The municipal water that your child drinks, bathes and plays in is a complex chemical mixture of dissolved contaminants and chemical additives. Chemicals are added to clarify the water, remove solid particulates and disinfect. And, when fluoride compounds are added to water supplies, polymers are added to inhibit corrosion of the water pipes.
The skin is the largest organ of the body. The EPA has concluded that the average person can absorb more contaminants from bathing and showering than from drinking polluted water.
Children are most at risk. Children’s bath times may range from 45 minutes to two hours. As the EPA acknowledged in a June 30, 1998 report, “Children have a greater surface-area-to-body-weight ratio than adults, which may lead to increased dermal absorption.”
Children’s tissues, organs and biological systems are still developing, with several stages of rapid growth and development occurring from infancy to adolescence. This rapid development, combined with the immaturity of body organs and systems, predisposes children to potentially more severe consequences within certain age ranges and windows of vulnerability.
Circulatory flow rates are generally higher in children, which may increase a child’s susceptibility to toxic effects. Despite these elevated risks, most toxicological data is based on occupational exposures for adults.
The Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) reports that the U.S. has seen “a worrisome increase” in childhood diseases that may be linked to chemicals in the environment. According to the CEHN, “The incidence of two types of childhood cancers has risen significantly over the past 15 years.” Acute lymphocytic leukemia is up 10 percent and brain tumors are up more than 30 percent. Learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders also appear to be increasing.
Toxins in the Bathwater
Depending on whether a child has eaten, or if there is residual food in the stomach, about 20-50 percent of chemical contaminants are metabolized when foods or beverages are consumed. With dermal exposure and inhalation, however, virtually 100 percent of the contaminants are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
As one EPA scientist put it, “a shower cubicle can be considered an ‘exposure chamber.’ Exposure to volatile contaminants absorbed via the lung would be about double the same amount from drinking water. In the bath, underarms [axilla], scrotal and vaginal areas as well as the groin absorb far greater amounts than in the normal unwashed forearm test.”
The percentages for absorption of parathion are as follows: scalp (32 percent), ear canal (46 percent), forehead (36 percent), plant of foot (13 percent), forearm (9 percent), palm (12 percent), and scrotum (100 percent).
A study by Julian Andelman, Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health (published in the May 1984 American Journal of Public Health), found less chemical exposure from drinking contaminated water than from using it to wash clothes or take a shower .
Studies done by Brown, Bishop and Rowan in the early 1980s showed that an average of 64 percent of the total dose of waterborne contaminants is absorbed through the skin.
A study by British researchers at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Sheffield published in the February 19, 2000 issue of Human Experimental Toxicology suggests that toxicants such as fluorides can be stored in the skin and released over a period of time.
A review of nearly 40,000 research papers listed on National Institutes of Health and other U.S. government Internet sites has failed to discover a single study addressing water fluoridation and dermal absorption.
All dosage recommendations developed by EPA are based on ingestion alone. The EPA and Centers for Disease Control have never commissioned studies on the dermal absorption of fluoridated water and refuse to do so.
Written By: George Glasser and Andreas Schuld