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The 5 Most Dangerous Chemicals in Tap Water

Water covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface making it one of our most abundant and valuable resources. It’s vital to our existence. We use tap water to cook our food, clean our dishes and our bodies, and to quench our thirst, but what hidden dangers exist in every drop? 

We worry about the chemicals in the processed foods we eat, but many of us don’t think about the chemicals in tap water. We should.

There are many issues affecting water quality in the US and a major event like the Flint Water Crises should make us all more aware of the dangers. 

Thankfully, faucet and refrigerator water filters are available to remove chemicals and other impurities. Knowing what these chemicals are and the health risks they pose, help us limit the damage they cause.

Lead

Lead exposure through tap water comes from a variety of sources, including old pipes and aging infrastructure from homes built before 1978. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lead levels in the blood should not exceed 10 micrograms per deciliter. However, there’s no safe level of lead, which can damage the brain and central nervous system, even in trace amounts. 

While lead affects everyone, including our pets, it’s especially harmful to children. For example, lead often gets associated with low IQ, aggressive behaviors, and attention deficits disorders, particularly in children that are under six years old. In adults, lead exposure may lead to cancer, comas, and even death. 

Federal laws have removed lead from commercial products, like house paints and gasoline, but there’s no simple solution for the removal of chemicals in drinking water. That’s why it’s essential to use a water filtration system that can remove such contaminants from your tap water. 

Chromium-6

Chromium-6 is infamous thanks to the film Erin Brockovich, based on the true story of a cover-up in a community devastated by the effects of contaminated water. 

Chromium-6 is a cancer-causing chemical that’s commonly found in tap water. Although it occurs naturally in the environment, unsafe levels are often produced when industrial sites fail to follow proper disposal methods. This can lead to serious health problems, such as pneumonia, skin burns, and complications during childbirth, in addition to cancer.

In spite of these harmful effects, there’s currently no federal standard on the maximum amount of chromium-6 that’s allowed in our drinking water. However, states like California have taken the initiative by passing laws that cap the allowable levels of chromium-6 at 10 parts per billion.

Fluoride

Not all chemicals in water are the result of irresponsible companies and crumbling infrastructure. Fluoride, for example, is directly added to water supplies in many states, including Michigan, California, and Hawaii. 

The fluoridation of water started with good intentions. In the early 1900s, dentists discovered that fluoride, found naturally in rocks and soil, was highly effective in the prevention of tooth decay. As a result, cities began adding fluoride to their water supply, and many countries outside the U.S. started doing the same.

In recent years, fluoride has been a highly controversial chemical, with numerous studies linking it to neurological, thyroid, immune system, and gastrointestinal damage. Some cities and states have dismissed these studies, but organizations like the National Research Council of the National Academies have cited fluoride’s toxic effects. These include “disrupting normal endocrine function,” which is necessary for regulating your mood, sleep, and metabolism, among other things.

As a result, more and more cities throughout the U.S. are no longer fluoridating their water. Additionally, most countries throughout the world have banned water fluoridation, believing that its toxicity far outweighs its benefits.

Chlorine

Controversy over what chemicals are in tap water often includes studies about the chlorine added to drinking water for purification purposes. On the one hand, chlorine can help make our water safer by reducing microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. On the other hand, it’s a highly reactive chemical that can bond with water to produce poisonous disinfection by-products (DBPs), like hydrochloric acid.

The creation of DBPs is relatively rare and only occurs when the water contains a high concentration of chlorine. However, people who drink this type of water regularly can suffer from all kinds of illnesses, including cancer, memory loss, breathing problems, and complications during pregnancy. 

That’s why it’s important to test the chlorine levels in your water supply and make sure it doesn’t exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable level of four parts per million. Testing kits and strips are readily available online, or at pool supply and home improvement stores. Alternatively, you can have a sample of your drinking water tested by an EPA-certified laboratory if you want a detailed analysis of all the chemicals in your water.

Arsenic

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil, from where it enters into our water supply. Trace amounts of arsenic, legally considered 10 parts per billion, are generally safe for consumption. However, there are communities where arsenic levels in the water are five parts per billion or higher.

This is a huge concern, considering that long-term exposure to arsenic may lead to bladder cancer, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease. In children, who are much more susceptible to toxic chemicals than adults, high levels of arsenic can cause IQ loss and developmental issues. While those are the most serious symptoms, even “minor” symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can be deadly if they lead to conditions like dehydration and aspiration pneumonia. 

Chemicals in Tap Water

This article should make you aware of the chemicals in tap water. It was not meant to scare you into not drinking it. With proper filtration, these chemicals and other impurities get removed from tap water, refrigerator water, and ice makers. Using these systems reduce the risk, but filters on faucets, in pitchers, and refrigerators need to be replaced as necessary.

Contact us today so we can discuss the best water filters available to meet all of your clean water needs.

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