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Drinking Water Supplies Risk Contamination from Toxic Wastewater Ponds

Christina Liu @ Friday, June 18, 2021 at 2:55 pm -0400
The leaking phosphogypsum waste pond that nearly collapsed recently in Florida once again shines a spotlight on the dangers and near-disasters posed by wastewater ponds throughout the country and their impacts on drinking water. These toxic waste ponds are not only created from phosphate mining, but used at power plants (coal ash) and large-scale agricultural facilities (such as manure from hog farming).  

Lead: What You Need To Know About This Toxic Heavy Metal With A Long History

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 12:31 am -0400

**Updated 10/17/18 to include video**

Wendy Spicer, M.S.  |  Scientific Contributor

Where Do I Find Lead?

Lead is a common ingredient in paints, gasoline, ceramic products, caulking, and pipe solder. Most commonly, lead is used in the production of lead-acid batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and x-ray shielding. An estimated 1.52 million metric tons of lead were used for various industrial applications in the United States in 2004. The majority of that tonnage (83%) was used for lead-acid battery production.

While useful, lead is highly toxic. Federal, state, and local governments have worked to reduce the use of lead in many products over the past 40 years. Lead screening programs have helped to both prevent and treat exposed individuals. Despite making great progress to create awareness of the dangers of lead exposure, roughly 25% of households in the United States with children under the age of six contain significant amounts of lead-contaminated paint, dust, or soil.

How Are People Exposed To Lead?

Exposure to lead occurs mainly via inhalation of lead-contaminated dust particles or aerosols and ingestion of lead-contaminated food, water, and paints. Adults absorb 35-50% of lead intake through contamination in drinking water and the absorption rate for children is potentially even greater.

Factors like age and physiological status increase the likelihood of absorption. In the human body, the greatest amount of lead is in our bones. Lead is also absorbed by soft tissue organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, and brain. The nervous system is very susceptible to lead poisoning. Prolonged lead exposure can cause headaches, poor attention span, irritability, memory loss, and apathy. Lead exposure is especially harmful to infants, fetuses, and children due to the developing nature of their brains.

What Are Adverse Health Effects Of Lead Poisoning?

Unfortunately, lead poisoning remains a common pediatric health problem in the United States. Pregnant mothers exposed to lead can transfer this heavy metal to their developing fetus.

The effects of lead exposure in children include, but are not limited to:

  • Lower IQ
  • Delayed or impaired neurological development
  • Decreased hearing, speech and language disabilities
  • Poor attention span, learning disabilities, and anti-social behaviors

Adults exposed to lead may experience gastrointestinal diseases and/or damage to the cardiovascular system, reproductive system, brain, kidneys, and liver.

One of the mechanisms by which lead induces toxicity in the body is that it essentially mimics other metals like calcium, leading to interference with many major biochemical processes. This interference can also inhibit enzyme activity, and cause cellular damage. It can often cause problems with bones, replacing calcium. Studies have shown that lead might also induce renal tumors in rodents, and is likely carcinogenic to humans as well.

How Can I Avoid/Minimize Lead Exposure?

From Lead Paint & Contaminated Soil

  • Keep your home well-maintained. If your home has lead-based paint, check regularly for peeling paint and fix problems promptly. Avoiding sanding lead paint, which makes lead airborne. If in doubt, hire a company with experience removing lead-based paints from homes
  • Wash hands and toys which may have come into contact surfaces or soil containing lead
  • Prevent children from playing on bare soil. Provide them with a sandbox that's covered when not in use. Plant grass or cover bare soil with mulch
  • Remove shoes before entering the house. This will help keep lead-based soil outside

From Contaminated Drinking Water

Hydroviv makes it our business to make your water safe. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters. Reach out about information regarding lead in water or any other topic by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also engage with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Radium In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy @ Friday, January 12, 2018 at 10:13 am -0500
Since The Environmental Working Group recently released a report about the prevalance of radium in US water supplies, our email and support line have been filled with questions about the toxic, radioactive heavy metal. The purpose of this article is to address a lot of these FAQs, and to discuss how to remove radium from drinking water.

How Mining Activities From Long Ago Continue To Pollute Water Today

Analies Dyjak @ Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 11:38 pm -0400

Daphne Abrams M.S.Ed.  |  Scientific Contributor 

I became interested in the impact of mining a few years ago when I started teaching an environmental science class in northwestern Nevada. Nevada has a rich history of pioneers and mining (It is the silver state after all). While mining can be a source of revenue and prosperity for an area, it also has a huge environmental impact that can last many decades after the mining activity ends. This article discusses how this has played out in the Carson River.

Historical Mining Activities And EPA Superfund Sites

EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up highly contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters in order to minimize long-lasting contamination from these events. Even though the government has categorized these sites as highly toxic, they are sorely underfunded when it comes to cleanup and often forgotten about altogether. This is particularly problematic because one in six Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site. The closest two Superfund sites to the school that I teach at are two abandoned mining sites. One is the Carson River Mercury Site, which is the legacy of silver and gold mining in the area, and the other is from the abandoned Rio Tinto Copper Mine. 

Lasting Impacts Of Historical Mining Activity On The Carson River

Between the contamination from these two Superfund sites, roughly eighty miles of the Carson River is paralyzed by heavy metal toxicity. Even though contamination likely occurred in the 1800s, there are still advisories not eat fish caught in that stretch of the Carson River, due to concerns about mercury, which biomagnifies up food the food chain.

What's Being Done About Contamination From Historical Mining Activities?

While it seems hard to debate against cleaning up these types of historical toxic messes, the Senate and House voted to overturn the “Stream Protection Rule” shortly after President Trump took office, as part of the new administration's campaign promise to relax environmental regulations.

Do You Have More Questions About How Does Mining Affect Water Today?

Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters. Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Arsenic In Drinking Water: Exposure, Toxicity, Removal By Water Filters

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 11:10 pm -0400

We do everything from providing in-depth breakdowns of common contaminants to reports on city tap water quality. We’re keeping it going by writing about another common heavy metal that can contaminate drinking water: Arsenic.

How Are We Exposed To Arsenic?

Humans are exposed to inorganic arsenic mainly through contaminated drinking water. Some water sources in the United States have higher naturally occurring levels of inorganic arsenic than other regions. Levels of inorganic arsenic in soil typically range from 1-40mg/kg and the EPA recommended concentration in water supplies is less than 10µg/L. However, higher levels can occur near natural mineral deposits, mining sites, smelting industries, and regions where pesticides have been applied.

In addition, workers who use arsenic compounds for smelting, pesticide manufacturing and application, and wood preservation are at a higher risk for arsenic poisoning.

Below is a map published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) which shows the concentration of arsenic in groundwater in the United States. If you live in one of the areas with high arsenic concentration, and get your drinking water from a private well, we highly recommend getting your water tested by a qualified laboratory.

arsenic in well water

Source: https://www.usgs.gov/mission-areas/water-resources/science/arsenic-and-drinking-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects.

Arsenic Toxicity

Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal several epidemiological studies have reported a strong association between arsenic exposure, cancer, and systemic diseases. In fact, arsenic exposure affects virtually all organ systems including the cardiovascular, dermatologic, nervous, hepatic, renal, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. The severity of the adverse health effects is related to both the chemical form of arsenic and the dosage. Evidence of carcinogenicity due to arsenic exposure is very strong, but the specific mechanism by which it causes cancer is not completely understood.

What Can I Do To Reduce My Exposure To Arsenic?

A growing number of people are realizing that regulatory limits are not always in line with current toxicological studies, and are taking steps to minimize expsoure to heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium 6 from their drinking water, even if their city is "in compliance" with EPA regulations.

Unlike lead, which leaches into water from pipes, arsenic comes from the source water itself, so flushing pipes or replacing plumbing will not reduce arsenic concentrations. Boiling water also does NOT remove arsenic. Arsenic must be removed using a water filter that is specifically designed to do so.

Whole House Filters

Some whole house filters can be configured to remove arsenic to some degree. We do not typically recommend these systems becasue they are very expensive, and there's no need to filter the water that is used for most household applications (e.g. flush toilet). We strongly believe that point of use water filters are the appropriate tool for the job.

Point Of Use Water Filters For Arsenic

The most cost-effective method of arsenic, chromium 6, and contaminants filtration is through a point of use water filter. When shopping for these systems, we encourage you to make sure that the filter actually filters arsenic (most don't). While we believe that our advanced under sink filters have unique benefits and use filtration media that effectively remove both types of inorganic arsenic, some systems that use reverse osmosis can be a good choice for people who are willing to accept the downsides. No matter what... make sure that your filter removes what you think it does!

As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support! While we do make water filters that remove arsenic, our water nerds are happy to answer your questions about the effects of arsenic in water, even if you have no intention of purchasing a Hydroviv Water Filter. Reach out by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through the live chat on our webpage.

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