Erin Brockovich calls on Irish Water to publish toxin levels

Environmental activist who inspired film calls for trihalomethanes to be listed on bills

Erin Brockovich speaking at O’Reilly Hall in UCD in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/ The Irish Times

Erin Brockovich speaking at O’Reilly Hall in UCD in 2008. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/ The Irish Times

 

US environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich has added her voice to calls for Irish Water to publish the levels of water-borne toxins linked to cancers on the bills of some 400,000 affected consumers.

Ms Brockovich, an American legal clerk and environmental activist became a household name after a 1990 film “Erin Brockovich”, starring Julia Roberts. The film detailed her work in exposing Chromium 6 pollution from a gas pipeline in California which was leaking into water supplies.

Following acknowledgement last week by Irish authorities that water borne toxins called trihalomethanes are present in some 79 Irish water supplies, Ms Brockovich added her voice to calls for more prominent information on the problem.

Ms Brockovich and Friends of the Irish Environment want Irish Water to publish trihalomethane levels on consumers’ bills.

Ms Brockovich warned “Irish Cousins” not “to be fooled by this dodge of responsibility and factual sharing of information by your government”.

Last week The Irish Times reported the failure of Friends of the Irish Environment to use the European Commission to force Ireland to inform consumers of these chemical exceedances on their water bills.

In a recent Facebook post Brockovich highlighted the specific danger to pregnant women, writing: “Trihalomethanes are far more dangerous to pregnant women. Studies have demonstrated women exposed to Drinking Water over 80 micrograms/Litre of trihalomethanes expose a greater risk for miscarriage in the first trimester and low birth weight in the second and third trimester... beware of very real “short term” exposure”.

Brockovich linked her comments to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. This study examined the impact of trihalomethanes on pregnant women exposed to contaminated water based on a cross sectional analysis of 56,513 singleton infants born to residents of Massachusetts during 1990.

The results claimed infants exposure to water containing over 80 micrograms were associated with a 32 gramme reduction in birth weight. It also detailed “slight increases in gestational duration” .

Tony Lowes, a Director of Friends of the Irish Environment said only very limited results for water supplies were published on a website by Irish Water. He said many results were “pending” for more than a year.

‘‘Consumers have the right to know on their bill if their water contains THMs over the recommended limit,” Mr. Lowes said.

An Environmental Protection Agency sponsored conference on trihalomethanes has been announced for June 16th, 2016.

The conference organisers point out that Ireland has the highest reported trihalomethane exceedances across the 27 EU Member States.

The conference website is here.

The film ‘Erin Brockovich’ is being shown on TV3 at 9pm on Friday.