The Environmental jungle.


Millions of people in Britain are currently drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals at levels frequently far in excess of international standards.  So far over 350 different man-made chemicals have been detected in British tap water. The drinking water directive of the EC lays down standards for more than 60 features including disease-carrying micro organisms, metals, natural chemicals, man-made compounds, colour, taste, smell and electrical conductivity.  Britain committed itself to reaching those standards by 1985.  Yet some water supplies are still breaking legal safety levels .

Two million Britons are currently at risk from excessive concentrations of lead and/or aluminium. The European Court of Justice found the last British government guilty of ignoring a directive to keep nitrate levels of 50mg per litre.  At least 1.7 million people drink water that breaks European limits for nitrate.  The leakage of animal slurry (waste products) into our rivers is Britain’s fastest growing form of water pollution.  Of the thousands of water pollution incidents yearly only 1 per cent end in prosecution.  Industry was responsible for 37 per cent of these.  Ten per cent of Britain’s water plants contain concentrations of chlorinated solvents used for paper making, metal plating, electrical engineering and dry cleaning, above the level advised by the World Health Organisation.  As yet, we know far too little about the effects of such industrial chemicals on our drinking water except that they are acknowledged carcinogens.  Tim Birch of the environmental pressure group Greenpeace observed in 1988.  “The water authorities and industry are involved in a giant chemistry experiment using the environment as a test tube.”

The problem is insidious because such chemicals are invisible and we only know we’ve got trouble if the fish begin to die.  By 1988, 4,500 kilometres of rivers were officially classed as unable to support any life at all.  Toxic rubbish from Britain and abroad is b uried.  The water that percolates through the waste, called ‘leachgate’ is more toxic than most industrial effluents and, given time, it pollutes underground sources of water.


Almost twice as much nitrate fertilizer is applied per hectare of farmed land as was used 15 years ago.  Its insidious leaching into the water supply takes years, so we are only just reaping the legacy of nitrates applied in the early 1980’s.  If current farming practices continue unabated, the concentrations of nitrate in certain ground water could be double or even treble the level permitted by the EC.

In the alimentary tract, ingested nitrate can break down to nitrites which are known to be toxic.  In some cases when a person has no natural hydrochloric acid in the stomach, nitrites can break down even further to nitrosamines which have been shown to cause cancer in rats.  Ingested nitrites destroy vitamins A and E and may give rise to mineral imbalances and hormone disturbances.  In 1937, a study showed that 30mg of nitrate given to men resulted in decreased blood pressure and consequent circulatory collapse.


Chlorine certainly kills germs, but what else does it kill?  When water is drawn from lakes and rivers, rather than underground, surface water comes into contact with soil, silt, mud and effluent and the interaction of such organic matter with water produces compounds called trihalomethanes  (THMs ) the most well known being chloroform.

Very little research has been done into the effects of chloroform on humans.  However chloroform is a known carcinogen, causing gastrointestinal and urinary tract cancers. Chlorine itself has been linked to high blood

pressure. anaemia and diabetes and is a contributor to heart disease.  Even in a minute quality sufficient to kill germs, chlorine can undermine the body’s defences against atherosclerosis – hardening and thickening of the arteries.


Lead is a neuro–toxin and can damage the brain and nervous system, cause anaemia and affect the muscles.  High levels of lead in water have been demonstrated to depress the intelligence of children.  In 1987 the British government’s Medical Research Council concluded from a study commssioned in Edinburgh that most city children probably had lead in their bodies high enough to impede their intellectual growth and that “there is no evidence of a safe level”  Lead absorbed from water running through lead pipes was frequently the main source of the poison.

And one overlooked cause of hypertension (high blood pressure) maybe the build up of lead after long term exposure to the metal in our bones, researchers have suggested.  Very little research has looked into this area.  researchers from Havard Medical School tested 590 men and found that those with high levels of lead in the tibia and patella bone were also hypertensive.  Delinquency, inattention, aggression and antisocial behaviour may be caused by lead poisoning.


What would you say if you heard that the government planned to contaminate the public water supply with an agent that has been associated with cancer,genetic disorders, brittle bones and mottled teeth?   Around 10 per cent of the population in the UK and  50 in the US this is already happening.  In these areas, flouride is routinely added to the water supply on the basis that it strengthens teeth and protects against cavities.  Flouride has long been regarded as a dental cavity preventative, but increasingly this premise is being challenged all over the globe.  A much simpler and safer way would be to reduce the huge amount of sweets and sugary drinks that are consumed every year and get our children to drink water and much their way on nuts and fruits.  When we use flouride laced toothpaste and flouride mouthwashes remember that flouride is absorbed into the body through the tongue and sides of the cheeks.  Wash your mouth out with water and to freshen your breath and whiten your teeth use a little bicarbonate of soda on your toothbrush.