How to Protect Children from Toxic Contaminants in Water
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Keeping our children safe and healthy is crucial to their growth and development. That’s why we must provide a secure environment for our precious little ones, nourish them with healthy meals, and protect them from anything that can expose them to danger, like toxic contaminants in drinking water.
Compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to drinking water pollutants. Children drink more water per pound of body weight, breathe more air, have higher absorption and variable metabolism, resulting in increased exposure to water contaminants and the health problems they create. Also, because children’s bodies are still growing, harmful chemicals cause more harm to their developing organs and tissues.
Some contaminants are more dangerous when children are exposed to them during critical stages of development. Exposure to these contaminants can cause severe health effects that can result in death. In this article, we will be discussing the best way to protect your children from toxic pollutants in drinking water. But first, let’s figure out how these ‘agents of destruction’ affect children’s health.
The effects of drinking contaminated water on children’s health
Consider this horrifying fact from Water.org: Every two minutes, a child dies from a waterborne disease. Approximately 160 million children worldwide suffer from health issues as a result of contaminated water and sanitation issues. Whether they are consuming contaminated water or suffering from dehydration, a lack of safe drinking water is the main culprit.
According to data collected from EWG’s Tap Water Database, more than 250 contaminants have been detected in America’s drinking water. Here’s what the data shows:
- At least 45 contaminants are linked to hormone disruption;
- 63 pollutants can affect the development of the fetus or young children;
- 78 contaminants are linked to brain and nervous system problems;
- 93 chemicals are linked to cancer; and
- 38 pollutants are linked to human fertility problems;
Researchers aren’t sure if or how exposure to these pollutants can affect a child’s development, but the effects can range from no physical impact to severe illness or even death. Children who drink contaminated water may experience gastrointestinal and stomach ailments like nausea, vomiting, cramps, headaches, and diarrhea. They may also contract dangerous waterborne diseases, such as cholera, roundworm, typhoid, hepatitis A, poliomyelitis, cryptosporidium, giardia, whipworm, and many more. Several common drinking water contaminants may also cause adverse effects in children, such as:
- Reduced IQ and attention span, mental retardation, learning problems, hypertension, immunotoxicity, renal impairment, anemia, increased antisocial behavior, and other behavioral problems
- Skin lesions, cancer and increased risk of cancer, vascular and neurological disease, cardiovascular problems, impaired growth and development, kidney damage, central nervous system problems, bone abnormalities, and bone fractures
- Bone disease, dental caries, dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, thyroid problems, mottled teeth, methemoglobinemia in young infants, childhood cirrhosis
- Seizures, muscle spasms, excessive saliva, abdominal pain
Bottled-fed babies are especially susceptible to the hostile effects of water contamination. This is because a baby fed exclusively with powdered formula mixed with tap water drinks the most water for its small size of any age group. Tap water can make up about 85 percent of a formula-fed baby’s diet, and this period can last up to six months until parents start supplementing formula with food.
The seven most dangerous contaminants to look out for
There are scores of different drinking water contaminants that can affect children’s health. However, here are seven of the most vicious and common ones to watch out for:
Lead is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to pregnant women and young children. The metal usually enters drinking water as the water passes through old corroded lead pipes, plumbing pipes, and household fixtures. Additional exposures may come from soil, paint, and contaminated household dust.
Lead exposure can have severe consequences for children. Worse, no amount of lead exposure is considered safe. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system, causing coma, convulsions, and even death. Children who survive lead poisoning may be left with behavioral disorders and mental retardation. Even at lower levels of exposure, children may experience injury across multiple body organs and systems.
In particular, lead can affect a child’s brain development, resulting in reduced IQ, and behavioral changes, such as reduced attention span and educational attainment, and increased antisocial behavior. Lead exposure can also cause hypertension, anemia, immunotoxicity, renal impairment, and danger to the reproductive organs.
Generally, you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in your drinking water. The only way to find out whether your drinking water contains the metal is to test it with a home water test kit or send a water sample from your tap to a local lab to be tested.
Fluoride has been proven to help prevent cavities and other dental dilemmas in children and adults when used topically (not ingested). That’s why it’s found in most kinds of toothpaste, mouth rinses, and other dental products. Fluoride is also added to many public water systems to reduce incidences of cavities among the population. While the US Department of Health has lowered the recommended amount of fluoride in municipal water systems, the mineral is still consumed by about 66% of the American population above optimal levels.
According to a 2012 study from Harvard University, children living in areas with excessive levels of fluoride in their drinking water had significantly lower IQ scores than children in areas with low fluoride levels. The World Health Organization also determined that long-term exposure to toxic fluoride levels can cause muscle impairment or joint pain and stiffness. Other health conditions linked include dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, lower IQ scores in boys, higher risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, and others.
3. Nitrates and Nitrites
Nitrates and nitrites often end up in our drinking water through human sewage run-off, fertilizers, and livestock manure. Evidence shows that high levels of these contaminants may cause reproductive effects and thyroid dysfunction in women, which can lead to complications such as reduced IQ scores and other neurodevelopmental issues in their kids later on in life. Short-term exposure to nitrate can significantly reduce the oxygen level in the infant’s blood, and often leads to methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby disease.” The symptoms of this disease include respiratory and digestive problems, brain damage, and even death. The CDC confirms this as they declare that some children and adults who ate food or drank fluids that contained unusually high nitrate levels experienced various symptoms like:
- decreases in blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen to tissues
- headaches, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and even death
Arsenic is one of the most dangerous contaminants affecting millions of Americans exposed to it through drinking water. It affects almost every organ in the body, including the brain. Recent studies have found that even low concentrations of arsenic can impair neurological function in children. And the result?
- lower intellectual performance
- decreased cognitive skills (reading, writing, math, vocabulary)
- weakened visual perception
- ADHD, etc.
What’s even more frightening is that inorganic arsenic is a confirmed cancer-causing contaminant. The short-term acute effects of exposure include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, numbness, tingling, muscle cramping, and even death, in extreme cases. Long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is usually observed in the skin, including skin lesions, pigmentation changes, and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet (hyperkeratosis). These occur after a minimum exposure of approximately five years and might be a precursor to skin cancer.
Like arsenic, PFAS chemicals are among the deadliest contaminants found in America’s water supply. PFAS is an acronym for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, a large family of almost 5,000 different types of human-made chemical compounds. Because of their unique properties, such as being resistant to heat, water, and oil, they’re used in a wide variety of consumer products. These products include non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, carpeting waterproof clothing, food packaging like fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags, and some shampoos and soaps.
Since PFAS chemicals have been used in so many consumer products for decades, it’s no surprise that they’ve also been found in drinking water. Exposure to some PFAS chemicals can lead to serious health issues in humans, especially when the substances creep above one part per trillion. PFAS may lead to problems like thyroid disease, damage to the liver and kidneys, elevated cholesterol levels, effects on fertility, and low birth weight. The chemical family can also decrease vaccine response in children and increase the risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnant women.
Scientists are still learning about the health effects of different mixtures of PFAS on humans, but based on what we know already, children should steer clear of these chemicals at all costs.
Manganese naturally occurs in the earth’s crust. It is usually ingested through food, but the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has discovered that over 10 million Americans consume water from public systems that contain over 300 parts per billion (ppb) of manganese. Several recent studies show lower IQ scores, hyperactivity, memory and attention problems, reduced mental development and intelligence, and lower verbal and behavioral performance scores in children who live in areas with higher concentrations of manganese in tap water.
Atrazine is a common name for a herbicide that is widely and heavily used in American agriculture. Shockingly, it is found in the water supplies of at least 30 million Americans. The chemical is used mostly on farms to kill weeds, but some homeowners use it on their lawn and gardens. People living near areas where atrazine is applied to crops may be exposed to it through contaminated drinking water.
When ingested, atrazine can alter how the reproductive system works. It is also linked to hormone disruption and preterm births. Research shows that it acts by depressing a hormone known as LH, which leads to increased estrogen and prolactin production in females and changes testosterone levels in males. A 2011 review by the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel on the effects of atrazine on humans concluded that there is suggestive evidence that the chemical can increase the risk of ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia, and thyroid cancer.
What is being done to address the risks of toxic contaminants in drinking water and their effects on children’s health?
Surprisingly, not enough is being done to address the risks of toxic contaminants in water on children’s health. While several federal drinking water regulations have been introduced, almost none of them give special consideration to the exposure and toxicity of drinking water contaminants for young children. Many existing national drinking water standards have been developed for adults weighing 70 kilograms (or 154 pounds) – but not for children or infants.
What can I do to protect my children from drinking water contaminants?
The best way to protect your children from harmful contaminants in drinking water is to install a reliable and efficient in-home water filtration system. There are several different types of water filters, but the most effective are reverse osmosis systems and carbon filters.
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems like the Springwell SWRO filters are most proficient at removing water contaminants. They are uniquely engineered to eliminate all kinds of pollutants from drinking water that many other filtering systems can’t. Typically, this type of filter treats water at one specific faucet, which is why it is called a point-of-use (POU) filter. The Springwell SWRO under-sink filters are some of the most well-built and reliable RO systems for filtering water contaminants from your drinking water. They use a 4-stage filtration process to remove toxic pollutants like lead, mercury, arsenic, atrazine, fluoride, manganese, nitrate, chlorine, chloramine, chlorine byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, iron, aluminum, and many others.
Carbon filtration is also an excellent treatment method. The Springwell Whole House Water Filter System and other whole-house systems are designed to treat all the water coming through your water main before reaching all the different sections in your home. The CF1, in particular, impressively removes 99.9% of contaminants and impurities in drinking water that affect children the most. The CF1 is an ideal solution because it uses carbon filtration and various other ingenious technologies and features to eliminate even the most dangerous drinking water contaminants. These include chlorine, chloramine, PFAS, pesticides like atrazine, herbicides, haloacetic acids, THMs, and many more.
Springwell’s systems are easy to install and maintain. What sets them apart is that they produce some of the safest and best-tasting water. Springwell also offers a lifetime warranty on each system, plus a six-month guarantee, and free shipping. What’s even better is that you can select the unit that best suits your needs and finance it with affordable monthly payments up to a year!
If you have any questions or need help finding your ideal water filtration solution, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to assist.
Our children are our responsibility, so we must do our best to protect them from danger. That also means filtering our drinking water to remove contaminants that would otherwise seek to harm them. But after you install a filter in your home, don’t stop there. Reach out to your state and federal officials with the tough questions about water quality, and hold them accountable for ensuring that all American children have safe water.