How safe is tap water in the United States?
There is currently historic debate regarding the quality of tap water in the United States.
“In general, the water quality in the U.S. is very good,” Stuart Batterman, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan, recently told NPR.
This bold assertion leads to many objections and questions from communities throughout the country, as various areas are plagued with unsanitary (and sometimes deadly) setbacks.
As the third largest country by population, the United States is home to an estimated 320 million people. Of this, at least tens of millions are known to be exposed to contaminants.
It was recently discovered that the drinking water of some 14 million Americans was contaminated with Trichloroethylene (or TCE), a cancer-causing industrial solvent, according to a new EWG analysis of tests from public utilities nationwide.
Drinking TCE-contaminated water has been linked to birth defects and damage to the brain, as well impacting the nervous, reproductive and immune systems.
Further, the United States is dealing with increasing localized concerns; there is growing mistrust amongst citizens about whether they can even drink water in their own homes.
In Pasco County, Florida, undrinkable and discolored water has been cited as a concern.
“Our water is not drinkable,” note Rodney and Angeline Berkey of New Port Richey. “We have purchased drinking water for the past five years.”
From a national perspective, the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of nearly 20 million drinking water tests conducted in the US between 2004 and 2009 detected 316 pollutants in the tap water. EWG created a resource for Americans looking to learn more about the quality of their water and you can read our breakdown of the report here.
Tap water quality, some may argue, is just the tip of the iceberg – highlighting another concern, which is crumbling infrastructure from coast to coast. It’s well-known that America’s infrastructure has been failing for decades, building a downward spiral which may kickstart something even more horrific.
In Flint, Michigan, over 100,000 residents were exposed to lead contamination starting in 2014. This situation has highlighted a variety of factors that are part of a modern water crisis in the United States; government mismanagement, faulty and dangerous infrastructure, insufficient water treatment and sometimes, the high settlement of low-income and vulnerable citizens.
In late August 2018, a judge ordered that Michigan’s health director must stand trial in two deaths linked to Legionnaires’ disease, a form of atypical pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. It’s been suggested that Flint residents utilize filtered or bottled water until all lead pipes have been replaced; something that could take another two or three years.
But, how much does infrastructure impact the daily lives of Americans?
A lot. And not in a good way, either.
The American Society of Civil Engineers rates US infrastructure a D+, noting that it would take trillions of dollars to improve the current situation. In 2017, “Drinking Water” was rated a “D,” where it’s remained at this ranking for the past two decades.
As our chief technical officer, Dr. Faebian Bastiman, recently pointed out in our interview with NPR, municipal governments don’t regulate the pipes inside your house or apartment.
“There are seemingly endless aspects which can go wrong within houses and apartment buildings. It sounds minor, but if the hot and cold pipes are too close together, it will accelerate bacterial growth,” says Faebian. “Regarding infrastructure, public pipes are, in theory, systematically maintained and indirectly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, while the pipes in your home are not.”
For us, that leaves too many variables left to chance.
Would you drink out of a water bottle that hasn’t been cleaned in fifty years? Or more specifically: would you drink out of a water bottle that you couldn’t confirm was cleaned within the past few decades?
At Mitte, we understand there are hybrid issues surrounding access to clean water around the world. We also understand that education is one of the best tools to allow people to take ownership of their health and well-being. Education is also one of the first steps in mobilizing a global movement.
We encourage you to conduct your own research, especially in regard to your home and community. You may be surprised at what you find.