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Need to Know

How Safe Is Your Local Drinking Water?

By: Karen Cicero

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A couple of months ago, I told you about my friend Kristin -- the most environmentally conscious person I know -- who was worried about the effect of BPA (a compound commonly used in plastics) on her kids’ health. Well, now Kristin is moving. Her hubby’s company gave him a few options for a transfer, and the family is weighing the pros and cons of each.

While Kristin didn’t have a hard time researching schools (GreatSchools.org), housing prices (Zillow.com) or air quality (StateOfTheAir.org), she was having trouble looking into the drinking water quality in her area. Her family filters water at home. But her two kids, like my daughter, are huge water drinkers and are always refilling their bottles in the fountains at school and the playground. Plus, they typically have water at restaurants -- and most of the time free restaurant water is straight from the tap. It’s important to Kristin to live in a community with clean water so she doesn’t have to worry if her kids are quenching their thirst with cancer-causing chemicals still found in some local water supplies.

I told Kristin that I’d help her out. (And if you ever need anything, post your concern and I’ll see what I can do!) I started by contacting Cathy Milbourn from the Environmental Protection Agency. She said that every July, residents should be mailed a water-quality report from their local water supplier. The report lists the levels of common water containments. Check out the EPA website for help understanding the report.

That report is helpful, of course, if you’re already a resident. But what about if you’re like my friend Kristin and want to compare water quality in different towns? The EPA does provide links to the water-quality reports for many areas of the country here. The water supplier is required by law to do it if they serve 100,000 people or more. If you don’t see the report in the system, you can reach out to the water supplier directly for a copy of it. (Their contact info is on the EPA site.) While you’re at it, check whether your local community’s water contains fluoride, which helps build strong teeth. If it doesn’t, talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician.

Another helpful resource: The Environmental Working Group maintains National Drinking Water Database, which compares thousands of communities. With just a quick glance, I was able to find out that Arlington, Texas, and Providence, R.I., boast the cleanest water; Pensacola, Fla., and Riverside, Calif., have the worst. Fascinating! Take a peek and read the tips for safe water here. How did your community fare?

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Karen Cicero

is Completely You’s Need to Know blogger. A health journalist and magazine editor with more than 15 years of experience, she has contributed to such publications as Prevention, SELF and Health, and she has edited the dental column for Heart & Soul magazine.

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