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Contaminants detected in water supply threaten human endocrine system

Hormones, the chemicals distributed throughout our body via the endocrine system, play a major role in regulating health and development. When the endocrine system is disrupted, it can cause developmental problems and malformations, increase the risks of some cancers, inhibit reproduction, and disrupt the nervous and immune systems.

Exposure to emerging contaminants like pharmaceuticals or personal hygiene products found in drinking water and wastewater can cause endocrine problems and are a threat to the human health even at low doses.

A collection of presentations at the 2018 Society for Risk Analysis Meeting this week discussed the dangers of emerging contaminants in the public water supply and the risks of exposure.

One of the presentations focused on hormones and pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Laura Bexfield, who presented the study, analyzed data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project study.

1,091 groundwater sites across the United States were tested for 21 different hormones and 103 pharmaceuticals.

The results of the assessment found that there was one or more hormones or pharmaceuticals in untreated groundwater in six percent of 844 sites used for public drinking water and eleven percent of 247 sites used as a domestic supply.

Bexfield’s presentation examined the risk emerging contaminants in groundwater poses to human health and safety, but pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and hormones are also harmful to local ecosystems.

Researchers from the University of Rhode Island presented a study that measured contaminants in ponds in Rhode Island and proposed several solutions for reducing and managing pond contaminant levels in the area.

Another study looked at the ecological risks of emerging contaminants along sites along a tributary in Delaware.

For that study, researchers from West Chester University developed efficient methods for detecting contaminants in watersheds worldwide.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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