Americans most likely don’t worry very much about the safety of their drinking water that comes from private wells. However, a recent study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health warns that those who get their drinking water from private wells should be mindful of the potential presence of dangerous contaminants in their water. Women thinking about becoming pregnant should especially be concerned.
Most often, private water wells are used in rural areas, which are also frequently home to some type of agricultural operations. Large-scale agricultural operations, including crop production and beef, pork and chicken producers, have for decades been contaminating waterways and ground water supplies with toxins found in synthetic fertilizers and excess manure. The Texas A&M study found that nitrates and other contaminants associated with large agricultural operations have been linked to certain birth defects.
The study found that women who had babies with birth defects – such as limb deficiencies, cleft palate, and cleft lip – were almost two times more likely to have ingested water with large amounts of nitrate during their pregnancies as compared to mothers of babies without major birth defects. Nitrates are a component in many common synthetic fertilizers. Dr. Jean Brender, co-author author of the Texas A&M study, referring to periodic testing required for municipal and other public water suppliers, said:
We know what’s in our public water supply, but many people are on private wells for their drinking water, and those wells aren’t routinely tested. People who live in rural areas and who use private wells need to have their well water tested, particularly if they are thinking about becoming pregnant. If testing shows the water does exceed acceptable limits for [nitrates or other] chemicals, they would want to use an alternative source of water.
It is important to keep in mind that water does not necessarily have to look or smell bad to be dangerous, especially to the most vulnerable: embryos in their first few weeks of development. Studies, like the Texas A&M study, and recently publicized drinking water troubles, like in Flint, Michigan, should impress upon all Americans how vital it is that we protect the safety of our nation’s drinking water – whether the water comes from public water systems or private wells.
If you use a private well as the source of your drinking water you can contact your local health department or county extension service to get more information on companies offering water testing services or call the federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. If you need more information on this subject, contact Chris Boutwell at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com.
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