What is it?
Our drinking water originates from groundwater, wells, rivers, lakes, streams, and reservoirs. Water treatment plants help to clean the water to make it safe to drink.
Common drinking water, or tap water, contains different combinations of naturally occurring minerals, which can affect the water’s taste.
Why is it a concern?
All water contains some level of impurities, minerals, and contaminants. In most cases, these levels are very low, and the water is still safe to drink. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets acceptable limits for more than 90 contaminants that may be in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. At low levels they may not harm you, but if the levels of certain contaminants get too high, they can cause short-term and long-term negative health effects.
Who is at risk?
People in cities usually drink water filtered through water treatment plants. This water is tested at regular intervals. But if a contaminant passes through a water treatment system, it can potentially affect many people at once.
People living in rural areas frequently drink water pumped from a private well. Wells are tested less frequently for contaminants.
What pollutants are of greatest concern?
- Arsenic can enter the water supply through natural deposits or through industrial and agricultural pollution.
- Lead pipes and connectors were commonly used in plumbing in the past. Lead pipes may corrode if the levels of certain elements in the water fall out of balance. This can cause unsafe levels of lead to build up in drinking water. Monitoring water and adding anti-corrosive agents when necessary can prevent this from happening.
Reduce your risk
- Do you use well water?
- Do you live in a city that uses lead pipes and connectors?
- Routinely test well water for chemical contamination.
- If your well water has high levels of chemicals, contact your local or state health agency or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on how to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
- Learn more about the quality of drinking water in your area by reading your Consumer Confidence Report.
- Have your drinking water tested by contacting a laboratory certified by your state or territory.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
- Natural Radionuclides in Public Drinking Water (Environmental Protection Agency)
- National Water-Quality Assessment Program (US Geological Survey)
- Drinking Water (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Overview of Water-related Diseases and Contaminants in Private Wells (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Lead: Water (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)