Sep 01

Dangers Of Manganese In Drinking Water

Children’s Intellectual Abilities Affected By Manganese In Drinking Water

Montreal – A study that looked at manganese in drinking water in eight different Quebec communities found that increased levels of the mineral resulted in a measurable decrease in the intellect of children who drank the water.

Key researcher, Dr. Maryse Bouchard, and eight other Canadian colleagues who worked on the project, are calling on the government of Canada to set new guidelines for manganese in drinking water because the levels of manganese they measured in groundwater during the study were below the maximum levels currently allowed. The authors also say the study should be duplicated in other communities.

Published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives on Monday, the study, Intellectual Impairment in School-Age Children Exposed to Manganese from Drinking Water examined the link between manganese, groundwater and children’s intellect; finding a very strong correlation. The research results are free to access and are available as a pdf.

In a press release announcing the report, the researchers stated

“… children exposed to high concentrations of manganese in drinking water performed less well in tests of intellectual skills that children are less exposed.

… The neurotoxic effects of manganese exposure are well known in the workplace. Present in the soil, this metal is also found naturally in groundwater. Several regions in Quebec, Canada and around the world have naturally high levels of manganese in the groundwater. Are there dangers? What may be its effect on children’s health? This is the first study to focus on potential risks of exposure to manganese in drinking water in North America.”

After accounting for manganese from food, the ingestion of other metals found in the drinking water, and many other factors that might impact findings, such as maternal depression and smoking; the researchers noted the association between levels of manganese from groundwater and intellect held. Most alarmingly, the study found

“… a very significant reduction of intelligence quotient (IQ) of children has been observed in connection with the presence of manganese in drinking water, and that at concentrations of manganese currently considered low, and without risk to health.”

The impacts of those low levels of maganese were quite striking.

“The children in whom the concentration of manganese in water was 20% in the highest had an average IQ of 6 points lower than children whose water does not contain manganese.”

The researchers also concluded that humans metabolize manganese from water differently than from food.

Small amounts of manganese, like many other metals, are needed for human health, but too much manganese can create a host of health problems. Too much manganese becomes a neurotoxin for the human brain.

Some municipalities already filter out metals from drinking water. For those living in communities that do not filter out metals, study co-author Benoit Barbeau recommends

“… the use of filtering pitchers that contain a mixture of resin and activated carbon. Such devices can reduce the concentration of manganese 60-100% depending on the level of filter usage and characteristics of the water to be treated.”

The research project used hair clippings and water testing to determine how much manganese the 362 children, aged between 6 and 13 years, had taken in over time through drinking water.

Health Canada has estimated the average Canadian ingests, through a variety of sources, about 4.7 mg of manganese daily. Health Canada goes on to state

“… The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of manganese for Canadians has yet to be established. In a recent comprehensive literature survey of studies of manganese metabolism in humans, it was concluded that previous estimates for a safe and adequate daily dietary allowance for manganese (2.5-5.0 mg/d) were too low, and a new range of 3.5-7.0 mg/d was recommended for adults.(31) A statistical analysis of the metabolic studies showed that a daily manganese intake of approximately 5 mg is required to consistently maintain a positive balance.”

However, the Quebec study demonstrated that lower levels of manganese ingested through drinking water provided sufficient accumulation in children so as to impair with brain functioning. The researchers also noted that Canada has no guidelines for manganese levels in drinking water, and manganese levels are thus not regulated.

The report concludes

“Because of the common occurrence of this metal in drinking water and the observed effects at low manganese concentration in water, we believe that national and international guidelines for safe manganese in water should be revisited.”


 

 

Aug 16

Water, Water Everywhere…But Not a Drop to Drink?

Published July 18, 2011 By Rev. Amy Butler on her blog, Talk with the Preacher.

One of the best parts of international travel is the way it can submerge you in a context totally different from your own, an experience that is usually really uncomfortable but offers some great perspective if you let it.

Among my recent adventures in Southeast Asia I had the opportunity to visit the country of Cambodia.  There are oh-so-many things I could write about that experience; my visit to Cambodia was definitely a high point of the trip.  One thing that struck me was just the experience of meeting Cambodian people.  They seemed so affable and cheerful, even living in a country that is clearly still reeling from the horrors of genocide under the Khmer Rouge.

Given the tattered state of Cambodian society still, it wasn’t surprising to me to see quite a lot of poverty and extreme rural living right in the middle of the country’s second largest city, Siem Reap.  In other words, while I can certainly understand the convenience of keeping your cows on the ground floor of your house, this Cambodian tradition would qualify as “an experience totally different from my own.”  Geez, I personally think the dog is bad enough.

Anyway, among my Cambodian adventures was a visit to a floating village.  The floating village I visited was on the Tonle Sap lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  I hate to publicly claim such ignorance, but my mental image of a “floating village” was a little different than what I encountered on Tonle Sap.  Seriously, when I imagined a “floating village” I was thinking something really beautiful and maybe a bit mysterious—you know, with lots of bamboo and probably some mist floating up from still waters filled with koi fish. 

Uh, not so much.

A floating village is more like a large group of people trying desperately to piece together some kind of existence, all the while trying to stay afloat on a large body of water.  Families of ten, for example, live together in a little tiny houseboat, with no electricity and no plumbing system of any kind.  The poverty in the floating village was staggering.

I kept looking around at all the water…water everywhere.  The people who live on Tonle Sap use the water to get around in any manner of floating vessels—many of them not boats at all.  They also use the water to bathe, to cook, to deposit sewage, to drink.  For someone coming from my comparatively sterile environment, witnessing all of this was rather shocking.

After what I saw I have no idea how these folks eek out an existence and stay relatively healthy.  With my limited perspective I kept wondering: do they know there’s a way to have clean drinking water?  Don’t they want that?  Why don’t they set up a sewage system so they don’t have to use the lake water for everything?  I felt almost panicky about it.

The guide telling me about the village said the government has tried to offer village residents options of resettlement, education, etc., in the city, but without fail those who are resettled return to the floating villages within a matter of months.  There’s something about the community that they love, something about living all together in one place and having the water under your feet all the time.

I’m still processing this experience, for sure.  I can’t get the image of the water out of my mind.  Maybe it’s because a side effect of growing up in Hawaii is my strong association of God with all the water that was always around me.  In the ocean in particular I always felt a sense of God’s immensity and power, but also the gift of life that is readily apparent wherever you see the water.

The water I saw at Tonle Sap, though, stunk of poverty and desperation…and sewage.  I wondered about a lot of things as I looked out over that brown water.  I wondered if sometimes the church feels like Tonle Sap lake to some people…with trappings of God all around, but no God really.

I thought about that as I sat, that afternoon, water all around me…and I was so thirsty.

 

 

 

amydec08Rev. Amy Butler has served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. since 2003.  She grew up in Hawaii, where she recently spent an amazing sabbatical working with the translation team of the Hawaiian Bible.  Amy graduated from Baylor Universityin Waco, Texas, with degrees in religion and political science, received her seminary training in Europe, and recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching at Wesley Theological Seminary.  She lives with her family in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.