water usage

In-Utero Exposure to Water Contamination: A Mother’s Guide

Water usage is becoming more scary by the minute for expectant mothers. For instance, your unborn child may develop cancer if you drink water contaminated by ‘forever chemicals.’ Moreover, in-utero exposure to environmental pollutants can lead infants to develop heart disease, neurological issues, and more. 

Usually, poverty-stricken people live in polluted areas and rely on unsafe drinking water. Pregnant women and children are susceptible to chronic health issues if they have a substandard quality of life. Research shows that 40% of the world’s water bodies contain harmful chemical pollutants. 

In America, 63 million people have been exposed to unsafe water in the last ten years. As a mother, you have the right to know how water contamination can affect your child’s health. In this blog, we will discuss how water contamination affects unborn babies and the ways to prevent it. 

Prenatal Exposure to Harmful Chemicals Leads to Birth Defects

As an expectant mother, you know the importance of a positive prenatal environment for a fetus’s development. That is why you chose a healthy diet. However, you never anticipated exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins in your drinking water. 

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states it will take time to understand congenital abnormalities due to water contamination. Safe drinking water translates to low contamination levels from microorganisms and toxic chemicals. 

However, water will never be devoid of pollutants. You will always find traces of lead, pesticides, bacteria, arsenic, and industrial chemicals in the water. 

In-utero exposure to water contaminated with the herbicide Agent Orange leads to spina bifida defects in the unborn child. Similarly, exposure to industrial fast-solubles like dioxin during pregnancy can lead to psychological defects in the child. This toxin disrupts cell signaling and interferes with the fetus’s nuclear receptors. 

Prenatal exposure to hazardous waste can lead to Down syndrome, blood vessel defects, hypospadias, cleft palate, etc. Moreover, disinfection by-products like trihalomethanes (THM) can seep into your water supply. Exposure to these can lead your unborn child to have congenital disorders that affect their heart and spinal cord. 

The Camp Lejeune Incident: A Water Contamination Nightmare 

The Camp Lejeune military base is located in North Carolina. Currently, there are over 170,000 people living there. The commercial revenue collected from this base is USD 3 billion. However, everything was not always sunshine and rainbows. 

Two water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune were exposed to harmful chemicals from an off-base dry cleaning company. According to TorHoerman Law, the water had high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like toxic dry cleaning solvents, degreasers, and more. The residents used the supplied water for bathing, drinking, cooking, and washing between 1953 and 1987.

About 1 million people were exposed to toxic water during that time. Most veterans, workers, and civilians developed cancer, lymphomas, myeloma, etc. However, the worst affected were pregnant women. The Camp Lejeune water contamination incident remains a failure for the American government. 

Studies show that prenatal exposure to Camp Lejeune water led to congenital abnormalities. For instance, babies were four times more likely to develop oral clefts and neural tube defects. The chemical exposure caused developmental delays and psychological issues in these children. These babies also developed cancer at an early age. 

The angry victims wanted justice. Hence, they filed a Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit against the federal government and the company responsible. 

In 2022, the Biden administration passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) to allow victims to file new claims. The legal industry estimates settlement amounts between USD 10,000 and USD 500,000 per victim. However, it depends on the extent of the injury. 

How to Prevent Exposure to Water Contamination During Pregnancy?

Approximately 90% of the American water supply comes from public water systems. The rest (10%) comes from private wells. Take a look at these tips to have a healthy pregnancy and avoid exposure to water contamination: 

  • Ensure to listen to chemical spill warnings if your home receives water from public systems
  • Look for signs of contamination like weird tastes, colors, and deteriorating pipes, and have the tap water tested 
  • Test your tap water once every two years if you get your water supply from private wells 
  • Install a filter for drinking water or buy bottled water during the term of your pregnancy 
  • Reach out to your water utility provider for the annual Consumer Confidence Report for your community water systems 
  • If your water smells like chlorine, boil it and let it stand for a few hours before using it 

Furthermore, you can flush your pipes for five to thirty seconds regularly. It will clean the interior of the distribution mains using a rapid water flow. Doing so will ensure that you use cold tap water for drinking purposes. However, contaminants like lead, arsenic, and nitrates are stubborn. 

For that, you can install a reverse osmosis system. It removes any sediment using a prefilter. Consequently, it filters dissolved solids as the water passes through a semipermeable membrane. The CDC suggests using distillation systems, water softeners, and ultraviolet methods for home water treatment. 

The Bottom Line

Approximately 12 million people die due to harmful pollutant exposure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates an investment of USD 384 billion to keep the country’s water clean. 

Additionally, the Biden administration has proposed USD 50 billion to improve the water infrastructure in the country by 2026. The American government renewed the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 2022 to help achieve a regulated water quality goal. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends following water safety plans (WSPs) for a safe drinking water supply. Hence, the government’s steady involvement proves that water contamination is a plague. 

Pregnant women worldwide are victims of toxic water contamination due to industrialization. Every year, 7.9 million infants are born with defects. While some are genetic, most cases are due to inadequate water quality. 

Of course, it is high time for water utility providers to supply safe drinking water without chemical contaminants. That is, in fact, a cardinal human right.

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