In this day and age, we are constantly (and tragically) surrounded by pollution. There are various kinds of pollution, and they have a detrimental effect not only on the environment, but on the human body.
One very common form of pollution is water pollution. We use tap water for everything— showering, washing the dishes, and in many states, drinking. But is your water actually clean? And what kind of effect can polluted water have on the body?
Here in America, we are lucky to have relatively safe drinking water; but don’t be fooled. Just because our water supply is safer than those of other countries, does not mean it is not contaminated with toxic chemicals. We do have regulations for drinking water, which began with the passing of the US Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. But even with the government involved, many local water supplies are contaminated and are in constant violation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.1
One famous example of a breach in standards is the super high levels of lead found in Flint, Michigan’s water supply back in 2014. Thus, many Americans are still afraid that their local supplies are unsafe. In fact, 61% of Americans surveyed stated they were ‘worrying a great deal about polluted drinking water,’.1
What’s in the water?
Some common water pollutants in the US include heavy metals like lead, harmful minerals like arsenic, various disease-causing microbes, and chemicals used in manufacturing known as Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances or PFAS.2;3 So basically, nothing good. And even though tap water goes through treatment facilities, there are many chemicals and organic compounds that either enter the supply post-treatment or are not successfully removed through treatment.3
How does the water get polluted?
Water supplies often get polluted if they are anywhere near a source of high pollution such as a factory or airport. Pollutants can travel from the air and soil into our water supply. And with the amount of industrialization and factory production in the US, getting exposed to chemicals is really hard to avoid. And even if you don’t live near an industrial center, the chemicals travel by water, air, or soil and will make their way into your environment.
Effects of contaminated water
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there can be serious side effects of drinking contaminated water. Exposure to high levels of toxins and chemicals from the water supply can cause skin discoloration, nervous system or organ damage, and developmental or reproductive effects.2 The bacteria and viruses in the water can make you sick with digestive issues, fever, and even kidney failure.2
And if you’re exposed over a long period, some of the contaminants can have chronic effects. These include chemicals like pesticides, radionuclides like radium, and minerals like arsenic. Some of the chronic effects these toxins can cause are liver or kidney problems, reproductive issues, and even cancer.4
Is my water contaminated?
The easiest way to check the contamination levels of your water supply is to use the EWG database. With this database, you can search for your state and town to see exactly which contaminants are in your local water supply, and how much they exceed health guidelines.
What can you do about it?
According to the research, POU or point-of-use filters can be effective in reducing chemical contamination in drinking water.1 These are the filters you attach to your faucet or shower head like the Pur faucet system or Brita.
There is also the option to purchase whole-house filters which will filter the water supply of your entire house, so you won't need individual filters on faucets. Here’s what the CDC advises when buying water filters:
- Read the label to see which chemicals it filters out.
- Look for an NSF certification.
- Don’t assume water filters remove all bacteria, most don’t.5
*NSF is an independent organization that creates public health standards.5
Take Home Message
And there you have it. If you want to know what’s in your water, check out the database. And if you want to help reduce levels of contamination, buying a water filter is a great place to start.
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