Five Po­ten­tially Dan­ger­ous Con­tam­i­nants in Your Tap Water

Newsweek - - NEW WORLD | SMELL - — Doug Main

Sci­en­tists gen­er­ally agree that most of the na­tion’s 53,000 com­mu­nity water sys­tems pro­vide rel­a­tively safe drink­ing water, but there’s still rea­son for con­cern in some ar­eas. Here are five wide­spread and troublesome pol­lu­tants found in tap water around the coun­try.


A car­cino­gen, arsenic is re­spon­si­ble for thou­sands of cases of can­cer each year in the U.S. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has set the drink­ing water stan­dard at 10 parts per bil­lion, though re­search sug­gests ex­po­sure to lower lev­els is un­safe.


This widely used her­bi­cide is an en­docrine dis­rup­tor that may in­ter­fere with the body’s hor­mones and glands. It also causes liver, kid­ney and heart dam­age in an­i­mals, and the same might be true in hu­mans. Ma­ter­nal ex­po­sure has been linked to low fe­tal weight, as well as heart, uri­nary and limb de­fects in ba­bies. Low con­cen­tra­tions of atrazine can turn male tad­poles into fe­male tad­poles.


This car­cino­gen was made no­to­ri­ous in the film Erin Brock­ovich, a true story about a clerk who helped bring Pa­cific Gas and Elec­tric Co. to its knees for dump­ing chromium-tainted waste­water near the town of Hink­ley, Cal­i­for­nia.


There is no known safe level of lead, a heavy metal con­tam­i­nant in water that dev­as­tated Flint, Michi­gan, and con­tin­ues to flow at un­safe lev­els in cities through­out the coun­try. Be­cause it leaches from lead in old pipes, it can be dif­fi­cult to con­trol, as one house may be safe, while the next is not.


Th­ese sub­stances, sim­i­lar to Te­flon, are toxic. A grow­ing body of re­search shows that they dis­rupt the en­docrine sys­tem, harm the im­mune sys­tem and brain, and raise a per­son’s risk of can­cer and obe­sity.

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