Over 250 Contaminants Found in America’s Drinking Water: What Can You Do?

How safe is your drinking water?

That question grabbed the headlines in the summer of 2015 after a worried mother in Flint, Michigan, contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after her children got sick, leading to the discovery of extremely high levels of lead in the city’s water.

Following this came the revelation of high levels of lead contamination in numerous communities and schools around the U.S.

But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) wants you to know that lead is only one of hundreds of contaminants lurking in water supplies.

According to the EWG, “When most Americans drink a glass of tap water, they’re also getting a dose of industrial or agricultural contaminants linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage, developmental defects, fertility problems or hormone disruption.”

28 Million Water Records From 50,000 Water Utility Companies

Over a period of five years, EWG compiled 28 million water records from nearly 50,000 water utilities serving around 280 million people in the U.S. They have published their results on an excellent website, EWG Tap Water Database, the most comprehensive source available on the quality of American drinking water.

Most of this water is officially approved by federal and state agencies, but the problem is that while many of the 250-plus contaminants the organization found are legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act, they are much higher than the levels scientific studies recommend. In addition, the EPA has not added a single contaminant to the list of drinking water pollutants in over 20 years, meaning that more than 160 contaminants are completely unregulated.

Here are a few of the EWG’s findings:

  • 81 percent of water systems had contaminants linked to cancer;
  • 250 million Americans, or 77 percent of the U.S. population, is drinking Hexavalent Chromium, the chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich;
  • 38 percent of water systems contained lead at levels that may be harmful to children;
  • 9.2 million Americans are drinking water with unsafe amounts of nitrate, a fertilizer chemical.

Shocking statistics, but the good news is that you can use a filter to remove most of these chemicals from your water, and the website contains a very detailed list of which filter is right for you.

drinking-water

Photo Credit: thinkstock

New Tool Lets You Check Water By Zip Code

To find out all about your water supply, the website invites you to enter your zip code, and then provides you with a list of all the water utility companies supplying your region. Just click on the one for your area and you’ll find out exactly what’s going on with your tap water.

I did this for my water utility in California, and discovered that my drinking water contains 7 contaminants at levels above health guidelines, all linked to cancer, as well as five other contaminants. I learned that pollution sources varied between agriculture, industry, treatment byproducts and natural occurrences. Next I was led to an extensive list of filters, all appropriate for removing the specific pollutants in my water.

Knowledge is Power

The facts uncovered about American drinking water are horrifying, but the goal of the EWG is to empower consumers to take action when they discover that their drinking water is loaded with pollutants.

Getting the right filter for your needs is important, but so is calling your elected officials and water utility companies and asking questions. To advocate for better drinking water, EWG has compiled a list of questions including “Why are these contaminants in my water?” and “How is our water system removing contaminants?”

The website also contains several other handy resources, including some of the tips below on how to reduce your exposure to contaminants while staying hydrated.

7 Tips On How To Stay Hydrated While Reducing Your Exposure To Water Contaminants

(Adapted from ”Guide to Safe Drinking Water“)

1.  Learn what’s in your tap water.

2.  Choose a filter that will remove pollutants in your drinking water.

3.  Carry water in safe containers.

4.  Pregnant women and infants should take special precautions.

5.  Use a whole house filter for extra protection.

6.  Change your filters on time.

7.  Drink filtered water rather than bottled water.

 You can take charge of your drinking water.

Take Action

If you agree that access to clean, safe drinking water is a right, not a privilege, please sign our Care2 petition, demanding that the EPA test for and regulate all contaminants in U.S. drinking water.

Photo Credit: Paul Hudson

38 comments

Emma Z
Emma Z12 days ago

Thank you

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iloshechka A
iloshechka Aabout a month ago

thanks

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iloshechka A
iloshechka Aabout a month ago

thanks

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIEabout a month ago

My dad once told me that if a river had run over seven stones it was fine, no longer.

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Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago

Shared article with link for contamination levels in all zip codes.

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Dot A
Dot A1 months ago

Water. We can't make it too safe. But the alternative is not acceptable! We have the ingenuity to make our water very safe across the globe. And that must be our collective goal. Including the air we breath~ Thanks for the heads-up article from Judy. Because there isn*t one person who doesn*t care about the water they put into their bodies and those they love.

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Philippa P
Philippa P1 months ago

I filter my water.

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI1 months ago

it is sad to learn about this problems in our water

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Bill E
Bill Eagle1 months ago

People need to purchase cheap under counter reverse osmosis filters.

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

I often wonder about Canada's water supply. I have asked questions but don't get definitive answers.

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