WASHINGTON – Nitrate pollution from drinking water in the United States can cause up to 12,594 cancer cases per year, according to a new study reviewed by experts from the Environmental Working Group.
For the innovative study published today in the journal Environmental Research, The EWG scientists estimated the number of cancer cases in each state that could be attributed to nitrate contamination of public water systems, caused largely by the runoff from the farm containing fertilizers and manure. They also estimated the costs of treating such cases by up to $ 1.5 billion per year.
"Nitrate contamination of drinking water is a serious and especially serious problem in the country's agricultural country," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at EWG and one of the authors of the study. "Now, for the first time, we can see the astounding consequences of this pollution."
The current federal drinking water standard for nitrates, established in 1962, is 10 parts per million, or ppm. However, several well-established epidemiological studies have linked nitrate to drinking water with cancer and other serious health problems at levels less than one-tenth of the legal limit. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency suspended plans to re-evaluate its outdated nitrate standard.
Four-fifths of the cases estimated by the EWG were colorectal cancer cases, with ovarian, thyroid, kidney and bladder cancer making up the rest. Nitrate in tap water has also been associated with serious neonatal health problems. The EWG estimates that nitrate pollution can account for as many as 2,939 cases of very low birth weight; 1,725 cases of very premature birth; and 41 cases of neural tube defects.
"Millions of Americans are being involuntarily exposed to nitrate, and they are also the ones who pay the high costs of treating contaminated water," said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist and lead author of the study. "But the federal government is not doing enough to protect Americans from the contamination of tap water."
EWG scientists estimate that the level of adverse health effects caused by nitrate in drinking water would be 0.14 milligrams per liter – the equivalent of parts per million. This level, 70 times lower than the legal EPA threshold, represents a one million cancer risk.
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that empowers people to lead healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, the EWG boosts consumer choice and civic action. Visit http: // www.
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