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A Guide to Safe Drinking Water for the Home

Use these three steps to ensure the water in your home is safe, clean and refreshing.

| September/October 2012

  • Ensure your drinking water is safe by filtering it for common contaminants such as atrazine, chlorine, lead and chromium-6.
    Photo By Corbis

Although for most of us the tap water runs out of the faucet clear, tasteless and odorless, our municipalities must work hard to filter an ever-increasing array of both natural and manmade pollutants from our groundwater. And even if it meets legal standards, your tap water may still contain pollutants. Getting informed about drinking water quality is a good idea for everyone, but particularly those of us who live with children, are sensitive to chemicals or have weakened immune systems. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 is the main federal law establishing standards for drinking water quality. Under this law, all U.S. municipal tap water is treated to remove pollutants in accordance with federally mandated maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) set by the EPA. State and local governments may also set water safety laws. 

But despite federal, state and local water regulations, contaminants can still make their way into our water supply. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently analyzed nearly 20 million records from state water officials and discovered that “testing by water utilities has found 315 pollutants in the tap water Americans drink.” More than half of these detected chemicals aren’t subject to health or safety regulations and can legally be present in any amount. And although federal guidelines do govern the others, 49 of these contaminants were found to exceed set levels in different parts of the country, thus polluting the tap water of 53.6 million Americans.

Because of these kinds of reports, consumer concern about tap water safety has increased in recent years. In a 2011 survey commissioned by the Water Quality Association (WQA), 54 percent of consumers polled were concerned about contaminants in tap water, and 49 percent were concerned or very concerned about their household water supply.

“We are seeing people become more educated about water issues and finding ways to ensure water quality for their families,” says Peter J. Censky, WQA executive director. Although safety regulations do ensure at least a minimal level of cleanliness and safety in municipal water supplies, taking responsibility for the health of our own drinking water is smart. Indeed, even the President’s Cancer Panel recommends the use of home filtering devices to decrease exposure to cancer-causing agents. To ensure you have safe drinking water in your home, take these steps:

Step 1: Learn What’s In Your Tap Water

Every year by July 1, your water supplier will mail you an annual Consumer Confidence Report (also called the Drinking Water Quality Report). You may also be able to find your report on the EPA’s website. The EPA offers online tools to help you learn how to read the report at its Local Drinking Water Information page. You also may find your local and state reports in the EWG’s National Drinking Water Database.

12/31/2013 11:32:36 AM

Water is life, and can contribute an even greater role for families than making the drinkable water more pure for better health.

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