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Arsenic and Uranium Levels Reach Well Over EPA’s Contaminated Status in US Water Supply

New study shows that select water supplies in the US are contaminated by various metalloids
(Photo : Wolfram Steinberg/picture alliance via Getty Images)

A new report published in The Lancet Planetary Health via Columbia University researchers points to the potential of dangerous levels of unhealthy metals in water supplies set throughout specific areas in the U.S. The study highlighted maximum contaminant levels that exceed those allotted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of both arsenic, a metalloid formed from both metal and sulfur, and uranium, the radioactive element used in atomic bombs. 

The Columbia University researchers found a selection of harmful metals beyond the two aforementioned minerals in semi-urban Hispanic communities, those being near or outside cities. It’s unclear how much of a negative influence this may have on the populace, but the findings do suspect that already existing conditions of Hispanics, such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and diabetes, all may be connected to these harmful metals. 

In a statement published on Wednesday, April 6, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health’s Anne Nigra, assistant professor in the Environmental Health Sciences section, explains that said varied health problems, such as “hypertension, cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and lung cancer,” have all had prior links to “chronic uranium exposure.” 

“Our objectives were to estimate CWS metal concentrations across the U.S. and identify socio demographic subgroups served by these systems that either reported high metal concentration estimates or were more likely to report averages exceeding the U.S. EPA’s maximum contaminant level,” she details the recently released report. 

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Other metals and chemicals discovered in the U.S. water supply aside from arsenic and uranium include even selenium, barium, and chromium. All said chemicals can lead to incredibly nasty long-term health defects and major concerns, like a disease. The World Health Organization shows that arsenic alone, when consumed, could cause pulmonary and cardiovascular disease and the potential for skin cancer and skin lesions when exposed to a person’s body. 

Uranium, too, is also incredibly dangerous and lethal to humans in cases of long-term ingestion or exposure. Aside from being radioactive, uranium also could leave irreparable damage to a person’s kidneys following long-term subjection to the chemical at ever-increasing levels. Its toxicity factor is ironically far more dangerous than its radioactivity, even though both are still incredibly dangerous aspects in their own right. 

While these metals are natural and can be found in the earth’s core, they still aren’t good for human ingestion. High levels of these minerals can be unintentionally released via industrial processes and contaminated groundwater but also may be caused via infrastructure issues and mishandled public health regulations, which seems to be the case in this situation. Nigra explains:

“Additional regulatory policies, compliance enforcement, and improved infrastructure are therefore necessary to reduce disparities in CWS metal concentrations and protect communities served by public water systems with elevated metal concentrations. Such interventions and policies should specifically protect the most highly exposed communities to advance environmental justice and protect public health.” 

It’s unclear how exactly to skirt around the contaminations, but such filtration systems and in-home water tanks are the best bet to ensure safety in the face of contaminated water supplies. Given that most residents in the U.S. rely on water systems that are largely public, more of an emphasis on controlling these contaminants and finding better ways of reducing them in the future is an absolute must.  

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