Tap Water Contaminants Monitored by the EPA

Sadly, the EPA regulates a mere 91 contaminants.  They haven't added any since 2000, though they have been accumulating lists of tap water contaminants that are known or suspected to cause cancer and other health problems.  For example, the EPA has published a list of "Human Health Benchmarks" for 394 unregulated pesticides on its website. Although water utilities are not required to meet any standards or even monitor these pesticides, it's a step forward for the EPA toward fuller water contaminant disclosure. Also encouraging is that there is a column listing separate Human Health Benchmarks for "sensitive subpopulations" (see discussion and link below).  Unfortunately, the EPA’s legal limits for the 91 regulated contaminants, are often based upon the risks of a 154 lb. adult (not a pregnant woman, fetus, infant or child) ingesting only that one contaminant over a lifetime.  This approach has been derided by many scientists, including some employed by the EPA (and me).  Additionally, for many of the regulated contaminants, the EPA allows water utilities to report the average annual contaminant level.  This method ignores seasonal or weather-related spikes that are especially dangerous for a pregnant woman and her fetus, infants and young children. 

Why is the EPA Ignoring the Public’s Health?

Per the EPA website, they are required to consider the “cost-benefit” when evaluating whether a known contaminant should be regulated.  In other words, what will be the cost to the EPA, water utilities and the public to update or develop new filtration processes versus the toll on health and human life?  Why hasn’t the EPA added any contaminants to the list requiring regulation since 2000? Why doesn’t the EPA regulate chromium 6, pharmaceuticals, perchlorate, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), bromochloromethane, and hundreds of other chemicals I can’t pronounce?  My guess is the current filtration processes used by water utilities are not able to remove these contaminants to an acceptable level, and costs to implement these processes may be prohibitive. This is why we need to filter our own water.  

What does the EPA have to say about you? If you are pregnant, a fetus, an infant or young child, you belong to a group classified as a “Sensitive Subpopulation”.  

Congratulations are not in order.  This is not a good thing. The EPA’s drinking water standards were not meant to protect you. They suggest that you “consider taking additional precautions with your drinking water”. In other words, filter your tap water.

READ MORE: About “Sensitive Subpopulations”