The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just unveiled their Tap Water Database. It provides the most complete source of information available on the state of American drinking water.
EWG collected data from the EPA and from state agencies based on testing done between 2010 and 2015 by 48,712 water utilities in all 50 states. The utilities found 267 contaminants.
93 linked to an increased risk of cancer. More than 40,000 systems had detections of known or likely carcinogens exceeding established federal or state health guidelines – levels that pose only negligible health risks, but are not legally enforceable.
78 associated with brain and nervous system damage.
63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses.
38 that may cause fertility problems.
45 linked to hormonal disruption.
In determining what levels of each contaminant was safe, EWG, went beyond government regulations and relied instead on the best available science. They note that the levels set by government are often motivated by political compromises with polluters rather than providing the best protections for public health. They also noted inequities based on income. People in richer communities generally had cleaner water than people in poorer areas.
I wanted to know if my water was safe, so I clicked on the Tap Water Database, entered my zip code, and clicked on my water provider (Department of Water and Power). I got a list of the contaminants in my water. There were 5 substances above safe guidelines and 16 other contaminants. The five that are above the guidelines are Arsenic, Bromate, Chromium (hexavalent), Radiological contaminants, and Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs). All five are linked to cancer. Lead was below the legal limit, but above the level that is considered safe for children to drink.
What to do? EWG’s Guide to Safe Drinking Water has eight recommendations:
- Learn what’s in your tap water. Use the Tap Water Database. If you have a private well, get it tested
- Once you know what contaminants are in your water, choose a filter certified to remove those contaminants, and use only filtered water for drinking, ice, and cooking. You can use the EWG Water Filter Buying Guide.
- Change your water filters on time. Old filters aren’t safe.
- Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water. EWG found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands.
- Carry water in safe containers Hard plastic bottles can leach a harmful chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA). Carry stainless steel or other BPA-free bottles
- Pregnant women should stay hydrated with safe water.
- Infant formula should be prepared with safe water. Read EWG’s Guide To Baby-Safe Bottles & Formula
- Use a whole house water filter. Toxins can be absorbed through the skin, so it’s safest to use filtered water for showering and bathing.