My thinking was kind of like someone who smokes, saying, well this is nothing, at least I'm not on Heroin! Or a heroin addict saying, well at least I'm still alive! You can always find a situation that's worse... but that doesn't mean your situation is good!
Since I've been looking up water reports, the average amount of trihalomethanes I've seen in Northern California water seems to be around 50 parts per billion. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot to you (like it didn't, to me, a few months ago) but it is. Keep in mind that the birth control Nuva Ring is active at just 0.035 parts per billion. Not even ONE part per billion. The legal limit for trihalomethanes is 80 parts per billion.
There is a LOT of evidence that shows trihalomethanes can increase a person's risk for cancer (especially bladder and breast cancer), problems in pregnancy (stillbirth, low birth weight), anemia, skin irritation, liver problems, kidney problems, or central nervous system problems.
The Environmental Working Group has some good, important studies about Trihalomethanes posted on their site. CLICK HERE to see EWG's original page. I'm pasting the part about Trihalomethanes below so I can highlight certain facts I think you may want to look at. I am pasting some more (pretty alarming) facts further down the post. You can see their list of other contaminants by clicking HERE.
In 2007, researchers from four Taiwanese universities reported that people faced twice the odds of dying from bladder cancer if they drank water with trihalomethane contamination greater than 21 parts per billion. This study was cited in the 2011 National Report on Carcinogens, a Congressionally-mandated report produced by the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency scientific body (Chang 2007, NTP 2011).
You might be thinking, well, who really gets cancer from water?In the last 5 months since I've been looking up water reports, I have heard of about 12 cases of people who developed cancer (some of whom have died) or some other chronic condition (like Parkinson's or serious lung problems) and in every single case, the particular type of cancer they had seemed to correlate with what type of toxins were in their water. True, there's no way to tell for sure how these people got their cancer, but... it's starting to sound like more than coincidence.
A friend of mine recently told me that she has three friends who have bladder cancer. I asked her where her friends live. One lives in Menlo Park (where the level of trihalomethanes was 18-63 PPB), another is in Fremont (where the level was 27.5 - 47.6), and the other is in Belmar, New Jersey (where the level detected was ND-38.3) ("ND" means "Non detect" - or a level that was non detectable, but they can't quite put "zero."). In all these cases, the water has an average level of trihalomethanes that is twice the amount that's shown to cause an increase in bladder cancer (in the Taiwanese study mentioned earlier) and about 20x what California considers to be a safe limit (meaning, an amount that would be considered to pose NO risk).
By the way, not everyone has really high levels of trihalomethanes in their water. For example, Mountain View is one of the few areas in Northern California that's reported to have a relatively low amount of trihalomethanes (.5 parts per billion) on one of their reports (though they have fairly high levels of hexavalent chromium, the "Erin Brockovich" chemical). It was the first reports I'd seen that was actually lower than California's proposed safe limit (0.8). You can see Mountain View's water report by clicking here. (Note, their level of trihalomethanes is listed as ug/L, which is basically the same as PPB or Parts Per Billion. You can see a conversion chart here).
Not to be a downer, but I do want to clarify, just because Mountain View has low levels of trihalomethanes, does not mean the water is safe to drink from the tap. A friend of mine who lives in Mountain View told me every one of her neighbors has cancer (she attributes the fact that she never had it, to the fact that she always filters her water). My Mom in Hawai'i has also reported that every one of her neighbors has had cancer. Both Mountain View and Hawaii water have fairly high levels of hexavalent chromium in it (about 10x what the California EPA proposes as a "safe limit").
You will not find hexavalent chromium listed on Mountain View's water report, because the water company not required to test for it or report it, as long as it is under the amount set by the Federal EPA. You can see the water report that does have a test for hexavalent chromium (released by the Environmental Working Group), by clicking here. Who knows what is in the water now. Maybe the levels are lower, maybe they are higher. The best way to find out is to get your water tested (contact me through blogger if you need a resource, I know a guy who can do it cheap and he's very honest and accurate).
I know someone who developed breast cancer (twice) and I looked up her water report (she lives in El Sobrante). She highest level of trihalomethanes I'd seen on EBMUD's whole report. When I told her about the high levels or THMs in the water, she was shocked, and her reaction was, "Who can I sue???" But there's nobody to sue, because very high levels of trihalomethanes (even amounts that are shown to cause cancer in studies) are perfectly legal. It's really up to us to protect ourselves. I feel really strongly that everyone should be filtering their water at home. It would be a waste of money and resources, for water companies to filter all the water before it reached our homes when so much of the water we use at home is not used for drinking or cooking.
There are levels of risk that are involved in a lot of things people do. There's risk in getting in your car and driving to a store. There's risk in putting your money in the stock market. When you get on the WIFI in a public place, you run the risk that someone could hack into your computer. You have a risk of your identity being stolen just by sitting at home minding your own business, while someone is stealing your mail!
The government is well aware that there is a risk for people to develop cancer from trihalomethanes, but they are working with the budget they have (people would bitch about our taxes going up if they forced water companies to get the level of trihalomethanes to almost zero). I just wish they would warn more people that they really should filter their own water.
It says right on the Environmental Protection Agency's site: EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system.
The EPA doesn't have the budget to broadcast thousands of commercials during prime time television just to make sure you are fully aware that there could be toxic chemicals in the water, that are usually at levels twice the amount shown to cause cancer in studies. It's on their website. The information is available. It doesn't matter if you wouldn't normally go there to find it, or if you're a renter and don't get a water bill and would never actually see a water quality report in in the mail (or read information about how to view it). As far as the EPA is concerned, they have done their job by putting the info on their website, and if you don't happen to see it or know about it... too bad for you!
I'm really happy that there have been many news reports warning the public that bottled water is very bad for the environment. But it alarms me that they make it sound like tap water is perfectly safe to drink, which, in my opinion, it is NOT. I believe at some point our government will make a greater effort to tell us that we should filter our tap water at home, but that could take decades.
The information below (before highlighting and bolding, etc) is from EWG's Website:
Forgotten Toxics in American Water
When Does Water Treatment Contamination Reach the Danger Point?
Trihalomethanes Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
The article below is from the OEHHA site (Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment).... in other words, the California EPA.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF SECOND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD DRAFT TECHNICAL SUPPORT DOCUMENT ON PROPOSED PUBLIC HEALTH GOAL FOR TRIHALOMETHANES (THMS) IN DRINKING WATER
Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Branch
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
California Environmental Protection Agency
1515 Clay St., 16th floor
Oakland, California 94612
Attention: PHG Project
Basic Information about Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water: Total Trihalomethanes, Haloacetic Acids, Bromate, and Chlorite
- What disinfection byproducts does EPA regulate, how are they formed, and what are their health effects in drinking water at levels above the maximum contaminant level?
- What are EPA’s drinking water regulations for disinfection byproducts?
- How will I know if disinfection byproducts are in my drinking water?
- How will disinfection byproducts be removed from my drinking water?
- How do I learn more about my drinking water?
|Disinfection Byproduct (Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number)||How is it formed?||Health Effects|
|Bromodichloromethane (75-27-4)||Trihalomethanes occur when naturally-occurring organic and inorganic materials in the water react with the disinfectants, chlorine and chloramine.||Some people who drink water containing total trihalomethanes in excess of the MCL over many years could experience liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems and increased risk of cancer.|
|Dichloroacetic acid (79-43-6)||Haloacetic acids occur when naturally-occurring organic and inorganic materials in the water react with the disinfectants, chlorine and chloramine.||Some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of the MCL over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.|
|Trichloroacetic acid (76-03-9)|
|Chloroacetic acid (79-11-8)|
Dibromoacetic acid (631-64-1)
|Bromate (15541-45-4)||Bromate occurs when bromide in the water reacts with the disinfectant, ozone.||Some people who drink water containing bromate in excess of theMCL over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.|
|Chlorite (7758-19-2)||Chlorite occurs when chlorine dioxide breaks down.||Some infants and young children who drink water containing chlorite in excess of the MCL could experience nervous system effects. Similar effects may occur in fetuses of pregnant women who drink water containing chlorite in excess of the MCL. Some people may experience anemia.|
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime, with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water. EPA sets MCLGs based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems.
|Levels for Total Trihalomethanes|
|Bromodichloromethane||Zero||0.080 mg/L or 80 ppb|
(Sum of the concentrations of all four trihalomethanes) as an annual average
|Dibromochloromethane||0.06 mg/L or 60ppb|
|Chloroform||0.07 mg/L or 70ppb|
|Levels for Haloacetic acids|
|Dichloroacetic acid||Zero||0.060 mg/L or 60 ppb|
(Sum of the concentrations of all five haloacetic acids) as an annual average
|Trichloroacetic acid||0.02 mg/L or 20 ppb|
|Monochloroacetic acid||0.07 mg/L or 70 ppb|
|Bromoacetic acid||Regulated with this group but has no MCLG|
|Dibromoacetic acid||Regulated with this group but has no MCLG|
|Bromate||Zero||0.010 mg/L or 10 ppb as an annual average|
|Chlorite||0.80 mg/L or 800 ppb||1.0 mg/L or 1 part per million (ppm)|
- Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 1 DBP) (December 16, 1998)
The Stage 1 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule reduces exposure to disinfection byproducts for customers of community water systems and non-transient non-community systems, including those serving fewer than 10,000 people, that add a disinfectant to the drinking water during any part of the treatment process.
- Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 DBP) (December 15, 2005)
Stage 2 DBP rule builds upon earlier rules that addressed disinfection byproducts to improve your drinking water quality and provide additional public health protection from disinfection byproducts.
When routine monitoring indicates that disinfection byproduct levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of disinfection byproductsso that they are below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.
Water systems that use surface water or ground water under the direct influence of surface water and use conventional filtration treatment are required to remove specified percentages of organic materials that may react with disinfectants to form disinfection byproducts, prior to disinfection. Other control strategies include modification of disinfection practices in a manner that still provides adequate protection against pathogens.
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book’s government listings are a good starting point for local information.
- The CCR summarizes information regarding sources used (i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or aquifers), detected contaminants, compliance and educational information.
- Some water suppliers have posted their annual reports on EPA’s website.
Other EPA websites
- Find an answer or ask a question about drinking water contaminants on EPA’s Question and Answer website or call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791
- EPA’s Microbials and Disinfection Byproducts website
- EPA’s Envirofacts ICR website
- EPA’s Guidance Manual Alternative Disinfectants and Oxidants (PDF) (41 pp, 385 K)
- EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System
- EPA History of Drinking Water Treatment (PDF) (4 pp, 156 K)
- EPA Drinking Water Treatment Fact Sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 258 K)
Other Federal Departments and Agencies