A recently released report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) documenting the occurrence of contaminated water in storage tanks at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina over a thirty year period between 1957 and 1987 revealed that the drinking water at this base was contaminated with various industrial pollutants that put the health of servicemen and their families living on the base at risk.
More than 70 pollutants were identified, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as perchloroethylene (PCE), a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning; trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent; as well as benzene and other fuel additives, which most likely leaked into water sources from nearby fuel storage tanks.
The maximum contaminant level (MCL) as set out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for benzene in drinking water is 0.005 mg/L, however according to the report, water samples taken from wells at Camp Lejeune had benzene concentrations as high as 46 mg/L in some wells. Petrochemicals and VOCs are known carcinogens that can affect human health at low levels of exposure.
It is believed that long-term exposure to the contaminants has severely compromised the health of people living and working at the base during these years. Families exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune have suffered various health effects, including infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, stunted growth, neurological effects, Hodgkins Disease, and various forms of cancer, including leukemia.
Testing For Industrial Pollutants In Water
When toxicity tests of various water contaminants are conducted, they typically test the effect of a single contaminant on a range of aquatic organisms, and rarely consider the possible chemical interactions that may occur when a water source is contaminated by multiple toxic chemical compounds. One study that examined the effects of multiple chemical contaminants originating from various industry sectors on aquatic wildlife, revealed that toxicity is far greater when aquatic organisms are exposed to multiple toxins than when they are only exposed to one type of contaminant. This study illustrates how water that contains multiple contaminants can pose a more severe health risk to living organisms – including humans.
The Camp Lejuene case illustrates this point. As most industrial pollutants that enter a water source originate from various sources, the cumulative effect of these pollutants – even if they are present at acceptable levels – have the potential to interact with one another to form an even more hazardous cocktail that may have little known long-term implications for our health. One of the major environmental and health concerns surrounding fracking is the practice of pumping a cocktail of multiple industrial chemicals into fissures in underground shale beds to force the gas contained within to the surface. The potential of fracking to contaminate underground water sources, including private wells will chemicals such as benzine and other VOCs has caused much controversy and debate.
Filtering Industrial Pollutants With A Water Filter
One way to ensure that the water you drink is free from industrial contaminants is to use a good quality home water filter that is capable of removing toxic industrial chemicals that may be present in your water source. The Berkey range of drinking water filters, fitted with reusable Black Berkey filter cartridges, are capable of removing industrial contaminants, including VOCs and organic solvents to below detectable levels. By investing in a high quality home water filter you can ensure that the water that you drink is free from contaminants and safe for your family to drink.