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Most people probably don't think twice when they turn on the tap, especially in the United States. However, recent news out of Flint, Michigan, may have you exercising more caution than you normally would. It's always important to be aware of water cleanliness, because contaminated water leads to adverse health effects. This is particularly true for infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone who is immunocompromised. You might be wondering: "Is tap water safe to drink in my area?" It's a worthy question to ask whenever you move to a new residence or stay in an unfamiliar place.
How Is Water Contaminated?
Different germs and chemicals may contaminate water for a variety of reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common sources of contaminants include:
- Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals, such as arsenic, radon, and uranium.
- Local land-use practices, including fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, or concentrated animal-feeding operations.
- Manufacturing processes.
- Sewer overflows.
- Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems, such as nearby septic systems.
Some parents are also concerned about the safety of fluoride in drinking water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when fluoride is present in higher concentrations than is legally allowed in drinking water, health problems can occur, especially for children.
How Do You Find Out If Water in Your Area Is Safe to Drink?
According to the Safe Drinking Water Act passed in 1974, the EPA is responsible for setting the standards for safe public drinking water. This includes drinking water sources, such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and groundwater wells, according to the CDC.
You'll likely want more specifics about your local drinking water. Each year, your community's water supplier will release a report, sometimes called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). This document outlines the quality of your area's drinking water, including its source and any contaminants it contains.
However, if you do not pay your own water bill, you may need to reach out to your property manager for this information. You can also check online to see if the report is posted there. If you source your water from a private groundwater well, you will not receive a CCR and may have to test and maintain the well yourself, which you can learn about from the CDC.
Tap Water vs. Bottled Water
To avoid their local drinking water, some people turn to bottled water, which they perceive to be safer. However, according to the EPA, tap and bottled water both come from similar water sources. Just like tap water, the taste and quality of bottled water can vary between brands and individual products and also depends on how a supplier or company treats the water before you drink it.
The EPA sets the standards for tap water, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) coordinates standards for bottled water. When those standards are met, both tap and bottled water are deemed safe to drink. However, people of certain ages or with certain medical conditions may want to further treat the water either way.
You might still be questioning: "Is tap water safe to drink where I live?" Learn as much as you can about EPA and FDA standards for drinking water online, but don't hesitate to also contact your local water supplier. Safe drinking water is essential for good health. Inform yourself, and speak to your doctor about any concerns you have for you or your family.