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  • Pollutants in Urban Rivers Suppress Chick Development

    A new study has revealed that hormone disrupting contaminants found in urban waterways are stunting the development of wild bird chicks and having a negative impact on the health of wild bird populations nesting on urban river banks in South Wales.

    The results of the study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, shows that urban Eurasian Dipper chicks -- a bird that dwells near rivers and depends entirely on insects, invertebrates and fish from upland streams for its survival -- weigh much less compared to chicks of the same species sampled at rural nests.

    800px-Cinclus_cinclus_-Kirkcudbright,_Scotland-8

    Birds nesting along urban rivers also have disrupted hormones, and fewer females are being produced in urban populations compared to their rural counterparts. Biologists are concerned that this could ultimately negatively impact future breeding and survival of the affected urban populations.

    Mad-Made Pollutants Hurting The Wildlife

    After analyzing the available data, the research team consisting of biologists from the Universities of Saskatchewan, Cardiff and Exeter, and the Natural Environment Research Council, concluded that urban pollutants such as PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) chemicals used in flame-retardants and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that the birds ingest with the food they eat are the culprits. The results of the study showed that PBDE and PCB contamination was strongly correlated to a reduction in thyroid hormone levels in urban chicks -- with one particular thyroid hormone level being as much as 43% lower than chicks assessed along rural rivers.

    "Our findings are important in showing that pollutants are still a source of concern for the wildlife along Britain's urban rivers despite very major recovery from the gross pollution problems of the past", said Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University School of Biosciences, a co-author of the paper, who has been researching river systems for 35 years. "Wild birds, such as dippers, are very important indicators of environmental well-being and food-web contamination, and we need to know if populations, other species – or even people - are also at risk."

    While this study is UK based, these are common urban pollutants and the implications to wildlife and possibly human health is universal.

    "We've known for some time that endocrine disrupting substances – the so-called 'gender-bending' chemicals from sewage and other waste water – can affect normal sex development in fish," said lead author Dr Christy Morrissey from the University of Saskatchewan's School of Environment and Sustainability. "These are some of the first data to show that PCBs and PBDEs might be causing thyroid disruption in wild birds and interfering with normal animal development."

    Previous studies conducted by the researchers have shown that Dippers residing along once heavily polluted urban rivers are exposed to a concoction of chemical pollutants, dominated primarily by PCBs and PBDEs -- both known endocrine disruptors. Scientists have recognized that changes in thyroid hormone levels can be used to predict developmental effects in wildlife resulting from exposure to these contaminants.
    Exposure to thyroid hormone disrupters can affect birds in various ways, including: stunted growth; impaired immune system; impaired cognitive ability; abnormal behavior and motor activity that can continue through to the adult life-stage.

    Dipper Birds Are An Indicator Species

    Dippers are apex predators, and are therefore a valuable indicator species that can be used to monitor river health and to assess whether urban pollutants are having an impact on wildlife reproduction and the development of young. The biologists plan to continue this research, with the next phase examining whether the changes in thyroid hormone levels and sex ratios will impact the fitness and survival of individual birds, and whether this could impact the dynamics of the broader population. Another key focus is to pin-point the exact source/s of the contamination.

    John Clark, a Futurescape Officer at the Royal Society for the Protections of Birds (RSPBs), sums up the findings: "The return of Dippers to urban rivers is a fantastic outcome of pollution reduction in the UK. However, this study highlights the importance of birds as an indicator that some pollutants still persist in our rivers at harmful levels. We need to work in partnership with water companies, regulators, statutory agencies and communities at a catchment scale to address those practices that continue to introduce damaging chemicals to our rivers."

    Journal Reference:
    Christy A. Morrissey, David W.G. Stanton, Charles R. Tyler, M. Glória Pereira, Jason Newton, Isabelle Durance, Steve J. Ormerod. Developmental impairment in eurasian dipper nestlings exposed to urban stream pollutants. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/etc.2555

  • The Relationship Between Snow and Streamflow

    A new study has revealed that water levels of rivers in watersheds fed by snowmelt are significantly dependent on what percentage of the precipitation consists of snowfall. What this in effect means, is that with climate change induced localized warming, if there is less snow falling – even if this is replaced by rainfall – less water will flow through the rivers than is currently the case.

    The research study, which was conducted by Wouter Berghuijs, who is completing his PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol, together with two research associates, was published online in the scientific journal, Nature Climate Change.

    Rapid_snow_melt

    What Affect Does Snow Have on Water Levels in Rivers?

    Currently relatively little is known about river flow mechanisms of rivers sited in snowy areas. Past studies have focused largely on the role that snowfall plays in determining seasonal streamflow rates during a specific period or time of the year, assuming that snowfall did not affect the average streamflow rates. This is the first study to look at the role that snow plays in determining the average flow rates of rivers in catchments fed by snow.

    Analyzing historical records from hundreds of catchment areas spread across the US, the research team assessed the effect of snowmelt in relation to the volume of water discharged by rivers. Their results have revealed that snowfall plays an important role in the average rate of water discharged by rivers.

    We are very likely to see a significant reduction in snowfall due to climate warming in future – even with a temperature increase of just 2°C – which could in turn have a significant impact on catchments that rely on snowmelt. The study suggests that there will be a reduction in water levels and flow rates of affected rivers due to a temperature induced decrease in the amount of snow feeding these river systems.

    According to the authors: “With more than one-sixth of the Earth's population depending on meltwater for their water supply, and ecosystems that can be sensitive to streamflow alterations, the socio-economic consequences of a reduction in streamflow can be substantial.”

    This can have a serious impact on the availability of drinking water as well as other sectors that depend on this water supply.

    “Our finding is particularly relevant to regions where societal important functions, such ecosystem stability, hydropower, irrigation, and industrial or domestic water supply are derived from snowmelt,” said the authors.

    Considering the importance of streamflow rates and the potential impact on society should there be drastic changes in streamflow, the research team have proposed that further investigation is necessary to enable us to respond to a temperature induced shift in precipitation from snowfall to rainfall so that we can cope with the consequences in the event of such as shift.

    Journal Reference: A precipitation shift from snow towards rain leads to a decrease in streamflow, W. R. Berghuijs, R. A.Woods and M. Hrachowitz, Nature Climate Change, Vol 4, June 2014.

  • New Berkey Filter Calculator App Launched

    We are excited to announce the release of our Berkey Calculator Phone/Tablet app for both Apple and Android devices. This calculator provides a quick calculation based upon your daily usage and how many filters you have installed. It answers the age old Berkey question "When should I replace my berkey filters?" and will let you know whether your filters need replacing or tell you approximately how many months you have left.

    This Berkey Filter Calculator app covers the popular black berkey and PF-2 fluoride filters, in addition to the older generation 7" and 9" white ceramic filters.  Also, don't forget you can also always verify black berkey filter performance by performing a red food coloring test on them.  Below are some screenshots of the app.

    Iphone appiphone app 2unnamed

     

    For Apple users, the app can be found here.  For Android users, the app can be found here.

  • E. coli Bacterial Contamination: What are the Health Risks?

    There have been a series of health scares related to E. coli bacterial contamination across the country in the past few weeks including recalls of ground beef, hamburgers, sprouts and hummus products. In the latest incident, the Portland Water Bureau issued a Boil Water notice, urging the approximately 670,000 people affected to boil water used for drinking, brushing teeth, food preparation or making ice, after three water samples tested positive for traces of E. coli bacteria.

    e_Coli

    The timing of the Portland Water scare coincided with the Rose Festival City Fair along the Portland waterfront, and thus also negatively affected vendors, who were instructed to dispose of any food and/or drink products that contained tap water due to concerns that the water may be contaminated. According to a CNN report, municipal reservoirs have since been cleaned and disinfected, however, the source of the contamination is still unknown.

    According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are several strains of E. coli bacteria, and while most are harmless, some strains produce Shiga toxin – referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) – which causes disease in humans. In the US there are around 265,000 STEC bacterial infections every year, with E. coli O157:H7 being the most prolific strain, causing more than 36% of all bacterial infections.

    People of any age can become infected, but children under 5 years, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to developing severe symptoms upon contracting the disease. Symptoms of a bacterial STEC infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting, and vary in severity with some being mild while other infections may be life-threatening. Between 5-10% of people who contract a STEC infection develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication that requires immediate medical attention, as it can result in permanent kidney damage, or worse still, kidney failure and death.

    How is E. coli Transmitted

    Disease causing E. coli bacteria can be transmitted via ingesting contaminated food or water, through contact with human or animal feces, or direct contact with people or animals that are infected with the bacteria. Drinking water may become contaminated if human or animal feces gets into the water supply. E. coli bacteria is also used as a marker to indicate water contamination in municipal drinking water systems, as even if the strain of E. coli itself is not harmful to humans, their presence is an indication that the water has not been adequately sanitized and could pose a health risk.

    Preventative Measures

    The CDC recommends taking the following precautions to prevent E. coli infection:

    1. Practice Good Hygiene – Always wash your hands after changing your baby's diaper or using the bathroom, as well as after touching animals, cleaning animal pens/cages, or coming in contact with an area where animals are housed, such as petting zoos, farms, fair grounds, or even your own pet's living quarters.
    2. Keep food preparation areas clean by washing hands, counter-tops, cutting boards and knives or other utensils used when handling, preparing or cutting raw meat.
    3. Avoid eating raw meat – Ensure that meat, particular ground beef, is well-cooked.
    4. Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk, dairy products and fruit juices such as apple cider.
    5. Try not to swallow water when playing or swimming in lakes, streams, ponds, or man-made swimming pools.

    If drinking water is contaminated, boil the water to a rolling boil to kill off any bacteria that may be present, or filter the water using a good quality filter that is capable of removing bacteria.

  • Fluoride in Drinking Water Linked to Urinary Stone Disease

    Fluoride is routinely added to our drinking water as it is believed to provide certain health benefits. But is this really the case? A study conducted by a team of Russian and Australian scientists, which was recently published in the Journal of Analytical Chemistry, reveals that fluoride added to toothpaste and drinking water may in fact increase the likelihood of Urinary Stone Disease – an excruciatingly painful disease of the urinary tract.

    fluoride2

    Urinary stones can form in the kidneys (kidney stones) or bladder (bladder stones) as a result of dehydration, which causes minerals that are present in the food we eat to form concentrated crystals rather than be flushed from the urinary system. Urinary stones typically consist of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and fluoride ions, as well as cystine and uric acid.

    Study Details

    To gain a better understanding of which minerals are responsible for the formation of urinary stones to enable us to take preventative measures, the research team analyzed a sample of 20 urinary stones from Russian patients using ion chromatography technology. Their analysis revealed that 80% of the urinary stones contained fluoride ions, mostly at low concentrations; but two stones consisted of high concentrations (> 0.5 mg) of fluoride. They attributed this to high concentrations of fluoride present in the patient's urine, which could stem from fluoridated drinking water or from ingesting toothpaste with fluoride added.

    According to the researchers, fluoride ions are known to possess an exceptional affinity to calcium ions, which leads them to believe that hyperfluorosis – chronic disease developing due to excessive amounts of fluorine and its compounds being absorbed into the body over a long period – to be a possible cause of Urinary Stone Disease.
    Fluoride is added to municipal drinking water in the belief that it helps combat tooth decay. However, according to the Fluoride Action Network, drinking water fluoridation actually involves adding a concoction of chemicals – sodium fluoride, sodium fluorosilicate, and hydrofluorosilicic acid – that are in fact unpurified waste products from industry and mining, which in some cases are contaminated with other toxic pollutants, such as arsenic. Hydrofluorosilicic acid is highly corrosive and is also associated with leaching lead from lead pipes, resulting in higher exposure to lead – another toxic drinking water contaminant.

    Fluoride Controversy

    Fluoridation of municipal drinking water is a controversial issue, with some believing that it promotes tooth health, while others hold a completely different view. Drinking water fluorination is known to cause dental fluorosis – discoloration of the teeth – in children exposed to high levels of fluoride, and has also been associated with other health issues, including bone cancer. A study conducted by the World Health Organization showed that European countries who do not fluoridate their drinking water do not have elevated levels of tooth decay, and in some cases fare better than countries that do.

    Some people consider fluoridation of drinking water to be a form of forced mass medication. If you would prefer to not have these chemicals forced upon you, you can take steps to remove them from your drinking water by filtering your water with a good quality water filter. The Berkey range of filter systems will remove lead and other contaminants, and can be fitted with additional fluoride and arsenic filters in the lower chamber to remove these contaminants from your drinking water.

  • You Can Provide Kids with Water but You Can't Make 'em Drink

    The USDA mandate requiring all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program to make free drinking water accessible to all students is now in effect. A research team hailing from the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently conducted a follow up study assessing compliance with this newly implemented requirement together with general perceptions regarding water quality and drinking fountain hygiene. They found that while most schools provided access to drinking water to meet the new USDA requirement, there is room for improvement both in terms of providing better access to drinking water, and promoting water consumption amongst students.

    water fountain

    Water consumption improves general health and well being. Yet, less than 33% of children and teenagers drink the recommended daily water quota for their age category, and 25% of adolescents consuming less than one glass of water per day. Many children quench their thirst with sugary beverages rather than water, which can lead to dental problems and obesity.

    The study, which was recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that most schools provided access to drinking water via drinking fountains placed in school cafeterias, and in some cases, cups for easily accessing water from drinking fountains; by providing students with free bottled water; or by placing water pitchers on dining tables. While compliance was good overall, the researchers found that schools in Southern states were most likely to meet the new requirements compared to other states in the US.

    According to Dr Lindsey Turner, a Research Scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and co-author of the paper: “This is consistent with other nationally-representative research showing that school districts in the South have made faster progress in developing nutrition-related school wellness policies, and that they have stronger policies than do districts in other regions of the US.”

    The researchers also examined potential hurdles that may reduce the likelihood of students taking advantage of the free drinking water on offer. They found that while most students surveyed indicated that their school's drinking fountains were 'clean' or 'very clean', there was still concern in terms of drinking fountain hygiene and/or water quality – roughly 25% of students attending middle- and high schools were concerned about drinking water quality.

    In some cases, while free drinking water may be provided, it may not be easily accessible to all students, which could be another hurdle that may prevent students from consuming the free drinking water on offer.

    “Although many schools rely on water fountains,” explains Dr. Turner, “fountains may not be very effective at encouraging water consumption. The elementary students may need permission to get up, and if water is not available on the table with the meal, students must make a special trip and may have to wait in line to get water. So in terms of practicality, drinking fountains may not meet the need for access to water during meals.”

    If your child does not have access to free drinking water at school, or if you are concerned about drinking water quality or the cleanliness of drinking fountains, you could opt for a portable filter water bottle, which can be filled at home and topped up at school. The sport berkey has a filter element that will remove any contaminants from the water, ensuring that it is safe and healthy for your child to drink.

    Journal Reference:

    Nancy Hood, Lindsey Turner, Natalie Colabianchi, Frank Chaloupka, & Lloyd Johnston. Availability of Drinking Water in US Public School Cafeterias. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, April 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.02.001

  • This Spice May Protect Your Brain From Fluoride Damage

    A new study that was recently published online in Pharmacognosy Magazine highlights the brain-damaging capabilities of fluoride, and reveals that the curcumin found in Turmeric may combat the harmful effects that fluoride has on the brain.

    The authors concluded;

    “Our study thus demonstrate that daily single dose of 120 ppm F (Fluoride) result in highly significant increases in the LPO [lipid peroxidation, i.e. brain rancidity] as well as neurodegenerative changes in neuron cell bodies of selected hippocampal regions. Supplementation with curcumin significantly reduce the toxic effect of F to near normal level by augmenting the antioxidant defense through its scavenging property and provide an evidence of having therapeutic role against oxidative stress mediated neurodegeneration.”

    Turmeric

    Fluoride is added to many common products that we consume every day, including toothpaste and drinking water and is virtually impossible to avoid being exposed to. There is an ongoing controversy surrounding Fluoride and it stems from the harmful effects that overexposure to fluoride can cause, which include fluorosis, neurotoxicity and even cancer. The fact that it is routinely added to drinking water, which some believe amounts to being force-medicated without consent, is currently one of the the most hotly debated topics.

    According to the authors, who have been studying the neurodegenerative effects that fluoride has on the mammalian brain for many years:

    “Fluoride (F) is probably the first inorganic ion which drew attention of the scientific world for its toxic effects and now the F toxicity through drinking water is well-recognized as a global problem. Health effect reports on F exposure also include various cancers, adverse reproductive activities, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases.”

    This particular study, which examined fluoride induced neurotoxicity, identified oxidative stress and over-stimulation of the neuron (referred to as excitoxicity) as two of the main causes of neurodegeneration in the brain. Previous observations of people suffering from fluorosis – a condition where the tooth enamel becomes discolored or mottled due to over-exposure to fluoride during the early developmental stages – also exhibit neurodegenerative changes that are associated with oxidative stress in the brain.

    Previous studies conducted on the health benefits of curcumin have shown that it is a powerful antioxidant, that is able to protect the body against damage from singlet oxygen, hydroxyl radicals and superoxide radicals, and also boosts antioxidant defense mechanisms within the brain. The research team tested the neuro-protective properties of curcumin – a polyphenol agent present in turmeric – on mice, to see if it could potentially combat neurodegeneration and neurotoxicity associated with fluoride exposure.

    The research team used a group of mice to both assess the neurotoxicity of fluoride and the protective benefits of curcumin in reducing these neurotoxicity effects. They divided the mice into four groups, which were kept separate for thirty days, as follows:

    Group 1: no exposure to fluoride (control group).

    Group 2: exposed to 120ppm fluoride in distilled drinking water that was freely available.

    Group 3: exposed to 120ppm fluoride per 30mg/kg body weight in drinking water together with curcumin mixed with olive oil – dosage was administered orally.

    Group 4: dosed with curcumin 30mg/kg body weight

    After thirty days, the researchers measured oxidative stress levels in the brains of the mice. They found that mice in Group 2 that were exposed to fluoride only exhibited significantly higher levels of oxidative stress compared to mice in the Group 1 (control) who were not exposed to fluoride. The mice in Group 3 that were exposed to fluoride and curcumin exhibited lower levels of oxidative stress compared to the mice in Group two (fluoride only), which demonstrated the neuroprotective properties of curcumin against neurotoxity associated with fluoride exposure.

    This is not the first study to highlight the health benefits of turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian dishes. The paper cites over two hundred references to published scientific studies on the neuro-protective benefits of curcumin – an ingredient in turmeric – and there are thousands of articles on the GreenMedInfo database related to around 600 health benefits of curcumin and turmeric. Perhaps it's time to spice up your life.

    Journal Reference:

    Chhavi Sharma, Pooja Suhalka, Piyu Sukhwal, Neha Jaiswal and Maheep Bhatnagar. Curcumin attenuates neurotoxicity induced by fluoride: An in vivo evidence. Pharmacogn Mag. 2014 Jan-Mar; 10(37): 61–65. doi:  10.4103/0973-1296.126663

  • Water Testing Made Simple Using Pills

    A research team from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, has come up with an ingenious solution that allows water to be tested on-site rather than having samples collected and sent to a lab for analysis, which is not only a painfully slow process but also laborious and expensive. So instead of collecting and sending water samples to a lab, the lab can in effect be taken to the water source, empowering people from all walks of life to literally test the waters before they drink, which could potentially save lives.

    water testing

    By adapting the technology used in dissolving breath strips, the researchers have condensed the complex chemistry that is required to test water quality into a pill form. Now, if you need to know whether the water in your well is safe to drink, simply pop a pill into a vial filled with water from your well, give it a good shake; if the water changes color you have your answer – instantly, on the spot.

    This development could potentially provide access to a quick, simple and cost affective method of testing water quality to people all over the world. The technology could have significant public health benefits by offering a simple solution for testing drinking water in remote areas and in developing countries where water testing infrastructure is lacking.

    “We got the inspiration from the supermarket,” says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project. Fellow team member, Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering, got his 'Eureka!' moment when he came across some dissolving breath strips whilst shopping at his local store, realizing that the material used in the breath strips could be used in other applications.

    The scientists have created a method of storing precise amounts of active ingredients and enzymes into pills consisting of the same natural substance used in dissolving breath strips, which now makes lab-quality water testing technology easily accessible to people who need to know whether their drinking water source is contaminated or safe to drink.

    “This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form,” says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the technology was developed. “The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water.”

    The substance, known as pullulan, turns into a solid form when dry, protecting sensitive chemical agents from exposure to oxygen and changes in temperature that can destroy them within hours. Previously, these sensitive agents had to preserved by keeping them in cold storage and shipping them in vials surrounded by large blocks of dry ice, which was not only costly, but also very inconvenient.

    This newly developed method, which is described in a paper published online in the European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also has the potential to be used in other applications, such as food packaging that could change color if the contents become spoiled.

    “Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?” Brennan asks. “The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough.”

    This newly developed method allow us to store the same substances practically anywhere in pill form for long periods of time without the need for complex refrigeration and cooling. The pills are cheap to produce and can be used by anyone who needs to test the water in their well for contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals or e.coli, for example. With this simple water testing solution, people will be empowered to test their drinking water themselves and if contaminants are detected, they can implement measures such as using a water filter to remove the contaminants to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

    Journal Reference:

    Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, Kevin Pennings, Vincent Leung, Meng Liu, Carmen Carrasquilla, Balamurali Kannan, Yingfu Li, Robert Pelton, John D. Brennan, Carlos D. M. Filipe. Pullulan Encapsulation of Labile Biomolecules to Give Stable Bioassay Tablets. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403222

  • Scientists Question Guidelines for Treating Water in Emergencies

    In the event of a natural disaster or any other type of emergency, clean drinking water may not be available, so it may be necessary to treat water to kill any pathogens that may be lurking in order to prevent yourself or your family from becoming ill. The EPA's current guidelines for treating drinking water in emergencies recommend that chlorine bleach should be added to the water to kill any pathogens that may be contaminating the water. However, a new study has revealed that the recommended doses are not only much higher than necessary, they are also not very practical to carry out. The authors of the study, which was published in Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that the EPA needs to review their current guidelines for treating water in emergency situations, and revise them accordingly.

    Flooding pic3

    When the study was conducted, lead author, Daniele Lantagne, who is now based at Tufts University, was working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who funded the research. Lantagne and his co-authors note that following a natural disaster, such as earthquakes, floods or tsunamis, clean water can be hard to come by. Yet people still need to drink water in order to survive. Currently, the EPA recommends that people use the “bottle, boil, bleach” approach to treat water in the event of an emergency if they wish to protect themselves from water-born diseases. This approach implies that people should use bottled water as the first option where possible. If bottled water is not available, they should boil whatever water is available to kill any pathogens. And as a final resort when the first two options are not available (i.e. there is no bottled water, and no electricity or other means of boiling water), people should disinfect water by adding “1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water.” However, the scientists have pointed out that 8 drops does not equate to 1/8 of a teaspoon, and both these amounts are higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    In order to assess the guidelines for water treatment, the researchers tested different concentrations of bleach treatment at six homes across the country, using various sources of water.  Their results showed that the range of bleach doses recommended by the EPA (ranging between 8 drops to 1/8 of a teaspoon) were higher than what was needed to kill disease-causing pathogens in the water samples. The authors also note that even if the recommended dosage were lowered, for many of the households they surveyed it would still be impractical to carry out, as none had the type of bleach necessary for safely disinfecting water in the house, and/or they lacked the necessary measuring devices. The scientist thus recommend that the EPA revises it water treatment guidelines and conducts further research into alternative water treatment methods and products that are more practical to carry out in the average household.

    To prepare your home in the event of an emergency, we recommend a high quality gravity-fed drinking water filter that does not require electricity and is capable of removing bacteria and viruses, as well as other contaminants that can readily pollute drinking water and pose a risk to your health. This provides a simple, yet effective method of ensuring that you have access to safe drinking water in the event of an emergency.

    Journal Reference:

    Daniele Lantagne, Bobbie Person, Natalie Smith, Ally Mayer, Kelsey Preston, Elizabeth Blanton, Kristen Jellison. Emergency Water Treatment with Bleach in the United States: The Need to Revise EPA Recommendations. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 140409120313005 DOI: 10.1021/es405357y

  • High Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water Lowers IQ in Children

    The results of a recent study conducted by researchers from Columbia University, which was published online in the scientific journal Environmental Health, shows that school children attending schools in Maine who are exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water exhibit a decline in child intelligence. This study builds on previous studies that looked at the impact of arsenic exposure on child intelligence conducted in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.

    child learning

    Jospeh Graziano, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, together with his team of research associates, assessed the intelligence of 272 children between grades 3 to 5. The children, whose average age was 10, attended schools within three Maine school districts where water used for drinking and cooking originated from private water wells that are known to contain high levels of arsenic.

    The researchers assessed the intelligence of the children with a commonly used intelligence assessment tool – the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) – and found that children exposed to arsenic in their drinking water had lower scores across most of the WISC-IV indices.  After controlling for external factors such as parental intelligence and education, size of the family, school district and other characteristics related to the home environment, children who had high levels of exposure to arsenic (> 5ppb) in their drinking water exhibited a decline of 5-6 points in Full Scale, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores. According to Gail Wasserman, professor of Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and lead author of the paper, this decline in intelligence is significant and could translate into learning problems and problems with schoolwork.

    The researchers took water samples from an external point of entry as well as from the kitchen faucet. They also analyzed drinking habits, how long the family had lived in their home, together with how the water well was constructed and if any water filters were used.

    Water arsenic levels recorded in water samples taken from the kitchen faucet measured 9.88 ppb on average, with over 30% exceeding the standard of 10 ppb recommended by the EPA and WHO. The highest level of arsenic measured was 115.3 ppb – more than 10 times higher than the EPA standard.

    “The strength of associations found in this study is comparable to the modest increases that have been found in blood lead, an established risk factor for diminished IQ,” said Dr. Graziano.

    “Our findings of adverse impact in a U.S. sample, particularly in performance-related functioning, gives confidence to the generalizability of findings from our work in Bangladesh, where we also observed a steep drop in intelligence scores in the very low range of water arsenic concentrations,” said Dr. Graziano.

    “Collectively, our work in Bangladesh and in Maine suggests that aspects of performance intelligence, particularly perceptual reasoning and working memory, are impacted by exposure to arsenic in drinking water.”

    How to Protect Your Kids

    There is currently an outreach program underway tasked at educating families who are at risk of arsenic exposure in the region. Dr Graziano points out that a standard filter available at hardware stores in inadequate for removing arsenic from drinking water. However, affected households can take measures to address the situation. Dr Graziano and his fellow experts recommend that those exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water should filter their drinking water with a high quality filter that is capable of removing arsenic.

    Start drinking arsenic-free water today – purchase a Berkey Filter water filter and get 50% off the price of an arsenic filter when added to your order.

    Journal Reference:

    Gail A Wasserman, Xinhua Liu, Nancy J LoIacono, Jennie Kline, Pam Factor-Litvak, Alexander van Geen, Jacob L Mey, Diane Levy, Richard Abramson, Amy Schwartz, Joseph H Graziano. A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren. Environmental Health, 2014; 13 (1): 23 DOI: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-23

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