Do you Filter Your Drinking Water?
Access to clean water is a fundamental health imperative that most residents of this country are fortunate enough to have available in our homes. In fact, we are so accustomed to this luxury that we may take it for granted. While there’s much to be grateful for, I encourage you to take a moment to think critically about the quality of the water that runs through your tap.
Thanks to the keen foresight of some historic urban planners, the New York City region sources its water from the pristine headwater areas of the Catskill, Delaware and Croton watersheds. These are amazing resources, but a lot happens in between those verdant woodlands and your home. Much of the conveying infrastructure is quite old, built at a time when we had different standards about things such as heavy metals and lead. In addition, the regulatory process for safeguarding the public against chemicals in our water is slow to keep pace with the research that identifies which contaminants at what concentration are considered harmful, which in turn lags way behind the rate of public exposure. In fact, while the federal government does regulate known carcinogens, they currently don’t require any testing and haven’t set safety limits for the presence of pharmaceuticals in tap water, which have been shown to exist in a number of major water supplies across the US, including NYC. You can also count on the municipal water treatment facilities to be adding substances such as chlorine and fluoride, which have both positive and negative ramifications. In some regions of the US, debates are ongoing about the safety of fluoridated water, which has been linked to low thyroid function, neurotoxicity and low IQ in children. The city does an amazing job at making sure the water received by its millions of residents is safe. But just because it won’t kill you, doesn’t mean you want to drink it.
So what’s in your tap water? Our friends at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have done a lot of legwork to help you answer that question for yourself. Check out their online database to get results for tap water contaminants in your zip code.
Bottled water is convenient when we’re on the go, but it’s not really the best solution for regular hydration. The BPA exposure with plastic is known to have negative impacts on fertility—among other things—in both men and women. Likewise, BPS and BPF plastics are also considered hormone disruptors. Water bottled in glass is theoretically better, assuming you trust to source and the bottler. It certainly is much easier and more economical in the long run to filter water at home. But what’s the best method? The answer depends on your particular needs and budget. The EWG database is again helpful. After identifying the contaminants found in the public water provided for your address, they list the types of common filtration systems that are effective at removal for each substance. Note that charcoal filters are helpful, but they may not be enough to address a number of reported contaminants in your tap water, including fluoride. In choosing a filtration system to fit your needs, be sure to look for third party certification that validates the effectiveness of the product. And feel confident that you can drink to your health!
Ehrlich, S., Williams, P. L., Missmer, S. A., Flaws, J. A., Ye, X., Calafat, A. M., Petrozza, J. C., Wright, D., & Hauser, R. (2012). Urinary bisphenol A concentrations and early reproductive health outcomes among women undergoing IVF. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 27(12), 3583–3592. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/des328
Furlong, E. T., Batt, A. L., Glassmeyer, S. T., Noriega, M. C., Kolpin, D. W., Mash, H., & Schenck, K. M. (2017). Nationwide reconnaissance of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking waters of the United States: Pharmaceuticals. The Science of the total environment, 579, 1629–1642. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.128
Pizzorno J. (2018). Environmental Toxins and Infertility. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 17(2), 8–11.
Till, C., Green, R., Flora, D., Hornung, R., Martinez-Mier, E. A., Blazer, M., Farmus, L., Ayotte, P., Muckle, G., & Lanphear, B. (2020). Fluoride exposure from infant formula and child IQ in a Canadian birth cohort. Environment international, 134, 105315. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105315
USGS.gov. (2021). Pharmaceuticals in Water. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/pharmaceuticals-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects