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The New Pollutants Brewing in Our Water
Date:11/11/2009

of Potomac River fish studied is the “canary in the coal mine,” warning of health problems that can because of endocrine disrupting compounds. Since approximately 90% of D.C.-area drinking water comes from the Potomac River and many other nearby municipalities get their water from surface sources, they said it is critical that steps be taken to limit the amount of these chemicals entering the rivers of the greater Potomac basin.

“Endocrine disrupting compounds are major pollutants in the Potomac watershed, and we need to exercise the utmost caution when introducing these compounds into our rivers, streams and, ultimately, our drinking water,” said Dr. John Peterson “Pete” Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences of Charlottesville, Va.

“Water treatment facilities are not yet required to screen for endocrine disrupting contaminants, so they end up in our tap water,” Myers said. “We aren’t sure exactly what level of exposure causes harmful effects to human health, but if the intersex fish phenomenon is any indication, there’s a critical need for regulatory agencies and decision makers to start addressing this issue.”

Endocrine disrupting compounds are chemicals that affect growth, metabolism and reproduction in organisms such as humans and fish. They are found in pesticides, veterinary products, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and biosolids. These contaminants have become so widespread in the environment that they have even been detected in the urine of infants.

The State of the Nation’s River report explains that land uses are providing a critical pathway for such chemicals to enter our water supply. Endocrine disrupting compounds are most prevalent in rivers and streams in industrialized, agricultural, and/or urbanized areas, with particularly high concentrations near sewage treatment plants or other sources of wastewater.
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