Public water supplies in 42 U.S. states are contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has never established safety standards, according to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Tainted Tap Water Used by Millions of Americans
Another 119 regulated chemicals—a total of 260 contaminants altogether—were found by the environmental group in a two-and-a-half-year analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests. The tests, which are required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, were conducted at nearly 40,000 utilities that supply water to 231 million people. If you are feeling ill, for no apparent reason, it really could be the water in your own home! Below are listed some contaminants found in your public water supply that truly could be making you sick!
Water Disinfection Byproducts
- What are water disinfection byproducts?
The term refers not to one chemical compound but a group of chemicals that are formed as byproducts of water treatment. Up to 600 disinfection byproducts have been identified but only a fraction of them — including bromate, total trihalomethanes (chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform) and haloacetic acids (dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monochloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid and dibromoacetic acid) — are monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- How often do they occur in drinking water?
According to the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of about 20 million drinking water tests conducted by water suppliers between 2004 and 2009, disinfection byproducts, many of which are unregulated, were the most common water pollutants found in US water supplies.
- How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
Chemical byproducts are formed when disinfectants used to treat water, such as chlorine, react with organic pollution washed off from cities, suburbs and agricultural farms.
- What are the possible health effects of water disinfection byproducts?
Disinfection byproducts can cause gene mutation, induce birth defects, accelerate the aging process, sets off an inflammatory response in the body, and even induce cancer after long-term exposures.
Associations have also been made between exposure to certain trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids at concentrations above the maximum contaminant level and injury to the liver, kidney, eyes, nerves and the reproductive system.
- How to remove water disinfection byproducts from water?
Water filtration systems using activated carbon filters can reduce levels of disinfection byproducts (such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids) as can a reverse osmosis unit. Look out for certification, or confirm with the manufacturer before making your purchase.
Nitrate and Nitrite
·What are nitrate and nitrite?
Nitrates and nitrites are common inorganic compounds that are found contaminating drinking water.
·How often do they occur in drinking water?
Nitrate ranks number five in EWG’s list of frequently detected water pollutants. Nitrate and/or nitrite contamination is also not uncommon in drinking water drawn from private wells in the US.
·How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
The major sources of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water are excessive use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers (e.g. potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate) by farmers and homeowners, leaching from septic sewer systems, discharge by chemical, petrochemical and metal-finishing industries, human and animal organic wastes, as well as erosion of natural deposits.
·What are the possible health effects of nitrate and nitrite?
Infants are susceptible to ‘blue baby syndrome’, or methemoglobinemia, after drinking water containing excess nitrate. This potentially dangerous condition occurs when hemoglobins in the red blood cells are converted into methemoglobin in the presence of nitrate and/or nitrite and loses their ability to carry oxygen.
Although older children and adults can tolerate higher levels of nitrates, little is known about the possible long-term effects of nitrate ingestion. Some evidence suggests that nitrate exposure above safety limits may be carcinogenic.
·How to remove nitrate and nitrite from water?
Unfortunately, nitrate and nitrite cannot be removed by carbon-only water filters. Technologies that can reduce the water pollutants effectively include reverse osmosis
and atmospheric water generation.
But these technologies have their drawbacks too.
Although reverse osmosis filters
are effective in eliminating most disease causing organisms and chemical contaminants, they generally use about three times as much water as they treat. They also remove most of the minerals in the water and may worsen mineral deficiency in those who are already getting insufficient minerals from their diet.
Atmospheric water generator, which extracts water from humid ambient air, is slow, huge (almost the size of a medium refrigerator), and requires an environment with a relatively high humidity to generate water at an acceptable rate. Though you can connect it to a water supply and use it as a regular purifier, its water filtration capabilities may not be sufficient to remove the types of contaminants in your water.
·What are pharmaceutical contaminants?
Pharmaceutical contaminants refer to a cocktail of dissolved prescription pills, over-the-counter drugs as well as ingredients used for making drugs that are found in drinking water.
According to the 2008-2009 annual report presented by the President’s Cancer Panel
, some medications found in water supplies include antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, medications for hypertension and diabetes, steroid medications, oral contraceptives, non-prescription pain relievers, hormone replacement therapy medications, anti-convulsants, heart medications and antibiotics.
·How often do they occur in drinking water?
A shocking Associated Press report
in 2009 revealed that at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals have been poured into US waterways that often provide drinking water.
Unlike nitrate and other regulated contaminants, the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water is not monitored by government in most countries and hence, water suppliers are not required to test for them. To make things worse, conventional water treatment plants are also incapable of removing dissolved medications that have entered the water systems.
·How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
Dumping of active pharmaceutical ingredients by manufacturers into waterways, as well as improper disposal of medications by consumers into household drains and toilets. Drugs of all types also enter the water supply when they are excreted.
(If you’ve the habit of flushing expired drugs down the toilet, please stop!)
·What are the possible health effects of pharmaceuticals?
Currently, there is no study looking into the long-term effects of drinking water containing low doses of multiple drugs for extended period of time. However, considering that a number of medications are formulated to work at relatively low dosage, their long-term unintended effects cannot be ruled out completely.
· How to remove pharmaceuticals from water?
Water filters that use only basic carbon blocker are unlikely to remove pharmaceutical contaminants. Reverse osmosis system,
however, is able to remove dissolved drugs, so is atmospheric water generator which skips contaminated water altogether and generates water from air.
·What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a natural occurring element found in soil, rocks, air, food and water. It’s also used for producing electronic parts, automotive batteries, wood preservatives, glass, pesticides and more.
·How often does it occur in drinking water?
Arsenic contamination of water is a global problem. According to the Wikipedia
, over 137 million people in more than 70 countries, including America, are probably affected by arsenic poisoning of drinking water.
· How did the water pollutant end up in water supplies?
Arsenic leaches into water when water flows pass arsenic-rich soils and rocks. Mining activities, discharges from industries that use arsenic compounds, and runoffs from farms and homes that use arsenic-containing pesticides also add to the amount of the pollutant in water supplies.
·What are the possible health effects of arsenic?
Arsenic is a highly toxic substance and is classified as a carcinogen which can cause cancers of the skin, lung, and bladder as well as heart disease.
·How to remove arsenic from water?
is currently the most effective way to remove arsenic. Generating water through air is also another way to avoid arsenic. But take note of the cons highlighted earlier for each of them before purchasing to make sure you can live with the drawbacks.
·What is hexavalent chromium?
Hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, is a common industrial chemical used for the production of textile dyes, pigments, stainless steel, wood preservation, leather tanning, anti-corrosion coatings and other niche uses.
It was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich”, starring Julia Roberts, that tells the real-life story of cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley who in 1996 won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating their tap water with hexavalent chromium.
· How often does it occur in drinking water?
A 2010 study
commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found that water from 31 out of 35 US cities was polluted with hexavalent chromium. Of those, 25 had levels that exceeded the safety limits proposed by California regulators.
·How did the water pollutant end up in water supplies?
Discharge by irresponsible industries that produce or use hexavalent chromium, such as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities as well as steel and pulp mills.
Other forms of chromium, such as chromium-3, also occur naturally in soil, rocks, rivers, plants and animals.
·What are the possible health effects of hexavalent chromium?
Hexavalent chromium has long been known to cause lung cancer when inhaled. There are also increasing scientific evidence linking the pollutant to liver and kidney damage as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers in lab animals.
·How to remove hexavalent chromium from water?
Use a water filter that is certified to remove hexavalent chromium (chromium-6). MultiPure’s Reverse Osmosis
water filter unit is NSF certified to remove all or most of these contaminants.