Drinking water contaminants

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Dr. Lynn Goldman
Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 12:30 PM

Dr. Lynn Goldman, deanof the GWU School of Public Health and Health Services, will answer questions about the recent news of lead in D.C. drinking water and hexavalent chromium in certain cities.

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quantifying risk of contaminants: OK, so there is nasty stuff in the water. Does this shorten the average DC resident's life by 5 years, a year, or 5 minutes? The answer matters a lot and nobody seems to be reporting on it.

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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lead in DC Water: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50459-2004May23.htmlIn 2004 The Post reported on the new WASA water meters leaching lead. WASA is now offering .25 % or less lead meters instead of the 6 to 7 or more lead meters but not publicly telling customers of this option. WASA employees as recently as last month agreed the meters leach lead but argue it is a small amount. WASA (DC Water) as of January 1 now only offers the .25 % or less meters. Should WASA inform customers of this source of lead on the bill each month until all meters are changed out. In light of the fact that no amount of lead is good and that the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level goal for lead is zero why does WASA ignor this source of lead. In addition studies have come out indicating that the HFSA (Hydrofluorsilicic Acid) being added by the Washington Aqueduct not only cause lead, aluminum and other metals to leach out of pipes, fixtures, meters, etc. but that it has lead, arsenic and radionuclides in it.

Dr. Lynn Goldman: I know that the HFSA issue has been raised however when EPA has evaluated this issue they have not found that the HFSA has raised levels of toxic metals in water.

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Chloramine: Why won't the Washington Water Dept consider stopping the use of chloramine, which is the cause of the lead problems?Beth NordPalo Alto, CA

Dr. Lynn Goldman: However, no matter what they do it also appears that the old lead service connections continue to leach some lead into household drinking water.

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hexavalent chrome: Dr Goldman: When I read the reports on the hazards of hexavalent chromium levels and the ratio of 100 parts per billion being too high, it sounds more like just sensationalizing news data. I have worked with hexavalent chrome for 39 years and am 60 yo, I have splashed in it,in my nose,mouth, eyes ears, work 7 days a week for those 39 yrs.,, Have never had 1 person say I am sick because they have been near chrome, not 1 person has contracted cancer or any form of cancer to this point in all of my years of employment there., my boss was in it for 20 yrs. before me,, he is 86 and still runs 3 miles a day, works out at a gym everyday and has time to come to work.You doctors and scientists that work with lab animals, need to get out and check with those of us that actually work everyday with this product and have NO ill effects after years of actual contact environment everyday and all feel healthy.thank you

Dr. Lynn Goldman: You and your boss are healthy but I would recommend that you take reasonable steps to avoid exposure.

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Chicago's Water System: Was Chicago's Water system tested, and if so, what were the test results?Also, how can the hexavalent chromium be removed?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Once the hexavalent chromium is in the water it can be removed.

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Hexavalent Chromium: Is there a consumer test for hexavalent chromium?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: There is not a consumer test on the market at this time.

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Water: Will the levels of hexavalent chromium in the water affect us through showering/toothbrushing or only by ingesting it?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Hexavalent chromium: Can I safely drink tap water filtered by a Brita or something similar? If not, that means I have to buy bottled water. Does DC (and other affected cities) plan to supply safe drinking water to its citizens, or reimburse us for the cost of having to purchase water?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Drinking water contaminants: We have a one-and-a-half-year-old. Should we have her drink bottled water and then use baby fluoride toothpaste?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: DC recommends lead tests for all children at 12 and 24 months of age.

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Drinking water: Is the proposed California hexavalent chromium standard of 0.06 parts per billion in drinking water a science-based standard?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Most of the human studies are in workers who breathed dust.

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Water safety: With all the insistence of weight conscious folks that we drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, will all this water harm me? I routinely down at least 6 glasses a day and didn't want to have to go cold turkey dry.

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Moderation in all things is a good idea.

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Well water: How can people out here in the country with well water find out if they have lead or hexavalent chromium in their water?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: I have no idea what this would cost nor how many of these labs can perform this very specialized test.

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Chromium: I live in Norman Oklahoma and we're all very concerned... Can reverse osmosis remove hexavalent chromium from drinking water? What can the City of Norman do make sure our drinking water is potable?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: If they are confirmed then could be a good idea to find out if there is a source or if the hexavalent chromium is naturally occurring there, because removal of a source might be the best treatment.

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Hexavalent chromium scare: My understanding is that the actual animal research only correlated with cancer when the animals were given water at a concentration of 57000 parts per billion for a two year period. So why is a radical group claiming a .06 ppb standard, and trying to start a panic over water not meeting that standard.

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Meanwhile it probably makes sense to avoid it when we can.

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chromium: Do we know what the current levels of hexavalent Chromium in Bethesda water [0.19 parts per billion] would cause? Has there been studies that reflecct these levels?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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chromium in drinking water: Is this a new problem in the water, or is it just that they are now able to test for this and other chemicals?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Blood lead testing guidelines: The article that appeared a couple of days ago in the Post says that the DC Department of Health recommends first testing children for lead in blood between the ages of 6 and 14 months. By this time, however, many children have stopped drinking reconstituted infant formula (often mixed with tap water), or are drinking much less of it. Doesn't this mean that waiting to test around 12 months (which is what many pediatricians recommend) might miss potential health harm from exposure to lead at the tap during the first and highly vulnerable months of life? Do you consider the existing blood lead level guidelines adequate?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Sherwood High School is concerned about water: How does hexavalent chromium impact the health of children, and how do we remove it from the water?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Chromium in drinking water: Doesn't EPA conduct a periodic science-based review of health risk based on health effects and data from its National Occurence Database as required by section 1412 of the Safe Drinking Water Act that was completed recently and determined that a drinking water standard was not necessary for chromium in order to rotect human health ?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: EPA currently is conducting just such a review for hexavalent chromium.

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multiple contaminants: Has any one ever done any studies to look at the summational effects of being exposed to multiple contaminants and whether that affects levels that are harmful? For example, if a person is exposed to 3 different contaminants that are all below their individual harmful levels, can that be just as bad as being exposed to to only a single one of them at a harmful level?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Theoretically this can happen but we have very little research on the impacts of multiple contaminants.

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New York, N.Y.: What exactly does it mean that New York City is the largest city without a water filtration plant? What potential dangerous exposures face drinking water in New York City and what is done to minimize risks?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Hopefully it will continue to receive a clean bill of health as more work is done to understand what is going on with hexavalent chromium.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What are the dangers of fracking fluids possibly entering into the water systems?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Reporting based on scientific and technical press releases: As a physical chemist by training, I'm very concerned about the lack of scientifically supported facts relating to the findings cited by the Environmental Working Group. I simply don't know what to believe. Among other things, is the California standard reasonable in terms of health? How good is detection capability at such low concentrations? Does hexavalent chromium immediately change its valence when exposed to stomach acid? (I remember freshmen experiments with both chromium and molybdenum where colors of these metals in solution changed in response to pH changes).I have to also wonder if releasing information on two different days was intended to get the Environmental Working Group more publicity and possibly additional donations. Another organization recently took a similar tack putting out a press release about money being contaminated with BPA. After downloading their original report, my reading was that the problem was with thermally printed receipts. The low concentrations of BPA on money were not significant when compared to the possible contamination from the receipts themselves. This much more significant danger (to cashiers) wasn't mentioned in press releases but was in the actual report, if one dug hard enough.Generalizing, I believe there are two very significant problems. First, newspapers have no staff trained to analyze press releases of this nature. If they tap the academic community, its would be difficult in time to get a well thought out response in time for a deadline. Also, can the reporter be reasonably sure the academic they are calling has no personal agenda with the topic? I have no constructive suggestions as to how an unbiased "stable" of scientific talent can be readily available for a reporter's call.The second problem is correctable. The articles printed must be exceptionally cautionary regarding issues of this type until there has been a reasonable level of validation. In the case of the BPA on receipts, its possible there is a very significant risk to cashiers, but that got lost completely in the hype over very small amounts of BPA on money. If thermal receipts need to be replaced for the benefit of cashiers health, it won't happen because of press releases like that one. In the case of hexavalent chromium, we don't know risks at various concentrations, nor do we know that it remains in a hexavalent state for more than a moment after entering the stomach. Resources are finite. Do we want water departments reducing efforts at perhaps minimizing lead because of public demand for expensive technologies to deal with hexavalent chromium unless we are very sure about the hazard level? I don't. This is the second danger. If we know something is clearly hazardous then it's appropriate to ignite public opinion to facilitate getting the resources required to deal with it. But the cost of crying fire when one is unsure one is even smelling smoke is immense. Public receptivity to alarms will diminish quickly.Sorry for being so lengthy but I'm becoming very concerned about issues such as these and our inability to know the magnitude of the possible risks.

Dr. Lynn Goldman: That assessment should address many of the questions you are asking!

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Drinking Water Safety: Is there any increased safety by filtering tap water ( Montgomery county) in using a filter on a pitcher (for example, a Brita pitcher)?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:

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Drinking Water: What are the health risks of drinking water purified through reverse osmosis, and bottled in PET plastic? Are the lack of fluoridation and minerals a problem?

Dr. Lynn Goldman: Consult your child's health care provider about this.

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DC WATER: I live in DC in a house built in the 1920s and I am concerned about the recent reports about lead and other contaminants in the drinking water. Since apparently the city is unable to fix this problem is there something I can buy to filter the water in my home. The brita filters don't list lead as one of the contaminants it filters out. I have a young child and we could be trying to have another soon.

Dr. Lynn Goldman: They have a lead service hotline at (202) 787-2732.

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lead in water: Dr Goldman - If I have confirmed with DC Water that the supply lines to my home are NOT lead (they are copper), do I need to worry about lead in the water that comes from the main DC supply?

Dr. Lynn Goldman:


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