Cancerous waters

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

MOTORISED boats are polluting lakes and reservoirs in California, USA, with a cancer causing additive, according to the scientists. The findings coincide with an announcement that the US government is setting up an expert panel to investigate the findings. Researchers at the University of California have just completed the first comprehensive study into water contamination by the chemical known as methyl tertbutyl ether (MTBE).

They found that the seasonal distribution of the MTBE in rivers and lakes corresponded almost perfectly with Boat use. Most motorised water crafts have exhausts that release emissions at or below the waterline, they said. MTBE is often added to gasoline to make the fuel burn more cleanly and efficiently. But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified the chemical as a possible cause of cancer and controversy has surrounded the additive for a number of years. John Reuter, who lead the study, said lakes and rivers that allow motorised boats showed measurable levels of MTBE, whereas it was uncommon for non-boating lakes to be contaminated.

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