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One of the nine dimensions that affects our overall health and well being, the environmental dimension, is what we will focus our attention on today. Of two worldwide pollution concerns affecting our environment, one being water pollution, and the other being air pollution, water pollution is reaching crisis proportions affecting the health of the population over the whole planet.
It appears few people realize it, or, are willing to do anything about it. Environmental health is what we should all strive for, but, individually, how seriously do we actually take it? According to the World Health Association (WHO), about one-third of the world’s population lives in countries with moderate to high water stress, and problems of water scarcity are increasing, partly due to ecosystem depletion and contamination. The WHO has forecasted that 2/3 of the world population may be living in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025, if present global consumption patterns and contamination continue.
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,
British poet W. H. Auden once said.
Wikipedia defines water pollution like this,
is the contamination of water bodies. For example, releasing inadequately treated water into natural water bodies,can lead to degradation of aquatic ecosystems. In turn, this can lead to public health problems for people down stream. They may use the same polluted river water for drinking, bathing, or irrigation. Water pollution is the leading worldwide cause od death and illness due to water-borne diseases.
For more information from Wikipedia on water pollution, read here.
State Of Water Pollution
While we all know water is crucial to life, we all trash it anyway. According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, some 80% of the world’s waste water is dumped, largely untreated, back into our environment, polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans and destroying our amazing planet.
This widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health and well being.
Unsafe water kills more people each year, than war and all other forms of violence combined. Meanwhile, our drinkable water resources are finite. Less than one percent of the earth’s fresh water is accessible to us, per a Live Science study. We want to stress again, without action, the challenge will only increase by 2025, when global demand for fresh water is expected to be one-third greater than it is today.
Take a drink of cool, clear water, as you read this, and you’ll probably think water pollution is a problem somewhere else, not here! But, while most Americans have access to safe drinking water, potentially harmful contaminants, from arsenic to copper to lead, have been traced in our tap water of every single state in our nation, according to an NRCD study.
Still, we’re not hopeless against the threat of clear water, but it’s important to understand the problem and what we can each do about it. Here’s an overview of what water pollution is, and what causes it, and how we can all protect ourselves.
Water pollution occurs when harmful substances, often chemicals and microorganisms, contaminate all of our bodies of water, degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment. That’s what water pollution is about. Water is uniquely vulnerable to pollution. Known as a “universal solvent for life” water is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid on earth.
It’s the reason we have Kool-Aid and brilliant blue waterfalls. It’s also why water is so easily polluted. Toxic substances from farms, towns, factories, readily dissolve into and mix with water causing the pollution. National Geographic has a really great overview explaining the basics of water pollution.
Types Of Water Pollution
Ground Water. When rain falls and seeps into the earth, filling the cracks, crevices, and spaces, it becomes ground water. One of the least visible, but, is our most important natural resources. Nearly a 1/3, that’s 43 million people, of Americans rely on ground water, pumped to the surface, for drinking water. Ground water gets polluted with pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, leached from landfills and septic systems, which is called “Nonpoint Source” contamination, making their way to the ground aquifers, making it unsafe for human consumption, per the EPA.
Nonpoint Source pollution is the leading cause of water pollution in U.S. waters, but it’s difficult to regulate, since there’s no single, identifiable culprit. One pollutant in particular researchers are starting to focus on is dioxane, a potential carcinogen is showing in tap water tests. The EPA has classified dioxane as a “likely a carcinogen” to humans. A nonpartisan advocacy group, Environmental Working Group, ran a study and dioxane was found in tap water samples that affect 90 million Americans in 45 states.
According to the WHO, dioxanes are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. There is currently no federal standards for dioxane in water, although a handful of states have implemented a law requiring all water sources be tested foe dioxane. Dioxane is just one of many contaminants that the EPA has been monitoring since the mid-1990s. But the agency has yet to regulate it. Dioxane has previously been detected in high concentrations in and around landfills.
That’s because it’s common in so many different products that it tends to accumulate in areas filled with garbage. Dioxane is very water-soluble and can travel rapidly through ground soils to permeate groundwater supplies and aquifers. Once polluted with a substance like dioxane, or any of a whole suite of manufacturing chemicals that are being found in water supplies, an aquifer may be unusable for decades, or even thousands of years.
The CDC National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, previously established dangerous toxicity levels for dioxane, due to its effect on the liver and kidneys, but those were based on inhalation and not consumption like in drinking water. Dioxane exposure has also been associated with less serious health effects that include eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as cracked, dry skin and eczema. We hope that got your attention!
Surface Water. Surface water covers about 70 percent of the earth’s surface, but only 2.5 percent is fresh water. Water is what fills our oceans, lakes, and rivers. Surface water from fresh water sources account for more than 60% of the water delivered to American homes. But a significant part of that water is in peril according to recent surveys on national water quality from the EPA.
Nearly half of our rivers and streams are polluted, and more than one-third of our lakes are polluted, and unfit for even swimming, and fishing. Nitrates and phosphates is the leading types of contamination in these fresh water sources, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. These nutrient sources (foods) for animals have become a major pollutant, due to waste and fertilizer runoff. Per an EPA study on wastes, municipal and industrial waste discharges like dioxane, contribute their fair share of toxins and wastes, as well.
Ocean Water. 80% of ocean pollution originates on land, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Contaminates such as chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals, are carried from farms, factories, and cities, by streams and rivers into bays and estuaries, traveling then into the oceans. Solid garbage also makes its way to the ocean.
Plastic bags, balloons, glass bottles, shoes, packaging material, if not disposed of correctly, almost everything we throw away can reach the sea. Plastic material, which decomposes very slowly, particularly plastic bags and plastic six-pack rings, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, puffins, and turtles. Marine debris, especially plastic, is responsible for killing over a million of seabirds and over 100,000 mammals and sea turtles every year, according to the Longwood University study.
In many parts of the world, raw sewage flows untreated, or under-treated, into the ocean. For example, 80% of urban sewage discharged into the Mediterranean Sea is untreated, per the University of Virginia study. According to a U.S. Research Council study, 36 percent comes from down drains and rivers as waste and runoff from cities and industry. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography found that oceans also absorb as much as 25% of man-made carbon emissions and air pollution.
Types Of Water Contamination
Agricultural. Not only is the agricultural sector the biggest consumer of global freshwater resources, with farming and livestock production using about 70% of the earth’s surface water supply, it is also a serious water polluter, discharging agrochemicals, organic matter, drug residues, sediments and saline drainage into water bodies, per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
In the US, agricultural Nonpoint Source pollution is the top source of contamination in rivers and streams, and the second biggest source in wetlands, and the third in most lakes, per the EPA. And, as we already stated earlier, is a major contributor in estuaries and ground water, from nutrients and animal waste, containing bacteria and viruses, as they wash into our waterways, and is the number one threat to water quality worldwide. This contamination can cause algae bloom, a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife.
Sewage and Wastewater. Used water is waste water, from our sinks, showers, and toilets, and from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities, as metals, solvents, and toxic sludge. It also includes storm water runoff, which occurs when rainwater carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from road surfaces into our waterways. The EPA posed a question in their study on urban runoff:
Did you know that because of impervious surfaces like pavement
and rooftops, a typical city block generates more than 5 times more runoff than a woodland area of the same size?
More than 80% of the world’s waste water flows back into the environment without being treated or reused, according to the United Nations. In some least developed countries, the figure tops 95%. In the US, wastewater treatment facilities process about thirty-four billion gallons of wastewater per day by removing pollutants such as pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen in sewage, as well as heavy metals and toxic chemicals in industrial waste, before discharging the treated waters back into the waterways.
That being said, if it all goes well. But, according to EPA and the NIH estimates, our nation’s and easily overwhelmed sewage treatment systems, also release more than 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater each year.
Oil Pollution. This might come as a surprise to you, consumers account for the vast majority of oil pollution in our waters, including oil and gasoline that drops from millions of cars and trucks each day. Moreover, according to Water Encyclopedia, nearly half of the estimated one million tons of oil that makes its way into the marine environment each year, comes not from oil tanker spills, but from land-base sources such as factories, farms, and cities.
Our oceans are also spoiled by oil spills and leaks, but only account for 12 percent of oil entering the oceans and seas each year, while legal and illegal operations in the shipping industries, contribute about one-third. Oil is also naturally released from under the ocean floor through fractures known as seeps.
Radioactive Substances. Radioactive waste is any pollutants that emit radiation beyond what is naturally released by the environment. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, radioactive waste is generated by uranium mining, nuclear power plants, and the production and testing of military weapons, as well, as universities and hospitals, that use radioactive materials for research and medicine. Radioactive waste can persist in the environment for thousands of years, making disposal a major challenge.
Effects Of Water Pollution On Human Health
Water pollution Kills! In fact, water contamination caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015, according to study published in a Lancet. Contaminated water can also make you seriously ill. Every year, according to the WHO, over a billion people draw their water from unsafe sources, leading to diarrhoeal diseases, a leading cause of illness and death in the developing world. Low-income communities are much more at risk because they live the closest to the most polluting industrial plants.
An NIH study confirmed that water-bound pathogens in the form of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, are a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water and said:
Worldwide prevalence of pathogen contamination is a serious concern, and enhancing the understanding of major pathogen sources and their significant impacts on water resources is crucial.
The NIH weighed in on another water-borne diseases study caused by contaminated water, offering that understanding the ecology and evolution of pathogens will provide insights into their pathways of transmission, modes of distribution, potential to reemerge in the future, or emergence in other environments, along with the NIH recommendations. Disease spread by unsafe water, includes Cholera, Giardia, and Typhoid.
Each year in the U.S., according to the EPA, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease, a respiratory infection resulting from exposure to contaminated water aerosols from engineered water systems like cooling towers and piped water, with cases occurring from California’s Disneyland to Manhattan’s upper east side.
Meanwhile, the plight of residents in Flint, Michigan, where cost-cutting measures and aging water infrastructures, created the recent lead contamination crisis, offers a stark reality as how dangerous chemicals and other industrial pollutants in our water can be.
According to the American Chemical Society, reviewed by Science Direct, scientists confirmed that the lead that had accumulated on the interior surface of the pipes was the most likely source of the lead contamination.
The problem goes far beyond Flint and involves much more than lead, as a wide-range of chemical pollutants, from heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury, to pesticides and nitrate fertilizers, are getting in our water supplies. According to the NIH, once they’re ingested, these toxins can cause a host of health issues, from cancer to hormone disruption, to altered brain function. Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk.
Even swimming can pose a risk. Every year, 3.5 million Americans contract health-related issues such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, and Hepatitis, from sewage-laden coastal waters and pathogenic human viruses, according to an NIH study In order to thrive, healthy ecosystems rely on a complex web of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi, all of which interact, directly or indirectly, with each other.
Harm or destruction of any these organisms can create a negative chain reaction, causing an imbalance in the natural ecosystem, imperiling entire aquatic environments, as this peer-reviewed Intech Open research confirmed. When water pollutants cause an algae bloom in a lake or marine environment, the proliferation of newly introduced nutrients stimulates plant and algae growth, which intern reduces oxygen levels in the water.
This dearth of oxygen, known as eutrophication, suffocates plants and animals, and create a “dead zones”, where waters are essentially devoid of life. According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary and a Live Science study, there are at least 200 reports of dead zones in U.S. coastal waters, and over 400 worldwide. In certain cases, as per an NIH study, these harmful algae blooms can also produce neurotoxins that affect humans, wildlife, from whales to sea turtles.
Chemicals and heavy metals from industrial and municipal wastewater contaminate waterways as well. These contaminates to aquatic life, most often reducing an organism’s life span and the ability to reproduce, and make their way up the food chain, as predator eats prey. That’s how tuna and other big fish, accumulate high levels of toxins like mercury.
Marine ecosystems are also threatened by marine debris, which can strangle, suffocate, and starve animals and fish. Much of the solid debris, such as plastic bags and sodacans, gets swept into the sewage and storm drains and eventually our to our oceans, turning them into trash soup. Sometimes, consolidating to form floating garbage dumps, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to National Geographic.
Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of micro-plastic in a single square kilometer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is about 1.9 million bits per square mile. Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups. Discarded fishing gear such as hooks and lures, and other types of debris, are responsible for harming more than two hundred different species of marine life. According to a University of Victoria study, on the British Columbia coast thousands of tiny invisible plastic particles per cubic meter of seawater are being found. Quoting the study:
It is also estimated that if trends continue, that in 2050 the world’s oceans could contain more plastic than fish.
Meanwhile, ocean acidification is making it tougher for shellfish and coral to survive per the Smithsonian Institute. Though the ocean and ocean life absorb about 25% of the carbon pollution (CO2 created each year, by burning fossil fuels, oceans are becoming more acidic, estimated actually to be at least 30 percent more acidic. This process makes it harder for shellfish to build their shells, and may impact the brain and nervous system of sharks, clown fish, and other marine life, per this Scientific America study.
What You Can Do On A Personal Level
- To be blunt and honest, don’t pollute! Dispose of your trash and garbage in the proper way. Avoid pouring any food or substances down your sinks, showers, and toilets, by disposing of them safely.
- Retrieve your pet waste from your yard or sidewalks and dispose of it properly. Avoid washing your car or working on your car at home, there are commercial places you can have that done, because they can dispose of soaps, oils and grease properly.
- Recycle harsh materials like paint and batteries, and recycle plastics and paper, and metals.
- Have low-volume flush toilets installed to conserve water.
- Don’t use garbage disposals, bag your waste to be picked up by sanitation.
- Run your dish washer and washing machine when you have full loads to conserve water.
- Use hot water only when you have to, because hot water has more traces of lead in it.
- Use natural, organic, and biodegradable fertilizers and pesticides around home, and in your pool water treatment.
- Use a quality water filter or purifier for drinking and cooking (1)
- Test your tap water frequently.(2)
- Volunteer and assist in environmental cleanup in your community.
ScienceDirect in their article “Pollution Control”, has an accumulation of various articles on contaminants, hazardous wastes, and water pollution that is worth your time reading. This Iowa Public Television Video on water pollution challenges you to make a difference through the choices you make.
Eat A Well-Balanced Nutrient-Rich Diet
(based on the Mediterranean Diet)
- Fresh Lean organic Red Meats and Poultry, Eggs, and Dairy. Red meats such as beef, bison should be grass-fed finished and poultry such as chicken, duck, and turkey, lamb, and pork, should free-range finished. Eggs and dairy should be grass-fed finished (A). Use Sparingly.
- Fish and Seafood. Fish should be cold-water or wild-caught fish such as trout, tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel and others, shellfish should be shrimp, oysters, lobster, and others. Use one time a day (A).
- Fresh Organic Fruits, Vegetables, Raw Nuts and Edible Seeds. Use all non-GMO (non-genetically modified) types and varieties especially dark green leafy veggies, bright-colored fruits and veggies, berries, and citrus fruits. Use one to three times a day or as much as you can eat. Use nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies for snacking (A).
- Whole Grains, High Fiber, and Complex Carbohydrates. Should be certified organic and GMO-free, and gluten-free. Use a wide variety and at all meals (A).
- Organic Monounsaturated Plant oils. Use low-fat oils such as extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. Use liberally in all cooking (A).
- Natural Organic Fermented Foods. Cultured foods such as natural yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso. Use at every meal or for snacks (A).
- Fresh Natural Organic Herbs and Spices. Use non-GMO herbs and spices such as cilantro, chives, oregano, basil, turmeric, cayenne, rosemary, and many others. Use sea salt sparingly (A).
- Antioxidant Drinks or Filtered Water. Fruit infused water, espresso, green tea, and fruit or veggie smoothies, (A).
- Alcohol. Beer and fermented red wine is better for you, but any type is OK as long as it is used in moderation.
- Supplement With Natural Nutritious Whole-Food Peruvian Maca. Should be certified organic Peruvian Maca. Use once or twice a day and also use it in prepared foods and drinks such as uncooked cakes, cookies, granola bars, and smoothies, (A).
If you have read any of my previous reviews on Peruvian Maca, you will already be aware of the incredible, wide-ranging healthy benefits Maca offers. If you haven’t previously read my reviews, take the opportunity now to read these two articles: and WHAT’S HEALTHY LIVIMG?, and WHAT’S IN MACA ROOT? Here is one quick NIH study on P Maca showing it reduced psychological symptoms in women, including anxiety and depression, and lowered measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women independent of estrogenic and androgenic activity.
(1) Take a look at the BIG BERKEY WATER FILTER SYSTEM, the best, most advanced water filter system on the market today.
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Now that you truly know what water pollution is about, what are you going to take it seriously, and what are you going to do about it?
You might also enjoy reading our article “Solutions Of Air Pollution”.
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