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Industrial Solvent in Drinking Water

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The drinking water in some Ontario communities has been found to contain high levels of trichlorethelene (TCE), a toxic industrial solvent, provincial water quality disclosure records show. Tens of thousands of people have been exposed to the compound in recent years at levels considered risky in the United States..

The drinking water in some Ontario communities has been found to contain high levels of trichlorethelene (TCE), a toxic industrial solvent, provincial water quality disclosure records show. Tens of thousands of people have been exposed to the compound in recent years at levels considered risky in the United States.

TCE is commonly used to degrease metals. Exposure to high levels of it is associated with leukemia and cancers of the cervix, prostate and colon, among others. It’s dangerous to drink water containing TCE and risky even to bathe or shower in it because of the vapour.

The town of Beckwith, near Ottawa, had the worst results: TCE levels last year exceeded outdated provincial standards. Barrie, Cambridge, Fergus, Orangeville and Orillia were among towns whose water levels of TCE were near or exceeded the US TCE safety standard in 1998 and 1999 tests.

Ontario’s TCE safety standard allows 10 times the amount permitted in the US. There, the deaths of 12 children were blamed on the chemical in a tragedy that inspired the novel and Hollywood film, A Civil Action. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund is demanding Ontario adopt the US standard of five parts per billion of TCE in drinking water.
--Globe and Mail, March 21, 2001

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