Each year, red flags over toxic drinking water are raised across the U.S., with reasons varying from location to location. One major problem is aging water pipes, which have become an increasingly common source of toxic exposure.1 In fact, in a 2013 report,2 the American Society for Civil Engineers warned that most of the drinking water infrastructure across the nation is "nearing the end of its useful life."
The American Water Works Association estimates it would cost more than $1 trillion to update and replace all the water pipes in the U.S. — money that many water utilities do not have. Water pollution is another grave concern, as water treatment plants cannot filter out all of the toxins now entering the water, from firefighting chemicals3 and agricultural chemicals,4,5 to drugs and microcystins, nerve toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria.6
Filtering Your Water Is a Health Priority
While the U.S. has many water quality concerns, it doesn't really matter where you live anymore, as many dangerous chemicals find their way into the ecosystem, spreading from one continent to another.7 The take-home message is that, if you care about your health, filtering your household water is more a necessity than an option these days.
Ideally, filter the water you use both for drinking and bathing, as immersing yourself in contaminated water may be even more hazardous to your health than drinking it. Chemicals absorbed through your skin go directly into your blood stream, bypassing your digestive- and internal filtration systems. Unfiltered water can also expose you to dangerous chlorine vapors and chloroform gas, which can cause dizziness, fatigue, asthma, airway inflammation and respiratory allergies.
Chlorine can vaporize from every toilet bowl in your home and every time you wash your clothes or dishes, or take a shower or bath, so if you get your water from a municipal water supply and don't have a whole house filter, be sure to open windows on opposing sides of your home to cross ventilate. Keep the windows open for five to 10 minutes a day to remove these gases.
At-Home Water Filtration Is a Must for Clean Pure Water
Most water supplies contain a number of potentially hazardous contaminants at varying levels. Among the worst are disinfection byproducts (DBPs). In water treatment facilities that use chlorine or chloramines to treat and purify the water, toxic DBPs form when these disinfectants react with natural organic matter like decaying vegetation in the source water.
These byproducts are over 1,000 times more toxic than chlorine, and of all the toxins and contaminants present in your water, such as fluoride and miscellaneous pharmaceutical drugs, DBPs are likely the most hazardous.
Trihalomethanes (THMs), one of the most common DBPs, are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they've been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. They've also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, such as spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital malformations, even at lower levels. These types of DBPs may also:
Weaken your immune system
Disrupt your central nervous system
Damage your cardiovascular system
Disrupt your renal system
Cause respiratory problems
What's Really in Your Water?
If you have well water, it would be prudent to have your water tested for arsenic and other contaminants. If you have public water, you can get a local drinking water quality report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).8 The EPA regulates tap water in the U.S., but while there are legal limits on many of the contaminants permitted in municipal water supplies, more than half of the 300-plus chemicals detected in U.S. drinking water are unregulated,9 and some of the legal limits may be too lenient for safety.