Cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water ‘exceed safe limit in 9 EU countries’ – The Sun

THE UK is one of nine EU countries that has drinking water which exceeds the 'safe limit' of cancer-causing chemicals, according to research.

Experts have revealed more 1,300 Brits are being struck down by bladder cancer each year because of chemicals found in tap water.

Only Spain has a worse record across the whole of the European Union, scientists have warned.

Almost one in twenty cases can be traced back to trihalomethanes (THMs) that are created as a by-product of chlorination.

The tumours of more than 6,500 people in 26 European countries diagnosed with the disease annually are fuelled by the chemicals.

The maximum reported concentrations exceeded the limit of 100 micrograms per litre in nine countries – including the UK.

Spain and the UK had the largest number of cases of bladder cancer blamed on THMs – 1,482 and 1,356, respectively.

Considerable burden

The seven other countries with drinking water which exceeds the 'safe limit' of THMs included Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Portugal.

Co-author Dr Manolis Kogevinas said: "Over the past 20 years, major efforts have been made to reduce trihalomethanes levels in several countries of the European Union, including Spain.

"However, the current levels in certain countries could still lead to considerable bladder cancer burden, which could be prevented by optimising water treatment, disinfection and distribution practices and other measures."

In the first study of its kind the Barcelona Institute for Global health team analysed levels in the tap water of 26 EU countries – all apart from Bulgaria and Romania.

Co-ordinator Dr Cristina Villanueva said: "The biggest challenge was collecting representative data on national trihalomethanes levels.

The current levels in certain countries could lead to considerable bladder cancer burden

"We hope these data will become more readily available in the future."

Earlier research has found a link between long-term exposure to the chemicals through ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption and bladder cancer.

The latest findings published in Environmental Health Perspectives are based on questionnaires sent to bodies responsible for municipal water quality.

They included information on the concentration of THMs spanning 2005 to 2018 at the tap, in the distribution network and at water treatment plants.

Complementary data was also obtained online from reports, scientific literature and other sources.

Considerable differences between countries were identified.

The average level of THMs in drinking water in all countries was well below the permissible limit – 11.7 micrograms per litre.

The signs of bladder cancer

Blood in your urine is the most common symptom of bladder cancer.

The medical name for this is haematuria and it's usually painless.

You may notice streaks of blood in your urine or the blood may turn your urine brown. The blood isn't always noticeable and it may come and go.

Less common symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • A need to urinate on a more frequent basis
  • Sudden urges to urinate
  • A burning sensation when passing urine

If bladder cancer reaches an advanced stage and begins to spread, symptoms can include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Bone pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs

If you ever have blood in your urine – even if it comes and goes – you should visit your GP, so the cause can be investigated.

Source: NHS

But the highest concentrations exceeded the 100 micrograms per litre limit in Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain – and the UK.

Lead author Dr Iro Evlampidou described the study as being "of particular interest to countries with high average levels of trihalomethanes concentrations recorded in tap water."

The number of attributable bladder cancer cases was estimated through a statistical calculation using international information on incidence rates for each country.

In total, the researchers estimated 6,561 bladder cancer cases per year in the EU are caused by exposure to THMs.

Considerable differences were found between countries.

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The alarming rates in Spain and the UK were partly due to high incidence of the disease and their large population.

Those with the highest percentage of bladder cancer cases attributable to THM exposure were Cyprus (23 per cent), Malta (17 per cent), Ireland (17 per cent), Spain (11 per cent) and Greece (10 per cent).

Efforts to reduce the problem should focus on countries with the highest average levels, said the researchers.

If the 13 countries with worst records were to reduce their THMs to the EU average, an estimated 2,868 annual attributable bladder cancer cases (44 per cent) could be avoided.

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