This is part two in a two-part series about the health implications of pollution.
When you live in a first-world country, you might take water quality for granted. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stringent regulations designed to ensure that the water from your tap is safe to drink. However, tap water can still contain pollutants.
- Nitrates Nitrates are chemicals typically used in agricultural or industrial operations that can seep into water supplies as runoff. In infants, they can inhibit oxygen transportation in the blood.
- Lead The U.S. government banned the use of lead pipes in the 1980s due to health implications. In some areas, there is still risk of lead leaching in the water from older plumbing infrastructure. Lead can cause kidney failure and cardiovascular complications in adults, and developmental issues in adolescents.
- Heavy metals In some areas, heavy metals like copper and mercury can seep into water supplies from the earth. Too much exposure to heavy metals can cause confusion, headache, chronic pain, nausea and digestive issues.
How to Protect Yourself From Water Pollution
Filter your water. Whether you buy a filter or drink filtered bottled water, filtering your water will decrease your exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals in tap water. Cook with filtered water, too. Boiling your water will rid it of bacteria, but can cause greater concentrations of heavy metals and nitrates.
Report changes in water quality. Funny smell or change in color? Report changes in your tap water to the EPA.
Know your septic system. You should regularly inspect your septic system to make sure you’re doing your part in keeping bacteria and harmful chemicals out of your local water supply.
Read about the health hazards of air pollution in Protection From Pollution: Part One.