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Free report – Facts about Greater Vancouver’s Drinking Water

The Quality of Vancouver’s Water is Heads Above the Rest, but is it Safe?

Here in Vancouver, we are fortunate to have our water sourced from untouched snowmelt and rain runoff. In most other parts of North America, drinking water sources contain pesticides, herbicides, fluoride, industrial solvents, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

In Greater Vancouver, our water is collected in three huge protected watersheds: the Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam reservoirs. The Greater Vancouver Regional District manages these reservoirs, treats the water and then delivers it to our local municipalities.

If our water comes from such an enviable source, how could it possibly threaten your health with cancer, heart disease, asthma, miscarriage, birth defects, and DNA damage?

A Closer Look

The Truth about Chlorine

All municipalities add some form of chlorine to their water supply because it effectively kills harmful microbiological organisms. Nearly 80,000 tons of chlorine is used to treat water in Canada and the US every year. The trouble is that chlorine also poisons the living tissues of your body.

Chlorine is a known carcinogen. Cancer is at epidemic levels; other disorders such as heart disease, reproductive and respiratory problems are affecting an increasing number of Canadians. Studies are finding that one of the contributing culprits can be found in our daily consumption of our most basic necessity — water.

Health Canada makes it clear that our drinking water must be chlorinated (or otherwise disinfected) whether or not this process introduces cancer-causing compounds into our water. The amount of chlorine or disinfectant added to our water must be sufficient to destroy bacteria and viruses.

Chlorine, Disinfectant By-Products and Cancer

The use of chlorine results in a less well-known but equally dangerous phenomenon called disinfectant by-products, which are known to cause cancer. They are formed when chlorinated water (and ozonated water) comes in contact with organic matter like leaves. The formation of these compounds is particularly likely to occur when the source of water is surface water such as our mountainous watersheds here in the Vancouver area.

Disinfectant by-products are volatile gases. These dangerous compounds trigger the production of free radicals in the body causing cell damage. In addition to being known carcinogens, they can cause reproductive problems and mutations by altering DNA. They also suppress immune system function.

Although all levels of government acknowledge concern about disinfectant by-products, Health Canada’s position clearly states:

“Although the use of chlorine can lead to the formation of disinfectant by-products such as THMs (Trihalomethanes), efforts to manage THM levels must not compromise the effectiveness of water disinfection”.*
* Trihalomethanes in Drinking Water prepared by Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water

Harmful at Any Level of Exposure

Health Canada has established a ‘maximum acceptable concentration’ for Trihalomethanes (THMs). This standard has been under review because of growing concern that Canadian guidelines underestimate the need to protect us from the dangers of these compounds. Low levels of concentration of these carcinogenic compounds are being identified as the triggers for many cancers.

There are no regulations set in Canada yet for Haloacetic Acids (HAAs). US standards (which may be inadequate) are currently being used as a guideline in Canada. HAA concentrations in our Greater Vancouver area water often exceed these standards.

Because it can take 20 to 30 years for some disease conditions to show up, it is easy to ignore the consequences of toxic exposure until it’s too late.

Turbidity Compounds the Problem

A key factor in Greater Vancouver’s water conditions that compounds our local situation is a condition called turbidity.

Turbidity is the presence of very fine suspended matter in water. Our water comes from open reservoirs, which are subject to sediment entering them especially during the heavy rains of fall and winter.

Our reservoirs are sometimes shut down for extended periods of time due to microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses that “hide” amongst the particles found in turbid water, making it too difficult to deliver safe water.

During periods of high turbidity, increased concentrations of chlorine are added to the treatment process of our water to ensure adequate protection against water-borne pathogens.

Showering in Chemicals

Disinfectant by-products may increase in concentration as chlorinated water moves through the distribution system to your home and during storage in your hot water tank. These are highly volatile gases.

Chlorine and disinfectant by-products vaporize faster than water. When you shower, the hot steam you are inhaling has a higher than normal concentration of these compounds which are also absorbed by the pores of your skin, opened by the warm water.

Concerns about Lead and Acidic Water

Water in Greater Vancouver is naturally acidic. Acidic water has a corrosive tendency that can leach lead and copper into our water from pipes and plumbing fixtures. Buildings and plumbing fixtures that pre-date 1989 are especially likely to leach lead into water.

Even low levels of lead are dangerous, especially for infants and children. Learning disorders, hyperactivity, drop in IQ, kidney, liver and nervous disorders are some of the symptoms of lead exposure.

What is the Solution?

The Greater Vancouver Regional District is currently constructing a new filtration plant that is due to be completed by 2009. This new treatment facility will improve our water quality by removing turbidity and microorganisms. It will reduce the level of disinfectant by-products because the addition of filtration will remove many of the organic materials (like leaves) in the source water that react with chlorine causing disinfectant by-products.

Substantial improvements are also expected in protection against Cryptosporidium and Giardia, which are parasites that are carried by wildlife that live in the watershed areas on the North Shore and therefore appear in our water supply. When these cysts (eggs) are ingested the symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.

Our water supply is tested regularly for the presence of these organisms, but the testing is imprecise. Chlorine can inactivate Giardia but is not effective against Cryptosporidium.

Although the quantities of hazardous chemicals should be greatly reduced, it appears that the use of chlorine in our water is here to stay.

It is imperative to make sure that the filtration system you use is designed to reduce all the known contaminants found in your local water supply.

The Solution—Appropriate Filtration in Your Home

The best way to get safe water is to produce it in your own home. A point of use filtration device is the most economical way to have unlimited amounts of safe, chemical free water.

For more detailed information see www.yourwatermatters.com