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Environ Health Perspect. 1995 Nov;103 Suppl 8:225-31.

Drinking water and cancer.

Author information

1
Department of Family and Community Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA. morris@post.its.mcw.edu

Abstract

Any and all chemicals generated by human activity can and will find their way into water supplies. The types and quantities of carcinogens present in drinking water at the point of consumption will differ depending on whether they result from contamination of the source water, arise as a consequence of treatment processes, or enter as the water is conveyed to the user. Source-water contaminants of concern include arsenic, asbestos, radon, agricultural chemicals, and hazardous waste. Of these, the strongest evidence for a cancer risk involves arsenic, which is linked to cancers of the liver, lung, bladder, and kidney. The use of chlorine for water treatment to reduce the risk of infectious disease may account for a substantial portion of the cancer risk associated with drinking water. The by-products of chlorination are associated with increased risk of bladder and rectal cancer, possibly accounting for 5000 cases of bladder cancer and 8000 cases of rectal cancer per year in the United States. Fluoridation of water has received great scrutiny but appears to pose little or no cancer risk. Further research is needed to identify and quantify risks posed by contaminants from drinking-water distribution pipes, linings, joints, and fixtures and by biologically active micropollutants, such as microbial agents. We need more cost-effective methods for monitoring drinking-water quality and further research on interventions to minimize cancer risks from drinking water.

PMID:
8741788
PMCID:
PMC1518976
DOI:
10.1289/ehp.95103s8225
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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