Herbicides in drinking water may be dangerous. A variety of health problems have been associated with exposure to chemical contaminants of all kinds. Thousand of chemicals are present in publicly owned supplies according to the Ralph Nader Research Group, the Environmental Working Group and other researchers. Here's what you need to know.

What Are Herbicides?

Herbicides are commonly referred to as weed killer. They are actually a type of pesticide. What we have to remember is that anything that can kill any form of life is a toxin. The amount of toxicity to humans varies, depending on the chemical.

Some Examples Herbicides and Pesticides

Alachlor, Atrazine, DBCP, Simazine, Endrin, Dinoseb, Chlordane, chloro-benzene and heptachlor are examples of herbicides and pesticides.

These chemicals are not regulated by the EPA. Drinking water treatment facilities are not required to test for them. Homeowners can test, but the tests are very expensive, because each chemical requires a different test in order to detect it.

Organophosphates were introduced as a safe alternative to banged pesticide like DDT. Unlike DDT, organophosphates are partially biodegradable. However, research has shown that traces of organophosphates remain in drinking water and food.

What are the Health Effects of Exposure?

The health effects are numerous. A lot has to do with how much exposure occurs. The greatest risks are to infants and children, because the chemicals are neurotoxins. They interfere with nervous system communications.

Two of the long-term problems associated with exposure to organophosphates are learning delays and attention deficit disorder. Three recent studies have confirmed that prenatal exposure is linked to diminished IQ. So, pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid the toxins.

Other possible health effects include:
• Cancer
Parkinson's disease
• Genetic damage
• Nerve damage
• Brain damage
• Behavioral problems
• Chronic Fatigue
• Alzheimer's Disease
• Death

Those are effects that can be caused by exposure to very low levels of the toxins, such as the amount that may be present in public water supplies or found on fruits and vegetables. Repeated or prolonged exposure to herbicides, such as may occur in a work environment, is accompanied by the following risks:

• Loss of appetite
• Nausea
• Weakness
• Headache
• Irritability
• Confusion
• Sleepwalking
Insomnia or drowsiness
• Depression
• Problems with memory and concentration

Where are the Pesticides

Although they may be present in any water supply, high levels have been found in agricultural areas. In the cities of the US Corn Belt (in Louisiana and Maryland), for example, Environmental Working Group researchers found levels that far exceeded the federal health standards. Other cities that had high levels of Atrazine and other pesticides include:

• Danville, IL
Fort Wayne, IN
• Omaha, NE
• Decatur, IL
• Kansas City, KS
• Bowling Green, OH
Columbus, OH

The EWG says that the only community where weed killers were not found in the drinking water was Memphis, TN. Public water in Memphis comes from deep water wells.
Herbicides can be anywhere, but you can protect yourself. You'll learn how in my next article.