EU Commission warns Italy over contaminated drinking water

ROME (REUTERS) - The Italian government has failed to improve the quality of its drinking water, leaving people exposed to health risks from high levels of arsenic and fluoride, the European Commission said on Thursday.

It said Italy's drinking water did not meet European Union standards despite more than nine years of scrutiny. The Lazio region around the capital Rome has a particularly pressing problem.

"Water contamination from arsenic and fluoride is a long-standing problem in Italy," the commission said in a statement.

In February, local authorities in Rome, whose fountains fed by ancient aqueducts attract hordes of tourists, imposed a temporary ban on drinking water from public supplies in parts of the city.

Arsenic is tasteless and odourless and can enter drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth. High levels of it in water can cause skin damage, circulatory problems, and an increased risk of cancer.

When high levels of pollutants are found in a country's drinking water, the commission grants it a maximum of three grace periods of three years each to find a solution. Italy's third grace period expired more than a year ago.

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