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How safe is your tap water, really?

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan shattered a major assumption we may make about our tap water—that it is always safe to drink. Water systems are supposed to meet the minimum guidelines for safety outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), passed in 1974, but we’re left with the question: Is unfiltered tap water detrimental to your health?

As it turns out, it can be. A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that nearly 21 million Americans may have been exposed to unsafe drinking water that violated health codes in 2015, alone. The study further found water-safety violations in every state across the continental United States.

What does that mean for your city, town or neighborhood? You can start by finding the most common contaminants in your area with a simple zip-code search on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website.

There are a number of threats to drinking water, including pesticides and chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is charged with enforcing the standards outlined in the SDWA, added a new culprit to its water purity guidelines. The chemicals that utilities use to disinfect water, such as chlorine, can interact with organic matter in the water to create new, unhealthy compounds: trihalomethanes. Following the lead crisis in Flint, these chemical byproducts were found in the local water after it was treated to reduce the presence of bacteria such as E. coli. Still, lead dominated the headlines.

The side effects of water contamination can range from respiratory illness and skin infections to acute gastrointestinal illness, which affects millions of Americans each year. Infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly are particularly susceptible. The side effects of lead poisoning—including neurological damage—are especially pernicious.

Protecting yourself and your family means finding a robust water filtration system. With its triple-filtration technology, Coway Aquamega can eliminate up to 99.9 percent of contaminants, including chlorine, chloramine, mercury, parasite cyst, turbidity and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)—and it reduces lead, specifically, by 99.8 percent.