Featured Contaminants


Barium is an inorganic chemical element – not found in nature on its own.  Discharge from drilling wastes and metal refineries, and sometimes erosion of natural deposits, pose a potential risk for Barium. Used in everything from fireworks to oil drilling to x-rays, long-term exposure to this compound can result in increased blood pressure, difficulty breathing, weakness of muscles, and the swelling of organs.


Benzene is a petroleum chemical that contaminates drinking water due to emissions from petroleum and chemical industries, leaching landfills and gas storage tanks.


The greatest use of benzene is as a building block for making plastics, rubber, resins and synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. Other uses include: as a solvent in printing, paints, dry cleaning, etc.

Health Effects

Some people who drink water containing benzene well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience anemia or a decrease in blood platelets, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.


Benzo(a)pyrene is one of a group of compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They are not produced or used commercially but are very commonly found since they are formed as a result of incomplete combustion of organic materials.

Health Effects

Some people who drink water containing benzo(a)pyrene well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years may experience reproductive difficulties and may have an increased risk of cancer.

Beta Particles & Photon Emitters

Beta particles have an electrical charge of -1. Beta particles have a mass of 549 millionths of one atomic mass unit, or AMU, which is about 1/2000 of the mass of a proton or neutron. The speed of individual beta particles depends on how much energy they have, and varies over a wide range. It is their excess energy, in the form of speed, that causes harm to living cells. When transferred, this energy can break chemical bonds and form ions.

Health Effects

Beta radiation can cause both acute and chronic health effects. Acute exposures are uncommon. Contact with a strong beta source from an abandoned industrial instrument is the type of circumstance in which acute exposure could occur. Chronic effects are much more common. Chronic effects result from fairly low-level exposures over a along period of time. They develop relatively slowly (5 to 30 years for example). The main chronic health effect from radiation is cancer. When taken internally beta emitters can cause tissue damage and increase the risk of cancer. The risk of cancer increases with increasing dose. Some beta-emitters, such as carbon-14, distribute widely throughout the body. Others accumulate in specific organs and cause chronic exposures: Iodine-131 concentrates heavily in the thyroid gland. It increases the risk of thyroid cancer and other disorders. Strontium-90 accumulates in bone and teeth.