Framework Studies of Physical, Chemical and Biological Contaminants in Drinking Water and Watersheds in the United States and Comparison to Global Water Quality

Kaleh Karim, Tennessee State University


Access to potable water is a self-evident human right but human activity, industrial waste, and agricultural growth has jeopardized the availability and accessibility of contaminant free water worldwide. Although, obtaining a steady and high quality water flow to the general population is an increasing challenge worldwide, developed countries have utilized state of the art technologies and techniques to provide potable water to their citizens. However, advanced purification processes have highly improved the quality of water however, these processes also pose unique and new challenges. Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which are known to have carcinogenic properties are unique to the purification process because they arise as a result of the chlorination process where chlorine residuals react with the intrinsic chemicals present in raw water. While intrinsic contaminants including radionuclides (radium, radon, and uranium isotopes) compromise drinking water worldwide, TTHMs, and heavy metals contaminants are unique to the developed world. Collectively, these contaminants are known to cause cancers, growth and developmental delay in children and reproductive anomalies. Due to the health burden that raw water can pose to human health, water must be processed and purified prior to consumption. Discrepancies between health guidelines and federally mandated guidelines are self-evident, and social disparities further contribute to undeniable problems facing drinking water treatment facilities. To understand the impact of social epidemiology on the quality of water and possible disparities, levels of chemical, biological, physical and radiological contaminants in the United States public drinking water have been analyzed as a function of average household incomes. This research aims to provide a framework study to explore possible environmental injustice or disparities in the United States drinking water system and compare the social epidemiological trends dictating the quality of water to the global community. Quantitative and statistical analysis were conducted to compare and contrast drinking water quality in United States and several developed, underdeveloped and developing countries which explore the underlying constrains and regulatory failures that have led to drinking water disparities based on the socioeconomic background within different communities. Data obtained from this research indicates that states with middle average household incomes were statistically more susceptible to higher levels of chemical contaminants in drinking water. Communities with crippling water purification infrastructure were at a higher risk of being exposed to radionuclides and this is a significant environmental injustice concern. Upon completing this research, it is apparent that the origin and persistence of decreased drinking water quality are driven by the social injustices and are rooted in the socioeconomic disparities within communities. This pattern of injustice radiates into the global population where developing and underdeveloped countries are disproportionately bearing the brunt of environmental injustice. It is recommended that countries desiring clean drinking water systems should initiate and enforce strict laws to prevent water pollution, invest in efficient water infrastructure to insure environmental justice is preserved.

Subject Area

Biology|Biochemistry|Biostatistics|Hydrologic sciences|Water Resources Management

Recommended Citation

Kaleh Karim, "Framework Studies of Physical, Chemical and Biological Contaminants in Drinking Water and Watersheds in the United States and Comparison to Global Water Quality" (2020). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI28152518.