Studies from across the globe have found that exposure to disinfection byproducts during pregnancy, and at much lower levels than the EPA’s legal limit, is associated with miscarriage and birth defects. If you receive your water from your city or other public source (not your own well), you are drinking, showering and bathing in disinfection byproducts. Disinfection byproducts include a variety of chemicals that form when water disinfectants, usually chlorine, react with organic material found in water. Over 600 toxic disinfection byproducts have been identified in our drinking water.  Only four are regulated by the EPA. Note that you may hear disinfection byproducts referred to as chlorinated byproducts or trihalomethanes.


The US National Institutes of Health reports prenatal exposure to disinfection byproducts increases the risk of the following birth defects: ventricular septal defects (a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart); cleft palate (an opening in the roof of the mouth); and anencephalus (the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp). 

Physicians for Social Responsibility advise pregnant women, infants, and young children to avoid disinfection byproducts which exist in all chlorinated tap water. They suggest using a water filter that removes these contaminants. They also suggest pregnant women and children reduce time in the shower and other activities that involve prolonged skin contact or inhalation of steam.  A shower filter may also be used to remove chlorine.

Shockingly, even the EPA, in a remotely-stored continuing education document for physicians, states “while health effects from exposure to disinfectants and DBPs (disinfection byproducts) vary by contaminant, some epidemiological studies have shown a link between bladder, rectal, and colon cancers and DBP exposure. Additionally, studies report an association between chlorinated drinking water and spontaneous abortion, neural tube defects, preterm delivery, intrauterine growth retardation, and low birth weight.  

READ MORE: About Disinfection Byproducts in our water. 

CONTAMINANTS IN YOUR TAP WATER: pharmaceuticals and personal care products

I saw a cartoon of a waiter taking an order. The patron requested a glass of water and the waiter responded, “I’ll need a prescription for that”.

A 2008 Associated Press investigation found a vast array of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, painkillers, mood stabilizers and sex hormones in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Water is also being contaminated by personal care products, including perfume, shampoo, soap, cologne, skin lotion and sunscreen. 

The US EPA  has since reported that along with steroids and antibiotics, more than one hundred pharmaceuticals and personal care products have been identified in drinking water and other environmental samples.

A study conducted by the United States Geological Survey found one or more medications in 80% of the water samples from 30 states. The drugs identified included antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications, hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), and painkillers and even small plastic microbeads that are from skin exfoliants.

Scientists say they are increasingly concerned that fetuses, infants and children are being exposed to drugs that are not meant for their undeveloped and small bodies. Unfortunately, they are being exposed to an unknown number of these drugs at the same time. When these drugs combine, new and unknown chemicals are formed.

common pharmaceuticals found in tap and bottled water include:

Atenolol (Tenormin) - Beta Blocker (heart medicine)

Carbamazepine ( Tegretol, Equetro, Carbatrol, Epitol) - anti-epileptic, mood stabilizer 

Estrone - estrogen hormone

Ibuprofen ( Advil, Midol, Caldolor, NeoProfen, Motrin) - nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, analgesic

     Lidocaine (numerous brand names) - anesthetic and antiarrhythmic agent

     Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, Fortamet, Riomet) – diabetes medication

Meprobamate (Equanil, Meprospan) - tranquilizer

Naproxen (Naprelan, Naprosyn, Aleve, Anaprox) ) - nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory

Phenytoin (Dilantin) - anti-epileptic 

Tramadol - (Ultram, Conzip) - opioid pain reliever

Trimethoprim (Trimpex, Proloprim, Primsol) - antibacterial

READ MORE: Pharmaceutical drugs in our water. How did they get there?

Contaminants in your tap water: pesticides

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated fetuses and children are particularly susceptible to the impacts of pesticide exposure, including an increased risk of pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, ADHD and behavioral problems.  

Unfortunately, fetal exposure to pesticides is dramatic.  Remember the Environmental Working Group study in which 287 contaminants were found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns? 17 of those contaminants were pesticides and all of the babies were contaminated (read about the study here). Pesticides are widely present in tap water as you'll read below.


"May I get you a glass of Weed Killer with Dinner?"

One of the most studied and dreaded pesticides is atrazine, a pesticide that is banned in the country in which it is produced (Switzerland) and in all of the European Union.  Atrazine has been around for more than 50 years and is one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States, where an estimated 60 to 80 million pounds is applied annually. You can pick it up at your hardware store for use in your own yard.  

In 1995 atrazine was in the tap water of 97% of the communities tested.  Cyanazine, another widely used pesticide, followed at 86%.  Tap water from two-thirds of the cities tested contained between four and nine pesticides or pesticide byproducts. 

Unfortunately, the problem still exists. In 2009, National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) reported atrazine was found in 80% of drinking water samples taken in 153 public water systems. The NRDC and others recommend that consumers concerned about atrazine contamination in their water (who wouldn’t be) use a household water filter that is certified to remove all or most of the atrazine and other pesticides found in tap water.

READ MORE: A 2009 study of more than 24,000 babies found a significant correlation between prenatal atrazine exposure and reduced body weight at birth.

Contaminants in your tap water: lead

Most of us have heard lead exposure is very dangerous.  I was surprised to learn that lead is often present in the pipes of new homes and buildings as well as those in older homes and buildings. According to the EPA, you should assume that any building less than five years old has lead-contaminated water. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the medical community, the evidence is overwhelming that prenatal lead exposure places a child at increased risk for kidney and nervous system damage, developmental delay, reduced IQ, and behavioral problems.  As with other contaminants, the lead in the mother’s blood crosses the placenta to the fetus.  As a result, infants are usually born with a lead blood level similar to that of the mother. The lead exposure also puts pregnant women at risk for miscarriage.  No safe blood lead level in children (or adults) has been identified.  

READ MORE: On how lead enters your tap water. 

other common tap and bottled water contaminants includE

Alachlor (herbicide) 





Bacteria & Viruses

Bisphenol A (BPA) - Endocrine Disruptor




Chloramine (Disinfection Byproduct)


Cryptosporidium (parasite)


DEET (insect repellants)

Hexavalent chromium (chromium 6)


Linuron (herbicide)



Metolachlor (herbicide)



Perfluorinated compounds (PFOS and PFOA) - Endocrine Disruptors

Phthalates - Endocrine Disruptors

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)  - Endocrine Distruptors

Radium 226/228





TCEP and TCPP (fire retardants)

Total coliform bacteria

Triclosan (from shampoo, toothpaste and soap)


Vinyl chloride (in PVC)