Drinking tap water in California can increase a person's risk of developing cancer, a team of researchers has discovered in a new study.
The Environmental Working Group revealed that there are contaminants in the public water system that have been linked to cancer. They estimated that California's drinking water leads to 15,500 cases of cancer over the course of a lifetime.
This is the first study to investigate the risk of cancer by consuming the contaminants found in the drinking water in California. They released their findings in the journal Environmental Health.
Cancer-Causing Contaminants In California's Drinking Water
Researchers from the Environmental Working Group analyzed the state and federal data on the more than 2,700 toxic contaminants found in the public water system in California between 2011 and 2015. They developed a new method that calculated the combined health impacts from consumption of multiple contaminants in a single water supply.
They found that those who live in small to midsize communities have a greater risk of developing cancer. The researchers noted that the greater risks stem from the presence of arsenic, hexavalent chromium, and byproducts of disinfectant chemicals.
The findings revealed that these communities are often the most in need of expensive treatment systems to ensure that they are drinking clean water free of toxic contaminants.
About 28.5 million Californians get their drinking water from 1,177 systems where the occurrence of additional cases of cancer linked to contaminants is one per 1,000 to one per 10,000 people.
Highlighting The Need To Change Current Practices
The researchers explained that there is rarely only one contaminant in sources of water, but regulators asses health hazards of individual pollutants which ignore their possible combined effects.
"We need to look at contaminants as a group — not just one at a time," stated Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the EWG and the lead author of the study. "It's more important to analyze co-occurring contaminants to understand the real world exposure."
The researchers also noted that drinking water across the United States, including California, meet state and federal limis. However, the study proves that the current state and federal standards failed to address the health impacts of pollutants in the drinking water.
"Federal laws governing the quality of both drinking water and water resources overall must be strengthened to limit tap water contamination and modernize our aging water infrastructure," the researchers wrote. "In the absence of federal leadership, states should take steps to set and enforce drinking water standards that are more rigorous and health-protective than those required by the EPA."
The researchers stated that Californian can access the EWG Database to see if their drinking water have contaminants. If toxic pollutants have been detected, they advise that individuals and families to use filters to ensure that they are consuming clean and safe water.