Monday, February 1st, 2010
A University of Washington research team recently released the results of a study it conducted on contaminant residue in the waters of Puget Sound in Washington State. Various spices, flavorings and other substances are being identified as making their way out of water treatment plants and back into the world’s water supply.
Winter holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas bring extra amounts of cinnamon while chocolate and vanilla are especially popular on the weekends. Likewise, caramel corn residue and waffle-cone pieces are particularly excessive around the Independence Day. The most popular contaminant found in the sound is artificial vanilla flavor which is found at an average of 14 milligrams per liter of water.
Around the world, scientists are finding all sorts of things from pharmaceutical drugs to illegal drugs in water supplies despite rigorous efforts to remove them at water treatment facilities. Piggy-backing a report from last year that found trace levels of pharmaceutical drugs in most U.S. water supplies, this report highlights even further how easily water is being contaminated by various human elements.
While spices and flavorings may not inflict any noticeable harm, the concept that traces of everything flushed end up in the water is what researchers wish to convey. Contaminant byproducts, also known as metabolites, regularly make their way out of water treatment plants back into natural waters. Experts hope that awareness of this will encourage people to be cautious about what they flush and engaged in working toward a solution.
Illegal drugs have become a problem in many water supplies where the residue is toxic to both animals and other humans. A 2008 study found that 92 percent of water samples at a Spanish treatment plant contained trace elements of cocaine. Italy’s longest river, the Po River, is also said to carry daily noticeable levels of the narcotic through its waterways as well as 44 pounds of daily pharmaceutical drugs which are also highly problematic.
Of notable concern is water contaminated by perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel and fireworks that inhibits the uptake of iodine. Iodine is vital for proper thyroid gland function, and without it serious diseases like hypothroidism run rampant. Perchlorate is currently unregulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Current EPA guidelines require that more than 90 known contaminants be removed from water supplies, but the introduction of new chemicals as well as the use of ones that are not completely filtered out are becoming troublesome. Awareness of the issue will hopefully drive the effort to remedy the problem.
Sources for this story include: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/…