Water Contamination and its Link to Cancer and Complications

Over the years, there have been a number of mass water contamination in the United States that have sickened, or even killed scores of people. The human body is very sensitive to ingesting chemicals on a regular and sustained basis. Further, chemicals that find their way into drinking water or extremely hazardous in any amount, let alone the amount that people have actually consumed, which is way higher than any possible limits.

For example, the water contamination in Flint, Michigan is known to have killed at least a dozen people. This total is far underreported, as the actual death toll may reach into the hundreds.  Not only does water contamination put people in immediate short-term danger, but the buildup of chemicals in the body can also cause numerous types of cancerous tumors.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals Can End Up in Water Supplies

There are numerous carcinogens that can find their way into the water. Practically every type of man-made chemical has been known to end up in a water system. Whether it is through intentional misbehavior or accident, chemicals can end up in the ground or the reservoirs and lakes that make up the water supply.

The most common way that water can be contaminated is by the infiltration of chemicals that are in the general area of water sources.  Industry has been known to improperly dispose of chemicals,  dumping them either directly in the water or in places that will eventually come into contact with water. Other sources of water contamination include soil erosion and runoff and garbage pollution in water.

Water supplies that rely on reservoirs are considered to be relatively safe  Because there is less of a chance that chemicals can reach the source. However, water systems that depend on groundwater are much more likely to become contaminated because various chemicals can seep into the groundwater. This is exactly what happens at Camp Lejeune, as an underground chemical dump was located near water wells that serve service members and their families.

Causes of Water Contamination

Here are some causes of known water contamination:

  • Products containing PFAS, also known as the “forever chemical” are dumped into lakes and Water Supplies, potentially contaminating the water for hundreds of years.
  • Organic material from soil erosion can run off into the water supply
  • Nearby industrial activity can result in the intentional or accidental discharge of chemicals into the water
  • Microbiological contaminants such as viruses and toxins can end up in the water if there are mass outbreaks of illnesses in an area

How Water Contamination Impacts the Body

Water contamination can impact the body in a number of ways, including:

  • Damage to internal organs
  • Effects on child development
  • Damage to the reproductive system
  • Short-term gastrointestinal effects

Although the quality of water throughout the United States is improving, much of the population consumes water from a supply that has one or more reported violations of Environmental Protection Agency standards. In 2019, nearly 10% of the United States population was served by a water supply that had an EPA violation.

There is no such thing as a minor violation. Contaminated water supplies have the potential to cause serious illness. The health effects of contaminants in the water can build up over time. Even if it seems as if the amount of contaminant in the water supply is small, the human body will continue to be exposed to it for years. Many of these substances can remain in the body for a long time and are not usually past.

Carcinogens that Are Found in the Water Supply

Here are some common contaminants that are found in water supplies:

  • PFAS – These are man-made chemicals intended to make products more durable and resistant. PFAS Is categorized as a possible human carcinogen and has been speculated to cause Kidney and testicular cancer.
  • Benzene – Benzene is used as a hydrocarbon and an industrial chemical. It commonly pollutes Water Supplies by seeping into Wells from underground sources.
  • Arsenic – Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance that is found in the Earth’s crust. It can contaminate water from ground sources. Treating and purifying water does not always remove all traces of arsenic. This substance has been connected with kidney, liver and bladder cancer.
  • Chlorine – in an effort to remove natural contaminants, water suppliers may chlorinate the water. The problem is that chlorine itself is a known carcinogen that has been tied in with bladder and digestive system cancer.

This is just a partial list of contaminants in Water Systems throughout the United States that may cause cancer. According to the Environmental Working Group, there are roughly one hundred potential carcinogens that have been found in Water Supplies throughout the country. The EWG also claims that there will be nearly 100,000 cases of cancer over a lifetime caused by contaminated water.

Common Types of Cancer from Toxic Water

The most common long-term illness associated with contaminated water is cancer. Over time, toxic chemicals build up in the body and cause tumors.

Here are some of the common types of cancers that result from contaminated water:

  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Esophageal
  • Liver
  • Colorectal
  • Breast
  • Leukemia

Contaminated water contains compounds that disrupt the body’s endocrines. Once they are ingested, these compounds will come into contact with the body’s organs. Over time, the chemicals can build up in the body and change the body’s cellular structure. These toxins will cause the mutations in the cells that lead to cancerous tumors.

The cases of cancer usually happen in parts of the body that come into contact with the water, from the point that it is swallowed to when it leaves the body. The first point of contact is the esophagus. At various points, water passes through the bladder, and it mixes together with digested food in the colorectal system. The kidneys are the part of the body that is responsible for removing toxins.

The toxins in the water also remain in the urine before they are passed outside the body. The urine itself contains numerous toxins. It is held in the bladder before it is released. Again, the continuous contact between toxins and the bladder increases the risk of cancer.

There are other parts of the body that are touched by these toxins. Essentially, any body part that contacts this water, from ingestion to elimination, is at risk of developing a tumor.

Water Contamination Can Continue for Years Until it Is Stopped (and it may never be)

The public is often unaware of the risks that they take every time that they fill a glass from the tap. Chemical contamination can go on for many years until news of it is released to the public. Even with more frequent testing, the full extent of the danger is still not known.

With contaminated Camp Lejeune water, service members were exposed to grave danger for nearly 35 years. It took almost three decades for base officials to learn that there was a problem, even though the physiology and science behind these water wells should have indicated potential danger much earlier. Even after the problem was initially learned, it took years to fully shut down the wells. Then, service members and their families were kept in the dark about the grave danger to which they were exposed.

Now that Congress has passed the Camp Lejeune Justice act, you and your family may be eligible for financial compensation if you were sickened by toxic water at Camp Lejeune. Your first step should be to call an experienced Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and how you may file a claim.