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Harmful Water Contaminants

Arsenic is poisonous to humans and does not produce a smell or taste. The concentrations are higher in drilled wells than dug wells, and higher in wells than surface water. The drinking water guideline is 0.025mg/L. Arsenic is easily soluble in water. Many of the locations in Newfoundland and Labrador where arsenic is found are documented.

Aluminum: because it is so pervasive in the environment, to the point of being unavoidable, researchers have long been studying its effects on humans. This research has revealed a link between aluminum intake and neurological dementia in kidney dialysis patients (dialysis encephalopathy). In recent years, the public and the media have become concerned about other possible adverse effects of aluminum on human health, including its role in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). In addition, questions have been raised about the potential risks to infants who drink baby formula containing aluminum.
    
Aluminum sulfate: that is added to clarify water, has long been associated with memory loss, possibly Alzheimer’s disease and is believed to increase cardiovascular disease.

Ammonia (NH3) is a colorless, alkaline gas at ambient temperature and pressure, with a distinct pungent odour. Produced naturally by the biological degradation of nitrogenous matter (e.g., amino acids) that is present in organic wastes or soils, ammonia provides an essential link in the "nitrogen cycle" of nature.
Ammonia is produced commercially by a catalyzed reaction between nitrogen and hydrogen and by its recovery during the isolation of coal gas. It is used in the manufacture of chemical products such as fertilizers, explosives, nitric acid and plastics and in refrigeration plants and petroleum refineries.
Ammonia is very soluble in water; approximately 90g dissolve in 100 ml of distilled water at 0°C.  In solution, some of the ammonia reacts with the water, resulting in the following equilibrium:
NH3 + H2O → NH4+ + OH–, pKb = 4.74
For the purpose of this review, reference to the ammonia content of water should be taken to mean the sum total of ammonia and ammonium ion content. In the pH range of most natural waters, ammonia nitrogen will exist principally as NH4+.
Ammonia is present in most waters as a result of the biological degradation of nitrogenous organic matter, although it may also reach groundwater and surface waters from industrial waste discharges.  Ammonia removal during drinking water treatment is not usually required. Ammonia removal by air stripping is a fairly common process, particularly in wastewater treatment. Adsorption and demineralization processes may also be effective for ammonia removal. If chlorination is used in water treatment, any ammonia will combine with the chlorine to form chloramines. As well, pH adjustment can be used to affect the form of ammonia in the water.

Bromate is a byproduct of drinking water disinfection. MCL (Maximum Concentration Level) is 0.010mg/L. Bromate Increased risk of cancer

Chlorine: studies indicate that chlorine is involved in heart disease, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), anemia, high blood pressure, allergies and cancer of the bladder, stomach, liver and rectum. Further, chlorine can destroy protein in the body and cause adverse effects on the skin and hair. The US COUNCIL of environmental quality states that cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine". Chlorine binds and reacts with many other chemicals, forming carcinogens like Trihallomethanes (THM), with chloroform being the most common one. Furthermore, recent real life evidence in the tap water of Sydney shows that certain viruses and parasites, like giardia and cryptosporidium, are being resistant to chlorine and can survive the long journey from the sewage treatment to your tap. That makes chlorination an even more pointless and dangerous practice.

Chloramines have Potential Health Effects from Ingestion of Water such as the eye/nose irritation, stomach discomfort, and anemia.
Giardia and cryptosporidium are protozoa (unicellular organisms) parasitic to the intestines of animals and humans. Once in the body, these parasites then multiply and cause the respective infections of giardia and cryptosporidiosis, which contribute or are associated to enteric (intestinal) diseases. Other than food, these parasites are transmitted from contaminated drinking water.   These infested waters are today in most major cities, which is a direct result of the unsuccessful treatment of recycled sewage effluent. These parasites initially venture their way into the sewage effluent, from Hospitals, abattoir and farms waste, which contain blood, intestines and faeces.  While immunocompetent (the ability to develop an immune response) people may remain asymptomatic (presenting no symptoms) by ingestion of this parasites, immunocompromised (i.e. malnutrition Cancer and Aids) patients are at risk.  U.S. Health Officials estimate 900,000 people each year become ill, and possibly 900 die from waterborne disease.

Lead is another chemical ingredient found in the water that imposes risks to the nervous, circulatory and digestive systems. It is a teratogen, a substance known to cause physical defects in the developing embryo. Chronic exposure, even in small doses, may have serious implications to your well being. Symptoms to be wary of are irritability, nervousness, weight loss, anemia, stomach cramps, constipation and mental depression. It can cause learning disabilities and lowered IQ.


Nitrates: from fertilizers when brought in contact with chlorine and ammonia, can turn into nitrites. Nitrites once inside the body combines with amines and form nitrosamines which are highly carcinogenic. Nitrites can interfere with oxygen uptake and since babies are specifically sensitive to this aspect you could not fail to see a possible link between blue baby syndrome and the nitrite factor. Infants below the age of six month who drink water, containing nitrate or nitrite in excess of the MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue-baby syndrome.

Selenium is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. The greatest use of selenium compounds is in electronic and photocopier components, but they are also widely used in glass, pigments, rubber, metal alloys, textiles, petroleum, medical therapeutic agents, and photographic emulsions.
Short-term: Selenium is an essential nutrient at low levels. However, EPA has found selenium to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: hair and fingernail changes; damage to the peripheral nervous system; fatigue and irritability.
Long-term: Selenium has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: hair and fingernail loss; damage to kidney and liver tissue, and the nervous and circulatory systems.
Sodium Fluoride: this is not a water treatment and was initially added as a supplement to prevent “assumingly” tooth decay in children. Its toxicity is high enough that in larger concentrations can be used as a pesticide and rat killer. In humans it can be damaging to the heart, lungs, liver, cause genetic mutations and have long term negative effects on enzyme production and the efficiency of the immune system. In the medical encyclopedia and dictionary by Miller-Keane, under fluoridation refers that slight excesses of fluoride are poisonous and can cause dental fluorosis (mottled discoloration of teeth).  When you look up further down under fluorosis, you can see clearly the irony of the system an enamel hypoplasia resulting from prolonged ingestion of drinking water containing high levels of fluoride. As the debate about the safety of fluoride continuous, countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Sweden have terminated its use due to its potential health hazard. Health Canada does not recommend the use of fluoride supplements (drops or tablets)!

Sulfur/Hydrogen Sulfide:
If you turn on your tap and get a rotten egg smell, then there is a good chance that there is sulfur in your water. At the concentrations it is found in groundwater it is generally not harmful, but at high concentrations it can make you sick. You know you may have Hydrogen Sulfide in your water if your water is bitter and have a laxative effect. The guidelines state the maximum limit of sulfates is 500mg/L and for sulfides is 0.05mg/L.

Trihalomethanes (THMs) are byproducts of chlorinated disinfectants added to drinking water to control pathogens. THMs are formed when chlorine byproducts react with organic matter found in water treatment influent. Disinfecting tap water is a critical public health measure that saves thousands of lives each year by reducing the incidence of waterborne disease. Trihalomethanes with all the same halogen atoms are called haloforms. MCL must be less then 0.0807mg/L. Elso THM leads kidney or central nervous system problems; increased risk of cancer.
An Environmental Working Group analysis of Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) tests reported by 28,082 public water suppliers in 41 states shows that between 1998 and 2003, 170 million people in 14,685 communities drank water contaminated with Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs). In 6,975 of these communities, tap water was contaminated at levels above health-based thresholds.

Tritium (chemical symbol H-3) is a radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen (chemical symbol H). Tritium is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays strike nitrogen molecules in the air. Tritium is also produced during nuclear weapons explosions, as a byproduct in reactors producing electricity, and in special production reactors, where the isotope lithium-6 is bombarded to produce tritium.
Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years and emits a very weak beta particle. Tritium is almost always found as water, or "tritiated" water. Once tritium enters the body, it disperses quickly and is uniformly distributed throughout the body. Tritium is excreted through the urine within a month or so after ingestion. Organically bound tritium (tritium that is incorporated in organic compounds) can remain in the body for a longer period.
As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer.

Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal in the soil and can also come from mine tailings. A concentration above 0.020mg/L in drinking water is above the Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. Uranium is easily released from the body if ingested. The chemical properties of uranium are more of a concern than the radioactivity.

More about the harmful contaminants read at the E.P.A website.

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