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Waters of Life: Green Junction by Julie Peller Ph.D.

Green Junction

Waters of Life. All earthly life depends on water. Water is part of Easter Celebrations, a reminder of baptism and spiritual life. Water provides refreshment and cleansing. A recent visit to the desert was a reminder of how little life exists where water is scarce. We are encouraged to drink a few liters of clean water daily for good human health. Yet, this critical natural resource has been subjected to dire abuse and negligence by humanity. Interestingly, many people have adopted an additional water polluter: plastic bottles that contain water of no better quality than most municipal water supplies.

More significant populations flourishing in advanced industrial times have led to more agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, personal materials, and industrial chemicals discharged into natural water bodies. Viewed as repositories for waste, bodies of water are expected to dilute pollutants and function to remediate them naturally. Most pollution discharges are not regulated. We have over-manufactured chemicals and materials that nature cannot remediate, such as PFAS and micro and nanoplastics; these are often termed chemicals/materials forever. 

The amount of water quality monitoring needs to be increased. While we want to know about the quality of our water, there are thousands of possible contaminants. Some are more likely than others. The most recent analysis of plastic bottled water determined that nearly a quarter of a million small micro and nanoplastics are consumed for every liter. Human health studies are now being reported, showing negative health consequences from these tiny plastic particles in our bodies. After years of study, the US EPA has regulated the most common PFAS compounds. The outcomes of high PFAS exposure include certain cancers, but most studies are ongoing. 

The beauty of water has both physical and spiritual aspects. It is worth considering what we use and wash down the drain. How can we reduce this pollution, and how can we hold heavy polluters accountable? A recent Inside Climate News headline reads, “Landmark Peruvian Court Ruling Says the Marañón River Has Legal Rights to Exist, Flow and Be Free From Pollution.” 

Have a wonderful, peace-filled Easter.

Julie Peller, Ph.D., is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ). She has been writing a weekly column called The Green Junction for the past seven years and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.   

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