What the Heck Is in Your Tap Water, Anyway? Part 1


When you look at the water running in your house, it looks nice. It looks, or at least it should look, crystal clear and colorless. It shouldn’t have any smell, and it should taste like absolutely nothing. However, even if it fits all of those criteria pretty well, there is still more in that water than just water. You can read a more, in-depth “Part 2” of this article here.

If you live in the city, there is a whole list of chemicals added to disinfect that water. Some of them sound innocent enough, others sound a little more ominous. Chemicals commonly added to disinfect water include:

  • Liquefied Chlorine – Like in bleach, this is used in small amounts to kill bacteria
  • Fluorosilicic Acid – Used commonly to add fluoride to water
  • Aluminium Sulphate – A clumping agent that makes contaminants float to the top of water so they can be easier to remove.
  • Calcium Hydroxide – A lower cost clumping agent to remove contaminated particles from the water, resulting in a clearer color.
  • Sodium Silicofluoride – Yet another chemical used to fluoridate water

Some of those sound pretty bad, like chlorine, but they are safe in small amounts. Unfortunately, each and every one of those chemicals that are commonly added to your tap water come with pretty terrible health effects when exposed to the human body in high amounts.

Luckily, there are only trace amounts in the water, though. Unluckily, there is no way to control how much people are exposed to them. They get mixed into a big batch of treated water and while one person may drink a single glass of water, another person may drink a dozen. Thus some people get more exposed while others get less exposed. You don’t really see a lot of studies out there drawing a correlation between the amount of water people drink per day and the health effects that treatment chemicals can cause.

So the obvious answer here is to leave the city and get a place with a private well, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you live in the city and enjoy the city water or you pamper yourself in the country with a private well, the water treatment your water goes through is still going to have a lot more stuff you don’t want to drink. This time, though, it comes from nature or at least humans adding things into nature.

Bacteria, Fungus, and Mold

Typically water treatment systems are in place to keep things like fungi, mold, and bacteria out of your drinking water, and they do a pretty good job of it, too. However, bacteria and the like have a way of getting in. Most of the time, bacteria and other contaminants are able to slip into your tap water via a leaky pipe somewhere in your plumbing that allows all the unpleasant things outside the pipe to get into the water line.


This heavy metal is pretty famous now after the Flint water crisis, and it had caused many to wonder how much lead is in their water. Unfortunately, lead usually isn’t just “in water” it comes from the pipes that transport your water. If cities have a particularly old plumbing as well as highly corrosive water, you get problems like Flint.

If you have an older house, it is likely that you have plumbing using pipes that can release trace amounts of lead as well. Drinking lead can cause a number of health and behavior problems, so it has become quite the no-no. However, even brass fixtures and faucets can have large amounts of lead, so just because your house is under 20 years old doesn’t mean it is as lead-free as you might like.

Of course, lead isn’t the only heavy metal you need to worry about either. Metals naturally occur in water throughout the world so you may get higher levels of metal like aluminum, copper, and mercury in some areas than you would see in other areas.


In 2000, the EPA discovered that millions of Americans were drinking water containing at or above 3 parts per billion of arsenic. This doesn’t seem like a lot, and it is not enough to kill you, but many of these drinkers were frequently sick. They had health problems like chest pains, nausea, fatigue, and headaches constantly. That was just from drinking water that had three parts of arsenic per billion.

Although the arsenic in water standard was set fairly low in the 1960s, since that discovery, arsenic levels in water have dropped significantly in the past years, but it can still be a worry.


Prescription drugs are actually one of the biggest growing problems when it comes to our drinking water. As trace amounts of the drug are put back into the water through urine, or worse, flushing said drugs to get rid of them, the particles are building exponentially. One study in particular found even small amount of the drugs used in contraceptive pills were feminizing fish, as in making male fish produce female eggs in their testes. Luckily, we don’t spend as much time in water as fish. Unluckily, these trace amount of prescription drugs aren’t getting any lower.

What To Do About It?

No one really wants to drink their tap water once they find out what is inside it, even if they don’t actually know what is in their specific tap water. However, you don’t need to just sit there and drink it. You don’t even need to switch to bottled water.

If you are worried about what is coming out of your tap, the best option is to get a water filtration system. There are many different options out there, but reverse osmosis systems are the most permanent and effective systems, taking out on average 98 percent of contaminates in water. Other filters don’t even come close to those levels.

If you are concerned about what is in your tap water, and you probably should be, invest in a good filtering system so you can have a satisfying sip of water without having to worry.