Monday, May 17, 2010

No drinking water is safe! - Paper for Argument and Research Final Draft

No drinking water is safe
Would you be shocked to hear that there is no 100% pure drinking water in the entire world?  What if I told you that all water on the planet Earth has chemicals, and harmful elements?  When I first started researching drinking water my first assumption was that if you go to a remote enough location such as a remote mountain top spring, you could find pure water and if you used a basic filtration system to take out diseases and microorganisms you would be left with 100% pure drinking water.  And then I started considering how Acid Rain works.  According  to the EPA’s What is Acid Rain?  the likelihood is that even in a remote area there will be chemicals in the water (EPA).  I intend to show in this paper that there is no 100% pure drinking water in the entire world.
 Perhaps you might respond that in the US the Environmental Protection Agency requires municipal water sources to filter out harmful chemicals.  I think you may be surprised to know how many chemicals are out in our environment.   According to The Toxicity Data Landscape for Environmental Chemicals  “The European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals  released its first set of registered substances, which contains >140,000 entries” . The Journal also states that  in the US there are “in Excess of 75,000 chemicals, which is the estimated number in the Toxic Substances Control Act” Lastly it states that “In the United states and Canada an estimated 30,000 chemicals are in wide commercial use” (Richard Judson et al 685).             
According to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations  the EPA only mandates removal of  88 contaminants from the US drinking water systems .  Of these 88 there are still allowable limits in parts per million which means vaguely 1 drop of the substance within an Olympic size swimming pool.  My point is these chemicals are mandated removed  yet they are still present in minuscule amounts.   Some of these toxic chemicals are the same chemicals water municipals use in waste water treatment and are cancer causing agents or have other adverse health effects (EPA 1-6).
You might respond to the presence of  these chemicals being in our drinking water it is much  better than the alternative of dying from viruses and bacterial infections, and I agree, but I think that the general public has a false sense of what our drinking water has in it. Water is the basis of mans survival, yet we have no idea of the effects of all the unknown chemicals that are undoubtedly in our drinking water.
Let’s look a little closer at chemicals and how they are identified and the probability of whether there really are unknown chemicals in our water system.  We have to first consider how chemicals are kept track of.   The EPA started the process by categorizing types of chemicals explained In The Toxicity Data Landscape for Environmental Chemicals  which shows that  there are approximately 23 categories of chemicals, and these chemicals can overlap into 1 or more category (Judson et. al. 688 table 1).  Then let’s consider what the current monitoring regulations are. “In 1977, the U.S. EPA published a rule to assemble and inventory of chemical substances currently in commerce. This inventory , commonly referred to as the TSCA Inventory “.. “The TSCA Inventory is composed of  approximately 85,000 chemical substances.”…  “Originally this inventory was updated on a 4 year cycle” but now it is updated on a “5 year cycle”. I read that and wondered why are they lowering standards for regulating chemicals. Then in the next paragraph I read that “Before 2006 the IUR list contained chemicals that were manufactured or distributed in the US in amounts in excess of 10,000 lbs. /year.  The 2006 IUR regulation requires manufactures and importers of certain chemical substances to report site and manufacturing information for chemicals manufactured or imported in amounts in excess of 25,000 lbs. /year at a single site.” What I don’t understand is why with the huge problems chemicals are causing to our environment why are regulations being loosened?  Then I read something else that seems particularly interesting to me it continues to say that “The full inventory, including both confidential and non confidential substances are maintained by US EPA and Chemical Abstracts service and is not available to the Public. “ What I am wondering is why is there a confidential list of chemicals that is not available to the public? Also on that page is something interesting that refers to our topic directly and it is The topic of chemicals as drinking water contaminants it says that “The U.S. EPA develops drinking water standards and identifies lists of potential drinking water contaminants because they are anticipated to occur in drinking water supplies and may have adverse health affects. “  This paragraph says that initially they evaluated “a list of” 6000 chemicals”. (Judson et. al 686-687)  If you  read the The Toxicity Data Landscape report and then take a look at the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations  (EPA 1-6)  and count the contaminates  you can ascertain using simple logic that there are over 140,000 chemicals in our environment  30,000 that are in common use by companies in the US. There are 6000 that the EPA decided might be a risk to the water system which “cause adverse health affects”, yet only 88 are tested for and mandated to be removed. It is painfully obvious and inevitable that our drinking water has more hazardous chemicals then we as a society are aware?
Christine Dell’Amore of National Geographic News writes “A team of researchers in Washington State has found traces of cooking spices and flavorings in the waters of Puget Sound ” … “University of Washington associate professor Richard Keil heads the Sound Citizen program”… “Of all the flavors trickling downstream, artificial vanilla dominates the sound, Keil said. For instance, the team found an average of about six milligrams of artificial vanilla per liter of water sampled.  The region's sewage runoff contains more than 14 milligrams of vanilla per liter. This would be like spiking an Olympic-size swimming pool with approximately ten 4-ounce (113.4-gram) bottles of artificial vanilla” (Dell’Amore).  After reading that I believe that they found that vanilla in the water because they specifically tested for it. Which goes to prove the high quantities of unknown chemicals in drinking water.  But as you can see when the EPA is only mandating removal of 88 types of contaminates, how do we really know that there are not thousands of hazardous chemicals in our drinking water. The answer is we don’t!  It is entirely possible if you remember the numbers 88 chemicals we test for out of over 140,000 documented non confidential chemicals.  
 You might hear all of this and then say to yourself,  ‘I’m just going to drink bottled water from now on’.  The truth is there are even less regulations on bottled water than there is on tap water.  Not only that but according to Devin Dwyer of ABC News that “In a study of 188 bottled water brands by the Environmental Working Group -- a nonprofit public health advocacy group -- only two brands listed specific water sources and treatment methods on their labels and offered a recent water quality test report on their Web sites. .. Jane Houlihan, an Environmental Working Group researcher says 25 percent of bottled waters are simply ‘tap water in a bottle’”(Dwyer) When it comes to bottled water there is also  the danger that the plastic releases BPA into the water. BPA is a chemical that affects your endocrine system, causes cancer, and fertility problems. Though experts are trying to link BPA to a particular type of plastic it seems evident that studies are not conclusive and we really have no way of knowing if  so called “safe” Plastics are actually safe. Even the EPA states in its brochure Bottled Water Basics “Neither EPA nor FDA certify Bottled water” (EPA 7)
 Fine you say, you will drink filtered tap water, but did you know in recent years, due to the growing costs of copper piping, building codes have changed  so that our drinking water is brought to us in PVC pipes.  PVC is one of the most toxic and carcinogenic plastics out there.  You say, oh you heard about that, that is why the PVC pipes are lined with another material.  But I pose the question of what happens when that material is broken or breaks down, then the water will have contact with PVC pipe.   Right now our water problems are at an epidemic. Humans have to have water to survive; this is a serious issue that requires serious action.  We may not see the effects of these chemicals immediately but as a society we need to start paying attention to what goes down the drain, and what goes into our water system. Contrary to popular belief there is no avoiding this issue.

Works Cited
Dell'Amore, Christine. "Cocaine, Spices, Hormones Found in Drinking Water." Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. National Geographic Magazine, 26 Feb. 2010. Web. 17 May 2010. .
Dwyer, Devin. "Bottled Water Better Than Tap Water? - ABC News." - Breaking news, politics, online news, world news, feature stories, celebrity interviews and more - ABC News. ABC network, 8 July 2009. Web. 17 May 2010. .
Environmental Protection Agency. "Drinking Water Contaminants | Safewater| Water | US EPA." US Environmental Protection Agency. Version EPA 816-F-09-004. EPA, n.d. Web. 17 May 2010. .
Environmental Protection Agency. "Water Bottle Basics." EPA. Version 816-K-05-003. EPA, n.d. Web. 4 May 2010. .
Environmental Protection Agency. "What is Acid Rain? | Acid Rain | US EPA." US Environmental Protection Agency. EPA, 8 June 2007. Web. 17 May 2010. .
Judson, Richard, Ann Richard, Tala Henry, Todd Holderman, Philip Sayre, Shirlee Tan, Thomas Carpenter, Edwin Smith, David  Dix, Keith Houck, Matthew Martin, Robert Kavlock, and Vicki Dellarco. "The Toxicity Data Landscape for Environmental Chemicals." Environmental Health Perspectives 117.5 (2009): 685 - 695. Academic One File. Web. 4 May 2010.

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