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Water and You

How Dangerous is Your Tap Water?

Tap water cannot really be that bad for us, can it? After all, the water we drink has already gone through several stages of treatment by municipal water systems, has it not? The government surely would not allow contaminated, unhealthy water into our homes, would it? The answers to these questions, respectively, are yes, not necessarily, and yes. The truth is that tap water is one of the four most pressing health threats posed by environmental problems. Each year the correlations between contaminated drinking water and cancer, learning disabilities, and asthma are becoming stronger and clearer. Even if tap water has gone through municipal treatment before reaching your home faucet, it is often far from safe. In many cases, municipal water treatment facilities actually add dangerous chemicals to water in the process of treatment. Municipal water treatment methods are often old and outdated; consequently, they are simply incapable of dealing with the dangerous assortment of contaminants that may be present in drinking water. And, despite government regulations of drinking water through the EPA and FDA, dangerous contaminants may still be present in drinking water, even after municipal treatment and even with the government's knowledge and approval. While the EPA sets maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for a broad range of drinking water contaminants, these levels are not at zero. As a result, dangerous chemicals and other contaminants are constantly present in our tap water.

Many people may say that attacks on the quality of tap water are simply scare tactics designed to increase profit for bottled water and water treatment companies. Yet, large increases in cancers and other diseases related to poor drinking water quality point unabashedly to a large problem in the current quality of our tap water. What follows is a brief listing of contaminants that could very likely be in your tap water as well as a discussion of how these contaminants may affect your health.
  • Chlorine: Chlorine is perhaps one of the most dangerous and insidious poisons in our drinking water supply. Surprisingly, it is a municipal additive to drinking water. Water treatment facilities use chlorine as a powerful disinfectant to kill or inactivate biological water contaminants, but that same chlorine that is so toxic to biological contaminants is also poisonous to our bodies. Chlorine in drinking water is currently a leading cause of bladder and rectal cancer and asthma. Health officials are now linking chlorine ingestion to breast cancer, as well.
  • Lead: Lead makes its way into tap water through corrosion of the pipes in a home's plumbing system. Because lead contamination occurs after municipal treatment, there is no way that municipal facilities can control for it. Lead in drinking water is especially harmful for young children and pregnant mothers. Ingestion of lead can result in severe developmental delays and/or learning disorders in children.
  • Giardia and Cryptosporidium: Giardia and Cryptosporidium have been the plague of the water treatment industry for several decades. Resistant to chlorine, these protozoa can lead to severe and widespread outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease if released into a municipal water system. They often make their way into tap water via sanitation breakdowns, and municipal water treatment facilities have no way to control for them.
This brief list of water contaminants that could very likely be present in your tap water is representative but hardly exhaustive of the full range of drinking water contaminants. According to one recent research study, there are now more than 2100 known toxins that can be present in tap water.

Clearly, tap water is unsafe and unsuitable for drinking, and bottled water is not the panacea we would like it to be. In many cases, bottled water is nothing more than reconstituted, rebottled tap water. The only viable solution to the problems of tap water lies in home water filtration. Water filters, with their use of both chemical and physical processes to block contaminant passage, are the only type of water treatment that can effectively and efficiently remove chlorine and reduce other dangerous contaminants from drinking water. The dangerous nature of tap water clearly warrants the use of a drinking water filter.
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