Five Potentially Dangerous Contaminants in Your Tap Water
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.