By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’<p>The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/" target="_blank">more than 2,200 sites</a> across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals <a href="https://www.ewg.org/epa-pfas-timeline/" target="_blank">since at least 1998</a>, they remain virtually unregulated.</p><p>In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.</p><p>When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SAP_HR-535.pdf" target="_blank">threatened a veto</a>. Trump's EPA also <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/27/2020-13738/long-chain-perfluoroalkyl-carboxylate-and-perfluoroalkyl-sulfonate-chemical-substances-significant" target="_blank">weakened a rule</a> designed to regulate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/06/final-decision-epa-fails-protect-public-toxic-forever-chemicals-consumer" target="_blank">PFAS in consumer products</a>.</p>
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water<p>Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2017/11/kids-still-risk-rocket-fuel-chemical-food-and-water" target="_blank">childhood brain development</a>.</p><p><a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-11/html/2011-2603.htm" target="_blank">Almost a decade ago,</a> the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160218" target="_blank">Natural Resources Defense Council sued</a> to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a <a href="https://www.freshlawblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/12/Doc-38-Consent-Decree.pdf" target="_blank">court-approved consent decree</a>, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/06/26/2019-12773/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations-perchlorate" target="_blank">EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard</a> in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/21/2020-13462/drinking-water-final-action-on-perchlorate" target="_blank">A year later, </a>the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.</p>
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight<p>In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/new-tsca-bill-falls-short-protecting-americans-toxic-chemicals#.WwLUddMvwWo" target="_blank">Toxic Substances Control Act</a>, or TSCA.</p><p>Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/off-the-books-ii-more-secret-chemicals/new-chemicals" target="_blank">without any health and safety information</a>. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/harmful-chemicals-removed-from-products-often-replaced-with-something-as-bad-or-worse/" target="_blank">regrettable substitution</a> – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.</p><p>The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/12/09/when-will-epa-fully-explain-and-legally-justify-its-reviews-of-new-chemicals-under-tsca/" target="_blank">lacks transparency</a> and <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/20200317_comms_pc_tsca_english_final.pdf" target="_blank">contravenes the 2016 law</a>. The EPA has also <a href="https://www.edf.org/blog/2018/09/05/trumps-epa-flouting-law-when-approving-new-chemicals-here-are-3-examples" target="_blank">ignored known health concerns</a>, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/02/21/the-trump-epa-is-throwing-workers-facing-risks-from-new-tsca-chemicals-under-the-bus/" target="_blank">limited its consideration of worker risks</a> and <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/06/03/the-trump-epa-is-illegally-denying-requests-for-public-files-on-new-chemicals/" target="_blank">denied requests for public files</a> in the new chemicals program.</p><p>The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/07/28/greasing-the-skids-the-trump-epa-is-green-lighting-dozens-of-new-pfas-under-tsca/" target="_blank">A recent investigation</a> found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/01/27/what-connects-cross-country-skiing-and-chemical-safety/" target="_blank">used in ski wax</a>, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.</p><p>Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/reviewing-new-chemicals-under-toxic-substances-control-act-tsca/statistics-new-chemicals-review" target="_blank">3,000 new chemicals</a> submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/final_filed_complaint.pdf" target="_blank">sued the EPA</a> over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals. </p>
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical<p>Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for <a href="https://saferchemicals.org/us-deaths-from-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">more than 60 deaths</a> since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231-0001" target="_blank">EPA proposed a ban</a> on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."</p><p>After significant pressure from <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/epa-reconsiders-ban-on-potentially-lethal-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">families who lost loved ones</a> due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-bans-consumer-sales-methylene-chloride-paint-removers-protecting-public" target="_blank">EPA narrowed the rule</a> so that it would apply only to consumer<em> uses</em> of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/inequality-poverty-opportunity/workers-rights/epa-restricts-sales-of-deadly-paint-strippers-after-years-of-delays/" target="_blank">Center for Public Integrity investigation</a> found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/final-risk-evaluation-methylene-chloride" target="_blank">separate EPA evaluation</a> of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2019/trump-s-epa-sued-for-leaving-workers-exposed-to-deadly-chemical-in-paint-strippers" target="_blank">the rule</a> and the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/trumps-epa-sued-over-understating-risks-of-deadly-chemical" target="_blank">recent evaluation</a>.</p>
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical<p>Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PHjIly2N0" target="_blank">A Civil Action</a>." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at <a href="https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune" target="_blank">Camp Lejeune</a>, in North Carolina.</p><p>As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0163-0001" target="_blank">spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing</a> and <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0387-0001" target="_blank">vapor degreasing</a>. In December 2017, the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-epa-indefinitely-delays-bans-deadly-chemicals" target="_blank">shelved these proposed bans</a>, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.</p><p>However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-trichloroethylene" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> released in February. As <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/06/industry-s-behest-epa-caves-banning-civil-action-carcinogen-lays-ground" target="_blank">EWG warned</a> in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241384/" target="_blank">2003 study</a> finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623816303240#bib0190" target="_blank">independent review</a> of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.</p><p>The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An <a href="https://www.revealnews.org/article/epa-scientists-found-a-toxic-chemical-damages-fetal-hearts-the-trump-white-house-rewrote-their-assessment/" target="_blank">investigation by Reveal News</a> compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "<a href="https://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/05/scariest-trump-appointee-you-ve-never-heard" target="_blank">the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of</a>" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.</p>
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde<p>The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/02/03/epa-iris-toxic-chemicals/" target="_blank">frequent target of chemical industry attacks</a> because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.</p><p>In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3534381/Combined.pdf" target="_blank">defund</a> the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697212.pdf" target="_blank">a Government Accountability Office report</a> disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.</p><p>One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/formaldehyde.pdf" target="_blank">known human carcinogen</a>. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and <a href="https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Pruitt%20Letter%20formaldehyde%20assessment.pdf" target="_blank">ready for release</a>. However, answering <a href="https://www.eenews.net/assets/2019/01/29/document_pm_02.pdf" target="_blank">questions for the record</a> following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."</p><p>Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-finalizes-list-next-20-chemicals-undergo-risk-evaluation-under-tsca" target="_blank">conduct its own assessment</a> of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.</p>
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections<p>Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the<a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/06/29/2015-13435/clean-water-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank"> Clean Water Rule,</a> which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/trump-plan-gut-stream-protections-imperils-tap-water-117-million-americans" target="_blank">117 million Americans</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/31/politics/epa-science-board/index.html" target="_blank">EPA's own science advisors</a> have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-completes-repeal-clean-water-rule-imperiling-drinking-water-sources-117m-people" target="_blank">repealed</a> it in 2019, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-administration-finalizes-repeal-pollution-rule-threatening-drinking-water-sources-117" target="_blank">proposed its own rule</a> in January and <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank">finalized it</a> in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.</p><p>Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources <a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2017/03/17/judge-dismisses-water-works-nitrates-lawsuit/99327928/" target="_blank">strain municipal water utilities</a> tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/state-of-american-drinking-water.php" target="_blank">contaminants that aren't regulated</a> under the act.</p>
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos<p>Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022" target="_blank">mesothelioma</a>. An estimated <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/search?authors=Jukka%20Takala&orcid=0000-0001-5722-7052" target="_blank">40,000 Americans</a> die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by <a href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6165892895625819539&q=corrosion+proof+fittings+v+epa&hl=en&as_sdt=20006" target="_blank">the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.</a></p><p>After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/under-new-safety-law-epa-picks-first-10-chemicals-review" target="_blank">first 10 chemicals</a> reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.</p><p>Instead, when the EPA released its <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/court-trump-epa-acted-unlawfully-refusing-consider-legacy-use-asbestos-lead" target="_blank">Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals</a> ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.</p><p>Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/25/2019-08154/restrictions-on-discontinued-uses-of-asbestos-significant-new-use-rule" target="_blank">published a rule</a> requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, <a href="https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/815-e-p-a-memos-on-asbestos/12c87a96be998db10048/optimized/full.pdf#page=1" target="_blank">leaked documents</a> show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.</p>
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution<p>In July 2019, the <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/26/2019-14252/reclassification-of-major-sources-as-area-sources-under-section-112-of-the-clean-air-act" target="_blank">Trump EPA proposed to reverse</a> a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-02/documents/reclassification_of_major_sources_as_area_sources_under_section_112_of_the_clean_air_act.pdf" target="_blank">reclassify themselves</a>, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."</p><p>That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-26/pdf/2019-14252.pdf" target="_blank">3,900 large facilities</a> that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/haps/initial-list-hazardous-air-pollutants-modifications" target="_blank">emit pollutants like mercury and benzene</a> could take advantage of this loophole. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2020/02/19/epa-data-emphasizes-danger-of-trump-administrations-air-toxics-loophole/?conversion_pg=www.momscleanairforce.org%2Fthe-racism-of-the-epa-agenda%2F" target="_blank">The Environmental Defense Fund</a> estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year. </p><p>This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with <a href="https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2020/07/17/why-air-pollution-is-linked-to-severe-cases-of-covid-19/" target="_blank">high levels of air pollution</a> are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.</p>
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science<p>In 2018, the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09078/strengthening-transparency-in-regulatory-science" target="_blank">proposed a disastrous rule</a> significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most <a href="https://www.aaas.org/news/scientific-medical-academic-groups-urge-epa-drop-transparency-rule" target="_blank">human health studies</a>, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/climate/epa-science-trump.html" target="_blank">clean air regulations</a>.</p><p>The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda. </p><p>But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/supplemental_notice_of_strengthening_transparency_in_regulatory_science.pdf" target="_blank">supplemental proposal</a> that is actually <a href="https://www.ewg.org/testimony-official-correspondence/ewg-comments-epa-strengthening-transparency-regulatory-science" target="_blank">worse than</a> the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.</p><p>As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.</p>
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By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance<p>If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.</p><p>This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.</p><p>Dehydration can have <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-youre-dehydrated" target="_blank">a noticeable effect</a> if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.</p><p>This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.</p><p>Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress" target="_blank">oxidative stress</a> that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19344695" target="_blank"><span></span></a></p><p>If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.</p>
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function<p>Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.</p><p>Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.</p><p>In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.</p><p>Many members of this same research team conducted a similar study in young men. They found that fluid loss of 1.6% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader" target="_blank"></a></p><p>A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.</p><p>Many other studies, with subjects ranging from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/signs-of-dehydration-in-toddlers" target="_blank">children</a> to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly" target="_blank">older adults</a>, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory, and brain performance.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.</p>
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches<p>Dehydration can trigger <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and migraine in some individuals.<span></span></p><p>Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.</p><p>What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.</p><p>A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-symptoms" target="_blank">migraine symptoms</a>.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Plus, 47% of the men who drank more water reported headache improvement, while only 25% of the men in the control group reported this effect.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26200171" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.</p>
4. May Help Relieve Constipation<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation" target="_blank">Constipation</a> is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.</p><p>Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.</p><p>Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.</p><p>Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mineral-water-benefits" target="_blank">Mineral water</a> may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.</p><p>Studies have shown that mineral water that's rich in magnesium and sodium improves bowel movement frequency and consistency in people with constipation.<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334415" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.</p>
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones<p>Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.</p><p>The most common form is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones" target="_blank">kidney stones</a>, which form in the kidneys.</p><p>There's limited evidence that water intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones.<a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004292.pub3/full" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.</p><p>Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.</p>
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers<p>A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol</a>.</p><p>Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.</p><p>Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.</p><p>Good ways <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover" target="_blank">to reduce hangovers</a> are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.</p>
7. Can Aid Weight Loss<p>Drinking plenty of water can help you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible/" target="_blank">lose weight</a>.</p><p>This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.</p><p>Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.</p><p>A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.</p><p>The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-to-cut-calories" target="_blank">eat fewer calories</a>.</p><p>In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.</p><p>Make sure that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day" target="_blank">get enough water each day</a>, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.</p>
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