The safe drinking water the American government has promised us may not be so safe. The 35 year old federally mandated law only regulates 91 of the 60,000 plus chemicals we use in the United States. It runs through almost all of our homes, and could LEGALLY be putting us all at risk. We use tap water for so many things in our homes, cleaning, bathing, cooking, and even drinking. Yet according to an analysis of government records by The New York times, government and independent scientists have found minute traces of chemicals linked to cancer in our tap water. Their results even found arsenic at levels concentrated enough to be associated with cancer in contaminated water in Scottsdale, Arizona; El Paso, Texas; and Reno, Nevada. Yet this was completely legal and did not violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. The list of regulated chemicals in our water hasn’t changed since 2000.
Many contaminants in our drinking water have been found to be more lethal at smaller doses than they were originally thought to be, however no change has been made to the safe drinking water act. While many local legislators and public officials have tried to go above what is legally required of them to protect their city’s inhabitants from carcinogens and other chemicals in their water, many of the people they are trying to protect are the biggest problem. They are all curious as to how the water is dangerous, yet it’s still legal.
This is not to say that the consumption of these chemicals will immediately pose a health risk to the consumers. Serious risks, however, can occur after drinking the water for years on end. Many argue that even when consumed for years, at such small, trace amounts pose very low health risks if any at all. There are even still thousands of chemicals which have not been further researched and could cause no harm at all to the consumers of tap water.
Since 2000, government scientists have researched at least 830 of the hundreds of thousands of pollutants that can be found in our drinking water. Many of them are associated with cancer and other maladies, even at small concentrations. However none of the findings have influenced United States lawmakers to amend the standards for our drinking water. Currently, the arsenic standards for our tap water would allow consumers to drink water that is considered safe by the SDWA and one in every 600 residents is still likely to develop bladder cancer because of it. Recently it was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry that trace amounts of lithium in tap water may decrease suicide rates in a population. Mental health advocates were wary of this proposition however, as there is a very minute difference in a clinical and lethal dose of lithium.
With all of the recent studies focusing on tap water, we can only hope the toxicity of our drinking water becomes a more alarming concern. With backing from the EPA, we can only hope for our sakes, and perhaps even our childrens sakes, that amendments are made to the standards that declare drinking water safe and legal. As often as new chemicals and pollutants are developed, the Safe Drinking Water Act should update purification standards for the drinking water our public consumes every single day.