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  • 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

  • Benefits of Drinking Filtered Water for Effective Weight Loss when Dieting

    Any weight loss plan should include exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient liquids to keep the body hydrated and healthy. When a low calorie diet is being followed in order to lose weight, sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices, as well as caffeine-rich beverages such as coffee, tea and alcohol, should be avoided.


    To burn off fat, follow an exercise regime high in aerobic exercises, such as an aerobic gym class, running, swimming or cycling, which will get the heart rate up and burn off fat. To tone muscle, physical exercises with weights targeting certain muscles will get you in shape. Cardiovascular sports that involve some form of resistance, such as swimming and cycling, are a great way to get a full body workout, burning off fat and toning muscle at the same time. It is essential to replace fluids lost in perspiration to prevent dehydration. Dehydration will lead to cramping, which will cut your exercise session short, and will be counter productive to losing weight. Drinking pure water is the healthiest option when exercising, as caffeine-rich beverages such as sodas, can in fact be dehydrating, and do not rehydrate the body effectively.

    In many cases, weight gain is a result of water retention, and while one may assume that drinking lots of water would result in the body retaining more water, the opposite is in fact true. When your body is deprived of water, it stores water as a natural defense against dehydration. If you supply your body with a regular supply of fresh water, this will cause excess water to be eliminated from the body, flushing out toxins at the same time.

    Toxins are stored in the liver and fatty tissue, and can only be eliminated from the body if flushed out with plenty of pure water. The liver is responsible for regulating how fat is metabolized in the body, and thus for burning fat. For your liver to fulfill the job of fat metabolism effectively, your liver must be in a healthy condition. By flushing your system with plenty of healthy fresh water, you will aid the elimination of toxins from your liver and fatty tissue – this is essential for a healthy weight loss program to prevent toxins from becoming concentrated in fatty tissue.

    Water also aids digestion, transport of nutrients throughout the body, and elimination of wastes from the body. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially about half an hour before and after meals, will assist with healthy digestion and prevent weight gain.

    Drinking plenty of water can suppress the appetite, making it less tempting to snack in-between meals. If you feel hungry between meals, snack on healthy foods with a high water content, such a fresh fruit and vegetables. Another option would be to juice the fruit and veggies for a healthy drink, high in water and nutrients, but low in calories. This will leave you feeling full, while at the same time providing a high nutritional value in terms of vitamins and minerals, but because it is low in calories, it will not pack on the pounds.

    Water is an essential component of any weight loss program. While tap water will suffice, to avoid toxins that may be present in unfiltered tap water, rather try to include copious amounts of pure filtered water as a regular part of your diet.

  • Preventing Asthma Attacks with a Shower Filter

    Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects millions of people, including young children. There are various environmental stimulants that can cause allergies and bring on an asthma attack, including dust, mold, pet hair, pollen, cigarette smoke, chemicals and other air pollutants. While there is currently no known cure for asthma, the disease can be managed with home products and controlled with medication to reduce both the frequency and severity of attacks.

    Pollutants That Can Trigger an Asthma Attack

    While airborne pollutants are commonly known to trigger asthma, a lesser known fact is that chemical pollutants present in tap water can also bring on an asthma attack. Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect drinking water to kill bacteria and other parasites. However, when vaporized, chlorine converts to chloroform gas, which is a potent irritant that causes the air passages to constrict. This can cause respiratory problems, including asthma, when vapor or steam from a hot shower or bath is inhaled by sensitive people prone to allergic reactions.


    Removing Chlorine from Water

    To protect your family from exposure to chlorine in shower water, a Berkey shower head filter is recommended to removed chlorine from the water. This will not only reduce the risk of allergic reactions in sensitive members of your family, but it will also protect their skin, hair and eyes from being damaged by chlorine and its associated by-products. If you are overworked or suffer from stress and tension, a Berkey shower filter with massage head may be just what you need to help you relax while enjoying a shower free from pollutants.

    Chlorine in swimming pools is also known to affect swimmers suffering from asthma. If a member of your family is asthmatic, consider switching to a non-chemical method of pool sanitation, that removes the need for chlorine treatment.

    Purify the Air you Breathe

    Now that the water in your home has had irritants removed, you need to focus on the air that your family breathes. If you have an asthmatic member of the family, try to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and aerosols in the home, and make the home environment a smoke-free area. Consider fitting your home with an air-purifier to remove air pollutants that can irritate the lungs and respiratory passages, bringing on asthma in sensitive individuals. In addition, make sure carpets are vacuumed regularly to remove dust and pet hair that can cause allergies, and that showers, baths and  basins are free from mold, which can release spores that can cause respiratory irritation.

    Find the Trigger

    If you or a member of your family suffers from asthma, try to take note of environmental conditions or factors that can bring on an attack. Try to single out factors that may trigger an asthma attack by recording, and removing, certain stimulants that could be responsible.

  • World Water Day 2014 Highlights Water and Energy Issues

    Last week the world celebrated our most precious resource – water – culminating on World Water Day on March 22nd. This year the focus was on the connection between water and energy, and how saving one, in effect saves the other.

    “Water and energy are among the world's most pre-eminent challenges. This year's focus of World Water Day brings these issues to the attention of the world,” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization and Chair of UN-Water, which coordinates World Water Day and freshwater-related efforts across all United Nations projects and systems.

    world water day

    UN-water foresees that over the next two decades the ever increasing global population's food, water and energy requirements will increase by at least 35%, 40% and 50% respectively. Currently nearly 800 million people around the world don't have access to safe drinking water, 2½ billion people lack adequate sanitation, and 1.3 billion do not have access to electricity. 

    “These issues need urgent attention - both now and in the post-2015 development discussions. The situation is unacceptable. It is often the same people who lack access to water and sanitation who also lack access to energy, “ said Mr. Jarraud.

    2014 World Water Development Report

    The 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR) - a report published and coordinated by the World Water Assessment Program under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – was released on March 22nd to celebrate World Water Day. The report provides a status report on the current state of the world's freshwater resources, and stresses the need for countries to work together to protect these resources by putting forward policies and regulatory measures that address both water and energy issues through an integrated approach.

    Water-Energy Link

    The 2014 WWDR emphasizes how water and energy are inextricably intertwined and that issues related to one also relate to the other – this interdependency is often referred to as the 'water-energy nexus'. For instance: drought reduces the amount of energy that can be produced; while people who do not have access to electrical power to run irrigation pumps face limitations in terms of irrigating their crops, which hampers their ability to produce food.

    Water is essential to produce or extract energy in all its forms, as well as to transport and use it, and all these activities impact our water resources to some degree. The water report points out that approximately 75% of all water withdrawn for industrial purposes is used to produce energy. Water tariffs also reflect the interdependence of water and energy: when water subsidies are introduced making water available to industries at below cost, the most water-hungry consumers – energy producers – have no incentive to use it sparingly and are more likely to waste it. Similarly, when energy is subsidized it reduces the incentive to conserve it, which in turn drives up the rate of water consumption. The report highlights the need for governments to take action to ensure that prices of both water and energy are a true reflection of the cost and environmental impacts associated with their use.

    Take Home Messages for World Water Day 2014

    • We need energy to access water and we need water to access energy
    • Demand for these resources are increasing, yet there is limited supply
    • When we save energy we save water: when we save water we save energy
    • The 'bottom billion' require access to water, sanitation, and electricity, as a matter of urgency
    • It is imperative that we improve both energy and water efficiency across all sectors, together with implementing well coordinated integrated policies that take the bigger picture into account
  • Water Conservation: Perceptions of Water Use

    Many Americans wish to save water, but typically are not sure what options are the most effective, according to an online survey of over 1000 participants conducted countrywide by researcher Shahzeen Attari from Indiana University.

    When it comes to water conservation, the most effective strategy is to focus on factors that improve efficiency, such as retrofitting water-hungry toilets and washing machines to make them more water-wise. Results from the survey, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the majority of people interviewed suggested reducing time in the shower would be the best strategy to save water, yet relatively few suggested retrofitting toilets or reducing flush rates, which is surprising considering that toilets use the highest amount of water per day. While taking a shorter shower will reduce water consumption, it is not necessarily the most effective method of saving water.


    “People may be focusing on curtailment or cutting back rather than efficiency improvements because of the upfront costs involved,” said author Shahzeen Attari, an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “It is also surprising how few participants mentioned retrofitting their toilets. Even though toilets use less water volumetrically than washers and showers per use, the frequency of use results in the highest water use overall.”

    Participants were also asked to estimate water consumption of various activities, such as taking a 10 minute shower, washing their vehicle in a car wash, flushing the toilet with a standard flush mechanism, as well as other activities. The results showed that in general, participants underestimate the rate of water consumption – typically twice as much water is used than participants estimated, and water consumption of activities that used excessive amounts of water were severely underestimated.

    Attari has previously published research she conducted on people's perceptions of energy use, which she also found to be underestimated – energy consumption was in fact three times higher than generally estimated.

    Several factors determine the accuracy of a person's perceptions of energy and water consumption. For example, participants who have strong pro-environmental convictions tend to be more accurate in their perception to energy consumption, but not of water consumption. Being male and being older led to better accuracy in terms of perceptions of water consumption but not energy consumption. Numerical literacy of participants played an important role in the accuracy of perceptions of both energy and water consumption.

    Furthermore, the survey showed that people have no idea how much water was used to produce the following food items: rice, sugar, coffee and cheese, and while this is not surprising as water is not consumed directly when eating or drinking these food items, it does illustrate how ignorant we tend to be in terms of water needs of common foodstuffs that we take for granted.

    “Given that we will need to adapt to more uncertain fresh water supplies, a problem that the state of California is currently grappling with, we need to find ways to correct misperceptions to help people adapt to temporary or long-term decreases in freshwater supply,” Attari said.

    Journal Reference:

    Attari, S.Z. 2014. Perceptions of water use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316402111

  • Study Reveals Elevated Mercury Levels in Groundwater due to Wastewater Disposal

    As Cape Cod towns wrestle with problems associated with septic systems, a study that was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology (Nov 2013) shows that treated wastewater disposed in-ground can result in higher levels of mercury in groundwater.

    The study, conducted by Carl Lamborg, a biogeochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), shows that when wastewater is broken down by microbes, mercury is transformed into a more toxic and more mobile form.


    Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal that is present in trace amounts in wastewater; however, Lamborg discovered that the mercury concentrations in both the soil and the water increase as a result of chemical processes that take place during as the waste is decomposed.

    Lamborg monitored mercury concentrations and forms over a two year period between 2010-1012 at U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sampling wells set up around a wastewater treatment site in Cape Cod that disposed wastewater into the ground over a 60 year period between 1936-1995. This wastewater disposal resulted in a contamination plume that stretches nearly two miles downstream from the disposal site, and which travels through the underground aquifer at a rate of approximately 650 feet a year, ending up in a saltwater pond on the coast.

    According to Lamborg, who conducted the chemical analysis of the water samples at his WHOI laboratory: “The amount of mercury flowing out of the watershed and into the ocean and these ponds is something like twice as much as it would be if wastewater was not being put into the ground.”

    To get a clearer picture of why this was happening Lamborg focused on two sites situated within the contaminant plume where carbon and nitrogen within the waste had been broken down by microbes, who had used up all the available oxygen in the groundwater and sediments in the process, resulting in anoxic conditions at these sites.

    At the first sample site, which was closer to the point of wastewater disposal, Lamborg found that microbes were utilizing iron in the breakdown process – a process referred to as iron reduction –  and that the more commonly found form of mercury (Hg2+), which is less mobile, was transformed into a more mobile form of elemental mercury (Hg0) that leaches into the groundwater more readily and gets transported further downstream.

    At the second site, which was situated further downstream, Lamborg found higher concentrations of yet another form of mercury, monomethylmercury (MMHg), which in some instances accounted for 100% of the mercury present in the sample. Monomethylmercury readily moves through water, and can accumulate in freshwater and marine systems, where it is absorbed and bioaccumulates into the body tissues of fish, shellfish and other wildlife at levels that pose a health risk to humans that consume these toxins.

    While Lamborg states that the MMHg levels are much higher than they would be had wastewater not been disposed of into the ground, he does not consider them to be high enough to pose a risk in drinking water. However, considering that monomethylmercury is a neurotoxin that is able to penetrate the skin, and which at high doses can affect muscle and brain tissue that can lead to brain damage or paralysis; combined with its ability to bioaccumulate in the tissue of organisms (including humans), it could potentially pose a severe health risk over time.

    “This should make us all think twice about what we dump into the ground. Adding more nitrogen into the ground through wastewater, and even fertilizers for our agricultural fields and golf courses, offers a potential for mercury to accumulate and move through the aquifer to our ponds, lakes, and the ocean. That's something I don't think people are really thinking about,” said Lamborg.

    When Lamborg took a closer look at the chemical processes taking place at the second site, he discovered something that intrigued him even.

    His observations of the denitrification process – the process whereby the microbes utilize organic carbon and nitrogen to decompose organic matter – revealed high levels of MMHg were occurring as a result of the denitrification process, while previous research has shown low levels of MMHg following decomposition by denitrification.

    According to Lamborg: “This kind of thing where you see denitrification resulting in the methylation of mercury has never been observed before.”

    Mercury Accumulation

    Even more puzzling is the fact that the contaminant plume contains even higher levels of mercury than the original wastewater sources or produced by microbes during the decomposition process. So where does this mercury come from?

    “What it looks like is, the mercury that was already there in the aquifer or sand is being mined out when the groundwater goes anoxic,” explains Lamborg. Mercury that has up until now been stored within the ground for thousands of years is being drawn out and is now on the move.

    Lamborg notes that this is a community-wide problem at Cape Cod, because the sandy soils characteristic of the area allow wastewater that is disposed into the ground to disappear rapidly through the soil. While it may appear to be 'out of sight and out of mind', toxins like mercury accumulate and reappear in downstream ponds and the ocean.

    “This is just one really big example, but it's happening in a small way through everybody's backyard septic system, which leaches a little bit of mercury out of the aquifer and accumulates. You don't need a really big industrial scale thing for this to happen. It's happening everywhere,” Lamborg said.

    It stands to reason then that if this is happening everywhere, groundwater sources may be contaminated with high levels of mercury. To prevent exposure to this highly toxic contaminant in drinking water, you would be well advised to take precautionary measures to filter out any potential toxins that may be lurking. A Berkey Filter fitted with Black Berkey purification elements can remove a wide range of contaminants commonly found in drinking water, including mercury.

  • Research Links BPA to Prostate Cancer in Men

    Researchers at the Cincinnati Cancer Center have discovered that concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) in the urine of adult males could indicate prostate cancer, and that exposure to BPA, even at relatively low levels can bring about changes in the cellular structure of both malignant and non-malignant prostate cellular tissue.

    Results of the study, which were published in  PLOS ONE, 3rd March 2014,  provide the first indication that BPA concentrations in urine can be used as a marker for prostrate cancer and may assist with detecting prostrate cancer in men. It further shows that exposure to BPA at low doses can disrupt cellular duplication cycles causing prostrate cancer to develop.

    water bottles


    BPA is an environmental contaminant that is a known hormone disruptor which is used in the manufacture of rigid clear plastics commonly used in food and beverage containers, including plastic bottles that hold bottled mineral water. BPA has been associated with several health issues, including: neurological disorders; diabetes; as well as breast-, prostrate-, and other forms of cancer.

    According to chief researcher Shuk-mei Ho, director of the Cincinnati Cancer Center, and a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, studies conducted on animals show that BPA can cause prostrate cancer to develop, and while data on human subjects is scarce, humans are commonly exposed to this known toxin.

    “Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in North America, and one in six men will develop it over their lifetime,” says Ho. “However, the cancer is rarely diagnosed in men under the age of 40 with almost two-thirds of cases reported in men at age 65.”

    According to Ho, more than 90% of US citizens are exposed to BPA, often on a daily basis. BPA is absorbed into the body via the skin, through inhalation, or from ingesting food or water contaminated with BPA toxins.

    BPA is a hormone disrupter that copies thyroid and estrogen hormones, and also disrupts the immune and metabolic systems in the body. Consequently the impact on health is extensive, as has been proven in animals.

    However, studies that link BPA exposure to increased cancer risk in humans are limited, says Ho. “Our study examined the association between urinary BPA levels and prostate cancer and assessed the effects of BPA on the initiation of centrosome abnormalities as an underlying mechanism promoting prostate cancer formation.”

    Abnormalities of the centrosome – an organelle that plays an essential role in cell division – are often seen in various forms of cancer.

    The researchers examined urine samples from sixty urology patients and found that BPA levels were four times higher in patients diagnosed with prostrate cancer than in patients that did not have prostrate cancer, and that this difference was higher still in patients under 65 years old.

    The researchers also examined prostrate cellular tissue visually by the process of immunofluorescence, which allowed them to observe abnormalities of the centrosome or any abnormal growth patterns.

    “Exposure to low doses of BPA increased the percentage of cells with centrosome amplification two- to eight-fold,” Ho says. “BPA is not a recognized carcinogen, and questions surrounding the mechanism behind the positive correlation of BPA exposure with prostate cancer have arisen.”

    “Several studies have shown that centrosome amplification is a major contributing factor to chromosomal mutation in human tumors. We examined the centrosome profile of prostate cancer cells treated with BPA and found that treatment with BPA increased the number of cells with abnormal centrosomes.”

    This research reveals a link between exposure to BPA and prostrate cancer that was unknown until now, and suggests that BPA could play a key role in cellular mutation and cancer progression.

    Bottled water is one of the potential sources of BPA as this chemical can leach from the plastic bottles into the water, especially when transported long distances or stored for long periods of time. Home water filters provide a healthier alternative to bottled water, as they remove contaminants that are present in the water, yet do not contain BPA that can leach into the water inside the canister.

  • Drought Compromises Drinking Water Quality

    Following a number of consecutive rainy seasons that have been drier than normal, the west coast is suffering what is considered to be its worst drought in 100 years, which could increase concentrations of contaminants in drinking water.

    Recent reports show that water levels in the majority of reservoirs in California are less than 50% full, prompting California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to call for a state of emergency. The chances of a rapid recovery seem slim, as weather forecasts by USDA'a National Water and Climate Center predict that water levels will continue to drop further still. With snowfall this season being one of the lowest ever recorded, the problem stems largely from lack of snowpack, as snowmelt keeps the reservoirs topped up, which in turn supply residents with drinking water. These water woes extend to Oregon too, where residents also depend on seasonal runoff from melting snow to supply their drinking water. Unfortunately, as the mountains are devoid of snow this season, they will not be able to provide this service effectively.



    According to Melissa Webb, a hydrologist based at  USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Oregon's chances of recovery over the short term are slim. “The chances of making up this deficit are so small that at this point we’re just hoping for a mediocre snowpack,”  she explained in a USDA statement. “We’d need months of record-breaking storms to return to normal. There’s a strong chance we’ll have water supply shortages across most of Oregon this summer.”

    With the drought not looking to let up anytime soon, medical experts are concerned that groundwater sources could become contaminated with silt and other pollutants. According to a report on CBS News,  10 California communities are in danger of running out of drinking water within the next two months. Rural communities are particularly vulnerable as they lack the infrastructure, as well as the financial resources to upgrade existing infrastructure, to cope with drought. Besides being in short supply, drinking water resources are also at risk of contamination, because when water levels drop, contaminants become more concentrated, posing a health risk to residents.

    Former state health official, Linda Rudolph, who is now co-director for the Center for Climate Change and Health in Oakland, says millions of Californian residents depend entirely on wells and other sources of groundwater that contain increasing concentrations of pollutants due to the dry conditions.

    “Many groundwater basins in California are contaminated, for example with nitrates from over application of nitrogen fertilizer or concentrated animal feeding operations, with industrial chemicals, with chemicals from oil extraction or due to natural contaminants with chemicals such as arsenic,” explains Rudolph in the CBS News report.

    Because drought conditions and reduced water levels can result in higher concentrations of contaminants in drinking water, both in reservoirs and in private wells, you would be well advised to take some precautions to safeguard your health. Home water purifiers, such as the range of Berkey water filter systems, offer a convenient method of removing a wide range of contaminants that are commonly found in drinking water sources, and are effective even when concentration levels are high.

  • Children Face 'Silent Epidemic' of Brain Disorders due to Exposure to Common Chemical Toxins

    Scientists are calling for a global transformation on the regulation of industrial chemicals due to concerns that chemical toxins contained in everyday products may be the cause of a 'silent epidemic' of brain developmental issues in children the world over.

    Their findings, which were published in The Lancet Neurology, reveal that over the past seven years, the number of toxins recognized to cause neurodevelopmental disorders in children has in fact doubled – rising from 6 to 12. In 2006 the toxic substances listed were: methylmercury, lead, arsenic, toluene, polychlorinated bipenyls (PCBs). In 2013, fluoride, manganese, tetrachloroethylene, flame retardants, as well as pesticides such as chlorpyrifos and DDT were added to this list. Furthermore, the number of toxic chemicals that are known to cause brain damage, yet are not regulated to offer children protection, has risen from 202 to 214, many of which are found in items used by children on a daily basis, including toys, clothing and furniture.

    child bubbles

    “Current chemical regulations are woefully inadequate to safeguard children whose developing brains are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment”, explains Dr Philippe Grandjean from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Until a legal requirement is introduced for manufacturers to prove that all existing industrial chemicals and all new chemicals are non-toxic before they enter the marketplace, along the lines of the European Union's reformed chemicals law REACH, we are facing a pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity.”

    Neurodevelopmental disorders affect one out of every six children all across the world. These brain disorders include: attention deficit disorder (ADHD), autism, cerebral palsy and dyslexia. The evidence is increasingly pointing towards a link between exposure to toxic chemical substances, such as lead, mercury, pesticides and industrial solvents, in the early childhood developmental stages to the growing incidences of brain developmental disorders, suggesting that stricter controls and regulations are needed in order to protect the health of our children. Stricter controls could also amount to huge savings, given that vast sums of money are spent annually to treat children who have been poisoned by chemical toxins – in the United States roughly fifty billion US dollars are spent every year to treat children for lead poisoning and a further five billion US dollars spent on treating children for methylmercury poisoning.

    The authors are concerned that this may only be the tip of the iceberg and that a large proportion of all the existing industrial chemicals that are widely used in the USA – amounting to more than 80,000 chemicals – have not been tested to ascertain their effects on a developing fetus or young child. Children in the early development stages are much more vulnerable than adults to brain injury, which only manifests itself later on. The impact of toxic chemicals on children's health has only recently become apparent, but the authors feel that there is grave cause for alarm.

    There are two main hurdles that need to be overcome in order to ensure better control of chemicals that pose a health risk to children: Firstly, there are huge gaps when it comes to testing hazardous chemicals for their potential to cause neurodevelopmental damage; and secondly, a substantial amount of proof that confirms that chemicals are in fact toxic is warranted before chemical regulation is enforced.

    According to the authors, the only way that we can reduce the risk of children being exposed to hazardous chemical contaminants is by ensuring that developmental neurotoxicity tests become mandatory before chemicals are made freely available on the market. This precautionary approach would facilitate stricter regulation of products that exhibit a potentially severe toxic effect, which could later be relaxed if further evidence proves that these products are less harmful.

    The scientists recommend a new international prevention strategy that would put the onus on chemical manufacturers to prove that their chemical products pose little risk rather than it being governments responsibility to prove that they are hazardous before regulations are enforced. They further recommend that chemical products should undergo similar testing to pharmaceutical products, and that a new international regulatory body should be formed to coordinate and speed up  these precautionary measures.

    They conclude, “The total number of neurotoxic substances now recognized almost certainly represents an underestimate of the true number of developmental neurotoxicants that have been released into the global environment. Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.”

    Considering that many of the toxins that are recognized to cause neurological developmental disorders are commonly found as drinking water contaminants, it would be prudent to take precautions to protect the health of your children by filtering these potential hazards from your drinking water with a good quality drinking water filter that has the capacity to remove heavy metals and chemical toxins, including arsenic and fluoride.

    Journal Reference:

    Grandjean, P. & Landrigan, P.J. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. The Lancet Neurology - 1 March 2014 (Vol. 13, Issue 3, Pages 330-338) DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70278-3

  • Sochi Water Woes

    Reports of bright orange contaminated water spewing from hotel taps in Sochi leaves us pondering whether this could have any adverse effects on the Olympians as well as spectators and press visiting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    With a budget of over fifty billion US dollars for constructing the stadiums and sports facilities needed to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, one would have thought that the organizers would have focused more attention on issues surrounding the provision of safe drinking water to visiting athletes and tourists alike. Instead of taking the opportunity (and available funding) to clean up the local water supply, they have rather opted to provide visitors with a supply of bottled water to satisfy their thirst. But competitors, tourists and journalists alike all need clean water for bathing or showering, as well as for cooking, and bottled water just won't do the trick.


    The city of Sochi gets its water supply from the Mzymta River, which has become increasingly more polluted and contaminated as a result of runoff from landfills used to dispose construction and industrial waste that has accumulated during the construction of Sochi's Olympic Village.

    According to reports, officials have opted to pay heavy fines rather than making an effort to clean up Sochi's water supply. Clay fill has been used to cover debris and industrial waste in the landfill sites, including tires, foam, spray cans, chunks of cement, as well as other hazardous waste materials. While the authorities have been aware of the problem for years, they have not been forthcoming in sharing this with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

    Russian citizens rely heavily on bottled water supplies from local suppliers such Alibaba, Sochi Water, and KAY National Spring Water. But there is concern as to the safety of this 'natural spring water', which may be collected locally or from further afield, for example from springs at Uludag Mountain in Turkey.

    With visitors having been warned that they should not use the orange tainted water flowing from hotel taps for washing or bathing, it could be a nightmare for athletes and a very long holiday for tourists. With revelations that the hotel showers are monitored with cameras to prevent water shortages, most guests will be even more reluctant to wash while in Sochi, not that they are likely to want to take lengthy showers in bright orange water anyhow.

    The issues with showering and bathing aside, there is a bigger health threat associated with drinking or eating food that has been prepared or cooked with contaminated water. This is not only impacting visiting tourists and reporters, but will not doubt also have an impact on the visiting athletes too, and could in all probability affect their ability to perform at their optimal level.

    This is a stark reminder that even when visiting developed countries some precautions need to be taken to ensure that you will have access to safe drinking water. Big Berkey Water Filters supply a variety of water filters that could be useful in this and other situations, including a shower filter that screws into the shower head, a Travel Berkey water filter, and a portable Go Berkey Kit that could prove handy when traveling around a foreign country with a questionable water supply.

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