SCARSDALE, NY — When water flows out of the faucet and into a glass, it usually appears clean and healthy. A report released Wednesday, though, found hundreds of harmful contaminants across the American water supply that can cause cancer, developmental issues in children, problems in pregnancy and other serious health conditions.
In the communities served by Westchester County Water District #1, nine contaminants above health guidelines were detected across the district’s water supply, according to data from the Environmental Working Group that was released on Wednesday.
EWG notes, however, that tap water provided by this water utility was in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards in the latest quarter address by the Environmental Protection Agency, which was from January to March 2017.
From 2010 to 2015, EWG collected results of tests conducted by the water utility, which was provided to them by the New York Department of Health-Bureau of Public Water Supply Protection, as well as information from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database.
The following contaminants were detected above health limits in communities served by Westchester County Water District #1:
- Dichloroacetic acid
- Radiological contaminants
- Trichloroacetic acid
Long Island Water Conference Legislative Committee Co-Chair Paul Granger did not agree with this study. “This report is nothing more than a fear mongering scare tactic for the sole purpose of selling unnecessary water filters,” he said.
Read Granger’s full statement below:
“The premise of this report is patently false and the information portrayed is extremely misleading. This report is nothing more than a fear mongering scare tactic for the sole purpose of selling unnecessary water filters. The water being delivered to our customers is meticulously regulated by federal, state and local authorities on a weekly basis. Under no circumstances would water containing harmful levels of these chemicals, or any other chemical for that matter, come out of our treatment plants and be sent to the public. In fact, water providers publicly release information about their water quality on an annual basis. The authors of this report should be ashamed of themselves for purposely broadcasting misinformation about the safety of drinking water to the public for the sake of selling water filters.”
“There are chemicals that have been linked to cancer, for example, that are found above health-based limits, or health guidelines, in the water of more than 250 million Americans,” said Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science at EWG.
In New York, EWG tracked 140 contaminants across the state’s water supply. The following contaminants have been detected above health limits in New York (contaminants in bold have been linked to cancer):
- Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which are linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer and fetal development issues
- Chloroform which is linked to cancer and fetal development issues
- Bromodichloromethane which is linked to harm to child and fetuses, as well as reproductive difficulties
- Radium-226 and -228 which is linked to cancer
- Dibromochloromethane which is linked to cancer and harm to fetuses
- Dichloroacetic acid which is linked to cancer and harm to reproduction and child development
- Trichloroacetic acid which is linked to cancer, and harm to reproduction and child development
- Chromium (hexavalent) which is linked to cancer, liver damage and productive system damages
- 1,2,3-Trichloropropane which is linked to cancer
These contaminants were detected above legal guidelines:
- Trihalomethanes which are linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer and fetal development issues
- Haloacetic acids (HAA5) which is linked to cancer and harm to fetuses
- Arsenic which is linked cancer, harm to the central nervous system, harm to the brain and nervous system, skin damage, changed to the heart and blood vessels, heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Barium which is linked to harm to the kidney, high blood pressure and harm to the heart and blood vessels
- Radium which is linked to cancer
EWG, in conjunction with outside scientists, assessed health-based guidelines for hundreds of chemicals found in drinking water across the country and compared them to the legal limits. The law often permits utilities to allow these dangerous chemicals to pollute our waters.
Contaminants in Your Water
EWG has released a public database cataloguing contaminants in water systems in every state in the country — the first comprehensive database of its kind that took two years to build. First select the state where you live, and you’ll see state-level data. For more local information, enter your zip code.
After you enter your zip code, you’ll be directed to a page showing the water utilities in your county. Select your town to see which contaminants put your families at risk.
No single group has collected all this information for all 50 states in an easily searchable database — until now. And it’s incredibly easy to use it to see what contaminants are coming through your faucet.
What You Can Do
Once people know about the high levels of dangerous contaminants lurking in their water, the question becomes what they can do to protect their health.
”There’s a way to reduce those levels simply by buying a water filter,” said Leiba.
“We don’t want to scare the population by saying there are 250 chemicals and just leaving it there,” she continued. “As a consumer you may look at it and get a little overwhelmed.”
For this reason, EWG provides a guide to buying water filters.
Hudson Valley based-Consumer Reports also has a buyers guide for water filters. See it here.
The EWG website allows you to search for filters that block particular chemicals and pollutants. If you find that your local water supply has a particularly high level of a dangerous chemical, you can search for a filter that blocks that substance.
There are many types of filters, including carbon filters, deionization filters and distillation filters. Each type has its own strengths and weakness, so sometimes a filter will include multiple filtration methods to eliminate more potential threats.
To find the most effective filter, look for certifications from the Water Quality Association and NSF International. Different filters remove different contaminants.
It’s important to remember, though, that even high-quality filters are not 100 percent effective.
“Filters don’t remove everything,” Scott Meschke, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at Washington University, told Patch. He emphasized that it’s important to make sure you’re using a filter that is designed to fit your local needs.
He also said that users should change water filters on a regular basis. Old filters that are never replaced can host bacterial, which also pose potential dangers.
People who don’t get their water through a public utility will have different needs.
“If you are on a private well, I would say that you need to be monitoring your water. You should be paying on a regular basis to have it tested,” Meschke said.
– By Cody Fenwick
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Originally published July 27, 2017.