By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Tap water is quite a controversial topic; some people will defend the quality of tap water while others claim that the additives and other contaminants are negatively affecting our health.
Clean drinking tap water is a valuable resource but unfortunately due to environmental pollution, chemical contaminants are finding their way into our water supplies from municipal sewage, polluted runoff, agriculture, industrial pollution, chemicals, old eroding water pipes and more.
Tap water has been shown to contain heavy metals, additives, chlorination by-products, pesticides, arsenic, radon and rocket fuel to name a few. Water may also travel through decaying pipes that may be eroding and leaching harmful chemicals into the water long before it reaches your kitchen. Yikes!
For Australians, our tap water is only monitored for 70 chemicals, whilst there are over 300 known chemicals that should be of concern. In the U.S. is it estimated that there are 140 known chemicals that are not regulated by the EPA that are in tap water. If that doesn’t encourage you to start filtering your water than I don’t know what will!
In Australia and the U.S. there have been cases where microbe contaminants such as cryptosporidium and giardia have caused outbreaks resulting in illnesses. Water filtration systems in the home can reduce the incidence of this and reduce many heavy metals and other contaminants.
Here are some contaminants found in tap water:
Chlorine: Chlorine is added to the water supply to act as an anti-septic to disinfect the water to stop infectious outbreaks. Chlorine is fairly harmless while the by-products of chlorination such as DBPs which are known to be a serious health concern. Chlorine also forms into chloroform and other gases when heated from the dishwasher, tap or shower.
There has been a concerning report in South Australia due to a breach of the Australian drinking water guidelines and WHO where it was found that high containments in the water such as the by-products of the chlorination process. Some of these disinfectant by-products(DBPs) are trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids. There is concern that this may increase the risk of bladder cancer and reproductive disorders in some studies. Here is more on DPBs.
Fluoride: There is plenty of controversy about the addition of fluoride to our water supply. Some water supply areas are naturally high in fluoride and with the addition they may become too high and this can have a negative impact on thyroid health, IQ in children, neurological, gastrointestinal and liver health.
Lead: Heavy metals such as lead have been found in water ways particularly where there are old pipes and fixtures that are eroding.
Arsenic: Arsenic is a known carcinogen and it is estimated that many people are consuming this in higher then suggested safe levels in their tap water.
What about Bottled Water?
Bottled water may be sourced from a natural spring (stated on the label) while others are filtered tap water. Bottled water may contain traces of plastic chemicals such as BPA from the bottle and other contaminants. It has been estimated that the bottled water industry is less regulated then tap water. Bottled water has a devastating impact on the environment due to plastic manufacture and the waste disposal of all of these bottles which generates more than 600 times more CO2 then tap water and creates heaps of greenhouse gas emissions world-wide.
Here is a map to view the contaminants found in the U.S. area as each area differs. Click on your city to investigate how your drinking water ranks versus other cities.
NRDC’s What’s on Tap?, a researched and peer-reviewed study of the drinking water systems of 19 U.S. cities, found that pollution and deteriorating, out-of-date plumbing are sometimes delivering drinking water that might pose health risks to some residents.
Improve your water quality by filtering your own tap water at home with a quality water filter and for travel convenience purchase a glass or stainless steel water bottle and carry your own filtered water. Do you filter your water?