Forgotten Toxics in American Water

Water Spout

No matter where you live, the tap water is likely to contain some chemicals you don’t want to drink. Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed the water quality tests of 201 water utilities that serve 100 million Americans. The report shows that every single one of them was polluted with unwanted chemicals called trihalomethanes, which are linked to bladder cancer and other serious disorders. One member of this family is chloroform, which the US. Government considers a probable human carcinogen. Trihalomethanes form when chlorine, a disinfectant added to the water to kill dangerous bacteria, reacts with rotting organic matter such as runoff from farms, sewage or even dead leaves and insects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates this chemical family, but the rules should be tighter.

If you want to get rid of trihalomethanes and other chemicals that linger in your tap water, you can buy a water filter. EWG has reviewed and listed 137 of the most affordable and effective water filters. To pick the right one, consumers need to know what chemicals are in their water. The answer is not that simple because everybody’s drinking water contains different mixes of contaminants.

A good resource is the Consumer Confidence Report or Water Quality Report published annually by water utilities. The law requires that the utilities provide this report to all its customers by July 1. Water contaminants and concentrations detected by the water utility are typically presented in a table. Some common terms include: Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG), and Action Level (AL). Readings higher than the MCL violate federal law and regulations. They can be dangerous to human health. Take a particularly careful look at the measurements for arsenic, lead and trihalomethanes. Even if they don’t exceed the regulatory cap, they can be linked to serious health problems.

EWG believes that many of the EPA’s regulations, based on a compromise between health risk and costs, are too lenient. Moreover, there are countless other contaminants that are not even regulated by EPA. Consumers should consider a filter that can reduce the concentration of these chemicals in the water they drink. But which one should you buy? Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right one:

If you are on a tight budget, filters using activated carbon are your best bet. They remove lead, chlorine and trihalomethanes and many other contaminants at a modest price.

If you have have highly polluted water and can afford a more expensive, more comprehensive filtration system, you may want to consider reverse osmosis combined with activated carbon. A superior activated carbon pre-filter can filter out everything that activated carbon catches and reduces other contaminants, including arsenic, hexavalent chromium, nitrates and perchlorate. Reverse osmosis filters are typically installed under the sink and integrated into your plumbing.

For ease of use and affordability, pitcher filters are a good pick. But if constant refilling bothers you, try a faucet-mounted filter. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to cleaning up tap water, so to get the best results for the money, do their research. And remember: all types and styles of water filters require regular maintenance to keep working!

Tip – Stay Away From:

  • Trihalomethanes
  • Chloroform
  • Arsenic
  • Lead
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Nitrates
  • Perchlorate