Rising Rivers And Tributaries Continue To Flood Southern Communities
Photo: Mario Tama Getty Images

Chemical cocktails are finding their way into our water supply and causing damage to our health.

What if you could see the chemicals in your drinking water? What if you could see the different colors and textures of each molecule of perchlorate, atrazine or perfluorinated compounds swimming around in the glass? Would you drink it if you could see the multicolored chemical cocktail, full of little hormone-mimics and bits of floating cancer-causers? Would you bathe your babies in it then?Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images
If seeing the new ingredients in water were possible, it’d be great fun to make a colorful identification chart so you could teach the kids how to match each micro-pollutant to its chemical name, its trade name as well its effect on living organisms. I believe if this were the case, we would be more viciously protective of the integrity of our shared global water supply.

According to the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, in Metro Atlanta alone, sewage treatment plants release more than 250 million gallons of treated wastewater each day into the Chattahoochee River. Because our wastewater treatment plants were designed remove nutrients, rather than chemicals, these substances routinely enter receiving waters.


The difficulty identifying and correcting the problem of water contamination, both locally and globally, is that the dirty secrets remain invisible. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is the problem, we can’t look into our glass of water, our bath tub or our lakes and rivers and immediately see the chemical experiment we are running on ourselves… and there are lots of corporate bottom-liners set on keeping these contaminants invisible.

There are more than 18,000 pesticides currently registered for use in the US. The pesticide count does not include herbicides, fungicides, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, fuel emissions, household cleaners, plastics or genetically modified fallout from food animals and produce. These make up the 80,000 (registered) chemical concoctions that find their way into our water every day.

According to the chemical database maintained by the American Chemical Society, humans have discovered, manufactured, mixed-and-matched and played with more than 56 million chemicals to date… all of which find their way, predictably and dependably, back into our planet’s water sources.

Research has documented a dramatic rise in levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and chlorinated paraffins showing up in breast milk. PBDEs are flame retardants used in foam, textiles and plastics; chlorinated paraffins are chemicals used in paints, sealants and rubber-processing.

In a study of umbilical cord blood by the Environmental Working Group, 287 chemicals were detected. “We know that 180 (of these) cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied”.

Water, all over the world, is increasingly becoming more contaminated. If you think you’re safe drinking bottled water, think again. Bottled water isn’t tested like municipal water supplies are, and even water treatment facilities only test for and/or regulate a small fraction of the thousands of chemicals showing up in our reserves.

What do we do about this growing crisis? We learn. We educate ourselves, protect ourselves and teach others to do the same. We let our collective voice be heard.

“We don’t know the worth of water til the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller

WATCH : : MSNBC: Pharmaceuticals in U.S. water supply

References/To learn more:


Environmental Protection Agency

Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns; Environmental Working Group

Flow the movie

Tapped the movie

CNN; Toxic America

Alexis Madrigal; Humans have made, found or used over 50 million unique chemicals; Wired Science

SeaWeb (2008, February 21). Chemicals In Our Waters Are Affecting Humans And Aquatic Life In Unanticipated Ways; Science Daily

(This article originally published by on the Yahoo! Contributor Network – February 10, 2011)