When Clean Water Isn’t Clean: The Serious Health Risks of Water Contamination

Water contamination is a serious problem that affects both developing and developed countries, causing severe health risks for individuals and communities. Contaminated water can lead to a range of illnesses, from gastrointestinal diseases to cancer, and can even result in death.

Access to clean water is a basic human right. Yet around 1.6 billion people worldwide won’t have access to safe and clean drinking water in 2030, as reported by UNICEF. Despite efforts to improve water quality, water contamination remains a major public health issue, with new contaminants always emerging. 

This article explores the serious health risks of water contamination and discusses the importance of investing in clean water infrastructure to protect public health.

1. Cancer

Exposure to certain contaminants in drinking water has been linked to various types of cancer, including bladder, liver, kidney, and leukemia. One of the most well-known water contaminants associated with cancer is arsenic, a naturally occurring element that can be found in groundwater. 

Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly of the bladder, lungs, and skin.

In addition to these well-known contaminants, emerging contaminants such as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have also been linked to cancer. These chemicals, commonly found in products like non-stick cookware, have been found in drinking water sources and are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including kidney and testicular cancer.

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The increased risks of PFAS in drinking water have attracted the attention of the US government. According to the National Institute of Health, the current administration under President Biden has unveiled a comprehensive multi-agency strategy to tackle the issue of PFAS contamination across the country. This plan includes expanding cleanup operations to mitigate the spread of PFAS pollution in affected areas.

One notable water contamination incident in the United States occurred at Camp Lejeune. At Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, the drinking water was contaminated with harmful chemicals such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) between the 1950s and 1980s. 

This contamination has been linked to numerous cancer cases, reproductive disorders, neurological disorders, and other serious health problems.

TorHoerman Law LLC has identified specific symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination associated with different types of cancers and illnesses that the Camp Lejeune water contamination has caused.

For instance, breast cancer symptoms may include breast size or shape changes, skin texture, breast lumps, and nipple discharge. Cervical cancer symptoms may include bleeding between periods, after sex, and painful sex. Esophageal cancer symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and throat or back pain.

You can explore additional symptoms related to various diseases on the TorHoerman Law LLC website.

2. Respiratory Infections

Ingesting water that contains harmful bacteria, viruses, or other pollutants may result in respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and Legionnaires’ disease. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria.

Contaminants such as nitrates and lead can also contribute to respiratory problems, especially in children and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

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The risk of respiratory infections from water contamination highlights the importance of proper water treatment and disinfection processes. Regular testing of water sources is also crucial to detect and address any potential contamination before it poses a risk to public health.

3. Skin Problems

Water contamination can also lead to various skin problems when harmful chemicals are present in the water supply.

Individuals with pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis may be particularly susceptible to the effects of water contamination on their skin. In addition, poor water quality can worsen these conditions, leading to itching, dryness, and inflammation.

To minimize the risk of skin problems associated with water contamination, it is essential to implement effective water treatment and disinfection methods.

4. Neurological Disorders

Water contamination can pose a significant health risk by contributing to the development of neurological disorders. Certain pollutants found in drinking water have been associated with a higher likelihood of developing conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive impairment.

Studies have shown that long-term exposure to lead in drinking water can lead to neurodevelopmental problems in children, including lower IQ scores and behavioral issues. In addition, exposure to mercury in drinking water has been linked to neurological problems such as tremors and memory loss.

According to the World Health Organization, neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death globally. The impact of water contamination on neurological health highlights the urgent need for improved water quality monitoring and regulation.

Therefore, investing in clean water infrastructure and adopting stricter standards for harmful contaminants in drinking water is crucial to mitigate the risk of neurological health disorders.

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Such measures can contribute to a safer and healthier water supply, promoting overall well-being for individuals and communities.

5. Reproductive and Developmental Problems

Reproductive and developmental problems are also serious concerns regarding water contamination. For example, exposure to high levels of nitrates in drinking water has been connected with an increased risk of birth defects such as neural tube defects and cleft palate. Additionally, exposure to certain chemicals, such as phthalates found in plastics and personal care products, has been linked to lower sperm quality and quantity in men.

Numerous Americans may be exposed to toxic pollutants in their drinking water that can cause reproductive and developmental problems. It highlights the urgent need for stricter regulations and more effective water quality monitoring to protect public health.

It’s Necessary to Address Water Contamination to Save Public Health

Water is essential for life, and access to clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. However, water contamination poses a significant threat to public health, with critical consequences for individuals and communities worldwide.

It is essential to prioritize clean water infrastructure, effective water treatment and disinfection methods, and regular monitoring and testing of water sources to ensure that water is safe for drinking. In addition, it requires a commitment to stricter regulations and increased funding for water quality programs at the local, state, and federal levels.


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