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What’s in My Tap Water?

I recently had my home filter and RO (Reverse Osmosis) systems serviced (shame on me, I have not had these systems serviced in about 2 years). I have a whole-home filtration system with a softener. The setup removes chlorine and chloramine from the water in all faucets.

The RO system underneath my kitchen sink provides further filtration for drinking water. RO systems need a new filter about once a year and the water softener essentially runs itself’€”all I need to do is add salt.

The tech that serviced the systems was a very nice gentleman who has been doing this work for 20 years. I asked him some questions because I wanted to learn how to service the systems myself. During our conversation he mentioned some interesting statistics that caught my attention. These were so shocking I got back to the office as quickly as I could and looked them up for myself.

Most of us in the U.S. go to our faucets and expect to get clean, clear, odorless water. And because the water looks clean, and clear, and is odorless, we think it is probably pure. This definitely is not the case. In Aurora, where I live, the amount of chlorine in my water before it enters the filtration system is 2.5 ppm (parts per million). Doesn’t sound that high, right? Especially since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit is 4 mg/L (which is about 4 ppm).

However, did you know that the water you drink is allowed to contain more chlorine than the water in your pool? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends chlorine levels in pools (water you soak in) be kept to 1.0-3.0 ppm, much lower than The EPA’s threshold for healthy drinking water of 4 ppm. Pool water is regulated because if you understand skin, you know that it can absorb substances readily. This is why prescription drugs can work topically or through patches. This is why there is a big push to rid cosmetics, lotions and deodorants of petrochemicals, parabens, and other harmful toxins. But if the CDC recommends keeping chlorine levels in pools to below 3 ppm, why does the EPA recommend a maximum level of 4 ppm?

Additionally, ammonia is added to chlorinated tap water to help disinfect. Ammonia and chlorine form chloramines. Have you heard of chloramines? If not, here is a quote from the EPA website:

Chloramine (as CI2) is a water additive used to control microbes, particularly as a residual disinfectant in distribution system pipes. It is formed when ammonia is added to water containing free chlorine. [emphasis added]

When chlorine and chloramines react with organic matter they form disinfectant byproducts. Are disinfectant byproducts really safe?

To me, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Water, arguably, is the most interesting and essential compound on earth. It is a remarkable substance that sustains life on our planet; it gives us energy, helps us to detoxify, along with a myriad of other extremely important effects. But unless you’ve taken steps to protect yourself, ‘€œwater’€ is not the only thing coming out of your tap.

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