Unsafe Water Found in Faucets Across the U.S.

From Drugs.com - February 12, 2018

Unsafe Water Found in Faucets Across the U.S.

MONDAY, Feb. 12, 2018 -- Flint, Mich., is not the only American city where the water has not been safe to drink, new research suggests.

Almost 8 percent of community water systems are plagued by health-based violations of water quality standards in any given year, the study found. That meant up to a quarter of all Americans were affected.

"Generally, the U.S. has high-quality water," said study author Maura Allaire. "But health-related violations do extend well beyond Flint. When I dug into the data, I saw about 21 million people were receiving water from systems that did not meet standards in 2015.

"In terms of hot spots in the country, rural communities and rural low-income communities in Oklahoma and Texas are really struggling," said Allaire, an assistant professor of urban planning and public policy at the University of California, Irvine.

"They lack the technical capacity of larger systems, and have small customer bases, which means they ca not afford the latest and greatest technologies. And they often have only a part-time technician monitoring their water systems," she explained.

In total, violations affected between 9 million and 45 million people in the United States during each year the researchers studied. That's between 4 percent and 28 percent of the U.S. population.

So what exactly is in the water?

"In terms of what's being reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, the vast majority are microbial concerns," Allaire said.

Coliform bacteria, found in the feces of humans and animals, were the germs most often found. Generally, coliform bacteria do not cause illness. But they often indicate the presence of other contaminants that may cause illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other contaminants found in water systems included viruses and the parasites cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia, the study reported.

Waterborne microbial illnesses often cause abdominal cramping, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and, if severe enough, dehydration, the CDC says.

Water quality was also tainted by chemical contamination, along with excess arsenic, lead and copper.

Nitrates were also a common contaminant in water systems, the study found. Nitrates can occur naturally, but excess levels of nitrates can occur as a result of contamination from chemical fertilizers, septic systems, animal feedlots, industrial waste or food processing waste, the CDC says.

The study found that areas that purchase their water were less likely to experience contamination, Allaire said.


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