Study estimates more than 100,000 cancer cases could stem from contaminants in tap water

September 19, 2019

WASHINGTON - A toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants in U.S. drinking water could result in more than 100,000 cancer cases, according to a peer-reviewed study from Environmental Working Group - the first study to conduct a cumulative assessment of cancer risks due to 22 carcinogenic contaminants found in drinking water nationwide.

In a paper published today in the journal Heliyon, EWG scientists used a novel analytical framework that calculated the combined health impacts of carcinogens in 48,363 community water systems in the U.S. This assessment does not include water quality information for the 13.5 million American households that rely on private wells for their drinking water.

"Drinking water contains complex mixtures of contaminants, yet government agencies currently assess the health hazards of tap water pollutants one by one," said Sydney Evans, lead author of the paper and a science analyst at EWG. "In the real world, people are exposed to combinations of chemicals, so it is important that we start to assess health impacts by looking at the combined effects of multiple pollutants."

This cumulative approach is common in assessing the health impacts of exposure to air pollutants but has never before been applied to a national dataset of drinking water contaminants. This model builds on a cumulative cancer risk assessment of water contaminants in the state of California and offers a deeper insight into national drinking water quality. As defined by U.S. government agencies, the calculated cancer risk applies to a statistical lifetime, or approximately 70 years.

Most of the increased cancer risk is due to contamination with arsenic, disinfection byproducts and radioactive elements such as uranium and radium. Water systems with the highest risk tend to serve smaller communities and rely on groundwater. These communities often need improved infrastructure and resources to provide safe drinking water to their residents. However, large surface water systems contribute a significant share of the overall risk due to the greater population served and the consistent presence of disinfection byproducts.

"The vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG's vice president for science investigations. "Yet the latest research shows that contaminants present in the water at those concentrations - perfectly legal - can still harm human health."

"We need to prioritize source water protection, to make sure that these contaminants don't get into the drinking water supplies to begin with," Naidenko added.

Consumers who are concerned about chemicals in their tap water can install a water filter to help reduce their exposure to contaminants. Filters should be targeted to the specific contaminants detected in the tap water.
-end-
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

Heliyon is an open access journal from Elsevier that publishes accurate and valuable research across all disciplines. Elsevier is a global information analytics business that publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy.

Cite as: Sydney Evans, Chris Campbell, Olga V. Naidenko. Cumulative risk analysis of carcinogenic contaminants in United States drinking water. Heliyon 4 (2019) e02314.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j. heliyon.2019.e02314

Environmental Working Group

Related Drinking Water Articles from Brightsurf:

The dangers of collecting drinking water
Fetching drinking water in low and middle income countries can cause serious injury, particularly for women.

How a toxic chromium species could form in drinking water
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, brought much-needed attention to the problem of potentially toxic metals being released from drinking water distribution pipes when water chemistry changes.

Is your drinking water toxic? This app may help you find out
Since fracking sites use a diverse mix of chemical ingredients, often individuals and researchers are in the dark about the health consequences of living near a particular well.

New solar material could clean drinking water
Providing clean water to Soldiers in the field and citizens around the world is essential, and yet one of the world's greatest challenges.

Aluminum may affect lead levels in drinking water
Until recently, researchers have not inspected the interplay between three common chemicals found in drinking water.

Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater
Climate change and urbanisation are set to threaten groundwater drinking water quality, new research from UNSW Sydney shows.

Fresh clean drinking water for all could soon to be a reality in Pakistan
A fresh, clean water supply will be a reality in Pakistan, particularly in South Punjab, following the announcement of an international partnership spearheaded by the Pakistan government, alongside other key stakeholders, and driven by the University of Huddersfield.

Keeping lead out of drinking water when switching disinfectants
Researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St.

Solar power with a free side of drinking water
An integrated system seamlessly harnesses sunlight to cogenerate electricity and fresh water.

'Liquid forensics' could lead to safer drinking water
Ping! The popular 1990 film, The Hunt for Red October, helped introduce sonar technology on submarines to pop culture.

Read More: Drinking Water News and Drinking Water Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.