Is your drinking water safe? New tool lets you check pollutants in your tap water by your zip code

Posted at 5:13 AM, Jul 26, 2017

The Environmental Working Group has released a new online tool on Wednesday that allows you to type in your zip code and find out what’s in your drinking water.

The user-friendly guide reveals safe levels set by scientists, not regulators, on what chemicals in water they believe are safe to consume. It gives people the ability to learn about the potentially harmful chemicals in their drinking water that scientists believe could have additional risks, despite meeting water regulation requirements.

“EWG’s new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” EWG wrote in a press release.

The database allows you to enter your zip code or local utility's name and instantly provides you with a list of all the contaminants detected in water tests that have been reported to federal and state authorities.

The database relies on what scientists have determined are the best levels of each chemical in order to fully protect public health, especially for infants, children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations. It bases its information on the best and most current science finds, rather than comparing levels of pollutants that are within the legal limits set by regulatory agencies which EWG believes are "Often the result of political and economic compromise, or based on outdated studies."

“Just because your tap water gets a passing grade from the government doesn’t always mean it’s safe,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “It’s time to stop basing environmental regulations on political or economic compromises, and instead listen to what scientists say about the long-term effects of toxic chemicals and empower Americans to protect themselves from pollutants even as they demand the protective action they deserve from government.”

In a press release, EWG states that scientists believe that all too often, a glass of tap water contains industrial and agricultural contaminants that have been linked to cancer, developmental defects or even brain and nervous system damage.

“Americans deserve the fullest picture possible of what’s in their tap water,” said Cook. “But they won’t get that information from the government or, in many cases, from their utilities. The only place they’ll find that is EWG’s drinking water report.”

EWG researchers spent two years collecting data from state agencies and the EPA for drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015 by 48,712 water utilities in all 50 states and D.C. According to EWG, the utilities tested for approximately 500 different contaminants and found 267.

"The vast majority of utilities are in compliance with federal regulations, but their water still often contains contaminants in concentrations exceeding the levels that scientists say pose health risks," EGW wrote in a press release.

The list of contaminants detected in the nation’s tap water the research uncovered included:

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer. More than 40,000 water systems had detections of known or likely carcinogens exceeding established federal or state health guidelines – levels that pose minimal but real health risks, but are not legally enforceable.
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage.
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses.
  • 45 linked to hormone disruption.
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems.

Other frequently found contaminants of concern the research found include:

  • Chromium-6, made notorious by the film “Erin Brockovich.” This carcinogen, for which there are no federal regulations, was detected in the drinking water supplies serving 250 million Americans in all 50 states.
  • 1,4-Dioxane, an unregulated compound that contaminates tap water supplies for 8.5 million people in 27 states at levels above those the EPA considers to pose a minimal cancer risk.
  • Nitrate, chemical from animal waste or agricultural fertilizers, was detected in more than 1,800 water systems in 2015, serving 7 million people in 48 states above the level that research by the National Cancer Institute shows increases the risk of cancer – a level just half of the federal government’s legal limit for nitrate in drinking water.

Click here to check your drinking water.

Along with the Tap Water Database, EWG also provides a list of filter systems that can significantly reduce the contaminant levels in their water. Click here to learn about the best filter systems.