Don’t take it for granted that fresh H20 comes spilling out of your faucet at a turn of the tap, but not all water systems are created equal. The Environmental Working Group‘s (EWG) new Tap Water Database reveals what’s really happening in your pipes — and the potential contaminants that might be lurking there.
As non-partisan non-profit, the EWG works on public health and safety issues by looking at what people eat, drink and use in their everyday lives. The group examined data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as local state agencies to provide information on almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. All residents have to do is plug in a zip code, select their local utility and read up on what’s appeared in past tests.
The results might surprise you. Their analysis found 267 different contaminants across the country, including lead, nitrate and the carcinogen Chromium-6, which was famously featured in the movie Erin Brockovich. The EWG states that not only did over 40,000 water systems test positive for cancer-causing substances, but the levels also topped established federal or state health guidelines.
Even trace amounts could still present a potential danger, according to the EWG. “The vast majority of utilities are in compliance with federal regulations, but their water still often contains contaminants in concentrations exceeding the levels that scientists say pose health risks,” the group’s press release states.
When it comes to water quality, the location, source (municipal or well) and season can all affect the contents, explains Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the Healthy, Beauty & Environmental Sciences Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
“If you are on municipal water, EWG’s new database could be your first stop when exploring your water quality,” she says. “If you’re in the 15 percent minority that uses well water, your first step should be to get your water tested.”
The PurTest Home Drinking Water Kit ($25, amazon.com) was the top performer in a previous Institute test and checks for 11 contaminants including lead. But if you want something more comprehensive, Aral recommends contacting local laboratories certified by Environmental Lab Approval Program.
Then, you can get in touch with your state’s drinking water program based on the results, the EPA advises. They can help with when it comes to a potential noncompliance and keeping your water safe, clean and healthy.
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