Knowledge Update

The Cancer-Causing CHEMICALS Probably in Your Drinking Water

the-cancer-causing-chemicals-probably-in-your-drinking-water

Water, a substance composed of the chemical elements hydrogen and oxygen and existing in gaseous (steam), liquid (water), and solid (ice) states. It is one of the most plentiful and essential compounds. A tasteless and odourless liquid at room temperature, it

has the important ability to dissolve many other substances. Indeed, the versatility of water as a solvent is essential to living organisms. Life is believed to have originated in the aqueous solutions of the world’s oceans, and living organisms depend on aqueous solutions, such as blood and digestive juices, for biological processes. In small quantities water appears colourless, but water actually has an intrinsic blue colour caused by slight absorption of light at red wavelengths.

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Researchers, in recent times, are starting to focus on a heterocyclic organic compound called dioxane which is a potential carcinogen that’s beginning to show up in tests of tap water. One probably haven’t heard of the chemical dioxane but there’s a good chance one might have been drinking it! The chemical, 1, 4-dioxane, is an industrial solvent used in the production and manufacturing of a whole range of common products, including cosmetics, varnishes, dyes, and detergents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies the chemical as “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.”

Interestingly, dioxane finds its way aided into water supplies in the United States and many other part of the Africa according to latest research. In fact, according to a report released last month by the Environmental Working Group, a non-partisan advocacy group, dioxane was found in tap water samples that affect 90 million Americans in 45 states. In August, the New York State Department of Health passed legislation requiring all water systems, regardless of size, to begin testing for dioxane. Unfortunately, its awareness is very low in the Africa terrain at the moment.

Possible health risk of dioxane

Dioxane is one of many contaminants that the EPA has been monitoring since the mid-1990s. But the agency has yet to regulate it. The 1996 amendment of the Safe Drinking Water Act introduced the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). It requires the EPA to monitor a list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants in water. Based on its findings, the EPA uses data and survey information from the UCMR to make regulatory decisions about potentially harmful contaminants. 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. Among other things, dioxane is a byproduct of sodium laureate sulfate, a foaming agent found in shampoo, soap, detergent, and toothpaste. It’s also water-soluble and therefore it can travel rapidly through soil to permeate groundwater supplies. Dioxane is known to affect the liver and kidneys. It’s also been identified as a probable carcinogen. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health previously established dangerous toxicity levels for dioxane. Less serious health effects of dioxane exposure can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as cracked, dry skin and eczema.

Is Bottled Water Safe to Drink after Sitting in a Hot Car?

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This is another important topic of discuss that needs to be holistically looked into. It’s more important than ever to stay hydrated, as we may be in the midst of the hottest month in recorded history! However, is that bottle of water you found on the floorboard of your car or left sitting in your center console safe to drink after sitting in the sun for several hours or more?

Single-use water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly known as PET plastic. Some argue this type of plastic can leach the chemicals bisphenol A (BPA) and antimony when heated – both of which are considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and linked to numerous adverse health effects. A 2014 study conducted at the University of Florida found after leaving 16 different brands of bottled water in a car that reached 158 degrees for a month, only one of them possessed BPA levels above EPA regulations and trace amounts of antimony. Even so, the lead author of this study warned against leaving bottled water in your garage for weeks, as well as in your car for a day or longer for safety reasons.

“When you heat things up, the molecules jiggle around faster and that makes them escape from one phase into another,” Cheryl Watson, a biochemistry professor at the University of Texas Watson says. “So the plastic leaches its component chemicals out into the water much faster and more with heat applied to it.” Watson also says this is likely why the bottled water tastes different than it does when chilled.

REFERENCES

  1. “Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity” (PDF). Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. 2 April 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 May 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 1,4-Dioxane CAS#123-91-1 (Listed January 1, 1988)
  2. Anteunis, M. (1962). “Studies of the Grignard Reaction. II. Kinetics of the Reaction of Dimethylmagnesium with Benzophenone and of Methylmagnesium Bromide-Magnesium Bromide with Pinacolone”. The Journal of Organic Chemistry. 27 (2): 596. doi:10.1021/jo01049a060.
  3. Westerhoff, P., Prapaipong, P., Shock, E., Hillaireau, A. (2008). Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used for bottled drinking water. Water Res. 42: 551–556.
  4. World Health Organization. Water Sanitation Health: Antimony in drinking water. Accessed 1 October, 2014. http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/0304_74/en/index9.ht
  5. Fan YY, Zheng JL, Ren JH, Luo J, Cui XY, Ma LQ. (2014). Effects of storage temperature and duration on release of antimony and bisphenol A from polyethylene terephthalate drinking water bottles of China. Environmental Pollution 192:113-20.

Mr. Courage Dele Famusiwa, is a Lecturer II in Skyline University Nigeria. He has M. Tech in Applied Biochemistry and Toxicology from Federal University of Technology, Akure.

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