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Endocrine Disruptors In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Endocrine Disruptors In Drinking Water:  What You Need To Know

Wendy Spicer, M.S.  |  Contributor

What Are Endocrine Disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors are chemical compounds that mimic hormones. They can either block the action of a naturally occurring hormone or intensify the effects of a natural hormone by eliciting the same physiological response as the hormone itself. Endocrine disruptors can be pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.

Why Do We Care About Endocrine Disruptors?

Once entering the body, endocrine disruptors can accumulate and intensify or block the effects of the body’s natural hormones. As a result, endocrine disruptors most profoundly affect the reproductive systems of animals by reducing fertility, and increasing risk of developmental malformations in offspring. Endocrine disruptors are also known to increase risk of cancer, and cause disturbances in immune and nervous system function.

It is not yet clear what concentrations of various endocrine disruptors are safe for humans. Research is ongoing and consumers need to be aware of the potential risks associated with exposure to these chemicals.

What Are Examples Of Endocrine Disruptors Commonly Found In Household Goods? 

BPA (the chemical shown on the left hand side of the header image) is produced in large quantities in the process of creating polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including use in some food and drink packaging, for example, water and infant bottles, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices. Epoxy resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.  

Phthalates (an example is shown on the right hand side of the header image) are a group of chemicals used both as solvents and as plasticizers (which make plastics more flexible). They are found in a wide variety of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes). Pthalates are also used in polyvinyl chloride plastics, which are used to make products such as plastic packaging film and sheets, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage containers, medical tubing, and some children's toys.

Can Tap Water Become Contaminated With Endocrine Disruptors?

Absolutely.  Common medications like horomonal birth control are (by design) endocrine disrupting chemicals, and can enter the water supply when excreted as urine or when pills are flushed down the toilet.  In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tested water in nine states across the country and found that 85 man-made chemicals, including some medications, were commonly slipping through municipal treatment systems and ending up in our tap water. Another report by the Associated Press found trace amounts of over a dozen pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of some 46 million Americans. 

How Are Endocrine Disruptors Regulated? 

The EPA and FDA recognize that endocrine disruptors cause adverse health effects to both humans and wildlife. In 1996, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). This means that drinking water can be monitored or screened for endocrine disrupting chemicals. However, there is still no regulatory limit on these chemicals today.

How To Minimize Exposure To Endocrine Disruptors

            The US National Institute of Health (NIH) makes the following recommendations to avoid ingesting endocrine disruptors from food packaging:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
  • Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free, or opt for glass or stainless steel.

In addition to the steps laid out by NIH, high quality water filters are an effective way to remove endocrine disrupting chemicals, should they be found in your tap water.

As always, we encourage readers to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support, where one of our experts will answer your questions, even if you have no desire to purchase one of our water filters.  Drop us a line at support@hydroviv.com or through our live chat window.

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    Why Water Runoff from Farms is a Big Deal and What’s Being Done About It

    Why Water Runoff from Farms is a Big Deal and What’s Being Done About It

    Anya Alvarez | Contributor  

    This summer, scientists from the from Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geographical Survey will wade into about 100 streams from Ohio to Nebraska, testing for pesticides and nutrients used in farming, and its effects in the streams.

    The reason behind scientists taking an interest in testing for these chemicals, is due to the rising concerns that water is being contaminated by chemical runoff from farms. With the the high productivity of the economy of agriculture, it has had the side effect of of harming the environment, particularly impairing water quality according the to EPA.

    These tests can account for extremely small amounts of mercury, livestock hormones, and pesticides like weed killer.

    Scientists believe that climate change is the leading cause of the large runoff of chemicals we are seeing due to the more inconsistent weather patterns we are seeing now. Last year, the drought prevented absorption of fertilizers, causing a extra load of of nutrients to flow into the midwest waterway, which will later find itself in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts fear the negative effects this will have on aquatic life.

    For this year in particularly, it has been a very wet spring, allotting farmers short periods of time to apply pesticides and fertilizers when it’s dry. The intensity of the the rainfall creates a large amount of nutrient loss, and more runoff of these chemicals.

    As more metropolitan areas raise concerns about drinking water safety though, it is imperative for scientists to further look into this. But others concerns raised by municipalities are the costs associated with treating contaminated water. And scientists also worry that consumers who no longer trust the quality of their tap water, will start buying more bottled water. For these reasons alone, consumers should invest in water filtration systems at home, which are financially and environmentally sustainable.

    Besides studies being conducted, the EPA has also taken action by creating the WOTUS (Waters of United States), a federal provision, which was drawn off the Clean Water Act, that supersedes state regulatory agencies when the EPA feels that they have failed to meet expected requirements to protect water supplies. WOTUS is implemented to regulate water runoff and discharges.

    The use of WOTUS has come into place recently in the Des Moines Water Works Suit, which claims that 92 percent of the nitrates and 80 percent of the phosphorous is entering water from the farmland chemicals. This suit may take years to settle because of the difficulty of proving that contamination of water is mostly due to farmland chemicals.  Another issue that needs to be resolved is determining if county governments, or state or federal governments should hold responsibility in controlling the levels of contamination in in local waters from farmlands.

    Many farmers are concerned with government overreach through initiatives like WOTUS, but the EPA’s concern is weighing economic prosperity versus potable water.

    One thing is for certain though: safe drinking water should be a right for anyone, no matter where that person lives. And if the government cannot ensure your drinking water is safe, then you should take matters in your own hands and try filtrate your own water.

    The studies from the from EPA and U.S. Geo Survey will be released in August.

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    Roller Coaster Ride For Water Quality In The Great Lakes

    Roller Coaster Ride For Water Quality In The Great Lakes

    Aakriti Pandey  |  Contributor   

    Editor's Note:  This article is part of a new initiative to include stories on our blog that link scientific policy to everyday life.  Recently, the new administration proposed changes to the EPA budget that would gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which could impact the water quality of major cities (e.g. Chicago, Milwaukee) 

    An upward slope

    1972 was the year that marked the turning point for Great Lakes, Michigan. It was the year when Congress passed the federal Clean Water Act, and as a result, the water quality did improve in most expanses of the North American rivers and lakes, the contaminants' concentration declined, and many fisheries across the nation recuperated too. The Great Lakes today are far improved than they did back in 1972.

    A downward slide

    However, there's a host of new problems today that are affecting both, the nature and the people, again. From the dissemination of the foreign mussels and other invasive aquatic species, sewer and pollution overflows caused by some severe storms, introduction of other contaminants in the lakes including the pharmaceuticals and fire retardants, to the overall climate change... the ecology of the Great Lakes have been turned upside down again. The Lake Michigan car ferry SS Badger has dumped about 500 tons of polluted coal ash into the lake every year. There are cities with archaic sewer systems, and they expel tens of billions of gallons of sewage into  the lakes annually. 
    With this, not only are the lives of aquatic species in danger, but this is also deeply affecting human health. People who call places like Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, and many other cities alongside the Lake Michigan their home, draw their drinking water from the Great Lakes. And their lives are in danger.

    ​Another up...

    An initiative was given birth in 2010 with a vision to protect and restore this largest system of fresh surface water in the world. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) intended to accelerate efforts to "strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem". With plans to clean up the areas of concern, control the invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff, and restore habitat, the GLRI gave sight of the dim light at the end of the tunnel.

    ​And the new downward spiral?

    Those who've been grateful for the GLRI are now holding their breaths again as this plan is close to being very short-lived because the new administration announced plans for a $50 million cut from the GLRI funding as part of the new EPA budget. 
    For one, it's important for initiatives like this to study the impacts of these types of inevitable accidents. More importantly, it's also of momentous value to collectively remain vigilant as a community about what's happening in our environment and surroundings.

    Very recent events highlight the need for initiatives like GLRI to remain funded.  For example, U.S. Steel Corporation also recently accidentally released hexavalent chromium into Lake Michigan, forcing the interception of drinking water intake in the local communities and a closing of many beaches.

    Hydroviv's water nerds have a "Help no matter what" technical support policy, and we always answer your drinking-water related questions, regardless of your intent to purchase our products. 

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