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Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Should you be worried about pesticides and chemicals in your drinking water?

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N,
Episode #066

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

Melanie writes: 

My husband and I have switched to eating organically, but now we're wondering about what we drink. Should we be concerned about pesticides and other chemicals in our water supply? Is it necessary to get a water filter? If so, what kind?

Melanie, you may very well have something to be concerned about. Modern living involves a lot of chemicals and far too many of them are ending up in the water we drink. Many people assume that government regulations are in place to protect the quality and safety of the water supply. But the regulations may not be as strict as you think and there are enforcement issues.

The New York Times has done some great investigative journalism on this topic, publishing a series of articles on the safety of the water supply. I’ll put a link to the series, which is ongoing, in the show notes for today’s episode. If you read it, you may well decide that it’s time to look into a water purification system.

But first, it’s important to know what, if anything, you’re dealing with in your local water supply—because this may determine what type of system you need. If you live in an agricultural area, for example, pesticides and fertilizer runoff is a concern. If you live in an area where there is mining, there could be heavy metals in the water. If there is a lot of manufacturing or other industry close by, solvents may be a bigger problem.

How to Find Out What’s in Your Water

If you are on a public water system, you are supposed to get a report every summer with details about your water quality and any contaminants that have been found in it. It’s often included with your water bill. If you’re a renter, you probably never see these reports. But many are posted online on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. I’ve got a link in the show notes to the EPA’s section on Local Water Quality.

But in the New York Times series I mentioned earlier, they describe a situation affecting a community in Indiana. The average levels of atrazine, a chemical herbicide, are within legal limits. But in the summer, when weed-killers are being applied to lawns and golf courses, the levels of atrazine in the water spike to ten times that amount—and this doesn’t show up on the annual report.

Another alternative is to have your water tested by an independent laboratory. You’ll want to choose a state-certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visiting www.epa.gov/safewater/labs.

How to Choose a Water Purification System

Once you know what, if anything, you need to be concerned about, you’ll want to be sure that the water filtration or purification system that you’re considering is effective in dealing with those contaminants.

Be sure that the water filtration or purification system you choose is effective in dealing with the contaminants found in your drinking water.

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