What’s Really In Your Drinking Water

drinking water with blue dye, what's in your drinking water?

If you’ve ever wondered what’s really in the water you drink we’ve got you covered.

Certain properties are sometimes added to your water, which you can find out at the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database, or by contacting your local municipalities.

Then there are also times that certain toxins can get into drinking water. While these may be filtered or at such low levels that they can’t cause any direct harm, it could still be considered by some to be unsafe to be drinking these over a long term.

Find out more information about what’s in your drinking water in this infographic.

Don’t Let Your Drinking Water Destroy You

Discover the Hidden Elements — Good and Bad — in Your Drinking Water

You get home from a long, hard workout and need something cool to quench your thirst.

You wake up in the middle of the night and your throat is so parched you can hardly stand it.

You need a drink that perfectly pairs with every dish you’re planning for a fancy dinner party.

The answer to all of these problems is water.

But what happens when your water isn’t clean?


Image Source: Pixabay.com

​Would you be able to tell if there was something lurking in your tap water, just waiting to destroy you and the ones you love? And even if it won’t hurt you, don’t you want to know what minerals, chemicals, or other little invisible elements are hanging out in your faucets and glasses?

Fear no longer, my friend. With a little bit of information, you can not only know exactly what is in your drinking water, you can know the reasons why, how, and what it means for you and your family.

You don’t have to be afraid of the water any more!

What should You Want Added to Your Drinking Water?

The addition of some elements to your drinking water is on purpose.

It’s not pollution — these elements are added to your drinking water when it is in the plant, not when it’s in its natural wild habitat.

And while they don’t make your water taste better, they do make it a bit healthier.

Well, sort of. The jury is still out a little bit on that one.

But knowledge is half the battle, and when you know what is in your water you will be better able to make your own choices about what you want to put into your body via drinking water.

Fluoride isn’t Just for the Dentist Anymore

Fluoride is probably the most well-known drinking water additive.

Starting in the 1940s, fluoride has been added to public water sources all throughout the United States. Although now the issue of fluoride water is a little contentious, at the time, it was all for a good purpose: clean and healthy teeth for all.


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In the beginning (1940s Michigan), researchers discovered that a small community had much lower rates of cavities than their similarly equipped neighbors. After some careful analysis of a variety of community factors, they discovered that the answer was right in front of them: drinking water. It contained a high amount of natural fluoride. Thus the plan to add fluoride to everyone’s drinking water was born.

Fluoride, the stuff in toothpaste and that your dentist uses for deep tooth cleanings, has been believed to prevent cavity development and build tooth enamel.

But it’s not all good.

Fluoride is actually a neurotoxin that can damage the endocrine system, especially in kids. The theory has been that there isn’t enough fluoride in the drinking water to actually affect anyone negatively, but the tide may be changing on that idea as scientists do more researcher.

In 2015, the official recommended level of added fluoride was lowered for the first time since the 1940s, and some cities, states, and countries are actually moving away from including fluoride in their drinking water at all.

Fluoride’s bottom line? It does indeed prevent cavities, and small amounts of fluoride in our drinking water can be beneficial to the overall rate of cavities in those communities. However, the more recent studies about negative health effects from fluoride (especially on the brain) are pretty scary. A small amount of fluoride might be okay, but keep an eye out.

Don’t Drink the Pool Water, but…

… you’re getting some chlorine anyway.

Chlorine is the second commonly added element to general drinking water. And much like fluoride, there’s some debate about whether the benefits outweigh the potential consequences.

The process of drinking water chlorination began in New Jersey in 1908, and by the 1990s about 65% of America’s drinking water included trace amounts of chlorine.

First added to drinking water in an effort to prevent bacteria from growing in city’s water supplies, chlorine can kill water-borne diseases that could marinate and grow at any point in the water processing plant and water transportation system. Good that they’re taking care of that, right?

Well, yes and no. It’s great that our drinking water is safe from insidious pathogens and bacteria that could cause major illness. But unfortunately, some studies have shown that when chlorine mixes with water and creates hydrochloric acid, some pretty serious repercussions can occur. Impaired balance and memory and respiratory problems are just some of the possible consequences of ingestion of too much hydrochloric acid.

The CDC maintains that the low level of chlorine in common drinking water isn’t enough to hurt anyone (unless you’re already part of a susceptible population, like you have other health concerns or a known chlorine sensitivity).

And that chlorine taste sure doesn’t help.

Now for the Nasty

Don’t freak out, but those were just the purposefully added elements. There are plenty of other dangerous and gross things that can be added to your water (from a lot of different sources) that will legit hurt you, no debate needed.

(designer_start) [include the following elements in individual boxes. Add a related picture (like a lead pipe would work for lead) with each element. Boxes should pop out from the web page background] (designer_end)


Image Source: pixabay.com


This is a bad one. Eating or drinking lead can cause major damage to every single organ in your body (remember the dangers of lead paint?) in addition to causing developmental disorders, and unless you get your drinking water tested pretty regularly, it might be difficult to determine if there’s lead lurking in it.

Usually, lead leaks into your drinking water through corroded pipes, so keep those up-to-date. And if you suspect there’s lead in your water, get that checked out ASAP.


Image Source: www.flickr.com


Recently break a thermometer and dump it in your well? Maybe don’t drink that water anymore.

Mercury is a naturally-occuring substance, but that doesn’t mean it should be in your water. In fact, it’s super toxic and can cause blindness, mood swings, brain impairment, and more if consumed.

Mercury ends up in the water by way of air pollution, so there’s not too much you can do on your end to fix it other than get it tested and filtered.


Image Source: pixabay.com


Okay, this one even sounds bad.

Arsenic can also get into your water by way of pollution (thanks, industrial waste dumping), and the consequences are pretty severe. Arsenic poisoning will start off with some stomach issues, but consistent ingestion can cause cancers and death.


Did you know that cigarette smoke can cause respiratory problems even when it’s in your water?

Sound crazy. But that’s what dioxins are: pollution from smoke (from fires, cigarettes, burning oil, etc.) that end up in your water sources. Dioxins are indeed carcinogens, and exposure to them can lead to a host of issues, including consequences for the reproductive, nervous, immune, and endocrine systems in the body.


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Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT)

No, people aren’t trying to kill mosquitoes in your water.

But DDT, the famed and dangerous bug killer that has been used to fight malaria and typhus, is awfully destructive to your body, too. When consumed, it can cause cancer, liver issues, and reproductive system damage.


Image Source: pixabay.com


Used in rocket fuel and in explosives, this chemical compound can do some crazy stuff.

Unfortunately, when it gets into the groundwater and infiltrates drinking water sources, it can do some crazy stuff to your body, and not in a cool action movie way.

Perchlorate mostly affects the thyroid, but because the thyroid affects so many of your body’s processes, it’s still a pretty serious deal.


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Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

This chemical was officially banned in the 1970s, but it’s still not quite out of the world’s system yet.

Used mostly in industrial settings, polychlorinated biphenyls are still hanging out in landfills all over the place, leading to contaminated water sources and eventually to serious health repercussions for all those who ingest it. They can cause cancer as well as intense damage to the endocrine system, reproductive system, and nervous system. And that’s just what we know so far.


This herbicide is used to keep our fruits and veggies safe and protected from bugs and disease. But it doesn’t keep people safe and protected from anything when it gets in the drinking water.

Despite studies showing severe damage to animals (especially in the liver, spleen, adrenal glands, and kidneys) who consume dacthal, it is still used today.


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Another pesticide. Another banned chemical. Another danger that is still lurking.

Massive exposure causes death. Limited exposure causes skin lesions and liver disease.


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Methyl tertiary-butyl ether

This one is one of the scariest.

There hasn’t been enough testing done to completely demonstrate the consequences, but animal testing has shown that seizures, fetal development issues, and kidney damage are all likely issues of exposure and ingestion.

And It’s Not Over Yet

Even if your water doesn’t have any of the previous terrible chemicals inside it, there are still ways your water can make you sick.

But don’t give up on your drinking water just yet.

Giardia and cryptosporidium are parasites that can get into your water when there is a breakdown in the sanitation process. Only drink clean water, and keep your distance from people who are already infected.

Nitrates from fertilizer and manure are pretty common water contaminants, especially in rural areas.

Old piping is another water concern: in 2020, the majority of the United States’ water piping infrastructure will be at least 45 years old. Push for pipe upkeep to keep that lead out!

​More Numbers to Keep in Your Head

For a quick and easy check of possible water contamination, do a pH check.

Your water should be between 6.5 and 8.5 pH; if it’s under or above, it’s not necessarily unhealthy or dangerous, but it could be a sign that there’s something else going on in your water.

For a quick check, use the chart below as a reference for acceptable and common pH levels of various types of water. Take a look at all of your waters!

  • Tap Water: 7.5 pH

  • Distilled reverse osmosis water: 5-7 pH

  • Common bottled water: 6.5-7.5 pH

  • Alkaline labeled bottled water: 8-9 pH

  • Ocean water: 8 pH

  • Acid rain water: 5-5.5 pH

​Keep on Drinking’

Step by Step:


Learn about the bad stuff that could be in your water.



​Test your water. Start with a simple pH test and move on to more specific tests from there.


​Talk to some professionals. If you discover some unsavory elements in your water, start talking. Talk to your landlord, your water company, your local government and state representatives. Don’t let your water problems go unnoticed.

Don’t just wonder if your water is okay as you glug it down, test it yourself! Your health is in your hands, so get to work.

Featured image via Pixhere

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Hi I'm Jamie, teacher and owner/chief contributor at waterfilteranswers.com. We strive to bring you the most informative water filter reviews in the most intuitive and user friendly way. Besides offering advice on the water filter to suit your needs, we also post topical articles on water pollution and the environment. Stay connected and follow us on, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more!

1 Comment
  1. Oh my!! All these harmful chemicals can be present in our drinking water? I can’t believe this. So alarming and threatening! Thanks for this infos!???

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