The first page of Sunday’s New York Times certainly grabbed my attention. The attention grabber was a photo of seven year old Ryan Massey’s wide open mouth showing stainless steel crowns on all four of his primary molars. The caption reads “Dentists near Charleston, W. Va., say pollutants in drinking water have damaged residents’ teeth.” Ryan’s teeth were capped in order to replace enamel that was eroded by chemicals in the water. The local tap water in his community contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at harmful concentrations. Nearby coal companies are contaminating the ground water in violation of the Clean Water Act, but the companies have not been fined or punished.
The September 13 article written by Chares Duhigg is an overview of pollution in our nation’s water systems. His research shows that 40 percent of our community water systems violated the Safe Drinking Water Act at least once. In New York the number of regulated polluters has almost doubled to 19,000 in the past 10 years, but inspections have not increased. While he does not mention Long Island specifically, he does say that in parts of New York the drinking water has high concentrations of tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent that has been linked to cancer and kidney disease.
I have not seen the kind of dental decay among my Long Island patients that the Massey family experienced from their contaminated drinking water. But water quality is an issue that we all need to think about. You can contact the Environmental protection Agency to learn about your local water supply.