The Environmental Working Group (EWG) on Wednesday launched its drinking water database, which allows anyone in the U.S. to enter a zip code and find out which contaminants can be found in local water supplies.
Additionally, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization tracks the levels of contaminants found in local water sources. It also reports if those levels are above the legal limits set by the EPA, or if they’re found in amounts that scientists believe are dangerous to human health.
This is the third update to the nationwide database, the only one of its kind, according to EWG.
Nneka Leiba, the leader of the project and director of EWG’s Healthy Living Science Program, said it took researchers two years to collect 30 million test results from 50,000 utilities across 50 states. Leiba said some of the results were alarming.
The EWG identified 267 different pollutants in data from U.S. water utilities. Leiba said 93 were linked to cancer, 58 were associated with brain and nervous system damage, and 38 were linked to fertility problems.
About 80 percent of drinking water in the U.S. is considered surface water, which is found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, streams and creeks.
“Most surface water systems tend to have a lot more pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff or urban activity,” explains Leiba. “Some of the processes used to treat water can also create harmful by-products. A lot of the industrial facilities have outlets or other ways of disposing their effluents that can end up in our streams. With agriculture, it’s the same thing – a lot of waste ends up in streams, which are the drinking water sources for millions of Americans.”
Even more disturbing, Leiba said, is that more than 50 percent of chemicals found in U.S….