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  • Exposure to BPA During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes in Mother and Child

    Studies have shown that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disrupter, during pregnancy and early childhood poses numerous health risk to the unborn child. A recent study showed that exposure to BPA in the perinatal stages of development is likely to increase the chances of a child becoming food intolerant in later life. Now a new study published in Endocrinology, shows that exposure to BPA during pregnancy can result in oxidative damage to the baby's system that may increase the risk of the child developing heart disease or diabetes when he or she gets older.

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    BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is commonly added to epoxy resins and plastics during the manufacture process. These contaminated materials are then used to manufacture a wide range of consumer products that are used in our daily lives such as food cans, plastic bottles (including water bottles and baby bottles) and receipts printed from cash registers. As an endocrine disruptor, BPA has the ability to mimic, block or interfere with hormones produced by our bodies. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that over 96% of the US population have BPA in their bodies.

    The body suffers from oxidative stress when it is exposed to excessive amounts of free radicals -- chemicals that are highly reactive and which could potentially cause cellular damage as oxygen is processed by the body -- if our body is not able to neutralize these chemicals fast enough. Free radicals are typically found in environmental pollutants such as ionizing radiation, tobacco smoke, and some metals; and according to the NIH and the NCI, exposure to these environmental toxins may result in free radicals being absorbed into the body, and may also cause the body to produce more free radicals.

    "This study provides the first evidence that BPA exposure during pregnancy can induce a specific type of oxidative stress known as nitrosative stress in both the mother and offspring," said lead author, Vasantha Padmanabhan, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "Oxidative stress is associated with insulin resistance and inflammation, which are risk factors for diabetes and other metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular disease."

    For the study, the research team examined blood samples of 24 mothers and their infants to assess the effect of BPA exposure during pregnancy. The mothers all had blood samples taken during the first three months of their pregnancy, where BPA levels were measured. The mothers were then split into two groups according to the level of BPA in their bloodstream (high and low). Blood samples were taken from the babies umbilical cords as they were delivered, and the levels of chemical byproducts produced due to oxidative stress were measured.

    Analysis of the blood samples showed that mothers who were exposed to high levels of BPA as well as their babies exhibited symptoms of oxidative damage due to overexposure to free radicals derived from nitric oxide (the most prominent byproduct found in the study samples).
    The researchers also examined the effects that BPA had on pregnancy in non-human subjects -- mice, rats and sheep. After feeding the study animals a diet consisting of either low or high levels of BPA, the scientists took blood samples from both the mothers and their young to assess the levels of oxidative stress. The results supported the findings from the study conducted on human mother-infant pairs.

    "Whether or not BPA is harmful to human health has been vigorously debated," Padmanabhan said. "These findings demonstrate that more studies like this one are needed to determine the disease risk of exposure to BPA. In the interim, these results indicate that pregnant women should minimize their exposure to BPA to safeguard their babies and themselves from oxidant injury."

    Learn more about the health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA by downloading an information guide published by the Endocrine Society. The black berkey filters that come standard with the berkey systems have been tested and shown to remove BPA from the water.

    Journal Reference:

    The study, "Impact of Gestational Bisphenol A on Oxidative Stress and Free Fatty Acids: Human Association and Interspecies Animal Testing Studies," was published online, ahead of print in the Endocrine Society's journal, Endocrinoly. Other authors of the study include: A. Veiga-Lopez, S. Pennathur, D.C. Dolinoy and L. Zeng of the University of Michigan; K. Kannan of the New York State Department of Health in Albany, NY; and H.B. Patisaul of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.

  • Nitrogen-rich Recycled Water Good For Turfgrass

    As the demand for fresh water resources intensifies and the price of fertilizers soar, the horticulture sector is eyeing recycled wastewater as a potentially valuable resource to meet both the water and nutritional demands of urban landscaping. Wastewater is not only a valuable source of recycled water, but it is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, two of the key nutrients found in commercial fertilizers.

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    The state of Florida provides a key example of how recycled water can be put to good use -- more than half of the state's reclaimed wastewater is reused for irrigating recreational facilities such as parks, sports turf, golf courses, and residential landscaping. Recent studies have shown that using recycled water for irrigation is not only an efficient use of our water resources, but offers additional benefits to turfgrass, as it is rich in nutrients that are essential for plant growth and vitality.Nitrogen-rich Recycled Water Good For Turfgrass

    According to a study that was recently published in the journal HortTechnology, wastewater treatment undergoes three stages of treatment: a primary stage; a secondary stage; and an advanced stage of treatment. Reclaimed wastewater that has undergone at least the first two stages of treatment can be defined as reclaimed water. According to the study's authors, the primary difference between reclaimed water that has undergone secondary treatment compared to reclaimed water that has undergone advanced treatment is that the latter further reduces the levels of chemicals and nutrients found in the water.

    "Water receiving advanced treatment typically has 25% of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and less soluble salts than contained in secondary treatments," explained Jinghua Fan and George Hochmuth, co-authors of the study. "Increasingly, the reclaimed water used for irrigation is from advanced wastewater treatment facilities."

    The interest in making use of this valuable resource for residential and urban irrigation is growing as more wastewater is reclaimed and research in this area expands. One of the key benefits of utilizing nitrogen-rich recycled wastewater is that it potentially allows for the reduction in the application of other nitrogen-rich fertilizers. However, we do need to proceed with caution, as nitrogen is a drinking water contaminant that could potentially contaminate groundwater sources.

    "It is important to determine the optimum combinations of water and nutrient applications to support turfgrass production without impairing groundwater through losses of nutrients from the landscape," Fan and Hochmuth explained, noting that little research has been conducted on to what degree urban lawns could utilize the nitrogen available in reclaimed water that has undergone advanced treatment.

    Results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida show that irrigation water containing higher nitrogen concentrations benefited turfgrass growth, but wastewater that has undergone advanced treatment, reducing nitrogen levels significantly, has little benefit to turfgrass growth at concentrations less than 5 mg/L.

    Maximizing the benefits of the nutrients in wastewater for irrigating urban landscapes without polluting underground water sources could therefore be a fine balance.

    Journal Reference
    Jinghua Fan, George Hochmuth, Jason Kruse and Jerry Sartain. Effects of Reclaimed Water Irrigation on Growth and Nitrogen Uptake of Turfgrass. HortTechnology October 2014 24:565-574.

  • Exposure to BPA During Infancy May Increase Likelihood of Food Intolerance in Later Life

    These days more and more people seem to be intolerant of, or allergic to, a variety of food types than ever, and there may just be a good reason why this is so. Results of a new study, which was published in the The FASEB Journal (November 2014), show that exposure to low doses of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the perinatal stages of development is linked with an increased risk of developing food intolerance in adulthood. The study, which was conducted on rats, proposes that exposure to BPA at doses significantly lower than current human safety levels set by the FDA during the months shortly prior to, and after birth can affect the developing immune system, predisposing offspring to food intolerance later in life.

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    "Food contributes over 80 percent of the population's exposure to BPA," said lead author, Sandrine Menard, from the Department of Neuro-Gastroenterology and Nutrition at INRA in Toulouse, France. "On the basis of the susceptibility to food intolerance after perinatal exposure to BPA, these new scientific data may help decisions by public health authorities on the need of a significant reduction in the level of exposure to BPA in pregnant and breastfeeding women, to limit the risk for their children of adverse food reactions later in life."

    For the study, the researchers assessed two groups of pregnant rats. Rats in group one were fed BPA orally daily (at a dosage of 5 µg/kg of body weight/day) from the fifteenth day of gestation until the young rats were weaned twenty-one days after birth. Rats in the control group were fed daily from the BPA administering vehicle, but no BPA was added to their diet. After being weaned, the offspring from both groups were left untouched until they reached adulthood at 45 days old, at which point females offspring from both groups were assessed for food intolerance.

    When the rats were fed a new protein food (ovalbumin), rats that were exposed to BPA during perinatal stages exhibited an exacerbated immune response to ovalbumin, while rats in the control group did not. Furthermore, when rats that were exposed to BPA were fed ovalbumin repeatedly, they suffered inflammation of the colon, a symptom of food intolerance, which was not evident in rats from the control group.

    For Food Intolerance, Prevention is Better than Cure

    This research strongly supports a rationale for managing immune disorders such as food intolerance through prevention rather than therapy. It is hoped that the study may assist public health officials recognize the range of impacts that BPA exposure has on the immune system, including the effect of exposure at low doses, and during critical stages of development, particularly the impact on fetal developmental stages, and on pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding their young.

    "We may look back one day and see BPA exposure as one of the more important public health problems of our time," said Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "We know that too much exposure is bad, but exactly how much exposure is too much is still up for debate."

    BPA can be found in a range of everyday products, notably plastic containers commonly used to package food and drinks (including baby bottles and water bottles), and in epoxy resins used as metal coatings in bottle tops, food cans, and even municipal water pipes that supply our homes with drinking water. BPA has even been found in breast-milk. Consumers can be exposed to BPA when it leaches into the contents of the bottle or can that it is incorporated in, or into the water passing through pipes.

    Forget bottled water, drink healthy water straight from your tap by filtering out any potential BPA and other harmful contaminants with a top of the range home water filter from the Big Berkey line of products.

    Journal Reference

    Sandrine Menard, Laurence Guzylack-Piriou, Mathilde Leveque, Viorica Braniste, Corinne Lencina, Manon Naturel, Lara Moussa, Soraya Sekkal, Cherryl Harkat, Eric Gaultier, Vassilia Theodorou, and Eric Houdeau. Food intolerance at adulthood after perinatal exposure to the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A. FASEB J. November 2014 28:4893-4900; doi:10.1096/fj.14-255380 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/28/11/4893.abstract

  • Road Salt a Major Contributor to Urban Stream Pollution

    Average concentrations of chloride levels measured in many northern American streams are very often much higher than toxic levels, and over the last twenty years these incidents have been occurring twice as frequently, largely as a result of widespread use of road salt to remove ice from urban roads and pavements during winter.

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    According to a study conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) between 1960 - 2011, which was recently published in Science of the Total Environment, chloride levels have dramatically increased in 84% of the urban streams assessed. At sites in the north, including sites near Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and steams near other urban areas, chloride levels rose year-round over time, peaking over winter.

    "Some freshwater organisms are sensitive to chloride, and the high concentrations that we found could negatively affect a significant number of species," said Steve Corsi, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. "If urban development and road salt use continue to increase, chloride concentrations and associated toxicity are also likely to increase."

    For the study, the researchers analyzed water-quality records recorded at thirty water-quality monitoring sites along 19 urban streams situated near metropolitan areas in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

    The study reports a number of key findings, including:

    1. Between 2006 and 2011, levels of chloride at 29% of the sites exceeded water quality safety standards of 230 mg/L set by the EPA by more than 100 days a year (on average), nearly twice the number of days as recorded between 1990 and 1994. This increase was observed at sites along the Kinnickinnic and Menomonee Rivers situated near Milwaukee, and Poplar Creek, situated in close proximity to Chicago.
    2. Chloride levels were lowest in streams whose watersheds were not impacted by urban areas or where nearby cities received very little snowfall during winter (i.e Dallas, Texas).
    3. Winter chloride levels rose over the course of the study period in 16 of the urban streams monitored.
    4. Chloride levels rose over the course of the study period in non-winter months when no de-icing was taking place in 13 of the urban streams monitored, suggesting that chloride permeates through the soil to contaminate groundwater sources during winter, from where it is then fed to surface water systems year round, including during the summer months.
    5. Chloride concentrations in water rose more rapidly than urban development was taking place in cities situated near the monitoring sites.
    6. The rapid rise in chloride concentrations were most likely due to an increase in the rate of salt application, combined with an increase in baseline conditions experienced over the summer months when runoff was low, and higher snowfalls recorded in the Midwest throughout the latter years of the study.

    "De-icing operations help to provide safe winter transportation conditions, which is very important," said Corsi. "Findings from this study emphasize the need to consider de-icer management options that minimize the use of road salt while still maintaining safe conditions."

    The rising chloride levels in urban streams can be attributed to the use of road salt by municipalities, counties and state agencies across the nation to keep roads ice-free and safe to drive on in winter. and also by organizations (public and private) and individuals to remove ice from parking lots, driveways and walkways.

    However, these are not the only sources of chloride; other contributing sources include contaminated water from farming operations, wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems, as well as salt that occurs naturally in rocks. However, according to this study, road salt is the major contributor of chloride to urban streams situated near northern US cities.

    Journal Reference:

    Steven R Corsi, Laura A De Cicco, Michelle A Lutz, Robert M Hirsch. River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons. Science of the Total Environment. (2015) Vol.508, 488-497. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.12.012

  • Can Bottled Water Make Your Blood Boil?

    Consuming food & drinks from BPA-lined containers linked to high blood pressure says study

    Bisphenol A, or BPA as it is more commonly referred to, is a chemical that is widely used to line plastic bottles and cans, including those used as containers for food and beverages consumed by humans. However, studies have revealed that BPA can leach from these containers to contaminate the food and drinks stored within.

    BPA is known to cause a variety of health issues; earlier studies have shown that BPA is linked to infertility and cancer. Now, a study that recently appeared in the journal Hypertension, published by the American Heart Association, has found that consuming food or drinking beverages from plastic bottles or cans lined with BPA can cause high blood pressure, and is thus bad for your heart.

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    For this latest study, scientists conducted a trial on a sample of 60 adult women aged 60 and over who visited a Korean community center. The trial members visited the center three times, where they were randomly given soy milk either in cans or glass bottles. Two hours later, the women had their blood pressure and heart rates monitored, and urine samples were collected, which were then analyzed to assess BPA concentrations. According to the researchers, soy milk was chosen for the test as it contains no other ingredients that could potentially elevate blood pressure.

    BPA concentrations in the urine samples collected rose by as much as 1600% in women who had consumed soy milk in cans compared to consuming soy milk served in glass bottles. Blood pressures also rose after drinking the canned beverages, which according to the authors is concerning, as high blood pressure is associated with heart disease.

    "A 5 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure by drinking two canned beverages may cause clinically significant problems, particularly in patients with heart disease or hypertension," said study author, Yun-Chul Hong, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of the Environmental Health Center at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea. "A 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease."

    "Thanks to the crossover intervention trial design, we could control most of the potential confounders, such as population characteristics or past medical history," said Hong. "Time variables, such as daily temperatures, however, could still affect the results."

    This study highlights the cardiovascular health risks linked to BPA and hopefully will educate decision-makers, health professionals and the general public on the dangers posed by consuming food and beverages from containers lined with BPA.

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    Hong suggests that consumers choose fresh food products where possible, and that they opt for foods and beverages packaged in glass containers rather than cans or plastic bottles -- both of which typically contain BPA linings -- at least until manufacturers start using BPA-free alternative liners in the containers that they use to package their products.

    Water is considered to be a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks, and while this is true, bottled water packaged in plastic bottles may be just as harmful as fizzy drinks in cans. Our solution is simple, choose a good quality water filter to remove any harmful contaminants that may be present in your drinking water (including BPA) and you will have an endless supply of healthy BPA-free water at your disposal. Simply pour and drink, or dispense into a portable BPA-free water bottle to quench your thirst while on the road or out and about. Alternatively, opt for a portable sport bottle filter that will do the job while you are on the go.

    Journal Reference:

    Sanghyuk Bae & Yun-Chul Hong. Exposure to Bisphenol A From Drinking Canned Beverage Increases Blood Pressure: Randomized Crossover Trial. Hypertension. Dec 2014, doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04261

  • Treated Fracking Wastewater Contains Potentially Hazardous Byproducts that can Contaminate Drinking Water

    There is growing concern regarding the threat that fracking fluids pose to drinking water sources, especially groundwater sources in aquifers deep below the surface. A recent study highlights a new threat to our drinking water, that of treated fracking wastewater that still may be contaminated. The study, published in the American Chemistry Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, shows that discharging fracking wastewater into rivers, even after being treated at a wastewater treatment facility, could be contaminating the water, posing a risk to inhabitants of cities further downstream that are dependent on these rivers for their drinking water supply.

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    The researchers note that hydraulic fracturing by its very nature, is a process that utilizes vast quantities of water mixed with a variety of chemicals, which is injected underground under pressure to force out the oil and gas held within. The disposal of millions of gallons of this tainted wastewater presents a major challenge to oil companies that utilize this technique.

    Treatment of Fracking Wastewater

    Fracking wastewater contains high concentrations of heavy metals and halide salts, and it is also highly radioactive. As a result it poses a threat to drinking water supplies unless adequately treated. Consequently, fracking wastewater is often treated in commercial or municipal treatment plants before being released into rivers or surface water systems. However, these treatment facilities do not adequately remove halides (such as bromide, chloride and iodide), raising fears that halide-contaminated water can produce toxic byproducts when it is treated with conventional water treatment methods used to treat drinking water supplies. So the research team set about finding out whether these fears are well founded to ascertain whether or not there is indeed cause for concern.

    Wastewater Treatment Study

    The scientists diluted samples of river water where fracking wastewater is discharged from fracking operations in Arkansas and Pennsylvania, simulating environmental conditions experienced as wastewater enters the environment. Then, in the laboratory, they treated the water samples with conventional water treatment methods used to disinfect drinking water. They discovered that even at extremely low concentrations per volume of fracking wastewater, a number of toxic byproducts were produced.

    Based on these findings, the scientists recommend that either current fracking wastewater treatment methods should be updated to include the removal of halides, or fracking wastewater should not be discharged into rivers and other surface water systems at all.

    Up until now, there has been grave concern regarding contamination of drinking water wells situated near sites where fracking is occurring, but according to this latest study, the implications could be more widespread, affecting the drinking water of those downstream from fracking wastewater discharge sites -- including discharge sites of treated wastewater -- as well.

    Journal Reference:

    Kimberly M. Parker, Teng Zeng, Jennifer Harkness, Avner Vengosh, William A. Mitch. Enhanced Formation of Disinfection Byproducts in Shale Gas Wastewater-Impacted Drinking Water Supplies. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 140924125647003 DOI: 10.1021/es5028184

  • Chloramine: What Contaminants Linger After Water is Disinfected

    Chloramines are newer chemicals that water utility company's are increasingly using instead of chlorine to disinfect drinking water, but is it safer. These chemicals kill pathogens in the water such as bacteria and viruses that could potentially pose a threat to human health. Chloramines typically form when ammonia and chlorine are used in combination during the water treatment process in an effort to ensure long-lasting disinfection of water as it is pumped through the water network to our homes.

    Monochloramine is typically used during drinking water disinfection; while other forms, including dichloramine and organic chloramines -- and in rare circumstances trichloramine -- are formed during the treatment process, their levels are much lower than that of monochloramine.

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    Because chlorine is quick acting, but not long-lasting it is usually used as the primary method of disinfection. Chlorine is often added at several stages of the treatment process (i.e. it is also used as a secondary disinfectant) as the initial treatment becomes less effective over time. Because chlorine is prone to reacting with naturally occurring organic matter that may be present in the water, to form disinfection byproducts that could potentially pose a risk to human health, some water utilities that were previously using chlorine as their secondary method of disinfection have switched to chloramines, a longer-lasting alternative, as a secondary disinfectant in order to comply with regulations regarding disinfection byproducts.

    However, while monochloramine is more stable and consequently more long-lasting compared to chlorine, it can also react with naturally occurring organic matter that may be present in drinking water to form byproducts that could potentially harm humans, although the number of potentially harmful regulated disinfection products that it produces is less than that produced by chlorine.

    Chloramine treatment of drinking water is widespread; more than 20% of Americans drink water that has been disinfected with chloramines. However, the use of chloramines in water treatment is tightly regulated in order to meet the safety standard of 4 parts per million (ppm) for drinking water as set by the EPA.

    What are the Health Risks Associated with Disinfection Byproducts?

    Research has indicated that some water disinfection byproducts are potentially harmful to human health. Studies have shown that certain byproducts formed during water disinfection are associated with increased incidence of cancer -- notably bladder cancer. Studies have also shown a link between water disinfection byproducts and anemia, as well as a host of other health issues, including problems of the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and reproductive system.

    According to the EPA, compared to drinking water treated with chlorine, drinking water that has been treated with monochloramine usually has lower concentrations of regulated disinfection byproducts, including regulated disinfection byproducts associated with bladder cancer. However, they also point out that drinking water that has been treated with monochloramine may contain higher concentrations of unregulated disinfection byproducts than water treated with chlorine.

    Regardless of which disinfectant is used to treat drinking water, disinfection byproducts will occur as a result of the treatment process; however the types and concentrations will vary between utilities, and may also fluctuate on a daily basis for each utility.

    Monochloramine also has the ability to change the chemistry of water, which may in turn lead to an increase in other harmful contaminants such as lead, and may affect biofilm activity and the levels of nitrites and nitrates.

    It is possible to remove these potentially harmful contaminants from your drinking water. Berkey water filters have been shown to remove chloramines to greater than 99.9%, assuring you of a safe healthy supply of drinking water that is free of these and other contaminants.

  • Groundwater Warming in Sync with Atmosphere

    Using a long-term data set of groundwater temperature measurements recorded around the European cities of Karlsruhe and Cologne, hydro-geologists have shown that groundwater is getting warmer, mirroring that of atmospheric warming. Their findings were recently published in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

    "Global warming is reflected directly in the groundwater, albeit damped and with a certain time lag," says Peter Bayer, a co-author of the paper.

    The records also show that groundwater found closer to the surface, i.e. from a depth of about 60 meters upwards, has warmed significantly over the past 40 years in line with global warming. The pattern of groundwater warming follows a similar pattern to local and regional climate, which also mirrors temperature increases associated with global warming.

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    The groundwater reflects the sporadic leaps or "regime shifts" in atmospheric temperature recorded over the last few decades. The authors were surprised at how quickly the groundwater responded to climate change.

    Atmospheric temperatures have risen by 0.13°C (32.23°F) per decade over the last 50 years, but these temperature increases don't stop just below the Earth's surface. Soil samples examined in other studies conducted over the past twenty years have echoed this, however, these studies did not assess soils that contained groundwater, which makes this study unique. This study is the first to examine groundwater that has not been influenced to any extent by humans.

    The fact that groundwater is warming in line with climate change is quite plausible, says Bayer.

    "The difference in temperature between the atmosphere and the subsoil balances out naturally", he says. "The energy transfer takes place via thermal conduction and the groundwater flow, much like a heat exchanger, which enables the heat transported to spread in the subsoil and level out."

    At this stage it may still be a bit early to gauge what the consequences of groundwater warming will be. Warmer groundwater temperatures may affect subterranean ecosystems or biospheres that are dependent on groundwater, such as cold areas in river systems where the groundwater bubbles up. Groundwater heating could have a negative impact on certain aquatic organisms, including some species of fish, that thrive in low temperatures, which could threaten their survival.

    Warmer temperatures will also affect the chemical composition of the water, particularly the concentrations of carbonate and nitrate, as chemical reactions occur more readily when temperatures are warmer. Warmer water may also increase bacterial activity; the more favorable conditions may allow disease causing pathogens to multiply rapidly, increasing the risk on public health.

    However, the researchers acknowledge that there may also be some positive outcomes. For example, the excess heat could be used for geothermal heating, says lead author, Kathrin Menberg.

    Journal Reference:

    K. Menberg, P. Blum, B. L. Kurylyk, P. Bayer. Observed groundwater temperature response to recent climate change. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2014; 18 (11): 4453 DOI: 10.5194/hess-18-4453-2014

  • Atrazine Fingered as Number One Drinking Water Contaminant in the US

    According to a video report by Global News, farmers across the US have been using atrazine, a toxic herbicide, extensively to control weeds in corn fields and other agricultural row crops for over 50 years now. This widespread use has allowed atrazine to leach through soils to contaminate groundwater systems or enter surface water systems through runoff, ultimately winding up in drinking water, where it is now a common drinking water contaminant.

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    According to Tyrone Hayes, a University of California Berkeley scientist: “Atrazine is the number one contaminant found in drinking water in the U.S. and probably globally.”

    Due to its known health effects, which after long term exposure include cardiovascular and reproductive problems, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the drinking water standard for atrazine to 0.003 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or three parts per billion (ppb).

    The levels of atrazine in drinking water differ depending on where you are in the country and also according to seasonal fluctuations. In regions where corn is extensively grown, the use of atrazine tends to be more widespread, and thus there is potentially higher concentrations of the toxin present in runoff.

    Atrazine was removed from the European market in 2004 due to health concerns, yet in the US and Canada it is still one of the most common pesticides found in underground and surface water systems. In 2012, Syngenta, the company that manufactures atrazine, paid a $105 million court settlement to over 1000 US municipal water treatment facilities to help foot the bill for removing atrazine from municipal drinking water supplies.

    Health Effects of Atrazine

    According to Jason Rohr, a professor at the University of South Florida: “Atrazine is probably the most well studied pesticide on the planet, perhaps only rivaled by DDT.”

    Yet, while there have been extensive studies conducted on the effect of atrazine on amphibians and other wildlife, very little information in available on the effects of atrazine to human health. However, studies have shown a possible link between atrazine exposure and breast, ovarian and prostrate cancers; as well as low fertility and birth defects.

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    Removing Atrazine from Drinking Water

    If you are concerned that your water is contaminated with atrazine, you can check with your water utility to ascertain whether they monitor for atrazine, and how regularly do they test the water supply. To make certain that you and your family are not exposed to atrazine and other common drinking water contaminants, you can purchase a good quality home water filter like the berkeys equipped with the black berkey filters.  The black berkeys are capable of removing atrazine and other commonly used pesticides from the water to below detectable limits.

    Watch the video 'Pesticide Peril?' to learn more about the serious perils of pesticides on our health.

  • Coastal Mussels Contaminated with Pathogens Originating from Land-based Sources

    Mussels along the shore of California are found to be contaminated with Giardia duodenalis, a pathogen that originates from land-based freshwater sources as well as coastal beaches frequented by California Sea Lions.  This is according to a new study conducted by scientists from the University of California, Davis, which was recently published online in the scientific journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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    At least one of the Giardia strains found poses a health risk to humans, with two other strains present posing a risk to dogs who come into contact with it. The presence of these pathogens thus poses a health risk to people and their canine pets should they ingest contaminated water or consume uncooked shellfish, said Woutrina Smith, a co-author of the paper.

    According to lead author, Aiko Adell, the researchers hypothesized that if pathogens were entering the sea from land, then the genetic structure of Giardia and Cryptosporidium parasites found in the mussels would be the same as the genetic structure of these parasites found in animals living on land.

    For their analysis, the researchers collected marine mussels from coastal mussel beds surrounding river mouths and from haul-out sites frequented by sea lions along the central Californian coastline, together with samples of sea lion feces. Using genetic PCR techniques -- where DNA is amplified by making multiple copies of the DNA structure -- and DNA sequencing, they examined the samples collected for the presence of Giardia pathogens.

    The researchers sampled mussels, not just to determine if they were contaminated by Giardia pathogens, but because they are filter-feeders they process large volumes of water, and thus pathogens tend to become concentrated within their tissue.

    "Testing the mussels enabled us to more quickly find the pathogens, rather like using a magnet to find needles in a haystack, instead of sifting through all that straw," says coauthor Patricia Conrad.

    Fluorescent microscopy revealed oocysts and cysts in the sea lion fecal samples that resembled that of both Cryptosporidia and Giardia, however the researchers were not able detect DNA for these pathogens after running PCR, which according to Smith, is likely due to low levels of parasites present in the fecal samples.
    For the mussels, however, the picture was somewhat different. While no oocytes or cysts were visible, the research team were able to detect Giardia DNA in some of the mussel tissue samples.

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    This research illustrates how useful filter-feeding organisms that accumulate parasites and pathogens can be for testing for the presence of pathogens in both freshwater and marine aquatic environments. If water samples were tested, the pathogens would be diluted and thus would not likely be visible in water samples collected. Similarly, testing fecal samples has limitations, because oocysts and cysts are typically only shed once infection is acute. The findings also enable us to better understand the fate of land-based fecal-transmitted waterborne pathogens once they enter the ocean.

    According to Smith, the public health risk to beach-goers and surfers is higher during seasons with high rainfall, when river outflow is higher. The increase in freshwater runoff during the rainy season can wash fecal material from land-based surfaces into freshwater systems, which then flow to the sea. Smith also points out that the Giardia strains that typically infect canines have also been known to infect humans on rare occasions.

    If these contaminants are flowing into the sea from land-based freshwater sources, it stands to reason that these freshwater sources are also contaminated, and thus pose a threat to people who swim in them or rely on them for their drinking water.

    Journal Reference:

    A. D. Adell, W. A. Smith, K. Shapiro, A. Melli, P. A. Conrad. Molecular epidemiology of Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. in mussels (Mytilus californianus) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) from central California. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2014; DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02922-14

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