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Janet McMahan preaches the use of water filters to eliminate contaminants in household water from wells. Janet McMahan figured it out five years ago — just before her son Ben was diagnosed with cancer. McMahan had just given a talk about world hunger at an Irwin County church, and had read about Bangladesh.
In that impoverished South Asian country, millions of people were being exposed to arsenic in their drinking water from wells. She says she woke up in the middle of the night in Octobercontemplating pieces of a puzzle. She told her husband, Dr. At about the same time, their son Ben, a Valdosta State University student who had been a three-sport athlete in high school, grew sick.
But he was diagnosed that November with gastro-esophageal junction adenocarcinoma. He was Since that horrible diagnosis five years ago, Janet McMahan has been a crusader on environmental health in South Georgia, and especially on contaminated well water. During that time, health officials in Georgia came to recognize the potential danger of arsenic in well water. A news release on the issue was sent to local media. McMahan says arsenic and other elements in unfiltered water from wells have led to many Can i Ocilla a lady and other illnesses in the southern part of the state.
She also believes that in agricultural areas, some of the arsenic contained in poultry litter fertilizer has seeped into the water that people drink. The drought of concentrated the arsenic at an abnormally high level, she says. Then he tested a sample drawn from their water heater, which showed much higher amounts of arsenic. So the McMahans tested water that came from their own water heater. That sample had high levels of arsenic, iron and manganese, Janet McMahan says. The state Department of Public Health estimates that one in five Georgians regularly drinks water from private wells — a figure that might surprise people in developed urban areas.
Most people in Irwin County drink well water, says Dr. Together, Metts and McMahan take reporters around an area near the Alapaha River in Berrien County where, they say, many residents have had cancers. All are from households that use well water.
Arsenic, classed as a heavy metal, is an element that occurs naturally in certain rocks, ores and soils. The amount varies by region. Ingested in large quantities, arsenic causes severe gastrointestinal illness and death relatively quickly.
From ancient times until fairly recently when advances in science made it more detectableit was the favorite poison of murderers. Members of the Borgia clan of Renaissance Italy were infamous for using arsenic to dispatch their political enemies. When the element is present in drinking water, people can ingest small amounts over a long period of time without realizing it. Arsenic enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the ground or from agricultural and industrial practices, according to the EPA.
It does not affect the taste of the water. According to a fact sheet prepared by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences NIEHSarsenic is a known human carcinogen associated with skin, lung and bladder cancer, and it has also been connected with kidney and liver cancer.
The fact sheet adds that ingesting arsenic can also predispose children to other health problems later in life. The U. The maximum level of inorganic arsenic permitted is 10 parts per billion ppb. But Can i Ocilla a lady public water systems are routinely tested for it, there are no regulations that mandate testing of water from private wells. Approximately 7 percent of wells in the nation are thought to have arsenic levels above 10 ppb, NIEHS says.
No Georgia or federal regulations govern wells that have fewer than 15 connections water meters serving fewer than 25 people.
Owners of these wells are under no obligation to check the water for harmful bacteria or minerals. A basic water test picks up most common problems affecting private wells. But homeowners can ask for broader testing to detect bacterial contamination or heavy metals. It slashes straight through the health district that includes Irwin County. Ina Thomas County resident told state officials that arsenic concentrations in private drinking water wells in that area exceeded federal standards.
The Department of Public Health followed up with a study. Twenty-five tested positive, and 18 exceeded the maximum level of 10 ppb.
The report noted that the rates for several types of cancer were elevated in Thomas County. As McMahan and others note, arsenic is sometimes used in agriculture, where it can seep into the water supply. Agriculture is the main business in much of South Georgia. The EPA says high arsenic levels can come from certain fertilizers and animal feeding operations.
The drug was pulled from the U. American companies can still use a different arsenic-containing drug, nitarsone, to protect turkeys and other poultry from deadly infections. Litter is a mixture that includes manure, feathers and other materials from where poultry are kept. Farmers often choose it as a cheap and effective fertilizer. But litter from chickens that have ingested arsenic-containing drugs can retain arsenic, a UGA Extension Service report says. Wells that have been tested in agricultural areas more often contain trace elements such as arsenic than did those in urban areas, the U.
Geological Survey reported in And in Southern states, including Georgia, farmers would dip their cattle in large vats containing arsenic to ward off pests, up till the s. A decade earlier, Dr. McMahan says, he had noticed some strange esophageal cancers among his patients.
Ben received treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where surgeons removed most of his esophagus, the top third of his stomach, and lymph nodes in his chest. McMahan says. The next year, Ben had 10 inches of his colon removed at Sloan Kettering.
Then, inBen had a recurrence. He took chemo again. He had surgery on his colon, again at Sloan Kettering. Public Health officials and extension agents in Georgia have sent out advisories about arsenic and well water since David Kissel, head of the Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories at UGA, sent county extension agents an about high levels of arsenic and uranium in some well water samples.
But as you know, it is very difficult to prove a cancer cluster, and even harder [to prove] that it might be caused by this or any other environmental exposure. Arsenic is the most complex chemical, in that it causes several different cancers. Most chemicals are organ system specific. The agency last year sent out an advisory for people in 10 South Georgia counties to test their well water for arsenic. It sent out another advisory this year. But Rustin of Public Health, in an to Georgia Health News on Friday, said that at this time, his agency cannot attribute cancer cases in Georgia to arsenic exposure.
Yet the Thomas County study found elevated levels of lung cancer for males from to High cancer rates have been found in the county district that includes Irwin County. The rate of bladder cancer, which can be associated with arsenic, is slightly higher than the state average in four of the 10 counties: Lowndes, Ben Hill, Tift and Turner, according to the National Cancer Institute.
In the four counties mentioned above, annual incidence Can i Ocilla a lady ranged from In the other six counties of the district, the likelihood of being diagnosed was either negligible or no different from the rest of the state. People living in the county area are also more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer, another tumor associated with arsenic. Each year, Yet an Irwin County nurse who worked with an area hospice says she recalls four people who did not smoke but had lung cancer. The incidence of skin cancers, another common malignancy associated with arsenic, is statistically inificant throughout most of the counties in the district, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Cancer clusters are also notoriously difficult to identify. In a true cluster, according to the CDC, a greater-than-expected of cancer cases must hit within a specific period of time. Each case must either be the same type, or derived from the same cause. One problem with establishing direct causation is that cancer is all too common. Nationwide, one out of four deaths are due to some type of cancer.
Sincestate and local health agencies around the nation receive about 1, inquiries each year from people wondering if deaths in a particular locality constitute a cancer cluster. Very few of these reports qualified as true clusters. Arsenic in well waters can be a health concern, as long-term exposure Can i Ocilla a lady the EPA limit increases the risk of some types of cancer. She takes reporters to a rural area in Ben Hill County where four children were diagnosed with cancer within nine months back in Each was within a 6-mile radius of the others, and all drank well water, McMahan says.
She believes that a severe drought during that period elevated arsenic levels in the water. Two of the children had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, while the other two had different forms of cancer, she says. All four are alive today. Gage Kicklighter is one of the four. A survey conducted by UGA researchers found that Georgia had aboutprivate wells in The Soil, Plant and Water Testing Lab receives samples from about 23, of those wells every year, or roughly 3.
High levels of uranium — a naturally occurring element found at low concentrations in virtually all rock, soil, and water — were recently detected in Monroe County well water. This is a public health concern because drinking water with elevated uranium increases the risk for kidney malfunction. Well water can also contain dangerous bacteria. Public Health officials urge Georgians to test their well water once a year for bacterial contaminants, and every three years for minerals such as arsenic. McMahan preaches the use of water filters to eliminate contaminants in household water.
She has a Facebook group that has topped out at 5, friends.Can i Ocilla a lady
email: [email protected] - phone:(422) 663-1724 x 5427
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