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5 Most Dangerous Contaminants in Your Water

A new study reveals that 25% of Americans get drinking water from systems that are in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Is that really hard to believe? Many cities like Modesto, Texas and Flint, Michigan have been dealing with bad water quality and improper water treatment systems for over a decade.

While it depends on the level and source of contamination, health risks from bad drinking water include cancer and chronic health conditions that affect the kidney, liver, skin, bladder, brain, and reproductive organs. As Erin Brockovich proved, many companies also try to hide their illegal dumping and contamination of community water supplies.

So, what are the most dangerous water contaminants to look for? We have the top five that could be in your water if you live in the US.

1. Lead

America has always had a lead problem. Whether it’s in the paint or in your water supply, lead is hard to get rid of. Recent testing has shown that 33% of water systems in the US still have lead in their service lines.

Lead typically is found in drinking water when there are corroded pipes and older plumbing fixtures that contained lead, especially in houses built before the 1980s.

Since you cannot smell, taste, or see lead in your water, the only way to know is with a lead water testing kit.

Lead contamination in water has been studied, and the health effects are truly debilitating. When children ingest lead over long periods of time, it leads to permanent brain damage, resulting in violent behavior and learning disabilities. For adults, lead exposure leads to chronic stomach problems, nausea, reproductive issues, and seizures.

2. Chlorine

Chlorine is one of the most popular chemicals used in the United States. Most households have some kind of chlorine product. While it’s used to kill pathogens and germs, it’s not safe for consumption. It has several harmful byproducts, commonly called trihalomethanes or TMHs.

When chlorine is ingested over time, it typically results in greater cancer risks and kidney problems. It can also expose people to a parasite known as giardia, which results in diarrhea, nausea, and cramps.

3. Arsenic

While arsenic naturally occurs within the Earth’s crust, it’s also present in food, water, and air. That’s a potential problem since arsenic ingestion causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and lower brain development in children.

Arsenic has been found to commonly contaminate areas like Scottsdale, Tucson, and Los Angeles. It’s also been found in areas around the Northeastern and Great Lakes.

However, the largest contamination site is Central Valley, which has issues with chlorine due to years of groundwater pumping. As many as 10% of households in San Joaquin Valley have toxic levels of arsenic in the water.

4. Microorganisms

Well water homes may have many microorganisms in their water. A UV water filter can remove 99.5% of these organic compounds and pathogenic microorganisms, but the only way to truly know is to test it.

While murky or cloudy water may be the first sign, clear water may also hide some of these dangerous viruses and bacteria. For example, E. coli, meningitis, giardia, legionella, hepatitis, and salmonella are all waterborne viruses and bacteria that you can find in water supplies throughout the US.

5. Fluoride

You’ve probably heard that the US added fluoride to the water supply to protect citizens from tooth decay. It’s also the major ingredient in all toothpastes. However, many believe that there was too much fluoride in the water for many years. The US Department of Health lowered the amount of fluoride in public water systems, but it’s still being consumed at dangerous levels in almost 66% of American households. A study in 2012 by Harvard University found that children consuming higher amounts of fluoride had lower IQ scores than children in areas with little to no fluoride in the water. The World Health Organization has also studied the effects of fluoride and found that long-term higher levels of fluoride leads to muscle impairment, joint pain, and muscle stiffness.