Many countries, including the United States, have a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that harmful chemicals in water and overall water quality are controlled and regulated.
In the US, this is to be done by the EPA legally binding standards for all types of contaminants in drinking water as well secondary concerns that may cause skin irritation or affect hair. Your local water supplier should produce a new Consumer Confidence Report every year and EPA has a public database designed to allow you to easily find the latest tap water report in your region. You can read the report and see if there are any concerning levels of contaminants in your water, but you can also rest easy knowing that if any water contaminants exceed the legal limit, your community will certainly be notified.
If you’re particularly concerned about lead, one easy way to reduce your risk is to simply run your tap water for a few minutes before using it. The most dangerous amounts of lead accumulate when water sits in the pipes in your home overnight, so if you flush this water out of your pipes, you’ll be in better shape.
Lead and chlorine in drinking water
Even if your water smells and tastes good, it doesn’t mean that your tap water is free of harmful chemicals. Water contaminants fall into different categories, but shower water most commonly involves toxic metals, chlorine (used as a disinfectant), and the byproducts that chlorine creates with other chemicals in the water. Each of them can make showering much more difficult.
The main toxic metals that often hide in water are arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. World Health Organization top 10 rankings “chemicals posing a serious health hazard”.
Lead is often considered the biggest polluter – even when the water is clean, the water slowly corrodes the lead in home plumbing and the toxic metal leaches into the water. Children are particularly exposed to harsh chemicals and are reported to absorb up to 50% of lead through drinking water. Even at relatively low levels, lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological problems, according to the WHO. Therefore, water quality should always be taken into account.
The other main problem is related to the chlorine used as disinfectant in our drinking water. The main health concern is actually the byproducts created when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water to create harmful chemicals called THM. You’ve probably heard of chloroform, which is just one common THM, and high levels of THM act as carcinogens.
One study found that people absorbed more THMs from a 10-minute hot shower than from drinking a liter of water, so if you’re concerned about this, a shower filtration system that actively removes chlorine may help.