A recent study from an environmental group revealed that human drinking water is polluted with nitrates. Nitrates are a type of acid that can be poisonous. According to the study, these nitrates have been linked to causing cancer and other health problems in those who drink the polluted water. The group of advocates, called the Environmental Working Group (EWG), say that the number of cancer cases caused by the nitrates is roughly 12,600 every year.
The report says that the nitrates get into the drinking water because of industrial farming. Farmers rely on these nitrates to grow crops because they are in nearly all fertilizers. The fertilizers then run off into local water supplies used by drinking water utilities and contaminate the water.
Risk & Treatment
The level of risk for each person depends on where they live. It seems that the more rural farming communities have higher levels of nitrates in their water making them more at risk. The states with the most agricultural production, such as Iowa and California, had the most nitrate-related cancer cases last year.
Dr. David Katz, director of Yale Griffin Prevention Research Center, says that we must change this practice immediately. The danger presented by drinking nitrates is clear, and it exists throughout our whole country. He says it is obviously not acceptable to poison our water in the name of producing food.
Treatment for cancers caused by nitrates costs $1.5 billion a year in the aggregate. The majority of cancers caused by the acid are colorectal, but nitrates have also been linked to ovarian, kidney, thyroid, and bladder cancers. Dr. Katz says that the study is not conclusive on all the impacts of nitrates, but it offers convincing evidence that the agriculture industry is costing the United States in both dollars and deaths.
Even more upsetting is the serious health problems nitrates in our drinking water have caused in babies. The researchers from the study have found over 4,000 cases of birth defects. The defects include being born underweight or being born too early.
One of the main missions of the EWG is to force the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise its health standards on drinking water. The group hopes to eliminate human consumption of drinking water with nitrates in it. The EPA has allowed ten milligrams of nitrates per liter of water since 1962. The new study says that there can be problems when there is even one milligram per liter.
The EPA was planning on revisiting its standards in order to make drinking water safer. However, the Trump administration cancelled those plans, according to the EWG. EWG says that for drinking water to be safe, the nitrate level would have to be reduced by seventy times the current standard.
It is both difficult and expensive to remove nitrates from drinking water. Some towns and cities do have removal systems in place, but the cost of this practice gets passed along to residents.
Even if a house has a private well, it can still have increased nitrate levels. The only way for these people to get rid of the nitrates is to spend thousands of dollars on a “reverse osmosis” system, according to the EWG.
The group says the best practice to prevent nitrate consumption is to prevent it from getting into the water in the first place. The government needs to place stricter regulations on the industrial farmers who use nitrate fertilizers and make sure that the farmers obey those regulations.