How Clean is Your Tap Water?

(Part 1 of 5: Clean Water Epidemic)

 Explore the overwhelming problem of global clean water; starting in your own home and zooming out to the overall global clean water epidemic.


 We are very fortunate to have clean affordable drinking water as citizens of a first world country; however just how clean is our tap water really? When we think of “unsafe” drinking water, many of us may humorously refer to an embarrassing incident a relative may have had while vacationing in Mexico or other. Although this is a form of mild illness caused from contaminated water, let’s narrow the focus of a major global issue and start in our own backyard – from there we can zoom out to the larger global clean water epidemic.

We know that our tap water is “safe” to drink because it’s cleaned and regulated, right? Although this is partially true, we are just yet beginning to understand the long-term ramifications of these cleaning methods. Let’s take a step back and start at how the whole water treatment process came about…

microscope_clipartClean Tap Water – The Beginning

According to the American Water Works Association, the invention of the microscope in the 1850’s shed some light on the amount of germs and contaminants for the first time. In 1902, Belgium began using chlorine to clean or treat water in a public water supply. Today, almost every major city treats their drinking water with chlorine or other chemicals to kill any germs in the water.

The Additives

Chemicals are added to our water supply not once, but twice throughout the treatment process. Although the first round of chemicals (aluminum sulfate, polymers and chlorine) are then “filtered,” there is a final round of chlorine or chloramine that is added to the water supply prior to storage and distribution – this stage is called disinfecting. According to the CDC, this process prevents the spread of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Norovirus. However, why are there more additives in our water supply such as fluoride?water_treatment_process

Fluoride became a huge focus in the 1930’s when they began to correlate tooth decay in relation to fluoride consumption. As a means of protecting children from early tooth decay, the US Department of Health & Human Services began adding fluoride to major water supplies. Recently, this US Department announced their mission that 80% of the US water supply will contain fluoride.

The Questions

Through all this research, it’s easy to find yourself with more questions, such as what are the long-term effects of Fluoride in our water supply? Or why is the US Department of Health & Human Services adding fluoride to our drinking water, when the FDA labeled the fluoride in toothpaste with a poison warning back in 1997? All these questions answered and more in the next blog: Fluoride in Our Drinking Water – Helpful or Harmful?