The Stream, August 24: Thousands of Palestinians At Risk From Water Shortages

The Global Rundown

Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank are suffering from water shortages that are a matter of dispute between Palestine and Israel. Monsoon floods in India have displaced millions of people, many in the state of Bihar. Storms in Mexico destroyed critical habitat for monarch butterflies that overwinter there. Rashes and hair loss reported by residents of Flint, Michigan may be linked to stress over the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis, according to an investigation. An evaluation of the use of household water test kits in India found that low-income customers were willing to buy them, but that the kits were often not available in local stores. A government panel in the United Kingdom has called for an international ban on plastic microbeads.

“We think there’s a strong suggestion that the water quality at that time … represents a smoking gun, if you will, that suggests that this is rash-related.” –Patrick Breysse, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the results of an investigation into the cause of rashes and hair loss reported by residents of Flint, Michigan. While they did not conclusively link the health problems to the city’s water, which was contaminated with lead for more than a year, investigators believe the rashes may have been caused by a combination of stress due to the water crisis and changes in the pH, chlorine levels, and hardness of the city’s water when it switched supply sources. (Detroit Free Press)

By The Numbers

6 million people Number affected by extensive monsoon flooding in eastern and central India, many of them in the state of Bihar. The floods have killed 300 people and displaced many others who are now living in relief camps. Reuters

35,000 Palestinians Number living in the West Bank who are at risk from water shortages, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Palestinian communities there have blamed the lack of water on Israel, but Israeli authorities deny the accusations and say they are providing more water than required. Reuters

54 hectares Area of forest habitat for monarch butterflies in Mexico that was lost this year due to unusually rainy, cold, and windy conditions. Drought caused the loss of another 6.5 hectares of pine and fir trees, where the butterflies migrate to overwinter. Associated Press

Science, Studies, And Reports

Household water test kits hold significant promise for assessing drinking water quality in rural and low-income areas, according to an evaluation of the kits by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tests are largely accurate when used properly, and residents in India interviewed for the report said they would willingly pay for the kits. However, the tests are not readily available in stores. The report also cited the need for demonstrations teaching customers how to use the tests in order to improve their efficacy. MIT News

On The Radar

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom have called for an international ban on the use of microbeads in personal hygiene products and cosmetics within 18 months. The microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic often used as exfoliants, and they harm aquatic animals that ingest the beads after they are discharged through wastewater systems into lakes, rivers, and oceans. Guardian