Dr. Oz Show
Air Date: October 20, 2009
Genre: Talk and Health
Oz: Today is a very important show. It’s one show that you cannot afford to miss – so grab a pen and a piece of paper, call your friends, get your family involved, because I’m issuing an alert. There’s a state of emergency with America’s water. Lethal contaminants are creating a toxic mix in the water that you’re drinking, in the water you bathe in, the water you brush your teeth with.
Parasites, chemical cleaning agents, arsenic … even animal feces can be lurking in the water in your home. And you don’t even know it. Today, I’ll tell you exactly what you must know about the water you drink and how to protect yourself and your family.
This is lifesaving information. Take a look. (cuts to “FLOW” video package)
VO: Water. It’s the primary source of all life on our planet. We drink it, we bathe in it, we grow our food with it. Without it we will die. So, when we turn on the faucets in our homes, we expect the water the pours out to be clean, fresh and safe. What you don’t know is much of our water is making us sick, maybe even killing us.
Here are the hard facts. Every year nearly 20 million of us get sick from water infected by parasites, bacteria, and viruses, and one out of every ten of us gets exposed to water contaminated with toxic chemicals, poisoning our bodies. Manganese, barium, lead, even arsenic – all of it pumped illegally into our soil, contaminating our water supply.
The New York Times reports: “The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972 to protect the safety of our water, has been violated more than half a million times just in the last five years alone…”
Who’s poisoning our water? Businesses of every kind, from large chemical factories and power plants to your local gas stations and dry cleaners. But also, you and me, with products we use every day. Prescription drugs, shampoos, sunscreen – all are showing up in our water supply and often can’t be filtered out.
America’s compromised water puts all of us at risk. But would you know if you and your family are safe?
Oz: I’ve called on the very best experts to shed some light on this very dark subject. First up, Charles Duhigg. He’s the New York Times reporter who has blown the lid off what’s happening to America’s water. In a series of articles called “Toxic Water”, Charles has spent the last ten months compiling a state-by-state list of clean water violations that is absolutely terrifying. It’s way more extensive than any information the EPA has, and it exposes major flaws in the way our government protects our water.
So, Charles, again congratulations, and I open the Times and I saw that big picture on the front page of a kid whose teeth had been rotted by some of the food and water that he’d been exposed to. Teach us a little bit about where these pollutants are all coming from. Share with us some insights about how this would naturally happen even if someone didn’t want it to happen.
Duhigg: Well, Congress in the 1970s passed laws to protect all our water sources. The Clean Water Act is the most famous of these. But laws are only as good as they are enforced, and what we discovered is that over the last couple of years – basically since the early 2000s – these laws haven’t been enforced. So companies that produce chemicals, companies like gas stations that have all these toxins and pollutants have been dumping them into waterways without anyone slapping them on the wrist.
Oz: Unless you think it’s not happening in your home, I’d love Charles to just explain how widespread this really is.
Duhigg: Absolutely. We looked at data from every single state in the union.
Oz: By the way, here’s an image of that, if you take a look back here… you can see this country, find your state and you’ll see I think the number of violations – the percentage of violation rates in your state. There’s no state – with one exception – that’s 0, and that state we’re just not sure about yet.
Duhigg: You’re exactly right.
Oz: Be more specific if you can about who’s to blame.
Duhigg: Well, I think there’s two fingers that we can point. The first is the companies themselves that are dumping things that they know have health impacts into waterways. But the second finger, and the other people who are to blame, are the state regulators.
Oz: It’s compelling when you understand, when you realize how far reaching it really is. It impacts all of our lives. Well, in West Virginia, not far from the capital city, hundreds of people are suffering with painful illnesses. Some are even dying. They and many experts believe the diseases they are coming down with are the result of several toxic chemicals that were illegally dumped into their water by several coal mines in their area. I want you to meet Jennifer Hall Massey and her family. Take a look at what they believe the water is doing to their family’s health. (cuts to video package)
VO: When we moved here, it was wonderful. My neighbor to the back of me is a mountain, in front of me we have a creek. But within three years I had to start having crowns on my teeth and it made absolutely no sense to my dentist. Then I get pregnant with Ryan. Ryan had reflux, an extreme case, when he was an infant. Clay had eczema really bad, all over his face, his legs, his arms.
My oldest boy he, his teeth went awful. I think he had like nine caps, or eleven, I don’t remember now.
Bad water got in, and it just affected my teeth.
I’ve had like five blood clots, and I’m 39 now, not 89.
In 2006, my little brother developed a brain tumor. He was only 29 years old. It was larger than a softball. In October 6th of ’06 he went shopping with his friends. That evening was fine, and he fell over with a seizure at night and no one saw him.
Well, we lost my brother-in-law. That really turned things around. That kinda opened our eyes.
We were talking to the neighbors and were realizing how many others actually had brain tumors.
Six people within a 300-yard radius had brain tumors. It had to be in the water. That’s the only they had in common was the water.
Our water test came back with significant amounts of manganese, lead, barium, arsenic, and nickel. All things in very unsafe concentrations. Now we do not use the water for anything other than bathing, and I do have to wash clothes in it and clean house with it. Your number one job is to protect your children, and it’s hard when your child is in the bathtub and you know they’re sitting in arsenic and high levels of lead.
This is America but yet we don’t have safe drinking water.
Oz: Well, Jennifer’s with us today. Thank you for coming.
Massey: You’re welcome. Thank you for having us.
Oz: I mean, it touches all our hearts when we see that, and if I could actually speak for all the moms out there. You do what you think is best for your kids. Something that seems so obvious is giving them water which seems good for them ends up to be toxic for them. How did that shake your world?
Massey: It was very…it was a shock to us. You know, this is America, this should not be happening today. And um, it kills your heart when you have to bathe them at night and know that they’re sitting in arsenic, lead, manganese, things that they should never be exposed to.
Oz: I mean, how do you manage life when you don’t have access to water. I mean, that’s the picture that I saw actually, the first day.
Massey: What we do, we limit our exposure to the water. You know, I have containers in the bathroom if they brush their teeth now they, you know, take the container, pour water in a cup, use that instead of using the water from the faucet. Ironically, we’ve been doing that for about a year and a half now, and Ryan has not had any more dental issues since we started using that kind of water.
Oz: When you look around you and see the other families that get sick, you spoke about your brother, the fact that there’ve been other people that have died… Cavities are one thing, brain cancer is a different thing. That must hurt.
Massey: Oh yeah. We have had six brain tumors within a ten-mile span of our home, and half of them died.
Oz: I actually have a list of, a health survey that was done in your community, and these aren’t numbers that are surprising to you, but, upper respiratory problems, more than half the population as with dental issues, a third of the people have big skin problems, more than half had intestinal problems, a lot of gallbladder issues, stomach infections… Don’t you get angry?
Massey: You get very angry. It’s sad, it’s really sad. And the scariest part, you know, now we know what’s in our water. Two years ago we didn’t know what was in our water. But now that we know, we still don’t know what’s going to happen to our children tomorrow. Or the next day. Or five years down the road. And having no control over that is very scary as a mother.
Oz: To help me explain how toxic water affects your health, I’ve invited the leading physician in environmental health in this country, Dr. Patricia Meinhardt is one of the few doctors trained in the risks of contaminated water. She’s worked with the EPA, the CDC, and Homeland Security to help keep our water safe.
When it comes to toxic water, we’re talking about three basic issues. The first is the toxic chemicals, like what we’ve just heard about in West Virginia. If you could help all of America to understand a bit more about how real an issue these are and how it’s going to impact our life.
Meinhardt: The EPA regulates about 200 different chemicals in our water, but remember we use chemicals for everything, so there are about 84,000 chemicals in industrial and agricultural use in the United States. And many of them are soluble in water. So if they are soluble in water that means they have the potential to contaminate our water supplies. And Jennifer’s story is very common because, remember these chemicals are colorless, frequently, odorless, and tasteless so you may not have any indication that your water has been contaminated until you’ve been exposed to it for many, many years.
Oz: Just to be clear, that’s sort of category 1, but category 2s are things that we do. The way we shampoo ourselves, the personal grooming items that we use, all these medications that we sometimes use and throw away down the toilet. They all enter into our sewage system, they enter our water supply because of that. Some of these products, especially some of the antibiotics and chemicals that we throw away, actually change the way hormones work in our body. In fact, if you look in major urban areas now, there are no more male fish. The reason for that is those fish are born both male and female and evolve into being males or females, depending on what chemicals they are exposed to. If you overwhelm the fish’s natural chemical system with toxins from our water supply, which is what is happening, they all evolve to become female fish. Again, it’s one of the signs that this is not just a subtle problem in one part of the country. No, this is in all the major urban areas of our nation. Dr. Meinhardt, talk to me a little bit about parasites and bacteria. I know that this gets into that basic, fundamental reality that we have a lot of livestock, and we have human sewage as well. The management of that has become a problem.
Meinhardt: we face a lot of new challenges, and much of that has to do with agricultural practices, intensive and concentrated livestock operations – toxic E. coli is something that has been transmitted in water. The people that have the most to lose from these exposures are the vulnerable populations among us. Pregnant women developing fetuses. Infants and children. Anybody on chemotherapy, and really anybody who’s got a chronic medical condition is at increased risk for these diseases.
Oz: And for the moms out there, Jennifer, obviously the kids are the ones we worry about, because they are the canaries in the coalmine. They are the ones that actually reflect the symptoms first. It’s easier said than done, and we see a big map of America and all the moms should be realizing their states are involved in some way or another. I have sort of one big question that I’m left with…why are you still there?
Massey: Well, our first instinct when we realized our water was contaminated was to take our children and get out of the community, and so we put our house on the market, and you can’t sell a house with contaminated water. Who’s going to buy it? The neighbors down the road are the same way. So, what we did as a community, we decided to stand and fight for a municipal water supply. They initially said it would take ten years – we have managed to get that dwindled down to two – so, and that’s been solely the result of, primarily of the mothers in the community. But fathers have helped us out too. And it’s to protect our children.
Oz: Just a shout out to the moms. You are the ones who will be the change agents. You’ll make this happen. Thank you very much Jennifer. Thank you Charles Duhigg.