Health Risks of Drinking Tap Water

Nothing beats a cold glass of water on a hot summer day. Aside from refreshing us, water stops dehydration, lubricates the joints, lessens the risks of kidney stones and helps prevent constipation.

But have you ever wondered where the water you’re drinking comes from? Have you ever been curious of its source? Probably not since most of us just open the faucet and then drink to our heart’s delight. But is this a good idea? More importantly – is tap water safe?

Answering that question may be difficult since it depends on where your water comes from and how it is treated. In general, water comes from a variety of natural and treated sources. Eighty percent of water systems get water from a ground water source (wells) but many people are served by a water system that uses surface water (from rivers, lakes and streams). As a rule, large metropolitan areas often rely on surface water while rural areas rely on ground water.

While over 90 percent of water systems have passed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for tap water quality, this doesn’t make tap water free from contaminants. In fact, a study made by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found 260 contaminants in public water supplies. Eliza Wasser

The EWG arrived at this startling figure after conducting an exhaustive study of municipal water in 42 states. They uncovered 141 unregulated chemicals in tap water for which the EPA has no safety standards or established protocols for removing them.

A recent two-and-a-year analysis revealed that 119 regulated chemicals out of 260 total contaminants were discovered in a 22 million sampling of tap water. These samplings were derived from almost 40,000 utility sources that provide water to 231 million people.

California heads the list of the Top Ten states with the most contaminants followed by Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois. The contaminants were traced to agriculture, industry and pollution from sprawl and urban runoff.

“Our analysis clearly demonstrates the need for greater protection of the nation’s tap water supplies, and for increased health protections from a number of pollutants that are commonly found but currently unregulated. Utilities routinely go beyond what is required to protect consumers from these contaminants, but they need more money for testing, and for protection of vital source waters, according to Jane Houlihan, EWG vice president of Science.

The National Resources Defense Council, however, pointed out that people with no health problems can drink tap water without worrying since the contaminants are too little to do any harm. It added that the risks posed by these contaminants are more likely to affect pregnant women, young people, the elderly and people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems. For this group of people, drinking tap water may not be wise.

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