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Pesticides, Radioactive Materials, and Other Contaminants Found in U.S. Tapwater Supply

Pesticides, Radioactive Materials, and Other Contaminants Found in U.S. Tapwater Supply

Reader, you may want to invest in a water filter.

Water utilities and regulators in the US have identified 56 new contaminants in drinking water over the past two years, a list that includes dangerous substances linked to a range of health problems such as cancer, reproductive disruption, liver disease, and much more.



The revelation is part of an analysis of the nation’s water utilities’ contamination records by the Environmental Working Group, a clean water watchdog that has now updated its database for the first time since 2019.

It found that the jump is partly driven by newly identified PFAS, a toxic class of “forever chemicals” that are widely used across dozens of industries and are thought to be contaminating the drinking water for more than 100 million people. Pesticides, water disinfectant byproducts, and radioactive materials are among other substances identified by regulators. EWG is referring to the mix in the water supply as a “toxic cocktail” that Americans need to protect themselves from consuming regularly.

The list includes some substances that have been in production and used for years, but are only now being monitored by regulators as their links to health problems become clear. Other contaminants include those that the industry is only beginning to use in larger quantities, thereby leading to a more widespread impact on public health.

Many of the substances were identified as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unregulated contaminant monitoring rule (UMCR), which is one of the first steps in the regulation process. It tracks chemicals’ presence in some water systems and its aim is to provide the EPA with a picture of how widespread a chemical’s contamination is before new limits are established.

Among other substances detected is HAA-9, a byproduct of the drinking water disinfection process. Regulators previously set limits for HAA-5, a contaminant in the same family that was found to cause health problems. The industry claimed HAA-9 was safe, but recent studies linked it to low birth rates, so the EPA is beginning to track it more closely.

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