You probably don’t want to hear about any issues with your tap water. After all, aren’t regulations in place to ensure you have the cleanest drinking water? You would know if there were issues, right? The annual water quality report from your city looks just fine, but could there be a problem?
The answer may surprise you. And, although you may not want to hear it, you’ll be grateful to learn the truth about your tap water.
Tap Water Contaminants – It’s a Long List
If you think about it, your water department has a big job. Hundreds of contaminants end up in your water supply including:
- Agriculture pesticides & fertilizers
- Industrial pollutants
- Urban runoff chemicals
- Car emissions
- Road surfaces
- Personal Care Products
- Flame Retardants
- Water treatment chemicals & their byproducts
It’s an overwhelming list especially since well-respected research has linked many of these contaminants to cancer, liver, kidney and nervous system problems.
So, it’s important to understand some of the shortcomings in the system that provides your drinking water.
Five Things You’d Rather not Hear about Tap Water
1. EPA Standards aren’t Stringent Enough
Did you know that the EPA sets two levels for water departments?
You are probably wondering how this works.
The EPA sets two measures; one standard is enforceable while the other is not.
- The unenforceable standard is the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG). The EPA sets the MCLG at a level where they expect no adverse health effects
- The enforceable standard is simply called the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – this is often set higher than the goal
Think of the MCLG as considering your health and the MCL as considering your health and the costs of removing contaminants.
As a result, your tap water may have unhealthy levels of contaminants (exceeding MCLG), but still be meeting the enforceable standards (meeting MCL).
It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?
Your water is not meeting the EPA experts’ standards for good health because the EPA also factored in the cost of meeting those safety levels.
To get an understanding of how this works, consider arsenic standards.
The EPA classifies arsenic as a known human carcinogen. Its MCLG is 0.00 meaning that to avoid any adverse health effects, water should not contain any arsenic. However, arsenic’s MCL or enforceable level is 0.01 which allows water supplies to contain arsenic and meet standards.
You’re probably not on board with drinking arsenic–didn’t think so.
2. The EPA doesn’t Regulate ALL Pollutants (Not Even Close)
The EPA does not regulate all pollutants. In fact, a 2009 study detected 316 contaminants and a whopping 202 of those contaminants had no safety standards. About 132 million people in the US had unregulated pollutants in their tap water according to the study.
Admit it. You’d rather have safety standards for more contaminants.
You’d like to think that the EPA has selected the most dangerous contaminants to regulate, but there’s a constant stream of new chemicals being developed and an understaffed/underfunded agency trying to keep up.
Only 1/3 of the study’s contaminants were regulated. Does that seem like enough to you?
3. Your Water Department isn’t Perfect
It’s possible that your water department is failing on certain regulatory standards.
People make mistakes. Processes fail. Equipment malfunctions. When these mistakes occur, they can negatively affect many people.
For example, from 2004-2009, the Environmental Working Group reports that water departments serving 53 million people failed to meet the goal for Trihalomethanes, a likely carcinogen, according to the EPA.
That’s a lot of imperfection.
4. Bad Stuff Can Happen Between the Water Plant and your Sink
Your water can pick up contaminants between the water plant and your house, so even if you’re convinced that your water department is doing a perfect job, your tap water may be contaminated by the pipes that lead to your house or the pipes inside your place. This is precisely what happened in Flint MI and many other cities as well. The water was contaminated by lead water pipes.
You may think that lead pipes are a thing of the past. It’s true that lead water pipes are no longer used today, but many older lead pipes are still in service. And during a repair or change in water chemistry, these pipes can leach lead into tap water.
And, it’s not just lead that could be a problem. Other contaminants can end up in your drinking water as well.
So, as your tap water travels from your water treatment plant into your house, it can pick up contaminants along the way causing unsafe levels of lead and other contaminants.
5. Fluoride Levels May Exceed Healthy Levels
Tap water contains fluoride which can cause adverse health effects. A 2006 study of Fluoride in Drinking Water sponsored by the EPA recommended lowering the MCLG due to concerns about increased bone fracture rates and enamel fluorosis in children 0-8 years old. The committee unanimously recommended that the EPA set fluoride levels lower due to strong health concerns.
The committee also recommended further study about fluoride’s impact on thyroid and brain functioning.
Unfortunately, the MCL and MCLG are still set at 4 mg/L, an unsafe level according to the committee. For a full copy of the report, click here.
Seems hard to believe, right?
A huge study conducted by experts says that the fluoride goal is too high. And, ten years later, the goal still hasn’t been reset?
So What’s Next?
Now that you’ve learned about the EPA’s two standards, the burgeoning number of new, unregulated chemicals, the fallibility of your water department, the possibility of unsafe water pipe infrastructure, and the potential of having more fluoride in your water than is healthy, what’s next?
Well, you probably want to know how to get drinking water that you can trust.
You’ve got a couple of choices. First, if you don’t have a clue which type of water filter might work best for you, then read The Complete Beginner's Guide to Water Filters. You'll quickly determine which filter is right for you.
Or, you can just shop at Pure Living Space. We have a selection of the best water filters. All the recommended water filters are fully tested by a third-party laboratory, so you’ll feel confident about your drinking water again.