It’s easy to assume that the water you drink is safe and free from any substances that could potentially harm you or your family. But the water crisis in Flint, Mich., has made people understandably nervous about their local H2O — and now there’s a new database to help you see what exactly is in your water.
The database comes courtesy of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and allows U.S. residents to type in their ZIP code and see which contaminants are in their drinking water. The data is based on what local utilities have reported, but makes it easier for the average person to find and understand what the information means. The database was created using 30 million test results from all 50 states and is the first of its kind.
EWG’s database also breaks down the levels of each contaminant that was detected, and if it is above the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limits or is at a level that scientists have determined could pose a risk to your health, it’s flagged in the results.
For example, drinking water in Brooklyn is flagged for having six contaminants detected above health guidelines, including bromodichloromethane, a disinfection byproduct linked to cancer, and chloroform, another disinfectant connected to cancer. The city of Flint, on the other hand, has nine iffy contaminants.
If you live in these areas or get similar results, Nneka Leiba, the leader of the tap water project and director of EWG’s Healthy Living Science program, says you shouldn’t automatically freak out — but you should take action. “Don’t see the numbers and get so panicked that you move to bottled water, because that’s not the answer — 50 percent of the time that’s just tap water,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. Instead, Leiba recommends using a filter for your tap water. (The database offers up water filter recommendations based on the contaminants in your area.)
Next, Leiba recommends reaching out to your local lawmakers about what’s in your drinking water and asking for stricter regulations. “The filter is the first decision, and then what is desperately needed after that is a change in our regulatory policies,” she says.
Again, Leiba stresses that you shouldn’t panic based on what you find. “At first glance, it may be scary, but you need to know what is in your water,” she says. “Some water systems are worse than others, but not knowing is not helping the situation.”
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