head and body lice, and scabies, but there are now safer alternatives. Lindane causes cancer, harms the brain and nervous system, and damages the immune system.51,52

Manganese

Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral and in small amounts, it is necessary for good health. But too much can harm infants and children, even a developing fetus. “A growing number of studies report associations between manganese exposure and hyperactivity, poorer IQ scores, and memory and attention problems in children.”53

Mercury

Mercury from landfills leaches into the ground and contaminates water supplies. Exposure to high levels of mercury permanently damages the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Its’ effects on the brain cause irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

Methoxychlor

Methoxychlor is an insecticide similar to DDT that was banned in the U.S. in 2002. It is an endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin.54

Microplastics

There are millions of pieces of microplastics in water because plastic is not biodegradable. The plastics come from pollution and from washing our clothes, which releases microplastics – also known as microfibers- the equivalent of 50 billion plastic water bottles annually into our waterways.55 There are no long-term studies about the effects of ingesting plastic, but we know that birds, fish, whales, and other marine life regularly die from plastic ingestion. Additionally, these plastics leach hundreds of chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), into our water supply. There are no safety standards regarding plastics but many studies tie those chemicals  to a long list of health problems, including cancer and endocrine disruption.

Microbeads next to a ruler.
Microbeads, photo by Sherri A. “Sam” Mason on Flickr
Microfibers, presumably from a microscopic view.
Microfibers, photo by Sherri A. “Sam” Mason on Flickr

Nitrate

Nitrate, one of the most common contaminants in drinking water, gets into water from fertilizer runoff, manure from animal feeding operations, and wastewater treatment plant discharge. “Tap water in agricultural areas frequently has the highest nitrate concentrations. Private drinking water wells in the vicinity of animal farms and intensively fertilized fields, or in locations where septic tanks are commonly used, can also have unsafe levels of nitrate,” even excessive levels.56

The legal limit of 10 mg/L (milligrams per liter, equivalent to parts per million), for nitrate, was set in 1992. “This standard was based on a 1962 U.S. Public Health Service recommendation to prevent acute cases of methemoglobinemia, known as blue baby syndrome, which can occur when an infant’s excessive ingestion of nitrate leads to oxygen deprivation in the blood.” Besides the effect on babies, nitrate is associated with thyroid disease, cancers, increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, and abdominal cramps.57 Worse, nitrate converts into other compounds in the digestive system, and they damage DNA and cause cancer in multiple species.58

The EWG recommended level of nitrate in drinking water is 0.14 mg/L, which is 70 times less than the federal limit.59 Nitrate is found in the water of 49 states and affects approximately 237 million people.60

“Nitrate pollution of U.S. drinking water may be responsible for up to 12,594 cases of cancer a year.”61

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a group of chemicals used to make coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. They are part of a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals used in hundreds of consumer products.62

PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are used in food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags and takeout packaging; stain-resistant carpets, rugs, and furniture; sprayable stain protectors; non-stick cookware; outdoor gear with a “durable water repellent” coating; aerospace, medical, and automotive applications; and many specialty items such as firefighting foams, ski wax, and industrial applications.63 Even at low levels, exposure to PFAS causes serious health problems, including suppression of the immune system, cancer, endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver damage, and thyroid changes.64

Companies have used PFCs regularly since the 1940s and 1950s. Scientists estimate that they are in the blood of nearly every person in the U.S. Researchers call them “forever” chemicals because they are bioaccumulative and do not break down in the environment or human body. They are found in the environment in all 50 states. Scientists estimate that over 200 million people have PFOA and PFOS contaminated tap water at concentrations of one part per trillion (ppt) or higher.65

A few specific chemicals in this group include:

    • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8. DuPont (now Chemours) used these to make Teflon and nonstick cookware. The DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia severely polluted the water with PFOAs. “A decade of studies documented links between exposure to PFOA and testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia. Later studies linked exposure to endocrine disruption and developmental health impacts, and reduced effectiveness of vaccines.”66
    • Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid/perfluorooctane sulfonate/perfluorooctylsulfonic acid (PFOS), are used to make products such as Scotchguard to protect carpets and fabrics from stains. Made by the company 3M. The company voluntarily phased them out of production in the early 2000s. But companies in other countries may still be using them in products imported into the U.S.
    • Perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid (PFOrOPrA), also known as GenX, is the chemical that DuPont is using to replace PFOA. However, it has also been linked to cancer.67

A handful of states have passed regulations and a few have proposals seeking to regulate PFCs. But, “there are still no national, legally enforceable drinking water standards under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for any of the hundreds of PFAS compounds currently in use.” The Environmental Working Group recommends a health guideline of 0.001 part per billion for limiting PFAS in drinking water.68

“Persistent, accumulative, and toxic are not a good combination.” -Erin Brockovich69

Infographic showing PFAS in the water cycle.
Graphic from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Radium

Radium is a radioactive element that can occur naturally in groundwater. But coal, oil, and gas extraction activities such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and mining can elevate concentrations in groundwater. Radium causes bone cancer; tumors in bone, lungs, and other organs; leukemia; and skin and blood damage. More than a dozen different radioactive elements are detected in U.S. tap water, including beryllium, radon, strontium, tritium, and uranium. But radium is the most common. These affect the water of approximately 165 million Americans. In addition to causing cancers, these may damage the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. Worse,  radiation can harm fetal growth, cause birth defects, and damage brain development.70

Radium in water is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L), which is a measure of radioactivity in water. The current EPA legal limit, not updated since 1976, is 5 pCi/L but the EWG’s recommended limit is 0.05 pCi/L. It is found in the water systems of 49 states and affects approximately 148 million people.71

Strontium

Strontium is a metal that accumulates in the bones and harms bone health. One type, radioactive strontium-90, causes bone cancer and leukemia. This is detected in the water of all 50 states.72 There is no federal drinking water standard for strontium.

Thallium

Thallium, a naturally occurring metal, is released into the environment from metal smelting and coal burning, though it was once used in rat and ant poisons. Overexposure causes hair loss, liver damage, harm to the male reproductive system, reduced sperm motility, and brain and nervous system impairment. It can enter the body through inhalation or be absorbed directly through the skin. It is found in the water of 40 states.73

Toluene

Toluene is a volatile petroleum-derived chemical found in gasoline and used as a solvent in paints, adhesives, and cleaning supplies. It is highly neurotoxic, damages the immune system, liver, and may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. There is a legal limit for toluene of 1,000 parts per billion (ppb), but it was established in 1991 and based on a toxicity study from the 1980s.74

Toxaphene

This is not a common contaminant but it is an insecticide that is neurotoxic, persistent, bioaccumulation, and a likely carcinogen.75

Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

Trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, was once commonly used to remove grease from metal parts, such as steel pipes and engines, and as a solvent in dry cleaning and carpet cleaning products. It is also used in paint removers, coatings, vinyl resins, and may be used as a chemical intermediate in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), pharmaceuticals, flame retardant chemicals, and insecticides. It is also found in some household and consumer products.76 Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene, was used as a dry cleaning agent and was also used in automotive, metalworking, and other industries.77

Improper disposal of both has been the main cause of groundwater contamination. Trichloroethylene is one of the major chemicals that poisoned the water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Trichloroethylene is a known carcinogen and tetrachloroethylene is a suspected carcinogen. They harm the immune system, the brain and nervous system, the reproductive system, and cause hormone disruption. Trichloroethylene causes birth defects, leukemia, liver damage, and kidney damage. It is highly volatile and can enter indoor air through water in pipes, and people can inhale it while bathing, washing dishes, and other household activities that involve water.78

Vanadium

Vanadium is a metal used in steels and other alloys. People are commonly exposed to vanadium through water and food, but excessive exposure is toxic and causes changes in blood chemistry. It is harmful to reproduction and child development during pregnancy and early childhood. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, vanadium is also possibly carcinogenic to humans.79 Vanadium is found in the water in all 50 states, but there is no national drinking water standard.80

“We allow chemicals in the water first, making everyone who drinks the water guinea pigs, and then years later science finds that these chemicals cause cancer and other serious health problems...I think a better system is to know what a chemical is capable of before it goes into our water supply. I’d like to see more businesses being good neighbors, testing their own products for safety, acting with integrity, and working with substances that won’t harm people or the environment.” -Erin Brockovich81

 

Footnotes:

  1. Page, 1,4-Dioxane,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 27, 2022.
  2. Page, Alachlor (Lasso),” Environmental Working Group, accessed July 17, 2022.
  3. Report, “Aluminium in Drinking-water,” World Health Organization, 2003.
  4. Page, Aluminum,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 27, 2022.
  5. Page, Peritoneal Mesothelioma,” Mesothelioma.com, accessed March 26, 2022.
  6. Page, “Ground Water and Drinking Water: National Primary Drinking Water Regulations,” Environmental Protection Agency, accessed March 26, 2022.
  7. Book, Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, by Erin Brockovich, Pantheon Books, New York, 2020.
  8. Page, Atrazine,” Environmental Protection Agency, accessed March 20, 2022.
  9. Page, Atrazine,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 20, 2022.
  10. Fact Sheet, Barium Fact Sheet,” Water Quality Association, 2013.
  11. Page, Barium,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 27, 2022.
  12. Publication, Benzene,” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Toxzine, accessed March 20, 2022.
  13. Page, o-Dichlorobenzene,” Environmental Working Group, accessed July 17, 2022.
  14. Page, Trichlorobenzene,Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Third Edition, 2014) via sciencedirect.com, accessed March 20, 2022.
  15. Page, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 20, 2022.
  16. Page, Cadmium,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  17. Page, “Carbofuran,” Environmental Working Group, accessed April 24, 2022.
  18. Page, Carbon tetrachloride,” Environmental Working Group, accessed July 17, 2022.
  19. Page, “Chlorate,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 27, 2022.
  20. Page, Perchlorate,” Environmental Working Group, November 2021.
  21. Page, Perchlorate,” Environmental Working Group, November 2021.
  22. Fact Sheet, Perchlorate Fact Sheet,” Water Quality Association, 2013.
  23. Page, “Chlordane,” Environmental Working Group, accessed April 24, 2022.
  24. Book, Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, by Erin Brockovich, Pantheon Books, New York, 2020.
  25. Article, “Disinfection Byproducts,” Environmental Working Group, April 2020.
  26. Page, “Chloroform,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  27. Page, “Bromoform,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  28. Page, “Bromoform,” PubChem, National Library of Medicine, accessed March 26, 2022.
  29. Page, “Bromodichloromethane,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  30. Page, “Dibromochloromethane,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  31. Page, “Chlorodibromomethane,” PubChem, National Library of Medicine, accessed March 26, 2022.
  32. Book, Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, by Erin Brockovich, Pantheon Books, New York, 2020.
  33. Page, Copper,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 26, 2022.
  34. Fact Sheet, Copper,” Water Quality Association, 2013.
  35. Page, “Endrin,” Environmental Working Group, accessed April 24, 2022.
  36. Page, Fluoride,” Environmental Working Group, accessed March 27, 2022.
  37. Fact Sheet, Fluoride Fact Sheet,” Water Quality Association, 2013.
  38. Page, Stop Fracking Our Future,” Environment America, accessed April 17, 2022.
  39. Book, Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It, by Erin Brockovich, Pantheon Books, New York, 2020.
  40. Article, Disinfection Byproducts,” Environmental Working Group, April 2020.
  41. Page, Haloacetic acids (HAA9),” Environmental Working Group, accessed February 26, 2022.
  42. Page, Hexavalent Chromium Compounds,” Cancer.gov, accessed February 26, 2022.
  43. Fact Sheet, Chromium (Hexavalent Compounds),” Proposition 65 Warnings Website, accessed February 20, 2022.
  44. Fact Sheet, Hexavalent Chromium,” US Department of Health and Human Services: National Toxicology Program, February 2018.
  45. Article, Chromium-6,” Environmental Working Group, October 2019.
  46. Page, Chromium in Drinking Water,” Environmental Protection Agency, accessed February 20, 2022.
  47. Article, Chromium-6,” Environmental Working Group, October 2019.
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