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One of the basic essentials for civilised living is easy access to safe drinking water. If you get yours from normal municipal water sources (rather than from your own well or from rainwater), then you may assume that because of standards and testing, the water you drink from the tap is clean, pure, and free of dangerous contaminants.

While this is true to some extent, the regulations on drinking water quality vary regionally, and in Australia the standards only insist on testing for 70 of the thousands of possible contaminants water can be exposed to. These factors also can’t take into account things that happen in your own home; for example contamination from your own pipes, or from bottles you drink from.

Here are some surprising contaminants that might well be in the water you drink every day:

Prescription Drugs and Hormones

Many of the active chemical ingredients of medicines remain in a relatively unchanged state after they pass through the human body, meaning they can make their way back into the water supply. Some of these can remain in their active state in water for years, particularly hormones used in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. Studies of water sources have found traces of many commonly used medications in water, including oestrogens, antidepressants, painkillers, and even agents used in chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

The extent of the problem is difficult to measure at present, however with the long life of many of these chemicals, and the fact that more people than ever are using medications regularly, it is something scientists are monitoring closely. Like most of the other contaminants that can make their way into water, a good water filter such as a carbon block will remove pharmaceutical drugs and their bi-products from your water.


If you’ve heard of lead poisoning, then you’ll know why lead in your water supply would be something to worry about. It can have a terrible effect on the growth of children, as well as their brain development, and can also cause a vast array of unpleasant symptoms in adults. These include increased blood pressure, aches and pains, and even fertility issues.

While lead is tested for in municipal water there are a few ways it can be introduced to your water supply on its way to your glass or bottle. Lead solder has been illegal for use in pipes in Australian homes since the late eighties, however in some older properties it may still be present, and it can also be found in some rainwater tanks (because it is used in building materials and paints). Due to their weight, lead molecules tend to end up in the “first flush” of water to come out of your tank. This means you can often miss lead in your tap water if you test for it after the tap has been running for a while on a given day.

You can remove lead with a filter, and can also mitigate the risk of drinking it by running your tap for 30 seconds prior to pouring your first glass or pitcher of water each morning.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

About the Author: James Smith, works at, a company providing services for water treatment in Connecticut. He is an avid blogger and shares his views on various topics in his articles.

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