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Roughly 40 million Americans, or 12% of the population, are drinking federally unregulated water.
These sources can contain harmful bacteria and chemicals, which can unknowingly infect those drinking from that water, according to ChangeLab Solutions. Latinos, who already struggle to access clean water, should be aware of the risks unregulated water pose.
“Ensuring safe drinking water for all US residents is a crucial component of creating healthy, equitable communities across the nation,” ChangeLab writes. “These residents are more likely to be exposed to harmful bacteria or unsafe levels of nitrates and arsenic, which can lead to inequities and serious health consequences for families and entire communities.”
What are the Risks?
Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, an environmental sciences professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Kelsey J. Pieper, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech, found that many of these unregulated wells can contain harmful substances.
“Evidence suggests that although many private wells deliver water of high quality, a substantial fraction may be contaminated. Past state-level surveys report that 40-58% of private wells exceed at least one SDWA health-based standard, most commonly for bacterial contamination,” they state in their 2017 study.
Drinking unclean water can lead to many health harms, such as gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders, according to the CDC.
Infants, children, pregnant women, and older people face the highest levels of risk.
Worse, states with high Latino populations are among the areas with the highest populations of residents relying on private-well water, including:
- California (39.3% Latino)
- Texas (39.6%)
- New York (19.2%)
- Florida (26.1%)
What’s Being Done?
ChangeLab recently published numerous resources for those wanting to take action, including a policy guide, fact sheets, and infographics.
State governments across the country are acting to protect their residents from waterborne disease:
- In Oregon (13.3% Latino), the state Health Authority worked with its network to enact plans that encouraged better private-well “stewardship”
- New Mexico’s (49.1%) Department of Health built a database that streamlined contamination risk evaluations across their state
- The New Hampshire (3.9%) Department of Environmental Services “used targeted community well-testing events to raise public awareness and built an online tool to help residents interpret water test results, greatly expanding the scale of its impact”
For those motivated to take further action, send an email to the United States Geological Survey, and urge them to reconsider their decision to project long-term climate change impacts no longer!
Read more about water-related health issues impacting Latinos and all Americans!
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America! and the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) program at UT Health- San Antonio. To find out if you are TILTed due to exposure to everyday foods, chemicals, or drugs, take a self-assessment or learn more about TILT.