Guest Editorial, November 20-23, 2010 | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial, November 20-23, 2010

Beverly Hurwitz M.D., Park City

My left hand shook so badly I couldn’t turn a page. The tremors would intermit and the neurologist couldn’t make a diagnosis. It would be two years before I learned about manganese poisoning.

In December 2007 Thaynes Canyon residents were told the brown water coming from their taps was contaminated with various toxins, including manganese. Returning from travel last week, I consumed plenty of water before I heard about the new advisory. How many people will arrive to their condos this week without knowing the water is toxic?

In 2007, drinking tea from a black mug, I didn’t see the discoloration until I had consumed a large quantity. When I had my manganese blood level tested, it was in the toxic range. I stopped drinking the water, my blood level normalized, and over the next year the tremors subsided. I opted not to sound the alarm then, trusting it wouldn’t happen again. Now that it has, I think citizens should have more information:

The problem is not unique to Park City. Municipal water and private wells all over the world occasionally become contaminated by natural elements like manganese, for uncertain reason. Park City does comply with water standards set by the state and the EPA, but unfortunately, standards for manganese are outdated and manganese is less regulated than other contaminants. The fact that manganese in drinking water may be a brain toxin is just emerging. As recently as September 2010, a Canadian research team reported significant intellectual impairment in school-age children exposed to manganese from drinking water.

Most of what is known about toxicity stems from inhalation of manganese in the welding and mining industries, and there’s a high probability that your physician or veterinarian has never heard of manganism. Symptoms include psychiatric disorders, confusion, impaired memory, Parkinson-like symptoms such as tremor, and gait disturbance. Kidney failure and metabolic problems have also been reported.

I suspect I became toxic because I drink enormous quantities of water; my diet is rich in foods that have high manganese levels (nuts, grains, vegetables), while I was simultaneously not aware of manganese in multivitamins. The Web can help you to determine what your dietary intake of this element is and should be, according to age, but finding out the manganese level in your drinking water might be difficult. Park City publishes information only about more recognized contaminants and hasn’t reported the manganese levels in this crisis like they have for mercury contamination.

Recommended Stories For You

Bear in mind that the bottled-water industry is held to much more lenient standards than municipal water suppliers. Information about home filtration systems can be found at http://extension.usu.edu/waterquality/files/uploads/PDF/DW_Systems_Approved.pdf .

Residents should implore our city managers to make water quality a higher priority. Public art, a racquet club, or tree planting in road medians in one neighborhood should not be taking priority over toxic water in another.

Amongst the numerous theories as to why the Roman Empire collapsed is one that its citizenry became intellectually impaired by lead in the water. Today, with increasing rates of autism, attention deficit, and Alzheimer’s, old corroding water pipes everywhere, an underpowered EPA, and voters who think fewer taxes will benefit their children, we could go the way of Rome. Maybe we can’t save civilization, but it seems prudent to at least try to save beautiful, prosperous Park City from being the resort where you can’t drink the water.

If you think anyone in your home (including pets) might be a victim of manganese toxicity, please contact me at aspenclinic@gmail.com. I’m not an expert but I’m willing to collect data to spearhead research.

Go back to article