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What Does Tap Water Contain?

Everyday we drink tap water and use it for cooking, making coffee or tea, and even bathing. But what exactly is in tap water?


Well, to start, tap water is treated with a large number of chemicals, including chlorine, by your local municipal water system. This is done in order to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Most water systems also add fluoride, a substance that helps prevent tooth decay.


In this article, we are not going to discuss potential health implications of chlorine and fluoride in your tap water. You can read about that in my other posts.


Rather, what is important to know is that public water suppliers in the United States are required to uphold certain levels of water quality. The problem is - violations are widespread, and some water systems have contaminants that aren’t even regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


According to a report by NRDC, nearly 77 million Americans got drinking water from systems that violated federal protections in 2015, and more than a third of this number relied on systems that did not comply with standards put in place to protect health. Millions of other Americans’ water suppliers failed to test water safety properly or didn’t report test results to health authorities or customers—potentially sweeping many more health risks under the rug.


These numbers likely understate the extent of the problem, given underreporting and the fact that many contaminants aren’t even monitored or regulated. For instance, common contaminants such as perchlorate and PFOA/PFOS (chemical cousins of Teflon) occur in millions of Americans’ tap water, but because they aren’t regulated by the EPA, they don’t show up in these already staggering figures.


It's vital that the public become more aware of what we already know to be in tap water (e.g., chlorine and fluoride), what contaminants are being discovered in tap water through water system violations (e.g., lead), and what contaminants we know are being discovered every day in tap water across America but are not even subject to EPA monitoring regulations (e.g., perchlorate and PFOA/PFOS).

By, Ryan Sinderbrand

Resources: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/whats-your-drinking-water