September 25, 2009

Drinking Water in the Headlines

by Bob Murphy

Contaminated water drunk by 1 in 10 Americans: NY Times

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways, an investigation by The New York Times has found. A report of the investigation was published in the September 13 edition of the newspaper.

“Those exposures include carcinogens in the tap water of major American cities and unsafe chemicals in drinking-water wells. Wells, which are not typically regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, are more likely to contain contaminants than municipal water systems,” the report said.

Millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water every day from their public water systems, (which may be publicly or privately owned). Nonetheless, drinking water safety cannot be taken for granted. There are a number of threats to drinking water: improperly disposed of chemicals; animal wastes; pesticides; human wastes; wastes injected deep underground; and naturally-occurring substances can all contaminate drinking water. Likewise, drinking water that is not properly treated or disinfected, or which travels through an improperly maintained distribution system, may also pose a health risk. The report notes that many who consume dangerous chemicals through their drinking water do not realize it because “most of today’s water pollution has no scent or taste.”

Around the world, 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are without adequate sanitation facilities. Every day, nearly 6,000 people who share our planet die from water-related illnesses, and the vast majority are children.

Water For People assists people in developing countries to improve quality of life by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities and health and hygiene education programs. Organizations such as the National Rural Water Association, American Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation continuously work to provide standards and assistance to water utilities across the North America and beyond.

It is truly amazing that in North America we can turn on a tap in our homes out flows clean drinking water.

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