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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TOXIC CHEMICALS WHERE YOU LIVE, WORK, AND PLAY

Drinking Water

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.

See also: Arsenic Chromium Perchlorate Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Uranium Phthalates Endocrine Disruptors Lead

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
  • Lead Poisoning

    Curated links to current consumer health information on lead poisoning. These English and Spanish web resources include background information, diagnosis and tests, prevention and risk factors, related issues, specifics, videos and tutorials, statistics and research, clinical trials, journal articles, relevant agencies, targeted resources for children and women, and patient handouts.

  • Drinking Water

    Curated links to current consumer health information on drinking water and human health. These English and Spanish web resources include background information, prevention and risk factors, related issues, specifics, images, statistics and research, journal articles, relevant agencies, and targeted resources for children and teenagers.

  • Water Pollution

    Curated links to current consumer health information on the effect of water pollution on human health. These English and Spanish web resources include background information, prevention and risk factors, related issues, specifics, video tutorials, statistics and research, clinical trials, journal articles, relevant agencies, and targeted resources for children and teenagers.

  • Drinking Water and Water Pollution: Health Information Resources

    Links to health resources in English and Spanish on drinking water and water pollution, including basic information; glossaries; sources; contaminants; perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs); fluoridation; private drinking water wells; data; water quality and sanitation; regulation and standards; educational materials; topic-related searches from the National Library of Medicine; portals; blogs, news, podcasts, videos; and selection guidelines.

Additional Resources
  • Natural Radionuclides in Public Drinking Water (Environmental Protection Agency)

    Information on natural radionuclides in public drinking water, including rules and guidance, and links to additional resources.

  • National Water-Quality Assessment Project (US Geological Survey)

    A program established by Congress that develops science-based policies and management strategies to improve and protect water resources used for drinking water, recreation, irrigation, energy development, and ecosystem needs.

  • Drinking Water (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    Information on public and private water systems, nutritional benefits of drinking water, commercially bottled water, attaining safe drinking water while camping and hiking, and household technologies for treating drinking water.

  • Overview of Water-related Diseases and Contaminants in Private Wells (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    Information on contaminants found in private wells, and related diseases.

  • Sources of Lead: Water (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    Answers to questions about how lead gets into tap water, including detection, potential health effects, and actions for reduction and safety.

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