Recent research by the Universities of Auckland, Loughborough, Victoria, and Otago has found evidence of nitrate contamination in the drinking water of New Zealand.
If left untreated, they are estimating about 40 possible deaths from this because of bowel cancer. Tim Chambers, who serves as a senior researcher of Public Health in University of Otago, said that this was the first time that they have observed this in the drinking water.
According to them, more than half a million people may have already consumed the water which puts them at risk of cancer. Because of this, they are expecting about 100 cases and 40 deaths because of this.
Aside from this, other water supplies may also be affected which can also cause cancer. Although further research is needed to see the relation between nitrate and cancer, there is enough evidence for them to advise action to be done for this. They are currently advocating for quick measures to lessen the nitrate content. They want to push for reforms that push for regular testing of water quality as to avoid this in the future.
While the exact reason for this is still unknown, they are mainly theorizing that it can be caused by pastoral farming, especially those that are focused on dairy farming. The water quality in the area has also been seen to downgrade in quality for decades now. Groundwater is also affected by these industries.
This raised fears in some people especially because of a similar incident which happened at Havelock North where an outbreak of campylobacter happened after poor water quality. This results in deaths and hospitalizations.
Aside from potentially causing cancer for people, it can also damage the environment by contaminating freshwater and potentially harming aquatic life forms. This is because it can potentially damage the biological mechanisms in the area.
Epidemiological studies regarding bowel cancer say that aside from nitrate contamination, the occurrence of the disease can also be affected by the diet of the person. To prevent this, it is best to have a healthy balance of fibre, protein, and micro flora in the gut.
New Zealand has one of the highest occurrences of the diseases in the world, averaging about 3000 annually. Cancer is one of the most common reasons for deaths in the country. While a link is yet to be firmly established over water conditions and the disease, scientists are pushing for quick action to prevent its further degradation.