Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that during routine water treatment, harmful transformation products may enter the water supply. Although these transformation products have been believed to be less toxic than the contaminants they remove from our water, this study shows that may not be the case. During the water treatment process, for example, phenols may be converted into a harmful compound linked to diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
To make water safe, treatment plants currently use various oxidization methods instead of earlier processes that involved chlorination. These processes rely on the use of hydrogen peroxide and UV light. The researchers focused on a class of organic compounds, known as phenols, to determine how the oxidization process affected them. Phenols are present in virtually everything we use, including shampoos, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides. The team, in testing the water supply, oxidized phenols using peroxide radicals. This is a common process used by water treatment facilities.
According to study authors, oxidized phenols converted into potentially dangerous toxic chemicals, including 2-butene-1,4-dial. This compound is known to have negative effects on human cells, including damage to human DNA. Toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke and car exhaust also turn into 2-butene-1,4-dial when ingested or inhaled. Scientists suspect that it may be the conversion into this compound that makes them so toxic.
The study team exposed mouse liver proteins to the 2-butene-1,4-dial compound, and observed they affect 37 different proteins involved in a vast array of biological processes, including metabolism. They also found that the compound binded itself to an enzyme that is critical in cell suicide, which could be linked to cancer growth. According to the study’s lead author, exposure may cause negative health effects, including obesity and diabetes.
Researchers opine that by 2050, two-thirds of the people living on earth will rely on drinking water that contains harmful chemical runoff from farms, factories, and urban areas. It is critical to find a safe way of treating water. Part of the challenge is that water contains many kinds of contaminants from a wide range of sources, including bacteria, wastewater, agricultural waste, and more.
If you have become ill or developed a health condition because of water pollution, the Pennsylvania environmental lawyers at Williams Cedar will fight to hold the responsible parties accountable and obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 215-557-0099 or contact us online today. With locations in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from the surrounding areas and nationwide.