It is well-known that water is the source of life. But in the form in which it gets into our homes, life-giving moisture can also bring death. For the first time, a large-scale screening of rivers was carried out in Ukraine - an analysis of water for polluting chemicals, and it did not show anything good. In the water they found toxic heavy metals, medicines, psychotropic substances and dangerous pesticides that can cause mutations and serious diseases. The presence of pollutants not only poses a potential threat to the ecosystem, but also threatens with a shortage of drinking water in Ukraine by 2050.
From cancer risks to autism. What was found in our water
The State Agency for Water Resources found chromium, zinc, copper, mercury, nickel and cadmium in the basins of the Don, Dniester and Dnipro rivers. Moreover, the last two substances that have exceeded the predicted safe concentration are especially toxic. For example, ingestion of significant amounts of cadmium causes liver and kidney damage. And prolonged exposure to nickel increases the risk of allergies and even tumors. Copper and zinc were also alerted due to their high prevalence at different points of water sampling and high concentration.
Mercury was present only in biota (a collection of living organisms), and it was not found in surface waters. That is, mercury cannot get into the glasses. Moreover, its very presence indicates that it accumulates in the river.
In addition, pharmaceutical substances have been found at most water sampling points:
cabramazepine (present in 63% of water sampling points),
the antiviral drug lopinavir, which was suggested as a cure for Covid (56%),
antifungal agent fluconazole (30%)
and the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac (26%).
However, the greatest concern is caused by the presence of the dangerous pesticide atrazine in the water, which exceeded the environmental standard relative to the permissible concentration at two sampling points. The substance was banned in European Union countries back in 2004 due to its persistence in the environment, toxicity to wildlife and possible links to health effects.
In Europe, the main concern with atrazine has been that it ends up in groundwater in excess of the permitted concentration. Environmentalists associate it with an increased risk of cancer and reproductive problems in humans. In addition, this substance can chemically castrate male frogs even at extremely low concentrations, including those allowed in drinking water.
In 2009, American researchers found that children conceived during the atrazine spray season were more likely to suffer from a number of birth defects, including Down syndrome and gastroschisis (a defect in the abdominal wall that causes the intestines to prolapse).
Also recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency warned that atrazine could harm more than 1,000 endangered plants and animals.
The question of the danger of this drug in Ukraine has been raised repeatedly. In April 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine registered a draft resolution "On the prohibition of the import into the customs territory of Ukraine and the use in Ukraine of certain hazardous pesticides," among which was atrazine. However, the decision was not supported by representatives of the agrarians.
Today, atrazine is banned in more than 35 countries, including the European Union, but it is still actively used in Ukraine, which confirms the result of the analysis of the water of Ukrainian rivers.
As for the reservoirs, in four of them, water analysis revealed that the safety thresholds of the fungicide carbenazim, the agent against mosquitoes and other insects DEET, the decay product of the herbicide propazine and the plasticizer bisphenol S were exceeded. There are more than a thousand reservoirs in the country in total.
The authors of the study noted that cases of toxic effects of these substances have not been recorded, but they are possible.
"DEET was previously used as a pesticide in the fields. It was banned because it accumulated over time in adipose tissue and was poorly broken down," said chemist Maxym Chekanov.
Another substance, bisphenol S, is commonly used to cure quick-drying adhesives. Several studies show that it can cause problems with the cardiovascular system as well as affect the spectrum of neurological functions.
For example, exposure to bisphenol S during pregnancy can disrupt thyroid hormone levels, which are important for fetal nervous development. In a study using human embryonic stem cells, bisphenol S was shown to cause a decrease in neurite length in neuron-like cells. This can lead to autism, Asperger's Syndrome in a child.
It has also been suggested that bisphenol can affect body weight, skeletal development, and, in addition, have negative consequences for programming fetal development. Specifically, exposure to it in zebrafish models influenced hypothalamic development and led to hyperactive behavior.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have evaluated the effect of different doses of bisphenol S on the development of germ cells and the reproductive function of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. It turned out that the substance dramatically increases embryonic mortality. The mechanism of the substance's effect on human reproductive function is still unclear.
But do the above substances get into the taps of the people of Kyiv?
Should you be afraid of pesticides in drinking water?
As for heavy metals in our taps, Maksym Chekanov, Candidate of Chemical Sciences, explained: Ukrainians should not worry.
"They are really toxic and very dangerous to human health, especially cadmium. However, the analysis of the water showed that the concentration is not so significant. Even if a person swim in such a river, nothing will happen to him. Moreover, this water is not used to prepare drinking water. For this, water is analyzed before serving it to our homes," explained the founder of the UkrKhimAnaliz chemical laboratory in a comment 112ua.tv.
To find out whether other pollutants get into the water supply, 112ua.tv asked Kyivvodokanal for comments. The company replied that drinking water is being treated. Today water supply in Kyiv is carried out from three sources: Desna (60%), Dnipro (30%) and artesian wells (10%). At the waterworks, the classical scheme of reagent water purification with sedimentation and filtration is used. Today, 30% of water is disinfected with chlorine dioxide, 10% - sodium hypochlorite, 60% - chlorine.
"Chlorine dioxide is a powerful disinfectant that retains the disinfecting effect of water when transported by water supply networks. Dioxide, as a bactericide, is active in water for at least 48 hours and provides a longer aftereffect than chlorine or hypochlorite," the press service told 112ua.tv.
So, do the technologies used make it possible to purify water from pesticides, herbicides, chemical and pharmaceutical substances, as well as heavy metals? Kyivvodokanal did not answer the relevant question directly.
Environmentalist Olexander Sokolenko stressed that chlorine is used only to purify water from bacterial contamination. Chemical contamination, he said, can get into the water.
"Mechanical filtration is taking place there, which should protect residents from the use of hazardous substances. But whether it purifies this water enough - I'm not sure," said the ecologist.
But the chemist Maxym Chekanov assured that there is no reason to panic yet: chlorination allows you to get rid of chemicals due to their low concentration in water.
"Substances that have been detected as a result of water analysis have a very low concentration. This does not pose any threat, even in such water that is used for cooking. Chlorine is the strongest oxidizing agent, so it will simply oxidize trace amounts of organic substances dissolved in water, and the water will be normal," Maxym Chekanov assured.
Thus, even the presence of drugs in water cannot be addictive, because chlorine can affect them and change their composition. However, there is another side of the coin with respect to chlorine. Environmentalist Olexander Sokolenko warned that chlorine, despite its disinfecting properties, is harmful to humans.
"Chlorine - on the one hand, is necessary, but there is a risk that organochlorine compounds are formed in the water, which are very harmful to human health. Chlorine is also not a panacea, it is a lesser evil. Ideally, the water that we get from water pipes is it is better not to use it for drinking, "Sokolenko warned.
For complete confidence in the safety of water, it is necessary to take an analysis from a specific tap. The destruction of pipes in old houses leads to the fact that harmful substances can enter the water. And the stagnation of water in the end sections of networks with a small daily water intake can lead to the deterioration of its microbiological indicators.
If we talk about the capital, then at 35 control points they systematically check whether the quality of the water has deteriorated after its passage through the pipes. But first of all, you should trust your senses and not drink water, the taste or smell of which seems suspicious. The ecologist advised to purify the water with household filters or buy it at water selling points. It is this water that is recommended for drinking.
Water scarcity. Is it possible to avoid it in Ukraine
And although all of the above substances do not pose a direct threat to your health through tap water, it is important to understand that the presence of hazardous substances in rivers carries long-term threats. The consequences of regular river poisoning can be different, ranging from water bloom and mass death of fish, which can pose a potential threat to the ecosystem, and ending with a shortage of drinking water.
The head of the State Ecological Inspectorate, Andriy Malevany, warned that as a result of the clogging of rivers, Ukraine faces such a deficit by 2050. According to the National Hydrometeorological Service, the concentration of toxic compounds in Ukrainian rivers is 30-40 times higher than the maximum permissible standards. In this regard, according to forecasts of the Institute of Water Problems and Land Reclamation, by 2050 Ukraine will have to import drinking water.
What led to such a dangerous situation? Often, substances get into the water due to insufficient treatment of effluents and illegal dumping of waste into water bodies. There is no proper control over their disposal in the country.
“It often turns out that the company is licensed to dispose of this waste in illegal emissions. Sometimes the licensee does not have the necessary equipment for the disposal of hazardous waste, or he tries to save money. Lack of punishment provokes such actions,” said Olexander Sokolenko.
Or another example is careless, haphazard construction.
"Let's take Kyiv for example. 15 skyscrapers are being built, and there is no normal sewer collector nearby to remove wastewater from the housing estate. Therefore, developers often violate the norms, they can lead the sewer pipe not into the general sewer, but into the rain sewer. Thus, polluted wastewater flows from the rainwater drain to the Lybid River, and from the Lybid River to the Dnipro," Sokolenko added.
The situation is similar with the construction of car washes. According to the ecologist, the stations can be connected to the drainage system due to the fact that there is nowhere to drain the water nearby. In addition, it is cheaper.
The situation is no better in the Kyiv region. If we consider the agglomeration, then a number of villages around Kyiv, which are built up in this way with multi-storey buildings, do not have the proper infrastructure. This is due to the fact that one-storey buildings have been built there since Soviet times. Accordingly, the settlements do not have sewers for all these drains.
It is necessary to understand that the deplorable state of water quality is not the result of a one-time harm, but the result of the regular ingress of pollutants into the water and systemic negligence. The first river screening in Ukraine opens the eyes to many violations and problems that require deep analysis and urgent response in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.