The importance of drinking an adequate amount of water is well known, although often neglected. It’s recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and although we can survive a month or more without food, a week without water can be fatal. Contaminated water can however be harmful to health and it’s important to ensure that you and your family are consuming the best quality of water possible. It’s estimated by the CDC that a million Americans are sickened and a thousand killed every year from infectious drinking water.
According to the CDC, the main drinking water related disease outbreaks are due to hepatitis A, Shigella, Giardia intestinalis, and norovirus. In addition, there are health risks linked to water contaminated with organic and inorganic matter, other viruses and bacteria, as well as other pollutants. According to the EPA, water shouldn’t have bacteria levels in excess of 500 CFU/ml to be considered safe for drinking.
The US water system has a reputation for high standards, and the safety of public drinking water is taken for granted by most Americans. But it’s estimated by the Natural Resources Defense Council that substandard water systems are still being used by more than 50 million Americans.
Viruses, bacteria, and parasites are microorganisms that can sometimes be found in water. There is a much higher contamination risk for shallow wells as runoff water flowing can pick up soil and wildlife contaminants, which often happens after a flood. Should you drink from a private drinking water well instead of a local public water system, ensure that you have your water safety frequently checked. Private wells aren’t regulated by the same standards that the EPA sets for public water suppliers.
It’s recommended by the EPA to have your well water tested each year for nitrates, total coliform bacteria, and any other contaminants that you suspect your water might have been exposed to. Do-it-yourself tests can detect unsafe levels of bacteria found in water. There are test available that use cutting-edge nanotechnologies to make bacteria testing easy without sending samples to a lab and waiting several days for results.Look for tests that are able to detect disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, E coli, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa as well as other Pseudomonas and strains which are known to be responsible for water system biofilm formations, and also a number of other bacteria and fungi.
Think about what else you may be putting into your body besides water when you’re refilling your glass. High lead levels in drinking water have been linked to delays in mental and physical development, learning difficulties, and short attention spans in kids. Evidence has also been found that arsenic in drinking water can result in heart, nerve, blood vessel and skin damage. Naturally occurring heavy metals may be of concern in some parts, but aren’t often found in household wells at dangerous levels. High fluoride levels are found naturally in some places and can private wells can be contaminated. Excessive fluoride consumption can lead to bone tissue damage and can also result in discoloration of teeth in young kids.
Water filtration systems such as solid block carbon filters can remove harmful contaminants such as pesticides, chemicals, fluoride, bacteria, heavy metals, parasites, nitrate and nitrites from water. Most carbon block filters are gravity operated and tap, well, pond, rain, and even sea water can be safely filtered.
The bottom line: Test your water quality regularly, especially if you are using well water, and use a water filter system, even if you are drinking public tap water.