Quantcast
Popular
www.facebook.com

Find Out What's in Your Tap Water

Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.


With EWG's new Tap Water Database, simply by entering their zip code or local utility's name, users will find all contaminants detected in tests by the utilities themselves and reported to federal or state authorities. Instead of comparing the levels of pollutants to the legal limits set by regulatory agencies—often the result of political and economic compromise, or based on outdated studies—EWG's guide relies on what the best and most current science finds are the levels that will fully protect public health, especially that of infants, children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations.

"Americans deserve the fullest picture possible of what's in their tap water," said EWG President Ken Cook. "But they won't get that information from the government or, in many cases, from their utilities. The only place they'll find that is EWG's drinking water report."

Click here to see how EWG's Tap Water Database stacks up against a local water utility's Consumer Confidence Report.

The disturbing truth is that, all too often, a glass of tap water also comes with a dose of industrial and agricultural contaminants that have been linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage, or developmental defects.

"Just because your tap water gets a passing grade from the government doesn't always mean it's safe," Cook said. "It's time to stop basing environmental regulations on political or economic compromises, and instead listen to what scientists say about the long-term effects of toxic chemicals and empower Americans to protect themselves from pollutants even as they demand the protective action they deserve from government."

The vast majority of utilities are in compliance with federal regulations, but their water still often contains contaminants in concentrations exceeding the levels that scientists say pose health risks. Many of the existing legal limits are set far above levels that are truly health protective. Because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not added a new chemical to the list of regulated contaminants in 20 years, more than half of the contaminants detected in U.S. tap water had no regulatory limit at all, meaning they could legally be present at any concentration and that utilities don't have to test for them or tell their customers about them.

EWG researchers spent the last two years collecting data from state agencies and the EPA for drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015 by 48,712 water utilities in all 50 states and DC. All told, the utilities tested for approximately 500 different contaminants and found 267.

Contaminants detected in the nation's tap water included:

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer. More than 40,000 water systems had detections of known or likely carcinogens exceeding established federal or state health guidelines—levels that pose minimal but real health risks, but are not legally enforceable.
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage.
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses.
  • 45 linked to hormone disruption.
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems.

The safety of the nation's drinking water was thrust back into the headlines in the summer of 2015, when extremely high levels of lead were discovered in the water supply of Flint, Michigan. Data compiled by EWG shows that between 2010 and 2015, nearly 19,000 public water systems had at least one detection of lead at levels that could pose a risk to bottle-fed infants.

Other frequently found contaminants of concern include:

  • Chromium-6, made notorious by the film Erin Brockovich. This carcinogen, for which there are no federal regulations, was detected in the drinking water supplies serving 250 million Americans in all 50 states.
  • 1,4-Dioxane, an unregulated compound that contaminates tap water supplies for 8.5 million people in 27 states at levels above those the EPA considers to pose a minimal cancer risk.
  • Nitrate, chemical from animal waste or agricultural fertilizers, was detected in more than 1,800 water systems in 2015, serving 7 million people in 48 states above the level that research by the National Cancer Institute shows increases the risk of cancer—a level just half of the federal government's legal limit for nitrate in drinking water.

The new national drinking water guide is the latest in a long line of large database projects from EWG that have helped shape federal policy debates and shifts in industry behavior alike.

EWG last published a national drinking water report in 2009 in collaboration with the New York Times' Charles Duhigg as part of the paper's award-winning investigative series, Toxic Waters. Using EWG's tap water data and analysis, the Times detailed how the failures of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act have allowed millions of Americans to drink water with levels of contaminants that "can pose what scientists say are serious health risks—and still be legal."

Because federal drinking regulations are inadequate, Americans are left to take matters into their own hands. The first step concerned consumers can take is to buy an in-home water filtration system. Along with the Tap Water Database, EWG also provides a list of filter systems that can significantly reduce the contaminant levels in their water.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Trump Watch
Patagonia

Why Trump’s Shrinking of Bears Ears Will Be Reversed

By Eric Biber, Nicholas Bryner, Sean B. Hecht and Mark Squillace

On Dec. 4, President Trump traveled to Utah to sign proclamations downsizing Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by nearly 50 percent. "[S]ome people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
NPR

Environmental Scorecard Highlights Need for Congress to Better Protect Our Environment & Health

Environment America released its 2017 Environmental Scorecard on Thursday, tracking how the U.S. Congress voted on bills that could protect our air, water, landscapes and the health of the planet. Absences count against a member's score.

Environment America's Washington, DC office director Anna Aurilio said the following:

"Sadly, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, including the need to protect our environment. It shouldn't be this way, it didn't used to be and we're doing all we can to make sure it's not this way in the future.

But, as we release our environmental scorecard for 2017, we want to not only applaud the Democrats who scored 100 percent, but also cheer on those members of both parties who boldly stood up for our planet this year.

Overall, the U.S. Senate had a score of 47 percent and the U.S. House of Representatives scored 45 percent, which does not bode well for our air or water.

The good news is that 139 members from the two branches voted with us 100 percent of the time, which means our planet and our families are represented by a lot of real environmental champs.

And on a number of issues, the environment received bipartisan support. In particular, a cadre of Republicans in the U.S. House supported funding to make public transit available and to ensure that the EPA had enough money to do its job protecting our air and water. In the Senate, limiting methane pollution was the big bipartisan winner.

Unfortunately, with 145 of our federal decision-makers scoring 0 percent, it's obvious we have a lot more work to do to make sure our elected officials represent the majority of Americans who want to see a cleaner, greener, healthier planet for future generations."

Business

Underground Farm Pays Rent in Heat It Supplies to Building Above

Vertical farms have been touted as a way to feed a rapidly urbanizing world population (I've waxed poetic about them myself.) Critics of the trending technology, however, contend that these energy-intensive hubs are too costly and perhaps impractical to maintain.

Sure, the naysayers have a point, but what if vertical farms did more than just feed mouths? In Stockholm, Sweden, the Plantagon CityFarm located in the basement of the iconic DN-Skrapan building in the Kungsholmen district has a whole other purpose besides nourishing the office workers on site—the farm also recycles its heat to warm the offices above.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals

Herd of caribou on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izuru Toki / Flickr

While America Focuses on Tax Bill, Congress Quietly Tries to Open Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling

The U.S. Senate has passed a Republican tax-reform package that contains a provision to authorize oil drilling on the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, placing the biological heart of one of our last pristine, untouched places in severe peril.

"This vote to deface and pollute one of the nation's last pristine and untouched wild landscapes is outrageous," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement after the Senate passed the tax package. "The Arctic Refuge drilling provision has no legitimate place in a tax bill, and this backdoor political deal now threatens to destroy the crown jewel of our National Wildlife Refuge System."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals

As World Warms, Heart-Breaking Video Shows What It Looks Like When a Polar Bear Starves

By Julia Conley

A video of a starving polar bear led to calls for climate change denialists to confront the real-world effects of global warming this week. Taken by a Canadian conservationist and photographer and posted to social media, the video offered a stark visual of the drastic impacts of climate change that have already begun taking root.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

The Mission of Scott Pruitt: End the EPA as We Know It

By Lukas Ross

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt headed to Congress for testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment. The topic of the hearing? "The Mission of the U.S. EPA."

Since Pruitt has been incredibly sparing in his appearances on Capitol Hill, this is a rare chance to ask hard questions of the most controversial administrator in the history of the EPA.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

Everyday Heroes and Thousands of Firefighters Step Up to SoCal Wildfires

As six large wildfires and several smaller fires burn across Southern California, firefighters, first responders and everyday Americans are stepping up—and risking their lives—to rescue fellow citizens, homes, buildings and animals from the blazes.

About 5,700 firefighters are battling the region's brushfires around the clock in intense heat and grueling conditions.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. pmarkham / Flickr

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump EPA for Approving Fracking Waste Dumping Into Gulf of Mexico

The Center for Biological Diversity filed on Thursday a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for allowing oil companies to dump waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico without evaluating the dangers to sea turtles, whales or other imperiled marine life.

In September the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a Clean Water Act permit for new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms operating in federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The permit allows oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of waste fluid, including chemicals involved in fracking, into the Gulf of Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!