Even though our tap water is safer than many other nations’, there are more toxins spewing from your faucet than you think. 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 totally 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.
Dying to know what’s in your water? The EWG makes it easy. Go to ewg.org/tapwater and plug in your zip code, then choose your utility company from the list provided. The database will instantly spit out 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.
For instance, if you live in New York City, you have 14 contaminants to worry about, mostly water-treatment byproducts. Los Angeles residents have 21 toxins in their water, stemming largely from industrial pollution. In Madison, Wisconsin, there are 32 contaminants present.
The good news is most chemicals in drinking water can be removed with a good-quality filter. The database also helps you find the right type of filter for your needs. Just click on the button below your contaminants list and you’ll get an info-packed list of all the sufficient models available. Many are relatively inexpensive and easy to use — a small price to pay for safeguarding your and your family’s health.