Originally published July 28 2009
Potential Health Hazard may Exist in Your Drinking Water
by Deanna Dean
(NaturalNews) Have you ever had a drink of water that tasted or smelled like turpentine? Was the odor and taste so unpleasant it was almost undrinkable? If so, there's a strong possibility your glass of water was contaminated with levels of methyl-t-butyl ether (MTBE) that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency's recommendations stated in a 1997 advisory.
MTBE is among a group of chemicals called fuel oxygenates. Developed in the 1970's, it is added today to gasoline, replacing lead, throughout the United States to increase oxygen content and reduce harmful automobile emissions released into the atmosphere. In 1990 an amendment to The Clean Air Act stated its commitment to combat air pollution and to require reformulated gasoline (RFG) be used in certain areas of the country where carbon monoxide emissions exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Today 30 percent of RFG is sold in the United States. MTBE is added to over 80 percent of reformulated gasoline. So far so good; makes for a greener, safer environment which we all want.
Unfortunately MTBE has found its way into our drinking water. CBS television program, 60 Minutes, aired a report on January 16, 2000 about the safety concerns of America's drinking water supply and the alarming rate that MTBE has been seeping into our water supplies through leaking underground storage tanks and pipelines, watercraft emissions and marine engine spills which wind up in lakes and reservoirs. It's hard to believe but an estimated 1 million gallons of fuel are deposited into the water supply each year from recreational boating alone. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported it to be the second most common contaminant in shallow urban aquifers. Studies have shown that in areas of the country where federal RFG is mandated, the concentration of MTBE in water is five times greater than in other parts of the country.
Few long term studies have been done on MTBE and its health effects, but research that has been conducted focused on inhalation of the chemical. The results aren't good. Tests on rats have given evidence that for some of them MTBE was a likely cancer-causing agent which led Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Water to conclude that at high doses the data supports it as a potential human carcinogen. Other research indicates our immune systems might be affected as well. So, even if you're not drinking MTBE contaminated water, it can be absorbed through the skin when showering and then inhaled as a vapor in the air. Lesser possible effects of inhalation include "headaches, burning of the throat and nose, dizziness, nausea, asthma, and respiratory problems."(Elements of Health-Prescription Healing)
Research animals have also sustained the results of kidney damage when exposed to the chemical's vapors at various concentrations. EPA's Office of Water has concluded though that data is insufficient to draw conclusions about MTBE's potential health risk at low exposure levels in drinking water. They go on to say there is little likelihood there will be adverse health effects at concentrations in drinking water between 20 and 40 ppb (parts per billion) or below.
The agency is concerned however and is working with the US Geological Survey to assess frequency and occurrence of MTBE in certain geographic regions of the country and is actively involved in addressing concerns over the potential presence of MTBE in our water supplies. Though MTBE has been placed on the Contaminant Candidate List by the Office of Water, the agency has determined that MTBE needs more health effects research and data before establishing regulations. Whether or not MTBE will continue to be used is a consideration the EPA probably won't make until the year 2010.
You can be proactive and determine if your water has MTBE in it by contacting the public water system, if that is your water supply source. Ask if they monitor for MTBE and if any levels have been detected. If you have a private well, you may get your water tested by contacting your local health department. Also ask if MTBE has been found in water in your area.
To get your water tested, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) or go to http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html to get the phone number for your state's office that certifies drinking water laboratories. There are also a number of laboratories that will send a self-addressed container for you to fill and return for testing. The cost starts at $35 to $40 per tap and results are usually available in two to three weeks. Other information can be found at the EPA Office of Underground Storage Tanks web site (http://www.eps.gov/swerust1/).
Additional documents can be accessed from the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.
To Your Health,
Deanna Dean CNHP
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch copyright 2006
Environmental Update #1, Published by the Hazardous Substance Research Centers/South & Southwest Outreach Program
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/un... Updated Tuesday April 10, 2007
About the authorDeanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education.
Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist.
Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.
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