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National Drinking Water Database
Cyanide in Virginia
Cyanide is a chemical used in mining and steel/metal, plastic, and pesticide manufacturing; it is applied to roads as road salts, and small quantities occur naturally in some plants. [read more]
Cyanide is a carbon-nitrogen chemical unit that is a powerful and rapid-acting poison. Cyanide compounds can occur naturally in certain plants and foods; however, the majority of cyanide in soil and and water comes from industrial pollution. Cyanide is used in mining, metal finishing, iron and steel mills, fumigation of ships, and to make various chemicals such as nylon and other synthetic fibers and resins, and cyanide-containing pesticides (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 1997a, 2006a).
Exposure to high levels of cyanide harms the brain and heart, and may cause coma and death. Exposure to lower levels causes respiratory problems, breathing difficulties, heart pains, vomiting, blood changes, headaches, tremors and neurological effects (ATSDR 2006a). Long-term exposure can result in weight loss, thyroid damage, and nerve damage (USEPA 2002g).
Chronic cyanide exposure can affect the reproductive system as well as cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, ringing in the ears, decreased visual acuity, and paralysis. Weight loss and increased hemoglobin and white blood cell counts have been reported in cyanide-exposed workers (ATSDR 1997a). In laboratory animals, cyanide caused changes in the blood and damage to the kidney, liver, thyroid, testes and sperm (ATSDR 1997a).
Cyanide is released into the environment from mining operations, especially gold and silver mining that use large quantities of the substance as a solvent (Cyanide Code 2006; National Mining Association 2009). Cyanide is also released via emissions from organic chemical industries, by direct application onto land as an herbicide, and by the use of cyanide-containing road salts (USEPA 2002g). Other cyanide sources include vehicle exhaust and burning of municipal waste (ATSDR 2006a). Cyanide in landfills and in mining runoff can contaminate soil and groundwater, posing health risks.
Annually, industrial facilities release millions of pounds of cyanide compounds into the environment, contaminating water, land, and air (USEPA 2009i). The use of cyanide in herbicides, mining, and road salts constitutes a significant additional source of cyanide pollution.
The Most Polluted Communities in Virginia
1 water utilities reported detecting Cyanide in tap water since 2004, according to EWG's analysis of water quality data supplied by state water agencies
Ranked by highest average Cyanide level
|Rank||System||Population Served||Positive test results of total reported tests||Average Level|
|825||1 of 3||8.33 ppb|
(0 to 25 ppb)
Health Based Limits for Cyanide
|Drinking Water Equivalent Level||A lifetime exposure concentration protective of adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects, that assumes all of the exposure to a contaminant is from drinking water. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||80 ppb|
|EPA Human Health Water Quality Criteria||Water quality criteria set by the US EPA provide guidance for states and tribes authorized to establish water quality standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to protect human health. These are non-enforceable standards based upon exposure by both drinking water and the contribution of water contamination to other consumed foods. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||140 ppb|
|California Public Health Goals||Defined by the State of California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as the level of contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. For acutely toxic substances, levels are set at which scientific evidence indicates that no known or anticipated adverse effects on health will occur, plus an adequate margin-of safety. PHGs for carcinogens or other substances which can cause chronic disease shall be based solely on health effects without regard to cost impacts and shall be set at levels which OEHHA has determined do not pose any significant risk to health.||150 ppb|
|Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL)||The enforceable standard which defines the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to health-based limits (Maximum Contaminant Level Goals, or MCLGs) as feasible using the best available analytical and treatment technologies and taking cost into consideration. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||200 ppb|
|Maximum Contaminant Limit Goal (MCLG)||A non-enforceable health goal that is set at a level at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons occurs and which allows an adequate margin of safety. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||200 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 1-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects for up to one day of exposure. The One-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||200 ppb|
|Children's health-based limit for 10-day exposure||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic effects for up to ten days of exposure. The Ten-Day health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is typically set to protect a 10-kg child consuming 1 liter of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||200 ppb|
|Lifetime health-based limit, non-cancer risk||Concentration of a chemical in drinking water that is not expected to cause any adverse, noncarcinogenic health effects for a lifetime of exposure. The Lifetime health-based limit (or Health Advisory, HA) is based on exposure for a a 70-kg adult consuming 2 liters of water per day. Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.||200 ppb|
Violation Summary for Cyanide in Virginia
Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes the following violations of federal standards in Virginia since 2004
|Violation Type||Number of Violations|
|Failure to monitor regularly||6|