By Dawna Matthews:
Water is a precious resource. Just thinking about how often I drink it, bathe in it, wash with it, and even play in it, I realize that water is just there alongside us in our day-to-day life. When we drink a glass of water, we might not think about where it came from, how it got here, or if it’s safe.
Is It Safe? With concerns about pollution, fracking, global shortages and droughts, is water even safe to
drink? There are many types of pollutants that can contaminate our drinking water and lead to illness or disease. Exposure to contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, human and animal waste runoff, and chemical byproducts can cause a number of health problems, ranging from nausea and stomach pain to developmental problems and disease. How do contaminants get into our drinking water? There are a few different ways.
Natural Contaminants: These are contaminants such as bacteria and parasites. While I was living in South America, there was a cholera outbreak and we had to boil our water before drinking it. Most cities and countries chlorinate and filter water in order to eliminate outbreaks such as this.
Accidental Contaminants: Accidents do and will happen. Recently there were two chemical spills in West Virginia. One of the chemical spills went undetected for a few weeks because the company wasn’t looking for it while testing for another. Companies can find only the contaminants they are looking for at a given time. The Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) requires tests for contaminants but not all at one time. Our drinking water is often not tested for tens of thousands of chemicals, and we often rely on companies or whoever accidentally spills something into the water to notify local water authorities so action can take place.
What to Drink — Tap vs. Bottles: Most people would tell you to drink bottled water since tap water has many problems. In 2005, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested municipal tap water in 42 states and detected close to 260 contaminants in public water systems. Of those, 141 were unregulated chemicals for which public health officials have no safety standards or methods to remove. Wait. Bottled water is not necessarily any safer than tap water. In fact, some reports show that up to 44 per cent of bottled water is in fact tap water, filtered in some cases and untreated in others. The problem with bottled water is that you are never sure exactly what you are getting, and companies are not required to disclose contaminants found in their water supply.
What To Do: Do your best to educate yourself about your water, where it comes from, and how it is treated. Then protect your water. There are several things you can do every day to protect your drinking water. Some steps are listed here for you:
• Use a Filter — Choose and use a filter to reduce and eliminate many contaminants in your water. There are affordable reverse osmosis and carbon filters. Be sure to change your filters often to remove bacteria.
• Reduce or Limit Pesticides when gardening — Try to limit the amount of fertilizer and chemical spray used for pests since they end up in your water.
• Reduce — Lessen the amount of trash you create by reusing containers, recycling, and disposing of oil and antifreeze at recycling centers or service stations. Also, buy yourself a reusable glass or BPA-free water bottle.
• Keep Pollutants Out of the Water — Use nontoxic cleaning products for your home, and change your water filters often.
• Volunteer to protect your local waterway, beach, stream or wetland.
• Learn — Contact your local water utility or maintenance source to find our how they monitor water and what is being done to protect your local water source.
Water is precious, something we cannot live without. Conserve what you use and protect the water you drink. Safe potable water keeps you and your family healthy. By starting with ourselves, we hopefully can begin to ensure that everyone has access to clean water.
For more information on The EPA and water: http://water.epa.gov/
To see what your local water system is doing, visit: http://water.epa.gov/drink/local/index.cfm.