Is NZ's drinking water dangerous? Major international study links nitrates with bowel cancer

Is NZ's drinking water dangerous? Major international study links nitrates with bowel cancer

in 1986, the Ministry of Works predicted the nitrate contamination we now see as a consequence of regional irrigation schemes. It made it clear that alternative drinking water supplies would have to be found for Canterbury residents.
JOHN BISSET/STUFF
in 1986, the Ministry of Works predicted the nitrate contamination we now see as a consequence of regional irrigation schemes. It made it clear that alternative drinking water supplies would have to be found for Canterbury residents.


An important coincidence is that the Australian and New Zealand guideline for healthy aquatic ecosystems for nitrate is at 0.7mg/l nitrate-nitrogen, close to the level required to stay under the colorectal cancer risk value found in the Danish study.

The Canterbury region exemplifies the problems resulting from the failure of central and local government policy in New Zealand to protect both ground and surface water. These failures cannot be blamed on a lack of awareness as these outcomes were predicted decades ago.

For example, in 1986 the Ministry of Works predicted the nitrate contamination we now see as a consequence of regional irrigation schemes. It made it clear that alternative drinking water supplies would have to be found for Canterbury residents.

Apart from health and ecological concerns, another worry is that public fears about drinking water safety will prove a boon for water bottling companies, which have free access to New Zealand’s cleanest water.

While many New Zealanders face significant and increasing costs for water treatment, water bottlers pay virtually nothing. The only cost, apart from bottling costs, is a one-off 35-year regional council consent fee. This anomaly highlights the urgent need for government to put tougher limits on nitrate loss and face up to dealing with water ownership issues in New Zealand.

In conclusion, surface water in many parts of New Zealand is highly contaminated with nitrates as a result of intensified farming. These elevated levels are undoubtedly damaging freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity, and may also be harming human health.

At the very least, public health authorities need to conduct a systematic survey to assess current nitrate levels in New Zealand drinking waters, including those that are not part of the routinely monitored networked system. This information could then be used to provide a quantitative estimate of the colorectal cancer burden in New Zealand that can be attributed to this hazard.

Michael (Mike) Joy is a senior researcher at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. Michael Baker is a professor of public health. 

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Comment by Marian on February 2, 2019 at 23:01

https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/110231136/lax-nitrates-rules-le...

The water supply I'm on comes from a natural spring on a nearby mountain, and supplies several neighbors as well.However, the pipe system has always been a bit dodgy, with regular hiccups like the water supply cutting out altogether due to stock damaging exposed pipes, and when it rains a lot, it comes out of the tap a dirty clay color! I've had to take a 40 Liter container to friends to fill with drinking water on a fairly regular basis, and I never drink the water straight from the tap even when it looks clear. It goes through my 3L Fill-2-Pure Filter jugs first, and I use my two stainless steel Fill2Pure filter drink bottles constantly.

Despite these issues, I'm grateful I'm not forced to drink chlorinated, fluoridated water!

I met Mike Joy one time in Waikari a few years ago Saru...he was hanging out with Sam Mahon, a local artist who is passionate about water issues, but unfortunately not interested in CON trails! I was out with my camera taking shots of the sky, and Mike was very friendly and approachable, and listened when I told him what I was doing,and was polite, but not keen to ask more questions.

Comment by Rainbow Cat on January 31, 2019 at 9:51

Gidday SG. I would say our NZ water is very poisonous and responsible for the epic obesity problem on the rise in this country especially poor folk in the towns and cities that are getting all those hormonal drugs coming thru their water supplies. Even in the rural areas our rain water is shit and if you have a natural spring to access then guard it with everything you've got. 

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