Is It Safe To Drink Tape Water- How do I Know ?

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Well, let’s see what the government is saying about this.  According to the EPA, “Drinking water that meets US EPA’s health-based standards is generally safe. People who are not healthy as a result of illness, age, or weakened immune systems, are more likely to be at risk from certain contaminants that may be found in drinking water. Infants and very young children are also more susceptible to some contaminants. Individuals concerned about their particular situations should consult their health care providers .”

There is a number of regulations that exist. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary standards) are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems. These regulations specify MCL, Maximum Contaminant Level, which is enforceable.  They also specify the non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG), which is the level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected health risk. These Goals take into account the risks of exposure for certain sensitive populations, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems. These Goals are not enforceable levels because they do not take available technology into consideration, and therefore are sometimes set at levels which public water systems cannot meet.”

However, please note the following. In general, the age of a person subject to the influence of an environmental agent is inversely proportional to the type of health effect it will cause. Small children are very vulnerable and can suffer lifelong damage when exposed to levels that may have no effect on adults. A well known example is the metal lead, which is a neurotoxicant. Blood levels of 80 ?g/dL are linked to encephalopathy, epilepsy, mental retardation, and even blindness. However in the middle of the 20th century 60 ?g/dL of lead were considered to be acceptable as there were no immediate effects. Who knows, what will the future bring regarding the levels of other substances that are considered to be acceptable today?

Why install a water purification system?

If your water is supplied by a well, a water treatment system should be installed to remove harmful contaminants from the water and make it safe for consuming. Please refer to Bacteriological and Chemical Contaminants for more details.

If your water is supplied by a municipal water treatment system, your home water purification system should protect your family from occasional MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) violations that occur periodically, as stated above. Also, a properly selected home purification system will bridge the gap between the MCL and the non-enforceable MCLG’s (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal),  i.e. finish up the job by completely eliminating all contaminants from your water.

There are many health benefits of water, however, also note that tap water is consumed by our bodies not only by drinking, but through the skin when taking a shower or a bath.  Our skin is a absorbs water and everything contained in it. Our body can accumulate, through skin absorption, more cancer causing agents and other contaminates during 24 normal showers or baths than it could get from the amount of water you drink over a 5-year period. (AMA)

If you live nearby an industrialized region that has chemical plants and refineries, it would be easy to justify the most elaborate water treatment system available just after reading about Cancer Alley, Louisiana (i).

Do you expect to have a new baby in the household?

US Environmental Protection Agency recommends to test water for nitrate in the early months of a pregnancy, before bringing an infant home, and again during the first six months of the baby’s life.  It is best to test for nitrate during the spring or summer following a rainy period.

What are the hazards to human health from contaminants?  Will they harm me?

The health risks are contaminant-specific, and range from gastrointestinal illness to nervous system or blood problems; increased risk of cancer; eye, liver, kidney or spleen problems; anemia; and even cardiovascular system or reproductive problems. There are 35,000 registered pesticides containing 600 chemical compounds, and the public water systems are required to test for some of them.  The EPA’s table National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (EPA 816-F-09-004 May 2009) lists the potential health effects from long-term exposure to some of the chemicals, and can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/consumer/pdf/mcl.pdf

However note that while the health hazard can be well documented per some common individual contaminants, in the real world our body is under a constant bombardment by a multitude of chemicals in the air and in the water, used in agriculture, plastics, etc.; as well as chemical products used at home and at workplace.  It would be impossible to study the combined effect of this chemical cocktail enhanced by the medically active pollutants. Bottom line, it all adds up.  This is why “scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide have accepted the principle that it is reasonable and prudent to reduce human exposure to substances shown to be carcinogenic at higher levels of exposure” (ii).

Take cancer and autoimmune disorders, both linked to the environmental pollution as the initial common cause in many cases (iii), and consider that the number of new cancer cases per year has grown by 30% in the past 10 years, from 1,268,000 new cancer cases expected in 2002, to 1,638,910 in 2012 (source: American Cancer Society).  Overall, “cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths” (iv).

“The autoimmune disease as a category affects 50 million Americans.  It is one of the top ten causes of death in women under the age of 65, is the second highest cause of chronic illness, and is the top cause of morbidity in women in the United States.  Additionally, autoimmune diseases have been reported to be on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, making this poorly understood category of disease a public health crisis at levels comparable to heart disease and cancer.” (v)

We can help our body find its healthy balance by protecting it as much as we can from the bombardment by unnatural chemicals. Consuming purified water is a significant step in the right direction.

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