Archive | Drinking Water

Perchlorate: Rocket Fuel Ingredient to Be Restricted in Tap Water

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it is putting in place the first drinking water standard for a toxic fuel ingredient known to cause thyroid problems in pregnant women and young children.

Democrats have been pushing the EPA to curb levels of perchlorate, a chemical used in fireworks and explosives, for years. The Bush administration opted to loosen restrictions on the rocket fuel components in 2008, exposing an estimated 16.6 million Americans to unsafe levels in tap water, AP reports.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson announced Wednesday that the Obama administration plans to enact a new standard for the chemical that could take up to two years to develop.

“As improved standards are developed and put in place, clean water technology innovators have an opportunity to create cutting edge solutions that will strengthen health protections and spark economic growth,” Jackson said in a statement.

Perchlorate usually taints water supplies when it is improperly disposed of at rocket testing sites, military bases and chemical plants. If the  proposed standard goes into effect, the military could face liability down the line for water contamination during rocket and missile testing, AP said.

Jackson will most likely face GOP opposition over the perchlorate standard when she testifies Wednesday before a Senate panel about new EPA regulations of air pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans hope to introduce new legislation that would strip the EPA of its power to regulate industrial emissions.

Democrats, including California Senator Barbara Boxer, lauded the EPA’s announcement. Boxer said she was thrilled the government was “finally going to protect our families from perchlorate.”

“I will do everything I can to make sure this new protection moves forward,” Boxer said, according to AP.

Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, also applauded the decision. Mae Wu of the NRDC writes that EPA monitoring found that 4 percent of public water supplies, providing drinking water to 17.6 million people, contained perchlorate at or above 4 parts per billion. She says contamination is present in almost every state.

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Fluoride Levels in Drinking Water Should Be Lowered, Gov’t Says

Fluoride levels in U.S. drinking water should be lowered, U.S. health officials said Friday.

The federal government announced Friday morning that fluoride, the substance credited with dramatically lowering cavity rates when added to water supplies, is causing tooth streaks and spots in 2 out of 5 adolescents.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies are proposing to reduce the amount of fluoride in drinking water to a maximum of 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L), down from the previous limit of 1.2 mg/L, NPR reported Friday.

HHS says that most U.S. cases of the tooth-spotting condition, called dental fluorosis, has only a mild cosmetic effect and generally goes unnoticed by everyone besides dentists. But the agency says kids today are getting too much fluoride from drinking water, toothpaste and mouthwash, so the levels in the water supply will be scaled back.

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Chesapeake Bay to Go on Pollution Diet

The Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday unveiled a restoration plan for the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay.

EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin called the agreement with six states and the District of Columbia “the largest water pollution strategy plan in the nation” and possibly “number one or number two” in the world, the Washington Post reported.

The comprehensive plan applies to the following areas in the bay’s watershed: Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. All the states and the District submitted individual plans this fall addressing how they hoped to slash pollution runoff into the bay by 2025. EPA compiled these proposals in its plan.

Pollution from farm, urban, and suburban runoff have stifled oxygen levels in the 200-mile-long estuary and harmed fish and oyster populations.

Garvin said EPA may have to “place additional controls on permanent sources of pollution” to counterbalance three potentially problematic areas: New York wastewater treatment, West Virginia’s agricultural sector, and Pennsylvania’s stormwater treatment.

The plan aims to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment pollution by imposing total maximum daily load (TMDL) limits on areas in the estuary’s watershed.

Opponents of the new pollution measures say they will give farmers, developers, and local officials unneeded costs and difficulties. Environmentalists counter that the plan will bring economic benefits to the bay by boosting tourism and fishing.

“This is a very historic moment in the history, and the future, of the Chesapeake Bay,” Garvin told the press.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Oceans & Coastlines, Policies, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands, Water Pollution0 Comments

United Nations Building Evacuated Due to Suspicious Odor

The United Nations Security Council and General Assembly were forced to evacuate the U.N. building Tuesday because of a “suspicious” odor, Reuters reported.

Security officials first told the press that there was a gas leak in the Manhattan compound. But spokesman Farhan Haq said he could not confirm that was the case.

Haq said the evacuation was just a precautionary measure. “We are currently trying to identify the odor with local authorities,” he told reporters crowded outside the building.

The smell was later blamed on a sewage backup caused by high tides in the nearby East River.

“This is not a hazard, there were gases released by the sewage but it is not harmful,” Haq told reporters. “Public tours and General Assembly meetings should be able to resume by tomorrow.”

The U.N. compound is currently undergoing a $2 billion refurbishment. The Security Council has been meeting in the basement of the 39-story Secretariat building during renovations, and repairs have not begun for the adjoining General Assembly building, which is still being used.

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Hexavalent Chromium Carcinogen Found in Tap Water of Most Cities

Hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical at the center of the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” was found present in the tap water of 31 of 35 cities tested in a recent survey.

The findings, released Monday by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, are the first study of hexavalent chromium to be made public.

Researchers with the advocacy group have released the study at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is debating whether to set a cap on the “probable carcinogen”‘s levels in tap water, the Washington Post reports.

Jane Houlihan, EWG’s senior vice president of research, says the toxin has been linked to stomach cancer and leukemia along with other health problems, CBS News reported Monday.

Hexavelent chromium, also known as chromium-6, originates as refuse from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities, EWG said in a statement. It can also contaminate tap water through erosion of natural deposits.

The carcinogen first came into the public eye in 1993, when Erin Brockovich famously sued Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the drinking water of Hinkley, Calif. The lawsuit eventually yielded $333 million in damages.

Today, the highest levels of chromium-6 can be found in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif., EWG claimed.

“Every single day, pregnant mothers in Norman, Oklahoma, school children in Madison, Wisconsin, and many other Americans are drinking water laced with this cancer-causing chemical,” EWG senior scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D said in the statement. “If the EPA required local water utilities to test for hexavalent chromium, the public would at least know if it was present in their local water. Without mandatory tests and a safe legal limit that all utilities must meet, many of us will continue to swallow some quantity of this carcinogen every day.”

With regulations on the water supply possibly in the works, what can consumers do to reduce their intake of the toxin?

“With levels this high, it’s critically important that people begin to think about filtering their water,” Houlihan told CBS News. Unfortunately, inexpensive carbon filters commonly found in filtration pitchers and faucet attachments don’t do much to remove chromium-6. Reverse osmosis filtration systems should do the trick, but they can cause hundreds of dollars.

There are no legal restrictions for hexavalent chromium in bottled water, so plastic water bottles may not be a safe option either.

“It is sometimes difficult to understand why I still have to warn the public about the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water 23 years after my colleagues and I first sounded the alarm,” Brockovich said in EWG’s statement. “This report underscores, in fairly stark terms, the health risks that millions of Americans still face because of water contamination.”

Posted in Carcinogens, Chemicals, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Policies, Water, Oceans, & Ice0 Comments

Fluoride Still Stirs Debate in Mass.

BOSTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Massachusetts, long a leader in public health, trails most of the country when it comes to providing its residents with fluoridated water, a study says.

A state study says the state ranks 36th in the country in providing the substance in drinking water and found nearly 150 cities and towns that could provide it don’t, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

Voters in Massachusetts cities including Springfield and Worcester have repeatedly defeated measures to put fluoride in their water, rejecting the pleas of dentists and health directors that the chemical prevents tooth decay.

Deborah Burns campaigned nearly three decades ago for fluoridated water in a local election.

“Some people listened,” she recalled, “but a lot of people were saying we were trying to poison them, poison their children, poison the water.”

Fluoridation lost.

Fluoridation foes cite both health concerns and issues of personal liberty. There is, they argue, fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash, and dentists can order fluoride treatments.

“We support the voluntary use of fluoride — we’re not sitting around saying we don’t want people to have good oral health,” said Linda McLaren, president of Massachusetts Communities for Pure Water, which opposes fluoridation.

“That’s really where our heart is: the right of citizens of this state and everywhere to choose what they want to put into their own body,” she said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Mexicans Biggest Users of Bottled Water

MEXICO CITY, Sept. 24 (UPI) — More bottled water is consumed per capita in Mexico than anywhere in the world, a U.S. consulting group says, highlighting the lack of access to safe tap water.

The Beverage Marketing Corp. says annual per person consumption of bottled water in Mexico is 61.8 gallons, compared to 30 gallons in the United States, Inter Press Service reports.

Although municipal water utilities in Mexico insist the tap water they provide is safe, widespread mistrust of its quality has fuelled the growing consumption of bottled water, the consulting group said.

Nathalie Seguin of the Freshwater Action Network of Mexico said “there are also doubts about the quality of bottled water.”

“Besides, the production is unsustainable, with transnational corporations selling the water, which they obtain and package at low cost, at much higher prices,” she told IPS.

A U.N. agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, says while areas in northern Mexico along the U.S. border had high levels of access to safe water, some parts of central and southern Mexico had very poor access.

Mexico’s National Water Commission says 9.7 percent of the Mexican population lacks access to piped water and 13.6 percent to sanitation.

In July, the U.N. General Assembly declared safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Daley Supports Reversing River Flow

CHICAGO, Sept. 11 (UPI) — Chicago’s mayor says undoing a historic engineering feat, when the Chicago River’s flow was reversed away from the Great Lakes, could improve their ecology.

Richard Daley, who recently announced he would not run again, announced his support for the idea in an interview Friday.

“I said, ‘Boy that’s a great project,’” Daley told the Chicago Tribune, recalling a conversation he had with his brother William as they sat near the lake. “Instead of diverting all that water, maybe we should reverse it (to flow into the lake).”

More than 100 years ago, the city completed years of work that reversed the river’s flow to keep untreated sewage from flowing into Lake Michigan, source of the city’s drinking water.

The project also connected Chicago to the nation’s shipping waterways.

But it diverted a significant amount of water from the lake and created a path for invasive species like Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes ecosystem from the Mississippi River.

Environmentalists and Great Lakes advocates have long urged the city to redesign its system to return the Chicago River to its original flow.

Asian carp fears have prompted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to asked Congress to look at re-engineering the region’s waterway system. That study would look at the feasibility of reversing the river’s flow.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Drugs Seen As 'new' Pollutants

DENVER, Sept. 10 (UPI) — U.S. authorities say water pollution by “emerging contaminants” — antidepressants, antibiotics, birth-control pills and cosmetics — threatens public health.

Scientists who trace urban contaminants entering water supplies through human waste, bathing and flushing are concerned they may harm people, The Denver Post reported Friday.

In Colorado several years ago, Denver Water officials discovered trace amounts of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals in water sources used to supply 1.3 million metro-area residents with drinking water.

“The fact that some compounds were detected surprised us and shows that even the best watersheds are experiencing the impacts of consumer products,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

This summer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teams began testing at Denver Water’s Dillon Reservoir and the South Platte and other rivers.

The EPA is making emerging water contaminants a top national research priority, agency spokesman Rich Mylott said.

Colorado, with EPA funding, is expanding a pharmaceutical take-back program launched in 2009.

Colorado is one of several states with take-back programs aimed at preventing improper disposal of harmful chemicals in sewers and trash.

“We recognize that pharmaceuticals and medications have greatly improved the health of Americans,” but we need to deal with the consequences, EPA toxicologist Kristen Keteles told the Post. “We want to do what we can — eliminate the improper disposal.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Non-stick Cookware Linked to Cholesterol

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 8 (UPI) — Chemicals used in making non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics appear linked to elevated cholesterol levels in children and teens, U.S. researchers say.

Stephanie J. Frisbee of the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown and colleagues assessed serum lipid levels in 12,476 children and adolescents — average age 11.1 — included in the C8 Health Project, which resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding perfluorooctanoic acid contamination.

Perfluoroalkyl acids — including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonate — are found in drinking water, dust, food packaging, breast milk, cord blood, microwave popcorn, air and occupational exposure. Perfluoroalkyl acids are used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which give non-stick heat resistance to cookware and waterproof fabrics and upholstery.

The children and teens submitted blood samples in 2005 and 2006. Among the participants, perfluorooctanoic acid was found in 29.3 nanograms per milliliter compared with a national survey of 3.9 nanograms per milliliter, but perfluorooctanesulfonate concentrations were similar — 19.1 nanograms per milliliter vs. 19.3 nanograms per milliliter.

After factoring for other variables, higher perfluorooctanoic acid levels were linked to increased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and perfluorooctanesulfonate was associated with increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.

The findings are published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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