Wondering if your tap water is safe?
Most tap water comes directly from freshwater sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers. The water is first collected in a treatment plant to undergo sterilization and disinfection by chlorine. The water you receive in your home should be free of bacteria and other organisms, but it can contain other contaminants.
The government has set up parameters for water safety, executed by the EPA and other federal agencies, to limit the concentration of some of these contaminants in the drinking water supply. Municipalities provide their citizenry with annual water test results that provide a basic analysis of their public water sources, but the tests are in no way inclusive of all the potential contaminants. If you look at the water test performed by my municipality, for example, you’ll notice that of all the possible organic compounds known to infiltrate ground water from industrial processes, it only tests for two: trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, the two chlorination byproducts regulated by the WHO and EPA! Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both natural and industrial, can easily dissolve in water. Although there are hundreds, if not thousands of VOCs, only a small fraction of them are monitored and regulated by the EPA.
If you receive municipally treated water, you should check annually to find out if the water you are drinking and bathing in is contaminated with VOCs such as benzene or toluene. If you have a well, it is important to also test for methane. Independent water testing companies can provide a more complete evaluation of the water that comes from your faucet.
It is important to study these water test results. Consider that the maximum acceptable limits for contaminants are sometimes made with underlying political pressure by industry, and not necessarily for optimal public health. Given the extensive industry in many regions of the country, the maximum contaminant levels may represent a compromise of industry needs and the limited capability of water treatment plants to filter industrial chemicals from the water supply.
Regardless of your location, it is potentially dangerous to drink your tap water without any further filtering. If you choose to drink unfiltered tap water, especially if you haven’t run the faucet in a few hours, run cold water through your pipes for twenty or thirty seconds before collecting water to drink. This will help allow any potential lead or other toxins that may have leached into your water over time from household pipes and tubing to be eliminated. If you have any questions about whether your tap water is safe, it’s also best to draw cold water instead of hot water for drinking, as hot water can contain more heavy metals and other dissolved solutes within it than cold water.
Looking for more wellness tips? See Dr. Rob’s plan for your best-ever healthy morning.