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

Drinking Water

What is Drinking Water?

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

Why is Drinking Water 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, these waer pllutants can cause short-term and long-term 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 pollutants.

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 tap water in your area by reading your Consumer Confidence Report to avoid potential dangers.
  • Have your drinking water tested by contacting a laboratory certified by your state or territory.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases

  • 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.
  • Water Pollution
    Curated links to current consumer health information on the health effects of water pollution. 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
    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.
  • 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.

Additional Resources

  • 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.
  • Overview of Water-related Diseases and Contaminants in Private Wells
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Information on ground water contaminants found in private wells, and related diseases.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Science Classroom (Grades 6-8)

Enhance your education on toxic chemicals in our environment using lesson plans, games and activities, videos, informational websites, and more.

Arizona Water Quality Education Activities for Grades 1-12 [PDF 15MB]
Arizona Cooperative Extension: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Lesson plans and activities on water quality and nonpoint source pollution concepts for students in first through twelfth grade.
Give Water a Hand
University of Wisconsin - Environmental Resources Center
Downloadable guides for middle school students about protecting and improving water resources.
Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water
Aquatic, Watershed and Earth Resources, Utah State University
PowerPoint presentation about pharmaceuticals in drinking water that includes information on unregulated contaminants, and sources, treatment, and impacts of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Safe Drinking Water is Essential
Koshland Science Museum
Information about access to safe drinking water. 
Water Quality Information by Topic
US Geological Survey
Information on qualities and properties of water, including groundwater, wastewater, and sewage water.
Why Care About Water?
National Geographic
Two-minute film about water conservation from National Geographic.
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