New Study Links Drinking Water in California to Increased Cancer Risk

New study links filthy California drinking water to increased cancer risk

A new study has linked the ‘filthy’ drinking water in California to an increased risk in getting cancer.

Researchers from Environmental Working Group found that toxins in California’s water supply could contribute to more than 15,000 cancer cases over the course of a lifetime.

Keyt.com reports: The study uses reported contaminant levels between 2011 and 2015. It accounts for more than 2,700 California public water systems, which serve 98 percent of the state’s population.

The report comes as no shock to Dr. Andrea Neal, who studies environmental contaminants in drinking water.

“I don’t find it surprising at all,” she said. “We will see a rise of cancers as we have a rise in population and an increase of contaminants that are entering into our waterways.”

One major carcinogen the study found in California water systems was arsenic, which occurs naturally but also may be found in areas burned by wildfire.

“Fire’s a big problem for us as a community,” Dr. Neal said. “But it also causes a huge water quality issue because you have contaminants coming from all that burned material, which include arsenic. Fire material that’s being burnt and going into these smaller and smaller finer pieces that are entering into our airways and then into our water systems.”

Water systems test for contaminants to keep their supplies safe but even those that meet legal standards could contain harmful toxins.

But Dr. Neal isn’t blaming water regulators. She says the issue is complicated and that a number of factors are contributing to increased contaminant levels in California water. One of them is long periods of drought, which decrease the water supply and therefore increase the rate of contaminants in that supply.

“I don’t think that regulators are not looking into this,” Dr. Neal said. “I just think that it’s a really complex question. And how do you create systems and drinking water systems that look into that kind of complexity?”

Water officials from Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo County and the state met in Ojai Tuesday to discuss water safety. 

Dr. Neal says the easiest way for people to remedy the issue is to protect their own water supply by filtering tap water at home. She also recommends learning more about local water districts and where water comes from.

“When we talk about our own water resources the best thing you can do as an individual is take your own water into your own hands,” she said. “That’s the easiest thing that you can do to prevent that from going into your own water supply and into your family’s.”