Clean and safe water for drinking, cooking and bathing is one of the most important means to ensure the health and safety of the public. However, not all communities enjoy the tremendous health benefits of uncontaminated water. Various situations may result in contaminated water. These include poorly treated water at wastewater treatment plants and contamination of groundwater from chemicals and other pollutants. It is important for a community to properly assess the quality of its water supply. Large groups of individuals may develop either acute or chronic conditions as a result of poor quality water.
The community’s water supply is located beneath a landfill. The landfill has accepted soil contaminated with PCBs and lead. There is a known leak in the liner of the landfill. This creates the potential for contamination of the aquifer with lead and PCBs. Both of these have known health risks. Lead is well-known as a health hazard, particularly for children. Lead exposure results in adverse outcomes for the entire body. However, it often creates significant neurological signs and symptoms. Unfortunately, many individuals have lead exposure at a level not sufficient to cause any signs and symptoms. The lead is still toxic for the person however (Lead, 2013). Individuals may become exposed to lead through contaminated food and water or from exposure to lead in the environment. This may occur in older homes and as an occupational exposure. It is of special concern for children because they are smaller in size and do not require as large a dose. It may result in muscle weakness, abdominal pain, neurological damage and poor development for children. In adults, it may result in hypertension and infertility. Currently, there is no level of acceptable lead exposure (Lead poisoning, n.d).
PCBs are also of significant concern. PCBs refer to polychlorinated biphenyls. These chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic in animals. For this reason, they are considered potentially carcinogenic for humans. It is thoroughly documented that these chemicals do cause damage to the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, and reproductive system. As a result, contact with these chemicals should be limited (Health effects of PCBs, 2013).
As with all chemicals of potential concern, it is important to recognize that there is a relationship between the dose of the chemical and the response in the individual. Since children have smaller body masses, they often require a much smaller dose to become symptomatic for the poison or chemical.
A dose-response curve indicates the body’s response to a dose. On average, children show toxic signs and symptoms earlier than adults do. This is a function of their smaller body mass. Most children begin to show signs and symptoms of lead poisoning at 10mcg/dl. Adults often do not show signs and symptoms until the lead level is greater than 20mcg/dl. On the chart, a level above four indicates the need for immediate medical attention for adults and children. There is large difference in the levels required to create acute toxicity.
PCBs were not present in the environment until their manufacture in the 1940s. At this point, everyone has some level of PCBs in their bodies. It is considered that an individual has an exposure to PCBs when his or her body level has a higher level of PCBs than is found in the background environment. Since there are multiple PCBs and levels vary depending upon the location, it is important to examine the acceptable level in water. PCB levels are regulated in water. The EPA has established the maximum contaminant level (MCL) in water at 0.5ppb. The goal in water is 0 contaminants; no level can be determined safe. Heavily contaminated water has been found to have levels of 38,000 ppb. When individuals routinely consume water that is above the MCL, they may develop endocrine disruptions, as well as other conditions. Children and fetuses are at increased risk for toxicity from PCBs. Levels in adults and children are normally not determined due to various levels and the cost associated with it. Water safety is an excellent method of determining the safety for the community (Public health information on PCBs, n.d.).
Centervale has a total population of 190,000. The information supplied states that everyone uses well water in some capacity; 750 individuals use a combination of both well water and Metropolis water. This indicates that 100% of individuals do have some level of exposure to the water from the aquifer. 750 individuals as a percentage of 190,000 is approximately 0.4% of individuals who only use Metropolis water.
- Health effects of PCBs. (2013, June 13). Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from: http://www.epa.gov/waste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/effects.htm
- Lead. (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/
- Lead poisoning. (n.d.). Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/leadpoisoning.html
- Public health information on PCBs. (n.d.). ATSDR. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=139&tid=26#bookmark04