WASHINGTON – Just because your community’s tap water gets a passing grade from the government does not mean it’s safe.
EWG today released the latest update of its Tap Water Database, detailing contaminants in nearly 50,000 water utilities in every state. The free, user-friendly database is the most comprehensive consumer resource available on drinking water quality in the U.S.
“Most Americans assume the federal government ensures their tap water is safe to drink,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Our Tap Water Database shines a light on an ugly reality: The Safe Drinking Water Act is broken, and the water millions of Americans drink is contaminated with unhealthy pollutants like PFAS, pesticides, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and more.”
EWG’s database, first published in 2005, aggregates data from utilities’ reports of water quality tests into one platform that is easy to search by location, community name or contaminant. The latest release of the database includes data for tests conducted in 2016 and 2017. For this update, EWG analyzed 32 million test results for 517 different contaminants or contaminant groups.
“Clean water free of toxic chemicals like hexavalent chromium and PFAS should be a right afforded to every American,” said noted public health advocate Erin Brockovich. “Sadly, that is not the case. Widespread pollution threatens the integrity of drinking water supplies across the country, and the levels of these contaminants detected in finished tap water, though often below the legal limit, may not be safe to drink.”
The vast majority of community water systems provide water that meets federal regulations. But tap water often contains contaminants in concentrations exceeding the levels that scientists say is safe. The latest research shows that many of the existing legal limits for tap water contaminants allow contaminant levels that can be harmful for children, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations.
Furthermore, federal limits for new contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost 20 years. More than half of the contaminants detected in U.S. tap water have no federal regulatory limit at all, including the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS, which contaminate tap water in hundreds of communities. (Some states have adopted their own standards for some PFAS and other chemicals that are stricter than federal limits.)
“The good news is that EWG’s database gives people the most in-depth – and honest – description of what contaminants are likely in their water, the levels that were detected, and what that could mean for their health,” Brockovich said.
In the absence of meaningful federal protections, EWG’s database provides health-based guidelines, based on the latest science, for many contaminants found in water supplies, as well as options for Americans who want to reduce contaminant levels in their tap water.
“Because federal drinking water regulations are inadequate, Americans must take matters into their own hands,” Cook said. “Our database is a powerful tool for people to use to protect themselves and their families. But Americans must also stand up for tougher safety standards and safeguards to keep contaminants out of drinking water in the first place.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.