WATER AND CANCER

More and more communities are becoming concerned about the potential links between cancer and the chemicals found in their drinking water. Whether you are drinking from municipal water or from a well, additives and contaminates linked to cancer probably exist in your water.

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Although federal law requires water providers to follow guidelines that are designed to keep these cancer-causing chemicals at "safe" levels in the water, there is much debate at what actually is "safe." Because of these concerns, water providers are now required by law to publish the results of their water testing every year for public review.

Two of the common chemicals added to water to keep us healthy could actually be contributing to cancer rates: chlorine and fluoride. Studies concerning chlorine and fluoride have determined high levels of these chemicals could cause cancer.

Chlorine, used to disinfect most community water supplies, produce Trihalomethanes (THMs), chemicals formed when chlorine reacts with organic material, like bacteria, in water. The American Journal of Public Health published an article in regard to a 1992 study that linked Trihalomethanes in water to incidences of rectal, bladder and pancreatic cancer. The largest source of human exposure to THMs in the U.S. is from the consumption of chlorinated drinking water. Besides consuming water, other ways of exposure are from breathing in THMs vaporized in the air in the shower or the bath. Inhalation experiments with animals revealed that high levels are toxic to the liver and secondarily to the kidneys. Chronic oral exposure of humans at high doses results in adverse effects on the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and heart. In studies of human populations using chlorinated drinking water in which chloroform is the predominant THM, small increases in the incidence of rectal, colon and bladder cancer have been consistently observed, with evidence strongest for bladder cancer.

Citizens groups frequently target fluoride, which is added to the water supply of most municipalities to help cut down on tooth decay in children, as a possible carcinogen. The Journal of Epidemiology, in 2001, linked fluoride as the genetic cause of cancer. A 1990 National Toxicology Program study determined fluoride could be the cause of cancers affecting the mouth, pharynx, colon and rectum. Another study, with results published in the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology in 2001, linked osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, with fluoride.

Natural occurring radioactive agents like radium, uranium, and radon, seep into the water supply. High levels of these elements can cause cancer of the brain and bone.

People living in rural areas with their own water wells are also at risk of drinking potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides contain carcinogens that can filter down into the water supply. Nitrate, a by-product of fertilizer, also shows up in water supplies. In the human body, nitrate breaks down into nitrosamines, which are potentially cancer-causing agents.

Atrazine, an herbicide used on crops, is also found in drinking water. It is suspected of causing breast cancer. Another chemical, trichloroethylene, a solvent used in dry cleaning, is found sometimes in water supplies near facilities that do not dispose of their chemicals properly. It is considered a possible cancer-causing agent as well.

Most municipalities do not have the costly technology to filter these and other potentially harmful chemicals from the water. Neither do most bottled water companies, which frequently get the water they bottle from the same sources as municipalities. This is why chlorine is dumped in the water to kill these bacteria and viruses. Heavy metals however remain in the water and are consumed in your drinking water. Reverse osmosis filtering is one of the few effective ways to remove potential cancer-causing chemicals from your water. It can remove 90-99% of all contaminants in your water and leave you with pure water safe from any harmful contaminants. Water filtration systems are highly recommended to those with weaker immune systems to reduce the chance of being harmed by toxins in the water.

We unintentionally use our bodies as filters to filter out the many toxins we are exposed to and need to be careful because the effects may appear to reveal themselves in the future. EPA has set regulations that are ‘deemed safe’ but over time it may be difficult for your body to flush out these toxins. It is always best to be safe and have a filtration system to filter out toxins and contaminants. This will leave you with the convenience of bottled water quality water straight from your home.

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