Could your water be unsafe to drink?

The toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began in 2014 when the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River to cut costs, is still far from over.

Flint residents are already using filters on their water faucets, but now officials are advising they boil their water as well to help prevent contamination. The Flint mayor’s office issued a boil-water advisory Tuesday after a water main break caused the water pressure to drop— possibly allowing bacteria to pass into the water system.

Although the United States is thought to have one of the cleanest public water supplies in the world, the Flint crisis has  many families wondering whether their drinking water is safe. More than 60,000 chemicals are used in the U.S., but only 90 water contaminants are regulated under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

The SDWA doesn’t completely remove all of these 90 contaminants from our water, however; it only sets a ‘safe standard’ on the maximum contaminant levels allowed in public drinking water. Over time, these chemicals and other unregulated contaminants can build up in your body and potentially damage your health.

My biggest concerns are pharmaceuticals and fluoride…Sure, arsenic, lead, uranium and mercury all sound bad, but they are far less worrisome than man-made toxins.

Water Expert Michael Cervin

Recent research has revealed that over time, humans can have adverse health effects from drinking water contaminated with tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals. Lab research revealed that small amounts of medication affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells.

Cervin noted that fluoride is another danger. Too much fluoride consumption can lead to a higher risk of bone fractures in adults and has been linked to osteosarcoma, a rare cancer in boys. Even though these health effects sound scary, Cervin says you don’t have to be afraid. “Consumers need to be aware and concerned about their water—not fearful of it. Fear does no good, education does.”

The EPA requires all drinking water suppliers to offer the public an annual statement, describing the quality of its water.

Every person should ask for the Consumer Confidence Report from their municipal water supplier; that will tell you what and how much of something is in your tap water.

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than others. People with compromised immune systems – such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with HIV/AIDS – as well as some elderly individuals and infants can be at an increased risk.

“[Consumers] need to first know what’s in their regional water and then chose the correct filter for their needs. Water filters are an important part of keeping healthy,” Cervin said.

By choosing the right water filtration system, many contaminants can be reduced and even eliminated. There are hundreds of different water filter systems available for consumers to choose from – everything from pitchers and dispensers to mounted filter faucets and reverse osmosis systems. Here are a few water filter systems Cervin recommends including Aquasana’s Clean Water Machine.

Pitcher filters

Many people are familiar with pitcher filters; you can usually find a generic brand at your local grocery or home store. However, a lot of pitcher systems only remove chlorine and help improve the taste and smell of your tap water.

The Aquasana Clean Water Machine does more than your average pitcher filter. It reduces 77 contaminants and is the only pitcher on the market to remove 96% of chlorine and chloramines. Chlorine is sometimes used as a water treatment, because of its effect on harmful bacteria, but new studies have linked chlorine and chlorination by-products to several cancers and heart disease.

This system is kind of cool and slick looking. It’s not going to remove fluoride, but it will remove herbicides, pesticides and also pharmaceutical residues as well

Water Expert Michael Cervin

The Claryum Smart filter used in the Aquasana system also captures asbestos and chlorine-resistant cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. “Basic water filters are fine for basic removal of larger contaminants like copper and lead, but they are mainly for reduction of chlorine taste and odor. But bottom line, anything that will help clean and purify our water is a good idea,” Cervin advised.

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