Water is one of your body’s basic needs. Water is a component of all the fluids in your body, including blood, digestive juices, lymph, sweat and urine. It also supports chemical reactions that regulate life processes.
But water could also quickly turn on you. The United Nations reported on World Water Day that contaminated and polluted water kills more people than violence or war, and that 60 percent of potable water supplies are lost because of leaky pipes and poorly-maintained sewage networks.
As a result, about 2.2 million people succumb to diarrhea, mostly from dirty water. Water-borne diseases have claimed the lives of some 1.8 million children aged under five, or one infant every 20 seconds.
While these deaths come mostly from developing countries, this doesn’t mean that Americans don’t have to worry about the quality of drinking water, Dr. Joseph Mercola warns. You simply can’t tell if your water is free from tap water contaminants just by how it looks, smells or tastes.
Here are 5 dangerous contaminants that may be lurking in your drinking water:
1. Chlorine and Disinfection Byproducts
Drinking water disinfected by chlorine in pregnancy can increase the child’s risk of heart problems, cleft palate or major brain defects. On the other hand, disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are formed when the disinfectants used to purify your water, like chlorine, react with natural organic matter like decaying vegetation in water, Dr. Mercola explains. DBPs are more than 10,000 times more toxic than chlorine, making them the worst type of contaminants.
Chlorine has been linked to health problems associated with drinking water but new studies suggest that DBPs, not chlorine, are responsible for almost all of the toxic effects of chlorinated water. The two most common disinfectant byproducts formed when chlorine is used are trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. Trihalomethanes have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and have also been associated with spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital malformations.
2. Drugs and Hormonally Active Chemicals
A comprehensive survey of drinking water in the U.S. reveals that your drinking water may also contain a number of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals, Mercola points out. The drugs that you take, or those that are given to livestock, do not necessarily become inert in your body. Some of the active components that are not absorbed are deposited into sewage treatment centers that are not always testing for, or removing, pharmaceuticals. Also, unused prescription drugs are sometimes flushed down the toilet or deposited into landfills by individuals, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, where they ultimately end up back in the environment.
Among the drugs and chemicals found in tap water were atenolol, a beta-blocker used to treat cardiovascular disease; atrazine, a herbicide banned in Europe linked to the decline of fish population and in changes in animal behavior; meprobamate, a psychiatric tranquilizer; phenytoin, an anticonvulsant, and sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic.
Fluoride is one of the toxic chemicals still at large in America. It was actually one of the toxic components evaluated for use in the production of the atomic bomb during World War II. For Dr. Mercola, water fluoridation is absurd and unethical because studies show that this chemical can damage your brain, and your immune, gastrointestinal system and skeletal systems. Fluoride is so dangerous that a family-sized tube of fluoridated toothpaste is toxic enough to kill a 25-lb child.
4. Heavy Metals
Heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and nickel can seep into your water, are inorganic, have relatively high densities and are toxic even at low concentrations. Heavy metal poisoning can cause blood disorders, and brain, kidney and nerve damage. These heavy metals usually accumulate in your water supply through human activity, such as industrial and consumer waste. In homes built before the late 1980s, copper and lead can leach into passing water from water pipes and soldered joints on the way to your tap.
5. Rocket Fuel
Perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel which is also used in fireworks and road flares, was found in the water supplies of 36 states. This chemical can inhibit the production of thyroid hormones, which are essential for pre- and postnatal development. The Environmental Protection Agency has also found that perchlorate exposure led to the development of thyroid tumors in rats.
Because of the dangers of tap water contaminants, water filtration systems are no longer considered a luxury; they’re health products. For most people a countertop water filter that effectively removes chlorine, fluoride and inorganic and organic contaminants is the best, most practical and cost-effective choice. A reverse osmosis filter helps remove virtually all tap water contaminants but it is costly, inefficient and requires extensive installation.