Columns / Discourse / January 20, 2011

Did You Know: Safe to tap that?

When you drink your tap water, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Sure, it goes through several filters to be cleaned, but the chemicals that are put in it, both accidentally or intentionally, can harm you. Who cares when people say tap water is safe to drink; is it really? Here are some facts about tap water that you might like to know.

1. The tap water of at least 41 million Americans has been found to contain a wide range of pharmaceuticals, including sex hormones and anti-seizure medicine.

2. In Bellevue, Ohio, public and private wastes were dumped into sinkholes and wells beginning in 1872. Over 120 years later, those wastes still show up in drinking water. In some wells, raw sewage from that era, including un-decomposed toilet tissue, can still be found.

3. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that Americans annually take 40 trillion gallons of water from the ground, and the rate of use is increasing 25 percent per decade. Scientists argue that ground water is being polluted and used at rate that far outstrips nature’s ability to cope.

4. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act (1974) regulates only 91 of the over 60,000 chemicals used in the United States. Even low levels of hundreds of legally allowed contaminants have been associated with a wide range of illnesses, including cancer.

5. Efforts to tighten drinking water standards in order to regulate and restrict common drinking water contaminants such as perchlorate (a rocket fuel additive), tricholoethylene (a degreaser used in manufacturing) and perchloroethylene (a cleaning solvent) have been blocked by industrial and military lobbyists.

6. Toxins in tap water can accumulate in the body for years, increasing the risk for developing illnesses over time.

7. Imagine the entire population of Canada, twenty-five million people, dying in one year. The whole country, gone. That’s how many people die from contaminated water each year. Scary, huh?

8. Most municipal water flows through lead pipes over 100 years old, picking up harmful toxins and pollutants before reaching the water treatment plants (which perform very limited functions) and also afterwards as the water is on its way to your house. The chlorine that resides in the water also leeches heavy metals, like lead and copper, before flowing from your faucets. These heavy metals are poisonous and especially dangerous to small children.

9. Contaminants in tap water, such as lead, can increase the risk of learning disorders.

10. Fluoridated water, which is banned in much of Europe but still common in the US, is linked, according to the Preventative Dental Health Association, to cancer and infertility. According to a 1994 study in the Journal of American Medical Association, drinking fluoridated water doubles the chances of hip fractures in the elderly.

Emily Park

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