Between 2018 and 2020, chemical and radioactive substances were found above the limit in 1 in 4 Brazilian cities. Unpublished data collected by Repórter Brasil show that there are risks posed by the water coming out of the tap in 763 municipalities, including São Paulo, Florianópolis and Guarulhos.
It is worth explaining that tap water normally contains doses of chemical and radioactive substances, such as industrial waste, treatment by-products or pesticides, but they are expected to be in low concentrations. Limits are established to prevent the water consumed from causing any harm to the health of the population.
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But regardless of the criteria adopted, there is a consensus that these substances harm health when ingested in water at levels higher than those admitted in Brazil. According to Public Agencyone of the authors of the report, depending on the product consumed daily indirectly, there is an increased risk of cancer, genetic mutations, hormonal problems, kidney, liver and nervous system problems.
The Water Map was prepared with information sent by the concessionaires or supply agencies to the Information System for Monitoring the Quality of Water for Human Consumption (Sisagua), of the Ministry of Health. All water samples are collected after treatment, which means that most of these pollutants cannot be removed by filters or even boiling the water.
What worries me most about the analyzed data is that they were obtained only in cities that test the water. In São Paulo, Sabesp claims that the results above the limit are specific cases and do not affect the water standard as a whole. The São Paulo company works with a moving average system, but does not disclose this data even to the Municipal Health Department itself, according to the public.
Even faced with the data from Sisagua, the Guarulhos City Hall denies that there are substances above the permitted levels in the municipality’s water. Florianópolis did not even bother to deny it, saying that it is “working to solve the problem”.
But the most worrying case was the city of Unaí (MG), a record holder for pollution with radioactive substances (72 cases of radium-228). After admitting they didn’t notice the problem, the city said it was a typo.
The analysis of the Water Map reveals that there are 50 cities with pesticides above the limit tolerated by the Ministry of Health. More than the extrapolation of limits, special attention has to be given to these regions, due to the degree of dangerousness of the substances found: 19 of them can cause such serious damage to human health that they were summarily banned from the European Union, and five never degrade.
According to the news agency, there is a consensus among experts that there is no longer a way to “shield away from the water problem in Brazil”. The only solution would be the creation of urgent public policies, since the issue already affects or will affect all Brazilian citizens.
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