Common Tap Water Contaminants

Should You Be Concerned?

Regulation is No Guarantee of Tap Water Safety

drinking water quality

When you turn on the tap, you expect your water to be safe. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in countless news stories over the years, this isn’t always the case. Although our municipal water supplies are regulated, this doesn’t guarantee that nothing will leach into your water while en route from the reservoir to your home. Additionally, current regulations do not protect you from a growing list of "emerging contaminants". These include contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and hormones, which are not yet regulated by the EPA.

Common Waterborne Contaminants Include:

Some of the most common tap water contaminants in North America include Lead, Mercury, Chlorine, Chloramine, Organic Chemicals (including pesticides, herbicides, gasoline, and detergents), and Emerging Contaminants (including pharmaceuticals and hormones).

Keep reading to learn more about each of these common tap water contaminants . . .


lead exposure from water supply pipes

Lead exposure, especially in young children, can have both physical and behavioral effects. Even with low levels of exposure, lead has been linked to many serious health issues. Nerve damage, learning disabilities, decreased kidney function, hypertension, and birth defects have all been linked to lead exposure. 

It’s because of this that the EPA has set a maximum lead contaminant level goal of zero under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means that they believe any presence of lead could be harmful. One of the reasons lead is so dangerous is that it bioaccumulates in your body. This means that while any lead exposure can impose health risks, these risks continue to increase over time as your body continues to store additional lead. 

If lead contamination is a concern for you, be sure to check out our resource article about lead in drinking water: Lead in Water: What You Need to Know.



While inorganic forms of Mercury are less likely to cause harm to adults, they still cause issues for children and can potentially be passed from mothers to their unborn children. 

Organic Mercury Compounds are much more harmful as “they are easily absorbed into the blood through the digestive tract and, at high levels, can damage the nervous system and kidneys.” When children are exposed to high levels of mercury, it can lead to lifelong developmental issues.

Chlorine and Chloramine

Chlorine and Chloramine are common disinfectants used in water treatment plants throughout the country. Unfortunately, if not properly removed, chlorine or chloramine left in the water supply can lead to multiple issues including bad taste and odor in drinking water, and causing and/or aggravating respiratory problems and skin reactions (such as rashes, flaking, drying, eye irritation, etc.) in the shower.

When chloramine levels are high enough, it has also been linked to more serious problems in the digestive system and the kidneys. 

Organic Chemicals (Pesticides, Herbicides, Detergents and VOCs)

crop duster spraying field with organic chemicals

Organic chemicals are a group of chemical compounds that are used in many products “such as pesticides, gasoline, dry-cleaning solvents, and degreasing agents.” These chemicals find their way into our water sources through both runoff and by being flushed down drains daily.

Typically these will only impact your health when exposure occurs over long periods of time, but they can lead to cardiovascular problems as well as reproductive problems. 

Emerging Contaminants (Pharmaceuticals and Hormones)

emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals can be found in drinking water supply

According to the EPA, contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), including pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), are increasingly being detected at low levels in surface water throughout the U.S. According to the Water Quality Association, up to 90% of oral drugs end up in the water supply after passing through the human body. While the risk to human health is not fully understood, these contaminants are being found to impact the endocrine system leading to a variety of health effects caused by fluctuations in hormonal health. 

How Do You Find Out Which Contaminants are in Your Water?

Knowing these contaminants can find their way into municipal water supplies, how can you protect yourself? Thankfully, there are several steps that you can take that are relatively easy. 

Test Your Water

Testing your water is the best way to get an accurate picture of what's actually in your tap water.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to avoid TDS meters when looking for a water test. Instead, look for an option that tests for a broad range of actual contaminants, not just total dissolved solids (TDS). 

The reason you want to avoid using a TDS meter is that TDS is a poor measure of water quality. In fact, TDS in drinking water is typically attributed to the levels of beneficial minerals present in your water supply. These beneficial minerals (such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium) are known to support good health and improve taste. Find a water testing kit that measures the levels of unhealthy contaminants in your water that are of true concern.

A number of quality DIY at-home water test kits are readily available. Alternatively, you can also contact your local water authority directly. They can refer you to a lab where you can send your water sample in for testing. 

How Do I Remove Contaminants from My Water?

Consider Adding a Quality Water Filtration System

Once you know which contaminants are in your tap water, it's easy to protect yourself with the right water filtration system. Look for a point-of-use water filter or whole house water filtration system that targets your specific contaminants. As you begin to shop for your filter, it is extremely important to find a system that has been tested and certified (for NSF/ANSI Standards) by one of the industry's trusted third-party testing laboratories: WQA, NSF or IAPMO. 

Sadly, the water filtration industry is riddled with manufacturers who make unvalidated, exaggerated, and even completely false performance claims. This is why it is important to find a water filter that is certified by a trusted independent NSF/ANSI laboratory. This will ensure that a water filter is actually removing the contaminants and contaminant levels that the manufacturer claims.

Validate Performance Certification Claims

You can find a full list of certified contaminant reduction claims on a water filter's Performance Data Sheet. It will also include the certification seal of the independent laboratory that performed the testing and certification. And remember, "tested to NSF/ANSI standards" does not always mean "NSF/ANSI certified". It is not uncommon for uncertified water filtration products to use this type of language to imply NSF/ANSI certification. Be sure to look for the certification seal and claims statement. Additionally, you can validate certification claims by visiting the website of the certifying laboratory.

WaterChef offers a variety of powerful water filtration systems capable of reducing a broad range of common tap water contaminants. These include the U9000 Under-Sink Water Filter System and C7000 Countertop Water Filter System. Additionally, the SF-7C Shower Filter provides powerful chlorine reduction for your shower water as well.

All WaterChef filtration systems are independently tested and certified by either IAPMO R&T or WQA. These are two of the most trusted and highly regarded NSF/ANSI testing laboratories in the water filtration industry. Requiring the strictest of compliance standards, they are valued by consumers, manufacturers, and regulatory agencies worldwide.

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