September 12th, 2011

Although bottled water has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, most Americans still drink tap water. The rationale is most often “it was good enough for my parents and grandparents, so it’s good enough for me.” While it might be true that some elder family members are in relatively good health, today’s tap water is not the same as the tap water they’ve been drinking most of their lives. In fact, a recent study found out that much of what’s in our tap water is generally found in the bathroom.

The study, conducted in New York – although there’s no reason to suspect that the same is not true for most cities – found the following drugs and chemicals in the city’s drinking water, listed in order of the quantity found:

  • Acetaminophen – a nonprescription pain reliever and fever reducer
  • Butalbital – a sedative and hypnotic drug, prescribed as a pain reliever
  • Caffeine – a stimulant most commonly found in coffee and some types of soda
  • Carbamazepine – a prescription anti-convulsant
  • Cotinine – a byproduct of nicotine, found in tobacco
  • DEET – extremely toxic, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents
  • Diltiazem – a drug used to treat high blood pressure and chest pain (angina)
  • Gemfibrozil – a prescription drug used to treat high cholesterol.
  • Ibuprofen – a non-prescription anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and fever reducer
  • Iopromide – a substance used to enhance contrast in X-rays and medical imaging
  • Meprobamate – a sedative used to relax the muscles and reduce anxiety
  • Paraxanthine – a stimulant that’s chemically related to caffeine
  • Primidone – an anti-epileptic drug used to treat seizure disorders
  • Sulfamethoxazole – an antibiotic, generally used in combination with other drugs


Even though the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ensures us that the amounts of these chemicals found in drinking water are too small to harm us, there are several factors that cast doubt on that statement:

  • In terms of just these 14 drugs and chemicals, no one knows how they interact.
  • In addition to the 14 substances listed in the current report, literally hundreds of other chemicals have been found in drinking water. For most, no safety standards have been set, and no one knows how these hundreds of additional chemicals interact either.
  • Chemicals have a cumulative effect, and many are hard to get rid of once they’re in the body. What does it take to get rid of them? What does the cumulative effect amount to? Again, no one really knows.

What we do know is that Americans are unhealthier than they’ve ever been: Nearly 50 percent of American women are predicted to get breast cancer; 287 chemicals were found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns – of these 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests – the evidence of chemical poisoning goes on and on.

Is it realistic to suspect that at least some of these chemicals come from our drinking water? Absolutely. To protect your health, get the best tap water filter and bottled water you can afford.

Sources: CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20095389-10391704.html, Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/reportfindings, http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php



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