poison waterAre We Polluting Our Water With Everyday Products We Consider Safe?

September 12, 2012

Polluting The Water With Toothpaste, Shampoo, And Drugs

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Dave Sohm’s house is immaculate. But in his house –- as with most houses –- toxic chemicals are hiding in plain sight.“I’m curious about what things there are,” he says. “I don’t know what impacts I may be having that I’m not even aware of.”

Jen Coleman, an outreach director for the Oregon Environmental Council is at Sohm’s house to help. Armed with a list of chemicals that have toxic effects on people and the environment, Coleman digs through cabinets, checks ingredient lists and compares them with contaminants that have been found in local waterways.

“I think the best place to start is probably the bathroom,” she says. “What I’m looking for first is the ingredients you put on your skin or your hair and that you rinse off in the shower.”

The water that goes down the drains and toilets in Sohm’s house is funneled into a wastewater treatment plant. The plant removes pollutants and sends treated water into the Willamette River. But scientists are increasingly finding evidence that everyday chemicals, pharmaceuticals and human hormones pass right through the treatment plants and into waterways across the country.

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Jennifer Morace tested the water coming out of nine wastewater treatment plants in the Northwest. She found traces of dozens of chemicals, from household products like sunscreen, fragrances in lotions or shampoos, antibacterial agents from hand soaps, and pharmaceutical chemicals.

“What goes down your drain really does go somewhere,” she said. “A lot of people may think, ‘oh, it goes to a treatment plant so it’s taken care of.’ But there’s only so much we can take care of. ”Treatment plants don’t remove these chemicals partly because it would be really expensive, but also because they don’t have to”.

These new pollutants aren’t regulated under the Clean Water Act, though some of them have toxic properties that threaten both human health and fish and wildlife. “A lot of these compounds are designed to be bioactive. So it’s not hard to imagine that when they’re excreted from your body and make their way into the ecosystem that they might still have that biological effect on the fish that live in the ecosystem.

As for what is regulated, there are 126 toxic chemicals on the Clean Water Act priority pollutant list. But not a single pollutant has been added to that list since 1977. So there are no legal limits for most of the household chemicals that are showing up in the water today. Most of them haven’t been studied enough to know how much is too much to put in a waterway.

During Coleman’s walk-through of Sohm’s house she did find lots of shampoos and soaps with fragrances in them. The fragrances likely contain phthalates and many endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormones in the body. When they moved into the kitchen, Coleman found a likely source of perfluorinated and estrogenic compounds that are toxic to wildlife.

Household chemicals that aren’t removed at the wastewater treatment plant can actually show up in drinking water downstream. “If you have a drinking water intake downstream of a wastewater treatment plant, which we do have over 60 in the state of Oregon, we do tend to find these contaminants in drinking water,” she said. “Even the absolute best wastewater treatment will certainly have a lot of these compounds in the wastewater discharge. They meet all the standards and the plants are operating at the best they can, but there are still levels of these contaminants that are leaving those facilities.”

Experts say it may be easier to eliminate the source of the pollution than to develop a regulation to deal with it under the Clean Water Act. Mary Lou Soscia, the Columbia River coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said it would take an act of Congress to add these new pollutants to the list of what’s regulated under the Clean Water Act. When the act passed 40 years ago, “there were rivers on fire and it was focused on cleaning up rivers,” she said. “We’ve evolved to the point where we recognize the most important thing is cleaning up pollution at its source.”

“We got a lot of the nastiest pollutants out of the nastiest dischargers, and it’s just a lot harder to make progress after you’ve removed the industrial ones.” Adler agrees that keeping toxins out of products in the first place is a viable solution too.

Hi, and welcome to PoisonTruth.com.  Our mission is to educate the world about the dangers that are lurking on store shelves. While it is important to know what is in your products, what is not in them is just as important. You and your family deserve to know the truth about the products you use, and PoisonTruth.com is here to expose the cold hard facts.

It’s time to tell the world about the products they use and the dangers lurking within their own homes, just as you read about Dave Sohm above. Also… it would be very irresponsible to provide you with such information without offering a solution to such an incredible problem.  Providing you with safe non-toxic products is also a part of our mission. If you’re ready to learn more about safe non toxic, organic solutions for you and your family, please visit our Contact Page.


It’s time we stop polluting our water!

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