Tap Water Content

What is actually in tap water?

We drink, bathe, cook and clean with it.  But how much do we really know about the water that flows out of our faucets?  Some regions of the United States fare better than others when it comes to contaminants, but lead, bacteria, nitrates and harsh chemicals can still make their way into water supplies.  Debates on the potential negative impact of hydraulic fracturing (one way of mining oil and natural gas trapped deep underground) have brought even more attention to what is reaching our water supply.  So before drinking up, let's take a closer look at what is on tap.

•  Fluoride


Adding fluoride to drinking water is a process that began back in the 1940s to help reduce tooth decay.  It sounds like a noble cause but fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor.  It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland.  It is so toxic that several countries have banned water fluoridation.  Even some U.S. cities have caught on and started rejecting the process of fluoridation.

Fluoride in drinking water

•  Chlorine

Chlorine has disinfectant properties that make it useful for cleaning products and swimming pools.  It is even used to sanitize sewage and industrial waste.  Chlorine is added to drinking water as a purification technique, despite not being completely safe.

Chlorine is a reactive chemical that bonds with water, including the water in your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid.  Chlorine exposure can cause respiratory problems and damage cells.  Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.   

•  Lead

Corroded pipes are the primary cause of lead in tap water.  Lead is toxic to almost every organ and affects children the worst.  Developmental issues, stunted growth, deafness, behavioral problems, learning disabilities and brain damage can all result from exposure to lead.  If ingested during pregnancy, lead can cause premature birth.  Lead exposure has even been linked to autism, prostate cancer and reproductive problems for both men and women.  It is damaging to the cardiovascular system and kidneys too. 

Lead in drinking water

•  Mercury

Although mercury is a naturally occurring element, it does not mean it is safe.  Mercury is extremely toxic and can cause brain damage, blindness, nerve damage, cognitive disability, impairment of motor functions, headaches, weakness, muscle atrophy, tremors, mood swings, memory loss and skin rashes.

Mercury is the byproduct of mining, manufacturing and industrial practices and is spread from pollution into the atmosphere and ground.    

Mercury in drinking water

•  PCBs

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemicals that were used primarily in coolants and lubricants of electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors.    

PCBs in drinking water

Although PCBs were banned in the U.S. in 1979, they are still produced in a multitude of manufacturing processes as and unintended byproduct of processes that use heat, chlorine and carbon.  They are also present in landfills from the disposal of old electrical equipment.  PCBs do not break down easily and continuously cycle through the environment by way of our wastewater, stormwater, air and groundwater.   Due to the means in which PCBs cycle through the waterways, fish tend to become directly infected and in some areas are toxic to consume.

Animal test have found PCBs to cause cancer and negatively affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.

•  Arsenic

Arsenic, despite being poisonous, is used in a multitude of industrial processes.  Environmental contamination may result from improper waste disposal, or from poorly planned wells that hit a natural source.

Arsenic poisoning can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and even death in severe cases.  Long term exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer and bladder cancer.    

Arsenic in drinking water

•  Perchlorate

Perchlorates are a key ingredient in rocket fuel and explosives.  They dissolve easily and seep into groundwater from military and industrial sites.  Measurable levels of perchlorate have been found in 35 U.S. states.  Nearly all humans will test positive for perchlorates, which attack the thyroid.   

•  Dioxins

Dioxins are released during combustion, such as burning of hazardous waste, forest fires, cigarette smoke and burning oil and coal.  They settle in the environment and destroy water sources.

Short term exposure can cause lesions and respiratory problems.  Long term exposure can affect the immune, nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that dioxins are carcinogenic.  In developing fetuses, dioxin poisoning can cause birth defects or still birth.  

Dioxins in drinking water
DDT in drinking water

•  DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane)

DDT was used as an insecticide in the 1940s to combat insect borne diseases like malaria and typhus.  It had widespread use an an agricultural insecticide until it was banned in the United States in 1972 due to environmental concerns.

It remains in use in other parts of the world and is still a major health concern for all of us.  DDT molecules are persistent and can travel vast distances in the atmosphere.

Testing has found DDT causes reproductive problems and liver damage.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared DDT is a cancer risk.   

•  HCB

Until 1965, HCB, or Hexachlorobenzene, was used as a pesticide.  Production has been banned, but it is still formed as a byproduct from the production of other chemicals.  A large dose can result in death.  Smaller doses can lead to liver disease and skin lesions.  The EPA has classified HCB as a probable cancer source. 

HCB in drinking water
Dacthal in drinking water

•  Dacthal

Dacthal is a pre-emergence herbicide used for the control of annual grasses and certain broadleaved weeds in vegetable crops.  Unlike HCB and DDT, Dacthal is still in widespread use today.  It contaminates the soil and water from crop runoff. 

One common misconception is that toxins can be removed from water by boiling it.  This is completely false.  Boiling water kills harmful organisms and bacteria, but does nothing to remove toxic chemicals, compounds, salts and metals.  Complete removal of all toxins can only be accomplished by proper filtration.  A & K Services of Iowa can help you with this process.  Please contact us for further information and questions regarding water filtration.

The above pollutants are by no means a complete list of all toxins that are in drinking water.  It is important to keep informed of water quality issues in the area in which you live.  EWG (Environmental Working Group) provides an excellent source of water quality databases in the United States.  Water quality for a specific area may be found by visiting them at https://www.ewg.org/tapwater.