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What To Know About Your Tap Water

Think that’s clean water coming out of your faucet? Think again. New studies have found a host of contaminants in tap water.


How did it get in there? Most treatment plants contaminate tap water with chlorine to kill things like parasites and viruses found naturally in freshwater sources.

Harmful effects: In small doses, chlorine, is a lifesaver: It zaps dangerous contaminants. But studies show that long-term exposure to chlorine by-products can lead to miscarriage or birth defects, says Gina Solomon, M.D., a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Benjamin Franklin recommends: Straight Carbon, City Softener or Reverse Osmosis


How did it get in there? Water facilities strip out nearly all traces of the heavy metal, but if you live in a home built before 1975, chances are you have pipes that contain lead, which can leach into your water.

Harmful effects: Even a small amount is bad news; lead can trigger irritability, anemia, and nerve damage. Women trying to conceive should be especially careful: Lead poisoning can cause miscarriage and a host of fetal problems.

Your action plan: Lead can seep into water that’s been sitting stagnant in pipes, “so run your tap for two minutes to flush it out,” says James M. Symons, M.D., author of Plain Talk About Drinking Water. (Rather than waste that water, use it to wash your hands or the dishes.)

Benjamin Franklin recommends: This takes more elaborate testing procedures. If lead is present, then a whole house Reverse Osmosis is the right choice.


How did they get in there? Gnarly bacteria like E. coli can make their way into water from human and animal waste that runs into reservoirs from broken pipes and sewage systems.

Harmful effects: “Just a tiny bit of bacteria can make you sick,” says Suzanne R. Steinbaum, D.O., an internist in New York City. The last time you had a “24-hour stomach bug,” it was likely caused by waterborne bacteria. Most people recover quickly, but pregnant women can be laid up for days.

Benjamin Franklin recommends: This takes more elaborate testing procedures. Use of chlorine injection or UV light designed to kill microorganisms.

Hormones and Drug By-Products

How did they get in there? Every time you take a prescribed or over the counter medication—whether it’s a Tylenol or Xanax— traces of it come out in your urine. And that urine can eventually find its way back into our tap water. Scientists haven’t yet figured out how to remove most drug by-products from the water.

Harmful effects: “Traces of things like aspirin probably aren’t a big deal,” says Solomon. However, the presence of prescription drugs “may contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant illnesses like MRSA, and hormones from meds like birth control pills could be affecting pregnant women and their babies in ways we don’t know yet.”

Your action plan: Filters are fairly useless against drug residuals. So for now, just sit tight: The Environmental Protection Agency is assessing what regulatory action to take.

Call your local Morganton Benjamin Franklin Plumbing ® for an appointment to test your water and answer questions on what is the best course to get you the water quality you deserve and require.

Tap Water Infograph