The EPA primary drinking water standards are the allowable maximums that can be found in drinking water of various potential contaminants. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is the governmental body that enforces standards having to do with public water. (The FDA regulates bottled water.) If you’re concerned about what’s in your water, you’ll need to refer to the EPA primary drinking water standards to really understand what’s going on. Let me explain.
Since you’re reading this article, I’m sure you’re at least open to the idea that your tap water may not be all that safe. And it’s not! Recent studies have been done of American water systems that have found some alarming results. Ralph Nader’s group did a study of American water systems and found over 2,100 known toxic chemicals in the water. Another such study was done of several American cities’ supposedly treated water and found traces of pesticides in the waters of all the cities. One unlucky city even had traces of three pesticides!
Even if your tap water were complete free of these types of pollutants, the very chlorine that 99% of water treatment plants use to disinfect water can pose some real problems!
So, how do you find out what’s in your water that you need to be concerned about? Well, if you get public water you have the right to the test results that your municipal water system must make on a regular basis. That’s a start. They’re not required to test for that many pollutants, however. So, your best bet is to test your water yourself.
Once you either get your city’s test results, or your own test results, you’ll need to be able to intelligently read the test. That’s where the EPA primary drinking water standards come in. You can access these on the Web. I can’t give you the URL, but you can easily find it by Googling the phrase, “EPA primary drinking water standards.”
Once you’re on that part of the EPA’s site, you’ll see that it gives you the maximum allowable parts per million of a whole host of contaminants, both organic and inorganic. That’s what you’ll want to compare your test results to.
Now, just so you know, some of these maximum allowable standards are just sort of educated guesses. Take dissolved asbestos, for instance. It’s not really known how hazardous that is. (I would guess it is indeed hazardous, given the fact that asbestos in the air is so hazardous, but I’m a journalist, not a scientist.) You’ll notice that the maximum allowable fibers per liter of water is seven million. It’s not that scientists really know that below that threshold drinking asbestos fibers is safe. It’s that the seven million mark is as low as current technology can measure. So, you’ll have to take all of this with a grain of salt and use your own intuition.
So, what do you do if you get your water tested, or get your public water provider’s most recent test, and find out that there are some contaminants that you’re worried about? Well, your only real alternative is to filter your water yourself. Just knowing or having access to the EPA primary drinking water standards is not enough. You have to take action with this knowledge, educate yourself about drinking water filters, and buy one!