Updated February 29, 6:20 AM
How to check your drinking water quality
Tap water in the U.S. is safer than in many other parts of the world but we have a problem. There are more toxins spewing from your faucet than you think.
Last year, chemical sludge from a shoe manufacturer was found in the tap water of Plainfield Township, Michigan. The area lies about 120 miles from Flint, where, in 2015, dangerous levels of lead were found in the city's drinking supply. Experts soon linked the tainted water to local outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease (a severe form of pneumonia). More than a dozen people died, fertility rates plummeted, and the toll on countless children's future health might not be known for a generation.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s comprehensive new Tap Water Database, a compilation of 28 million water records from across the U.S., the vast majority us are drinking chemicals that could hurt us. Many of these contaminants are legal, yet have been linked to grave health issues such as cancer and developmental delays.
Between 2010 and 2015, the EWG gathered this data from nearly 50,000 public water utilities in all 50 states. Collectively, these water systems serve 280 million Americans — that’s at least 85 percent of us. Overall, the EWG identified 250 different contaminants of concern, 160 of which the government has set no limits for whatsoever.
One of the most widespread toxins detected was hexavalent chromium, the carcinogen made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich. According to the data, the drinking water of 77 percent of Americans contains higher levels of hexavalent chromium than scientists deem safe. Only California, not the feds, sets a “safe” limit for this chemical. But that limit, studies show, is still much too high.
Chloroform, a byproduct of chlorine and other tap-water disinfectants, was found in 46 states’ drinking water. This chemical has been linked to cancer and impaired fetal development. Another carcinogen, nitrate from chemical fertilizer runoff, was detected in 49 states. At high levels, nitrate can cause oxygen deprivation in infants. In total, 19,000 of the water systems tested contained contaminants that could harm children.
Curious what’s in your water? Click on the link below to see how your municipality is doing.
To check your water quality, click HERE. You'll be directed to EWG's database of water sample results.
(We've checked the link. It's safe. There's one annoying pop-up, but nothing malicious. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) whose mission, according to its website, is "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment".
Plug in your zip code, then choose your utility company from the list provided. The database will show the number of contaminants detected at levels above health guidelines, a list of those contaminants that links to detailed information about each, the number of other contaminants found, and icons that show the source of this pollution, such as nearby agriculture or industrial contamination.
The good news is most chemicals in drinking water can be removed with a good-quality filter. The database just so happens to have a link to help you find the right type of filter for your needs.
Sources for this article include:
freep.com, mensjournal.com, Wikipedia, Twitter, AASNSports
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