Here in the U.S., most of us assume that drinking water straight from the tap is perfectly fine for our health (the Flint Water Crisis not withstanding). Our developed country has laws in place that supposedly protect us from unsafe water, with government agencies mandating that tap water be regularly tested for contaminants and bacteria.
Meanwhile, people with well water usually assume that their area’s groundwater is safe enough to consume. Despite this public confidence in U.S. water, however, a number of common contaminants often sneak through. Here are some that may be working their way into your water source:
One of the scariest common contaminants in our water supply is arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and is found in nature — but that doesn’t make it good for us. The Environmental Working Group tested tap water from all 50 states and found arsenic in the drinking water of all 50.
Another naturally occurring contaminant, copper is a mineral that is good for us in the right amounts. However, when it enters the water supply by leeching from pipes, it can be harmful for certain populations, such as infants and young children.
We don’t need to mention the dangers of lead in drinking water. In its testing, the EWG also found evidence of lead in 50 out of 50 states’ drinking water supplies.
Nitrates are used in agriculture as fertilizer, and they are dangerous when consumed in drinking water. Nitrates are thought to lead to cancer and developmental problems.
Perflourinated chemicals were found in the drinking water of 33 states, according the EWG’s tests. These chemicals are majorly problematic, as they have been linked to endocrine disruption, developmental issues, early puberty and, consequently, certain cancers.
This may sound like a broken record, but VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are another type of chemical that has been linked to cancer. These carcinogenic chemicals have been found in 49 out of 50 states, according to the EWG.
An herbicide that’s often introduced to the water system by agricultural runoff, atrazinehas been linked to hormonal disorders and problems with the reproductive organs.
Finally, dioxane is another chemical you should be wary of. It is classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen, and was found in the water supplies of 45 states.
So, should you start drinking filtered water? If you want to be safe(r), the answer is probably, yes. Water filtration systems can be installed into your sink or refrigerator, while cheaper versions are available as well. These more affordable alternatives (such as pitchers for your refrigerator) may not be quite as effective filtration systems, but a little protection is better than nothing. You can also purchase filtered water in refillable jugs at many health food stores.
One last note: Just because tap water often contains contaminants does not mean that bottled water is a better alternative! In fact, since bottled water often comes in endocrine-disrupting plastic bottles, switching to bottled water could do more harm than good. Reach for water filtered directly from your faucet instead.