Think you have access to clean drinking water? Think again.
The Safe Water Drinking Act was enacted in 1974 and updated in 1986 and 1996 to protect Americans from contaminated water.
But despite all of that, the water coming out of our taps still has far more contaminants than is safe to drink. We’re at a point where households without advanced filtrations systems are at serious risk.
Water Contamination Is Everywhere in America
Sadly, many Americans do not even realize that the water they are drinking is unsafe – especially in 2021.
But studies suggest that “tens of millions of Americans are still exposed to unsafe drinking water each year.” Most of us are familiar with the water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan. It’s the first place that comes to mind for many of us when we think of water quality issues.
But there are far (far) more American cities that have poor water quality.
According to Consumer Reports, more than 25 million Americans drink from the worst water systems in our country.
Consumer Reports explains, “Texas, where millions of residents lost access to water and power during the recent storm, has the most water systems that meet this threshold [those that have accrued more than 15 ‘violation points’ for breaking standards over five years], followed by California and Oklahoma. The average number of violations is highest in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and New Mexico.”
[Related Read: Survival Depends on Clean Water: How to Purify It]
Toxin Levels Are Higher Than Most Realize
Another major study, this time from 50,000 water utilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), disclosed in a 2021 report that “more than 320 toxic substances have been detected in U.S. drinking water systems.”
According to the EWG, “For too many Americans, turning on their faucets for a glass of water is like pouring a cocktail of chemicals. Lead, arsenic, the ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS and many other substances are often found in drinking water at potentially unsafe levels, particularly in low-income and underserved communities.”
The EWG further explains why these contaminants are so harmful:
“When some Americans drink a glass of tap water, they're also potentially getting a dose of industrial or agricultural contaminants linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage, fertility problems, hormone disruption and other health harms.”
How Is This Possible? Our Five-Fold Problem
- The Problem Is Too Big, and Our Investment Too Small
Like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam, every time we fix one problem with our drinking water, ten more seem to pop up.
One of the big reasons for this is the famously poor condition of our infrastructure, which has been slowly deteriorating for decades.
As the Center for Watershed Protection puts it:
“Corrosion, crumbling and age not only weaken these systems, but lead to them breaking down or leaching chemicals and other toxins into drinking water supplies and runoff areas. Pesticides, debris and even pharmaceutical contamination from the surrounding population can impact water quality and system health.”
Time will tell if our new investments in infrastructure go far enough to correct the problem.
- The EPA Is Far Behind the Times
The EPA would like us to believe that having some contaminants in our water is perfectly acceptable.
As recently as November 2021, the EPA’s website states:
“Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. Some drinking water contaminants may be harmful if consumed at certain levels in drinking water while others may be harmless. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.”
The EWG begs to differ:
“The last time the EPA set a new legal limit for a drinking water pollutant was in 2000,” they stated, “when the agency took steps to lower uranium levels in tap water. Since then, Americans have continued to suffer from widespread drinking water contamination, particularly from emerging contaminants.”
In addition, “For some other chemicals, the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels, or MCLs – the upper limit on a pollutant legally allowed in drinking water – haven’t been updated in 50 years. […]The legal federal standard for nitrate, for example, is based on a recommendation from 1962, even though studies support lowering the current MCL by several orders of magnitude to protect against the risk of cancer.”
In other words, the current EPA legal limits are inadequate for the number of new toxins found and for the new health discoveries that have emerged.
The Safe Drinking Water Act has not been updated to protect our drinking water – even though multiple studies have shown the dangerous side effects.
EWG claims, “Legal does not necessarily equal safe. Getting a passing grade from the federal government does not mean the water meets the latest health guidelines […] Legal limits for contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost 20 years.”
[Related Read: 5 Ways to Purify Water in the Event of an Emergency]
3. Contaminants Combine into Toxic Cocktails
While the EPA would like us to believe a little bit of contamination isn’t worrisome, it is.
The bigger concern is the mixture of contaminants. For example, while public water supplies may be within the legal limits for individual contaminants, we don’t fully understand the effects of the various combinations of contaminants that can form in communities.
- Lead: Lead exposure can cause brain damage, learning disabilities, and violent behavior in children, and reproductive issues and seizures in adults.
- Nitrates: According to Insider, “Even short-term exposure to [nitrates] can reduce the amount of oxygen in an infant's blood, leading to methemoglobinemia, or ‘blue baby disease.’ The disease's symptoms include digestive and respiratory problems, brain damage, and even death.”
- Arsenic: Arsenic exposure has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as brain development issues in children.
- Radium: Exposure to radium has been linked to several different kinds of cancer.
- Copper: Elevated levels of copper exposure can cause anemia, as well as liver and kidney damage.
- PFOA: The chemical, PFOA, typically the nonstick element found in pans has been located in many water supplies, especially those by chemical plants. Insider reports, “The chemical has been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, early menopause, colon ulcers, and other adverse health effects.”
- Perchlorate: This chemical is associated with brain development issues in children.
- Fluoride: Too much fluoride has been known to result in lower IQ scores in children and muscle and joint issues in adults.
- Manganese: Children who have been exposed to manganese may suffer from behavioral issues and intellectual issues.
- Cyber Criminals Are Setting Their Sights on America’s Water Supply
It’s important to recognize that in addition to these contaminants making their way into public water systems naturally, there has been a rise in cyber attacks on water supplies in the last few years.
In February 2021, a computer hacker gained access to the computer system for the public water supply in Pinellas County, Florida.
Jeff Pegues explains, “The hacker was controlling the computer system's mouse — opening various functions on the screen and changing the sodium hydroxide in the water supply from about 100 parts per million to more than 11,100 parts per million.” Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye, which is found in drain cleaners.
- American Homes are Insufficiently Protected
Many Americans are waking up to the fact that our water is more contaminated than we have been led to believe.
A study by NSF International found that nearly 9 in ten Americans drink tap water in their homes, but few are taking significant action to protect themselves. 42 percent of people aren’t doing anything at all to purify their water, and those who do rely mostly on refrigerator filters.
The problem is, most refrigerators use only carbon filters, which are limited in the number of contaminants they can remove. Carbon filters need to be combined with ionic absorption technology that clears out not just larger particles, but 99.9999% of the contaminants rampant in our water supply.
How to Protect Your Water Supply
Water contamination is a real threat to you and your family, and it is important to take steps to protect your family’s water supply.
- Learn about Your Community’s Water Supply: No two water systems are alike. Some communities will have more exposure to certain contaminants than others, such as communities with lead piping or those near chemical plants. Know the potential threats to your water supply.
- Get Your Water Tested: Use EWG’s Tap Water Database to search your zip code to get a report about the contaminants found in your community (and their levels).
- Invest in a Quality Water Filter: All Americans need a water filtration system – your Brita water pitcher isn’t enough. According to The Good For Company, “Brita filters are mostly cosmetic. Since they deal mostly in surface-level odor and taste, and not in eliminating all of the actual toxins, Brita Filters are, for all intents and purposes, the Febreze of water purification.”
Instead, invest in a water filtration system that is designed to reduce 99.9999% of contaminants, like the Alexapure Pro Water Filtration System.
Start using a water filtration system before it’s too late, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply