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EPA Regulation Flaws


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with regulating water treatment contaminants. These are produced from disinfection chemicals like chlorine and chloramine reacting in water. Surprisingly these chemicals which were originally used to make drinking water safe, are now known to cause adverse health effects if consumed in higher concentrations. Furthermore, they create additional toxic contaminants interacting with source water and the pollutants it can contain. The EPA water contaminant regulations for 9 out of 600 unwanted chemicals from treatment disinfectants, and already are stretched thin. These few regulatory values even are not what either the agency or scientists believe to be truly safe, but instead represent political compromise and feasibility. For example, the EPA’s legal limit of trihalomethanes is 80 parts per billion (ppb) at running annual average. But the state of California has proposed a public health goal for trihalomethanes (not yet a binding legal limit) at 0.8 ppb.

Water treatment contaminants are held to different standards than most other toxic chemicals in drinking water, posing another severe challenge to effective regulation. According to current EPA policies, consumers can be periodically overexposed to spikes in trihalomethane levels, provided that the annual average remains below the annual average limit. Furthermore, yearly “Consumer Confidence Reports” revealed several sampling locations with spikes of trihalomethane and/or haloacetic acid consistently at levels between 2 and 8 times higher than other sampling locations within the same utility system. The entire systems receive a passing grade because the levels average out over multiple locations, but those drinking from severely tainted sources are not consuming the averaged concentrations. These consumers, particularly pregnant women and their unborn children, are vulnerable to a variety of adverse health effects.


A case study done in Florida by the Environmental Working Group confirms that the general public is frequently and unknowingly exposed to harmfully high concentrations of water treatment contaminants. In examining 936 water utilities in Florida, over nine percent of trihalomethane tests exceeded EPA maximum standards. There was actually one sample of drinking water that contained 595 ppb trihalomethanes (Remember, the EPA limit is 80). Concentrations appeared to be elevated to unsafe levels generally during the spring and late summer.

In response to this study and numerous others, the Environmental Working Group recommends that “anyone drinking tap water use some form of carbon filtration designed to reduce exposure to trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, and other water treatment contaminants”. Since not all carbon filtration systems remove water treatment contaminants, it is important to research any filtration system before purchasing it. There are a variety of effective filtration systems available at the Drips Water online store.

Information Source: “Water Treatment Contaminants, Forgotten Toxics in American Water.” Environmental Working Group. February 2013.

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