October 2017 - The water system of Brownsville, Texas, with one of the highest poverty rates in the US, is the largest US water utilities with the worst water quality. Testing in 2015 revealed 12 contaminants above established health guidelines. Among those contaminants, the highest abnormality was arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral that causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, as well as harm to the skin and lungs. Arsenic levels in Brownsville's water supply—serving 176,000 people—were 700 times greater than established health guidelines.
While most of the detected contaminants were at legal levels, these levels still pose health risks, according to authoritative scientific studies. About 81 percent of US water systems contain pollutants linked to cancer, according to EGW. In addition, 77 percent of Americans drink water containing hexavalent chromium—linked to liver and the reproductive system damage—while lead was detected at levels that may be harmful to children at 19,000 water utilities.
The distinction between legal and healthy levels of contaminants is worth the attention of every citizen that relies on piped drinking water. Recent headlines from Flint, Michigan, clearly could emerge from many water utility areas around the US. As mentioned, Iowa is a useful case example.
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Source: IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) Database, October 2017
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