Don’t Dismiss Drinking Water Quality Standards

Do you know where your water comes from before it reaches your house? If you live in a large metropolitan area, most of your drinking water likely comes from a surface source. Common surface sources include lakes, streams, rivers, or reservoirs. If you live in a small community or in an isolated area, your water likely originates underground and is pumped to the surface through a well connected to an underground aquifer.

Water Testing
Water sources vary with location, so research and stay informed of local water quality standards news and warnings. Federal law requires “Consumer Confidence Reports” be made available by local public utilities. These reports detail any violations and contaminants found in your water and explain where your public water originates. Use caution when solely trusting water tests at the treatment plant as the water tested has not made the arduous journey through the network of pipes to enter your home. Many toxins and heavy metals such as lead can enter the water during the journey from the plant to your home. Inexpensive “do it yourself” test kits are available to perform water quality tests of your home tap water.

Aging Infrastructure
Much of the United States water infrastructure was built within the 30 years following World War II. This aging infrastructure is constantly being replaced and repaired to maintain a “safe” drinking level standard. A recent report published by the American Society of Civil Engineers has reduced the rating for our water distribution systems from D to a D- in the U.S.

The amount of funding and upgrades required by our aging infrastructure is staggering as much of the piping network in use today consists of iron pipe, steel pipe, and PVC pipe materials. All of these materials deteriorate over time with high pressures and the influence of chlorine and other chemicals. Most municipalities have inadequate funding and are operating on the “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” mentality. Do you trust the water coming out of your tap?

Water Treatment
The details of the entire water treatment process involve a delicate balance of time, filters, and chemicals. The chemical additives used in the disinfection stage of this process are of critical importance to your health. The most common disinfectants used are chlorine based (chlorine, chloramine, chloramine-T, chlorine dioxide) and ozone.

Chlorine based chemicals are a low cost, effective method in destroying microorganisms and bacteria. These products are useful in that they remain effective not only at the point of application, but throughout the pipe network for extended periods of time. This is great for protecting you from contaminants as the water travels to your home. What is protecting you can also cause long term health problems in humans.

Chlorine in Water
Chlorines also react with naturally occurring organic matter in water and produce trihalomethanes (THMs) one of which is chloroform. Laboratory tests have shown that THMs can increase the risk of cancer and other health complications. Links between pregnant women who drank large amounts of tap water with high THMs and an increased risk of miscarriage have been found. Further studies are needed in this area, but it is apparent that chlorinated water in the home can pose a serious health threat.

Pharmaceuticals in Water
Another disturbing emerging phenomenon is the rising concentration of pharmaceuticals in public drinking water. These chemicals find their way into the system as people flush prescriptions and over the counter drugs down the drain. These drugs are dissolved into the water and often end up polluting local surface waters.

Unfortunately, these surface waters can be the very source of your communities drinking water supply and can be recycled into your home through the system. Studies are currently underway to determine the human health effects of these pharmaceuticals which, of course, vary in concentration from location to location. The trend does not look good for the quality of our water as the population across the world increases in size and the demand for clean, safe, drinking water increases.

Check out our Filters page for more information on drinking water quality standards.