Americans Exposed to 250 Plus Chemicals in Drinking Water

Desiree Mosqueda

Most Americans aren’t likely to die of thirst with ready access to running water; however, the majority of Americans are being exposed to harmful contaminants that can pose significant health risks. Dangerous chemicals introduced to the environment through industrial, commercial, and agricultural activities have been linked to cancers, immune system abnormalities, developmental defects in fetuses and children, infertility, hormone disruption, and brain and nervous system damage – and yet the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and state regulations say these same chemicals are acceptable at levels that exceed medical and scientific standards.

These grossly inadequate policies meant to protect our health are often the result of backroom deals between politicians and big business polluters. Many of the pollutants found in water remain unregulated, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t added a single toxin to the regulatory list in over 20 years, leaving over 160 of the more than 250 contaminants detected in the US water supply completely unchecked.  

Clearly, citizens need to take things into their own hands. To better understand how you can protect yourself from the harmful substances saturating your water supply, you need to know what chemicals are in your water and how they affect your health. Here are some of the toxins the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found in drinking water supplies across the country:

  • Arsenic. Arsenic contaminates the drinking water of 48 states and may cause bladder, lung, and skin cancer. According to the EPA’s own analysis, the current EPA standard for “acceptable” levels of arsenic set at 10 parts per billion (ppb) are far too high. California’s goal of just 0.004 ppb could greatly reduce the risk of developing cancer. Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that can leach from rocks into groundwater but is also a byproduct of mining, metal production, coal power, and fossil fuel consumption.
  • Atrazine. The most common pesticide found in America’s water supply, Atrazine affects 30 million Americans across 28 states and is a hormone disruptor. In areas with high concentrations, scientists observed male frogs morph into females. There is some evidence to suggest a link between atrazine and ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia, and thyroid cancer, as well as reproductive irregularities, preterm births, and fetal development delays.

  • Carcinogenic VOCs. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are substances that easily turn into gases or vapors at room temperature and can leach from solid objects. VOCs can be found in gasoline, solvents, paints, cars, carpets, and shower curtains. Exposure to VOCs, such as benzene, 1-4-Dioxane, and methylene chloride, can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, nervous and hormone systems, as well as increase the risk of various cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the bladder, liver, kidneys, and blood.
  • Chromium-6. 2 out of 3 Americans drink water tainted with chromium-6, the “Erin Brockovich” carcinogen used widely for industrial purposes, including as a coolant at electrical power stations. Chromium-6 has been shown to cause stomach and intestinal tumors, stomach cancer, and liver and reproductive damage.  
  • Disinfection byproducts. Treating the water supply with chlorine and other disinfectants is essential in preventing deadly waterborne illnesses such dysentery and cholera; however, these disinfectants can react with plant and animal waste to form harmful disinfection byproducts, such as bromate, chlorate and chlorite, nitrosamines, and chloroform. Over 250 million Americans ingest these chemicals, which may increase their risk of cancer. These byproducts can also damage the thyroid, causing goiter, and cause birth defects, miscarriages, and low birth weight.
  • Lead. Upwards of about 22 million Americans are thought to drink from lead-based water lines. Children under the age of six are most vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, as their brains are still developing and lack the protective blood-brain barrier. Children exposed to lead often develop permanent intellectual and behavioral impairments and may have difficulty concentrating.
  • Nitrate. Nitrates are fertilizer chemicals that can be found in the drinking water supplies of over 218 million Americans. Aside from being linked to bladder and ovarian cancer, thyroid abnormalities, and developmental defects in children, excessive intake of nitrates causes blue baby syndrome, a condition that causes an infant to become oxygen deprived. While the current federal limit on nitrates in drinking water protect infants from developing blue baby syndrome, it does not prevent the risks associated with chronic, low-level exposure.

The horror you’re currently feeling is completely justified. Luckily, you’re not at the complete mercy of government ineptitude. Drinking purified water can reduce your exposure to toxins such as lead, chromium 6, disinfection byproducts, pesticides, and prescription medication residue. For safe drinking water, there’s no need to waste money buying pallets of bottled water that only add to the plastic waste currently suffocating our oceans and waterways.

Instead, look into home water filtration systems such as AquaTru.

aquatruExclusive to AquaTru, this countertop water purification system uses Ultra Pure Reverse Osmosis Technology to rid your drinking water of 15 times more contaminants than some of the leading brands of pitcher water purifiers, fridge filters, and expensive filtration systems.

AquaTru is so efficient it can turn Diet Coke into purified water and requires zero installation. In fact, take it with you on your camping trips or cross-country RV tours this summer to keep hydrated and stay healthy. 

If you would like to find out what specific contaminants have been found in your area’s water supply, please visit the nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to search by zip code or state. EWG has analyzed 30 million US utility records dating back to 2010 to provide you information on the state of your drinking water.

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