Volume 2, Issue 26
June 25, 2009

Don't trust your water company

On March 10, 2009 everyone on the East Valley Water System in my county in Nevada received the following notice:

Notice to the Public — Important Information About Your Drinking Water

Our water system recently had an exceedence of a drinking water standard. The east Valley Water System has levels of arsenic above drinking water standards.ÿ Although this is not an emergency, yada, yada, yada..

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Now here's what it boiled down to.ÿ The maximum contaminant level (MCL) established by the government for arsenic is 0.010 mg/L (milligrams per liter). The water company was just now reporting that during the two-year period of 2005-2007 the "average level" of arsenic in the drinking water was 0.036 mg/L. You can quickly figure out what this means. During an entire two-year period, every household in that water system received over three times the maximum amount of arsenic our government considers to be safe. "Every household" means every pregnant woman, baby, cancer patient (plus those battling other diseases), and the old and infirm.

Arsenic causes cardiovascular disease, skin disease, and cancer. Symptoms of arsenic poisoning start with headaches, and can progress to lightheadedness. They are much more likely to occur in children and old people. Other symptoms include abdominal pains, vomiting, nausea, excessive saliva production, a sense of dryness and tightness in the throat, diarrhea, convulsions, weakness, and fatigue.

Why did it take four years from the first infraction to figure this out? There are only two possibilities. Either the powers-that-be sat on this for several years before reporting it, or it took that long for them to determine that there was a contamination problem.

In either event, the message is clear: Nobody should ever trust that the water they get from their water system is acceptable. And don't think that your water system is any better.

Tap water all over this country is a problem for two reasons. First, just like with the East Valley Water System, contamination may be present for years before anyone does anything about it. It is a well-recognized fact that at any one point in time, approximately 10% of all water systems are above the MCLs for one or more contaminants.

The second reason is even more persuasive. And that has to do with the fact that most of the chemical contaminants that are found in tap water are not regulated. That means they can be present in any amount. According to one article on this subject, "In 2005, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested municipal water in 42 states and detected some 260 contaminants in public water supplies. Of those, 141 were unregulated chemicals for which public health officials have no safety standards, much less methods for removing them."

These contaminants come from industry, agriculture, and urban runoff and they often end up in our water systems.. They also come from your own home, as we've seen recently that there are loads of pharmaceutical drugs in the water. I'm glad people are dumping their drugs. But not at the cost of clean water.

So what should you do?ÿ For the past 20 years, I have been recommending that all households have their own reverse osmosis water system. This is basic family safety, just like locked doors and fire alarms. Reverse osmosis systems are very common these days. You can find them on the Internet for as little as $250. Nobody should drink tap water on any kind of a regular basis — ever.ÿ It is just not a safe thing to do.

And make sure that you replace the filters on your purification system as per the manufacturer's instructions. There is so much junk in the water these days that these filters can get clogged up very easily. This is especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.

If you buy bottled water to drink, make sure that the label says, "Purified Water."ÿ Do not drink water that says anything else, for example, "Spring Water" or "Drinking Water." These are usually just euphemisms for tap water.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: http://environment.about.com/od/healthenvironment/a/tap_water_safe.htm.

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