Deadly Chemicals present in our drinking water.. and what does it mean when there is more then one VOC present?

By  | April 1, 2010 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Cambridge's Dirty Drinking Water


Understanding chemical contamination can be confusing, particularly if you’re not up to speed on the acronyms like DCE, TCE or Cis.


All are part of a family of substances known as “volatile organic compounds.”  VOC’s. Many are also part of a category of chemicals known as “hazardous air pollutants.”….









It evaporates easily but can stay in the soil and in groundwater. Once it is in the air, about half will be broken down within a week. When trichloroethylene is broken down in the air, phosgene, a lung irritant, can be formed. In groundwater the breakdown is much slower because of the much slower evaporation rate. Very little trichloroethylene breaks down in the soil, and it can pass through the soil into underground water.

People living near hazardous waste sites may be exposed to it in the air or in their drinking water, or in the water used for bathing or cooking.

Some people who get concentrated solutions of trichloroethylene on their skin develop rashes. The effects reported at high levels include liver and kidney damage and changes in heart beat. The levels at which these effects occur in humans are not well characterized.

Animals that were exposed to moderate levels of trichloroethylene had enlarged livers, and high-level exposure caused liver and kidney damage.

It is uncertain whether people who breathe air or drink water containing trichloroethylene are at higher risk of cancer, or of having reproductive effects. More and more studies suggest that more birth defects may occur when mothers drink water containing trichloroethylene. People who used water for several years from two wells that had high levels of trichloroethylene may have had a higher incidence of childhood leukemia than other people, but these findings are not conclusive. In another study of trichloroethylene exposure from well water, increased numbers of children were reported to be born with heart defects, which is supported by data from some animal studies showing developmental effects of trichloroethylene on the heart.

The government does not have any clear evidence that trichloroethylene alone in drinking water can cause leukemia or any other type of cancer in humans.


1,2 DCE

• 1,2-dichloroethene or 1,2 dichloroethylene: There are two forms of this chemical. One form is called cis-1,2-dichloroethene and the other is called trans-1,2-dichloroethene. Once in groundwater, it takes about 13-48 weeks for half of a given amount to break down (half-life in water). You might be exposed to 1,2-dichloroethene by breathing contaminated air or by drinking contaminated tap water. If the tap water in your home is contaminated, you could also be breathing 1,2-dichloroethene vapors while cooking, bathing, or washing dishes.

Effects on human health are not well documented. Animals that breathed very high levels of trans-1,2-dichloroethene had damaged hearts. Animals given extremely high doses of cis- or trans-1,2-dichloroethene by mouth died. Lower oral doses of cis-1,2-dichloroethene caused effects on the blood, such as decreased numbers of red blood cells, and effects on the liver.


• Tetrachloroethylene: Other names for tetrachloroethylene include perchloroethylene, PCE, perc, tetrachloroethene, perclene, and perchlor.

Because tetrachloroethylene can travel through soils quite easily, it can get into underground drinking water supplies. If it gets into underground water, it may stay there for many months without being broken down. If conditions are right, bacteria will break down some of it and some of the chemicals formed may also be harmful.

The health effects of breathing in air or drinking water with low levels of tetrachloroethylene are not definitely known. Results of animal studies, conducted with amounts much higher than those that most people are exposed to, show that tetrachloroethylene can cause liver and kidney damage and liver and kidney cancers, even though the relevance to people is unclear. Although it has not been shown to cause cancer in people, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has determined that tetrachloroethylene may reasonably be anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Rats that were given oral doses of tetrachloroethylene when they were very young, when their brains were still developing, were hyperactive when they became adults. How tetrachloroethylene may affect the developing brain in human babies is not known.

1,4 Dioxane

•1,4-Dioxane: This is a clear liquid with a faint, pleasant odor and mixes easily with water.

In soil, 1,4-dioxane does not stick to soil particles, so it can move from soil into groundwater. 1,4-Dioxane is stable in water and does not break down.

Tap water can contain 1,4-dioxane, so you also can be exposed to it during activities such as showering, bathing and laundering. Exposure to 1,4-dioxane in tap water by breathing in during showering or other indoor activities can result in higher exposures than from drinking water.

Eye and nose irritation was reported by people exposed to low levels of 1,4-dioxane for short periods of time. Exposure to very high levels may cause severe kidney and liver effects and possibly death. Studies in animals have shown that breathing vapors of 1,4-dioxane, swallowing liquid 1,4-dioxane or contaminated drinking water, or having skin contact with liquid 1,4-dioxane affects mainly the liver and kidneys.

The only test results  I could find for Cambridge are below..If anyone has a newer link could you please post it.$file/Middle.pdf?openelement










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