Thirsty? Drink a Glass of Water, But Be Sure You Know if It is Truly Clean


Water is one of the most important components in our bodies and, thus, vital for good health. So, are you drinking enough water daily and how good is the quality of your drinking water? The tragic events in Flint, Michigan should have us all asking: how clean is the water I drink?

Where Does Your Water Come From?

The water we drink in the U.S. generally comes from 3 sources:

  • Public water system

  • Private water supply

  • Bottled Water

Public Water System

Public drinking water originates from one of two sources: surface water--water found in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs--or from ground water--water from wells which tap into underground aquifers. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), both surface and ground water are treated before being distributed to the public (homes, businesses, schools). Because the ground acts as a natural filter, ground water may have more dissolved chemicals in it than surface water. That's one reason why ground water systems are subject to heightened monitoring for microbial contamination--such as fecal contamination from a leaky septic system--and are disinfected as required under the Ground Water Rule.

Public water systems are tested regularly for contaminants and their possible effects on health. The results are reported to the federal (EPA) or state agencies responsible for enforcing the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations as mandated by the SDWA. You should receive an annual drinking water quality report called the Consumer Confidence Report with your water bill. If you live in an apartment building and don't receive an annual report, you can contact your building manager or the local public water company for the report.

Private Water Supply

A small amount of the population receives its water from private wells. This water is not regulated under the SDWA. If you drink water from a private well, you should be testing it regularly to see if it is safe to drink. Routine testing is important for not only detecting water contamination, but also for documenting the quality of your water over time. Should you have problems with your water at a later date, this record can help you better address it and, if your water supply was damaged by someone else, help you receive compensation. Your county health department or a state certified lab can test your water. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/labs or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4971.

Bottled Water

Americans consume billions of gallons of bottled water each year. The FDA regulates the safety and quality of bottled water via quality and manufacturing standards. However, these standards may not be followed as strictly as those used for public water systems. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found chemical contaminants in 10 of the brands that it tested. The FDA also classifies the type of bottled water--such as artesian well water, mineral water, spring water or well water. Sparkling water, soda water, seltzer water, tonic water. etc. are not considered bottled water, but rather soft drinks.

Should You Have Your Tap Water Tested?

There are several things to consider when contemplating testing your tap water:

  • Considerations for Private Well Water:

  • As mentioned above, if you drink water from your own well, you should have it checked routinely for contaminants such as coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids and pH levels. Although the ground acts as a natural filter, contaminants can still be found in groundwater.

  • If you are pregnant or have a newborn, you should check for nitrites in your water. Toxic amounts in your water can cause methemoglobinemia in babies, a disorder which interferes with the body's oxygen carrying capacity. Also, fluoride can damage an infant's developing teeth.

  • Additional reasons to check your well water:

  • If your well is located near your septic system, a waste disposal site, agricultural area or industrial area

  • If you use pesticides and/or herbicides on your lawn

  • If the roads near your well are salted in the winter

  • If the well is located in an area where a fuel tank was once stored/buried.

  • If you notice unusual taste or odor in your tap water or if you have problems with staining from your water.

  • Considerations for both Public and Private Water:

  • Do you know the condition of your water pipes or the pipes in your building or your neighborhood? Remember, public water is treated, but must still travel through a series of pipelines to reach your faucet. The Consumer Confidence Report tells you about the quality of the water in your area, but not necessarily the quality of the water in your home. If you live in an old house or apartment, your pipes may be corroded. Lead free plumbing was mandated for homes built after 1986.

  • Acidic water is bad for your pipes because it causes corrosion. It's also potentially harmful to your health if toxic metals like lead are leached into your water. The high levels of lead in the water in Flint, Michigan resulted from highly corrosive water that damaged the city's lead pipes. Even if you have replaced or repaired plumbing, you should also think about checking your water quality. Certain poor quality plastic pipes can leach harmful chemicals into your drinking water as a result of corrosion.

  • Considerations for Bottled Water:

  • Some bottled water has been found to contain contaminants (See EWG's Safe Drinking Guide)

  • Bottled water can be acidic which can lead to the corrosion of the certain types of plastic bottles, causing a harmful chemical, BPA, to be leached into the water.

Protect Your Health: Find Out About the Quality of Your Water

We all use water daily, whether for drinking or cooking. If you have noticed a change in your water-- in the taste, odor, clarity or color--contact your local water company. If you drink well water, have your water tested, especially if there are any unexplained illnesses in your home.

It's important to know what type of contaminants are in your water so you can take steps to eliminate them and protect your health. Many types of filtration systems are available--from filter carafes to under the sink filter systems. We use a 5-stage filtration system from Pur2O in our office and recommend it to our patients as well. Pur2O is a member of the Water Quality Association and they use an independent lab to verify the effectiveness of their purification system. And, their water tastes great! Come and try it yourself or contact us today for more information.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~

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