Nitrate pollution of US tap water attributed as reason for cancer

Nitrate pollution of US tap water attributed as reason for cancer

A latest peer-reviewed study by Environmental Working Group (EWG) has announced that nitrate pollution in U.S. drinking water has attributed 12,594 cases of cancer a year.

Nitrate pollution caused largely due to farm runoff which contained fertilizer and manure has been one of the reasons estimated by scientists of EWG to cause cancer cases in each state in the U.S. “Nitrate contamination of drinking water is a serious problem, and especially severe in the nation’s farm country,” comments Olga Naidenko, Ph.D. and EWG senior science advisor. Naidenko is also one of the lead authors of the study. “Now, for the first time, we can see the staggering consequences of this pollution.” The study has been published on June 11 in the journal Environmental Research.

According to reports, the current federal drinking water standard for nitrate is 10 parts per million or ppm. This record was set in 1962. Epidemiological studies have however regarded quantities of nitrate in drinking water to cause cancer, in addition to reasons for other serious health issues. These issues are at levels less than one-tenth of the legal limit. Reports suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency has suspended plans to reevaluate the outdate nitrate standard.   

Experts from EWG have determined the costs required for treatment of cancer cases to up to $1.5 billion a year. “Millions of Americans are being involuntarily exposed to nitrate, and they are also the ones paying the heavy costs of treating contaminated tap water,” reports Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. Temkin is a toxicologist at EWG and primary author of the study. “But the federal government is not doing enough to protect Americans from tap water contamination,” he adds.

Furthermore, four-fifths of EWG’s examined cases were of colorectal cancer. These were followed by cancer cases of thyroid, kidney, bladder and ovarian cancer, in addition to other serious neonatal health issues.  Nitrate pollution was responsible for around 2,939 cases of low birth weight, along with 1,725 cases of preterm birth and 41 cases of neural tube defects.

The new study also drew attention to the nitrate level that would not cause any adverse effects on the health. Accordingly, the nitrate level in drinking water can be 0.14 milligrams per liter which is equivalent to parts per million. This level is 70 times lower than the EPA’s legal limit, which becomes the main reason to cause one-in-one-million risk of cancer.