We take it for granted. We turn on the kitchen or bathroom faucets in our homes and offices with every expectation that the water we receive is uncontaminated and not dangerous to our health.
Unfortunately, pure water has become extinct. In this day and age, we cannot assume that water is pollutant-free—regardless of the source. Just because it comes out of our kitchen faucet, its purity is not guaranteed. Newspapers and television newscasts report almost daily how water pollution is increasing from the sewage and industrial waste being dumped directly into our drinking water sources.
There are always new and emerging contaminants making their way into the water supply. Illegal discharge of these pollutants has been going on for decades, entering our groundwater sources and increasing the level of contamination. Now these contaminants are reemerging in our drinking water.
Another serious problem is a rotting and decaying water infrastructure in the delivery system—the pipes themselves. There are constant breaks that make the system susceptible to bacteria.
A recent Wall Street Journal front page article states: “2.2 million miles of pipes that carry water into homes, businesses, and public places are breaking. Many of the roughly 145,000 public water systems’ treatment facilities that make water safe to drink are decaying.”
When Government Standards Fall Short
In one of the latest debacles brought to light—water contamination issues at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base in South Carolina—is fraught with lawsuits. Contaminants in two on-base water wells that were shut down in 1985 were found to have had Trichloroethylene, Perchloroethylene, Benzene, Vinyl Chloride, and other dangerous compounds that left many veterans and family members suffering from renal toxicity, infertility, and a wide variety of cancers including bladder, breast, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What happens when government standards are not strict enough? Do the current regulations cover the many new chemicals and contaminants added to our environment each year? Is our water really safe? The answers will alarm you.
A study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1999 (pdf) confirmed that approximately 40 percent of all public water systems were not safe. The Environmental Protection Agency addressed this environmental concern, and in 1974 the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in an effort to protect citizens by regulating contaminants.
In 1986, the EPA established maximum concentration limits on a number of contaminants in the public water supplies. While the regulations did improve the safety of the public water supply in some respects, many pollutants are still woefully underregulated.
What Toxins Are in Our Water?
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) drinking water in communities all across the country contains an array of contaminants—including radioactive elements, arsenic, disinfection byproducts, and chromium-6, the chemical that Erin Brockovich famously brought to the public’s attention.
It is no secret that the EPA drinking water standards are not adequate in protecting our health. The low bar of the EPA drinking water standards is not free from health risks, and the cumulative exposure to contaminants only serves to escalate the problem.
The EPA’s EWG Tap Water Database reveals that when some Americans turn on the tap for a glass of water, they are getting more than they bargained for. The unwanted dose of agricultural or industrial contaminants is often linked to serious health problems, including brain damage, nerve damage, fertility issues, birth defects, and cancer.
A California case study published in Environmental Health (2019) found that more than 15,000 incidents of cancer could be directly attributed to the quality of drinking water. In particular, it was noted that 20 or more carcinogens were present in the public water supply at levels that put the public’s health at risk—even when the tap water met federal drinking water standards. Sources:
By the EPA’s own admission, the byproducts of disinfection are found in drinking water across the United States and are a significant cancer risk.
For example, chlorine, a commonly used disinfectant, may prevent water-borne microbial diseases, but the byproducts that are formed when chlorine reacts with dead plant materials and sediments in the water, are often highly toxic.
Regulators previously assessed pollutants in tap water one at a time. Yet, our public water supply rarely contains only one contaminant. The EWG conducted a peer-reviewed study to assess the cumulative effect of more than one contaminant. Their conclusion? “The federal government’s approach of regulating one contaminant at a time is slow and inefficient.”
While they were figuring out that the cumulative effect of toxins was more dangerous than just one contaminant, 3.1 million Californians were getting their tap water from 495 systems. It was estimated that 4,860 would develop cancer from drinking their tap water. It was also found that nearly two-thirds of public water systems contained a minimum of two cancer-causing contaminants.
Thankfully, the cumulative effect approach developed by the EWG is now used by regulators. But is it enough? Sadly, the number of new toxins introduced into our water supply each year is more than regulators can keep up with.
How Can You Know If Your Water Is Safe?
The EWG admits that “legal doesn’t always mean safe” and confesses that the most egregious risks of water safety are found in small to midsize communities. Why? These are the places that cannot always afford the costly treatment infrastructure to ensure safe drinking water.
A quick look at the EWG’s Tap Water Database can alert you to the number of contaminants you may be dealing with. Just enter your zip code to find out more.
But that alone does not tell the entire story. The age of your home, the type of water pipes you have (are they copper? lead? PVC?) impacts the quality of water that comes out of your tap. And just because you have a countertop or refrigerator filter for your drinking water, it does not mean that you are not breathing in or absorbing toxins when you shower or bathe.
Regardless of where you live, the “toxic soup” of chemicals in our water supply is a known health risk. As consumers, we must be aware so that we may take corrective measures in our homes to protect ourselves, our families, and clean our water using adequate filtration equipment.
Clean, pure water is the essence of life and the birthright of all of us. There is no better gift we can give our family than to provide uncontaminated, clean, safe water every time we turn on the tap.
To find out more information on how to obtain clean drinking and bathing water, click on this link: https://cwrenviro.com/epoch/ or call 800-444-3563.
“Drinking Water: New Frameworks Needed to Account for Multiple Contaminants and Protect Public Health,” Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database (November 2021 update).
Joshua Bote, “Can You Get Cancer from Tap Water? New Study Says Even ‘Safe’ Drinking Water Poses Risk,” USA Today (Sept. 19, 2019).
The study Bote referenced in USA Today: Sydney Evans, Chris Campbell, Olga V. Naidenko, “Cumulative Risk Analysis of Carcinogenic Contaminants in United States Drinking Water,” Heliyon (September 1, 2019); Volume 5, Issue 9, E02314.