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Chemicals in California Tap Water Predicted to Cause Over 15,000 Cases of Cancer, New Study Shows

Uranium. Radium. Arsenic. These chemicals are known to cause cancer. Now, thanks to a shocking study from the Environmental Working Group (E...

Uranium. Radium. Arsenic. These chemicals are known to cause cancer. Now, thanks to a shocking study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we now know that these and other harmful contaminants are found in California’s public tap water.

The study was just published in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. EWG’s findings are also consistent with at least one other study out of North Carolina. The major takeaway? Consumption of this tap water is tied to a stunning number of cancer cases over the course of a typical generation.

Drinking contaminated tap water puts your health at risk, increases the chances of this major disease


In their study, the EWG team evaluated tap water samples from over 2,700 public water systems in California, which provide at least 98% of the west coast state’s drinking water. As mentioned, these samples contained harmful, carcinogenic chemicals, such as chloroform, tetrachloroethylene, and hexavalent chromium (in addition to the ones listed above).

The study’s authors were then were able to determine the risk of getting cancer as a result of drinking this contaminated water by taking yearly average contamination levels between the years of 2011 and 2015.

As the authors state: “This results in an estimated number of 221 annual cancer cases due to drinking water contaminants in California,” or about 15,500 cases of cancer over the course of about 70 years (the average lifetime).

You’re reading this right: 15,500+ cases of cancer in California directly caused by drinking contaminated tap water. It’s frightening.

The EWG also state that 495 public water systems in California are considered “high risk.”  What they mean by this is that the tap water from these areas will cause cancer in about 1 in 1,000 people over the course of a lifetime.

They also state that 43 public water systems have a relative cancer risk a high as 4 in 1,000. The EWG does not specify which communities are at highest risk, however they do indicate that they include “communities of less than a thousand residents and one water system serving a population of 19,000.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that as many as 40% of Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetime. Based on the recent revelations from the EWG, we can’t help but surmise that the chemicals in our public tap water has something to do with this sobering statistic.

Thirsty? Here’s how to drink water safely in California, other states

The EWG identifies this contaminated drinking water issue as a “significant environmental justice problem.” We couldn’t agree more.

As we can only hope that our public health officials will improve the infrastructure and resources necessary to resolve the root of this public health concern, there are at least some things we can do to protect the health of ourselves and our families:

  • Use a high quality, water purification system for your home water (those installed directly into the sink are generally more effective than filters on faucets or in pitchers)


Whichever system you use, it’s important to upkeep and clean your filters regularly.

Editor’s note: We recommend the Berkey Water Systems for a reasonably priced, highly effective way to remove unwanted substances from your drinking water.

By Sara Middleton, Guest writer / Sources for this article include: CNN.com; EWG.org; Biomedcentral.com; Doi.org; Cancer.org

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