Many folks drank from the garden hose as a kid without thinking twice, never considering the potential for contaminants. For a kid, contaminants are usually the last thing on their mind. After all, there are many more important things to consider, like where they can bike to or who can build the bigger snowman.
However, while drinking from the hose may have been normal as a kid, it is something many adults may think twice about. After all, what’s in the water from the hose? How about tap water in general? Is it even safe to consume water from the tap in your kitchen?
Let’s find out.
Can You Drink Tap Water From The Kitchen?
Generally speaking, tap water from your kitchen faucet is perfectly safe to consume. Healthy individuals rarely have issues drinking tap water, providing the water supply meets federal and state standards. If your water supply becomes contaminated, water suppliers are required to notify customers immediately.
So, if you receive a notice from your provider indicating the tap water in your home is unsafe to consume, heed this notice until you receive the all-clear.
Some cities have safe-to-drink tap water, while others may have not-so-great water supplies with higher levels of contaminants. That said, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting standards and regulations surrounding tap water, so all public water systems must abide by these rules.
As mentioned, your water provider must notify you immediately if the water should become contaminated, so as long as your water is approved for drinking, there shouldn’t be any issues.
What If I Have A Well System?
Well systems are standard throughout the United States, primarily in rural areas where residents don’t have access to public water systems. If your home operates on a private well, you are responsible for ensuring your tap water is safe to consume. Since the water doesn’t come from a public source, you can’t rely on a provider to supply information surrounding contaminants in your tap water.
So, if you have a private well to supply your home with water, be sure to test it to ensure it’s safe to consume.
What Happens If You Drink Unclean Water?
While clean, safe water is widely available throughout the United States, either in the form of tap water, filtered water, or bottled water, there are some instances where water isn’t safe to drink. If you drink unclean water, you could contract various illnesses, including Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery, and Guinea Worm, among others.
Given the potential severity of these illnesses, it’s vital to drink clean, noncontaminated water. If you suspect the water in your home might be contaminated, consume water from an alternative, safe source until you can determine whether the tap water in your home is safe to consume.
Who Can Be At Risk When Consuming Contaminated Tap Water?
Although most healthy individuals have no issues when consuming tap water, certain groups are more susceptible to the harmful effects of contaminated tap water. If you fall into one of these groups, it’s best to avoid drinking your tap water until you speak with your physician. Until then, consider drinking filtered water or bottled water.
These groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Elderly folks
- Very young children
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with chronic illnesses
What Kind Of Contaminants Are In Tap Water?
While it would be ideal if tap water were utterly free from contaminants, trace amounts of minerals and impurities are normal. Although tap water isn’t 100 percent water, given these trace amounts, it shouldn’t contain high amounts of minerals or contaminants.
In the United States, tap water contains fluoride. This mineral is added to tap water throughout the nation, as it helps strengthen your teeth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that drinking fluorinated water can reduce your risk of tooth decay by roughly 35 percent.
Water sources naturally contain various minerals, many of which are vital for a healthy body. You’ll find multiple minerals in tap water, some naturally occurring and others added. These minerals can include:
The amount and ratio of minerals vary from one water supply to the next. For example, hard water usually contains higher amounts of magnesium and calcium, which causes chalky deposits after the water evaporates.
In addition, the mineral content in your water can affect the taste of your water. For instance, high iron levels may give your tap water a metallic taste.
Chlorine And Chloramine
Water providers add small amounts of disinfectants, such as chlorine or chloramine, to kill harmful germs and pathogens. While they’re present in your tap water, they’re in very low amounts that haven’t been found to cause adverse health effects in people.
According to the CDC, chlorine levels of up to 4 parts per million are within safe ranges for human consumption. Any higher can become a problem, but these disinfectants should be harmless as long as the content stays within that level.
In many cases, tap water contains trace amounts of other contaminants. Although these contaminants are considered dangerous in high amounts, the trace levels found in tap water are deemed harmless to humans.
These contaminants can include things like soil, sediment, and arsenic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specific standards for pollutants like arsenic. Tap water containing more than 10 parts per billion exceeds the EPA’s limit and is deemed unsafe for human consumption. Aside from arsenic, the EPA outlines specific limits and guidelines on over 90 contaminants often found in tap water.
How Do I Know If My Tap Water Is Safe To Drink?
If you’re unsure whether your tap water is safe to drink, conduct a water test. Testing your water is usually a good idea if you live in an area with fewer than 100,000 households (or use well water in your home).
Or, if you live in a home built before 1986, testing your tap water isn’t a bad idea, even if your provider offers water quality tests. This is because these homes may still have lead pipes, which raises the possibility of lead contamination in your water, especially compared to newer homes nearby. So, while the provider’s water quality test may come out clean, your home’s plumbing system could affect your water quality.
You can buy tap water testing kits online or bring water samples to a local water testing facility. Alternatively, you can ask your water supplier (if applicable) to provide one. Use a certified lab to complete the testing process for the best, most accurate results. If you go this route, you’ll probably need to wait some time for results, but these results are highly accurate.
What Contaminants Might Be In My Tap Water?
Aside from the minerals and contaminants mentioned above, tap water can contain multiple additional contaminants.
For example, tap water can contain microorganisms that are harmful to human health, including bacteria and parasites like Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, and Giardia. These particular organisms usually enter drinking water due to a sewage leak, but if they do end up in your tap water, it’s unsafe to drink.
Generally, if your tap water contains potentially dangerous microorganisms, your local health authority will issue a “boil water advisory” to kill and combat these unwanted visitors.
In addition, tap water can contain chemicals, radioactive elements, and heavy metals. Although some chemicals in tap water are naturally occurring, some are manmade and can have adverse health effects. Radioactive elements, like uranium, cesium, and plutonium, have been detected in drinking water and can raise the risk of developing cancer.
Some water supplies can contain heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury, and lead. These metals usually end up in the water source via plumbing or service lines and natural mineral deposits. Like the other contaminants, consuming large amounts of heavy metals can lead to harmful health effects like kidney damage, anemia, cancer, kidney damage, and intestinal damage.
Remember, if your water contains these contaminants, your provider is required to notify you immediately. That said, testing responsibilities fall to you if you’re using a private well.
How Can I Improve My Tap Water Quality?
Although buying bottled drinking water is always an alternative to drinking your home’s tap water, it can become expensive. So, you might want a solution to rectify the contaminants in your water, enabling you to drink your home’s tap water safely.
In this case, you could invest in a water filter. There are whole home and single sink designs, so you can choose whatever works best for your home. Reverse osmosis systems are popular, as they’re highly effective and remove a large portion of contaminants. However, they can be pricey and take up quite a bit of space, so they’re not ideal for every home.
Alternatively, you could invest in a carbon filter, which will help improve the taste of your water. It’s important to note that a carbon filter won’t remove all of the lead in your water, so it might not be the best fit if you’re looking for a filter for this specific purpose.
As you search for the perfect water filter, look for products that meet or exceed the standards established by NSF International or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Or, look for products with certification from the CSA Group, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the Water Quality Association (WQA), or NSF International.
If you’re unsure which filter best suits your home and water needs, talk to a local water expert or your water supplier.