It’s not just Flint – all of our pipes are old
Five to ten years ago, few Americans would have questioned the quality of their drinking water. However, crisis’ such as that of Flint, Michigan and other natural disasters have brought to light the challenges facing the quality of our domestic water supply. A recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report indicates that an investment of over $470 billion dollars is required to upgrade our country’s faltering drinking water utility infrastructure. This amount of investment is necessary as most of our existing pipeline has outlived its lifespan. This has and will continue to result in significant water quality and safety issues in the near future. Another recent report noted that in any given year from 1982 to 2015, between 9 million and 45 million Americans obtained their drinking water from a source that was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
What’s coming out of your faucet?
Even robust updates to our water piping systems won’t solve all of our problems; depending on where you live it’s possible that microplastics, bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and even heavy metals, such as lead, could be found flowing through your household sink. To find out more about what’s in your tap water, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been compiling a tap water database since 2010.
So, what are microplastics and why should you be concerned?
Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters in diameter that develop as plastic degrades over time (plastic never truly disappears or decomposes). As plastics break down to small, often undetectable sizes, microplastics end up in our streams, rivers and oceans. Eventually, microplastics end up in ground water and marine life, which in turn we drink and ingest, respectively. When people don’t trust public water sources, they often rely on bottled water. Alarmingly, a recent study showed that nearly 93% of bottled water in the US is contaminated with microplastics. In response, the World Health Organization initiated an investigation into the health impacts of ingesting microplastics in water.
Okay, what about heavy metals, like lead?
The water crises in Flint, Michigan demonstrated the public health risks associated with extremely high levels of lead in public water sources, but you might not be aware that countless areas in the US have been affected by lead poisoning as well. Lead makes its way into tap water primarily due to corrosion of old fixtures and pipes. It is particularly dangerous because it does not alter the color, odor or taste of water, leaving the public at risk. Lead poisoning can affect everyone, but it’s especially detrimental to children whose bodies are still developing. The only way to confirm whether lead is in your water is to have your local water provider test it.
Despite these startling concerns about tap water contaminants such as microplastics and lead, there are some tools to help you understand your local water quality. The EWG database of known contaminants allows you to search by zip code to identify drinking water concerns in your region. However, it cannot provide specifics on microplastics and may not always be accurate about lead. Further, comprehensive water quality testing is complex, expensive and specific to your source so you may not always know what is exactly in your water. The best option is to opt for technologies that offer broad protection and continually push the industry to innovate.
Can’t you test for TDS (total dissolved solids)? Why is this not a good measure?
Total dissolved solids (TDS) is the term used to describe the inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter present in water. Some of these dissolved solids are contaminants, but many are actually good for you such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Therefore, TDS is a very vague indicator. TDS tests do not actually test for contaminants such as many heavy metals, chemicals, microplastics or bacteria and parasites. In fact, bottled mineral water can have high TDS because of good mineral content. Further, for values below 2,000 mg/l there is no scientific evidence that TDS affects health impact.
LifeStraw is introducing next level protection for your home.
Powerful and reliable filtration is the next step to healthier hydration. We’re excited to announce that we’re bringing our outdoor technology to your home! We’re launching a new product on Kickstarter that will be the only household water filtration pitcher to ensure your protection from bacteria, parasites, microplastics, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium III and chemicals while also reducing chlorine and improving taste. Stay tuned - we’re counting down to the launch of our new product!