Learn why it is important that you test for drinking water safety in your home.
Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires water utilities to monitor and keep the levels of 80 potential contaminants below legal limits, there are more than 70,000 synthetic chemicals in production today.
Lead, nitrate, mercury, asbestos, arsenic and volatile organic compounds top the EPA's list of the most common public drinking-water contaminants. Other pollutants also are making their way into our water: carcinogens, pesticides like atrazine and aldicarb, industrial chemicals such as nonylphenol (from shampoos and other detergents), pharmaceutical steroids and antibiotics, and chlorine byproducts, especially trihalomethanes (THMs), which are suspected reproductive toxicants that adversely affect male and female reproductive systems.
If you're concerned about the quality of your drinking water, do some sleuthing at your local public water utility, and request their latest report, often called a Consumer Confidence Report. Public water-supply organizations are required by federal law to provide consumers with information about their drinking-water supplies. This report will tell you where your water comes from, and whether your water exceeds the limits for any of the 80 contaminants regulated by the EPA. You can also request a printout of the levels of all the contaminants. The National Environmental Education and Training Foundation's website at www.waterqualityreports.org/waterquality gives advice on how to interpret the Consumer Confidence Reports and what to test for, and publishes fact sheets on the 40 most common drinking-water contaminants.
If your water comes from a well, you'll need to get it tested yourself. The EPA:s Safe Drinking Water Hotline [1-(800) 426-4791; www.epa.gov/safewater] provides information on how to obtain a list of certified labs. To get a preliminary picture of your water's quality, inexpensive test kits also are available. For $20, you can test your water for E. coli, lead, two common pesticides, chlorine, nitrite, nitrate, pH and hardness [Silver Lake Research; www.watersafetestkits.com].
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