What’s really flowing out of your tap? You’re about to find out. And the real outrage is that it might be perfectly legal.

May 6, 2019 Update:

As of March, the Environmental Working Group has updated their Interactive Water Guide for 2019. The current map finds contaminated water at 610 sites in 43 states, affecting an estimated 19 million people. 

Michigan has the most contaminated water, with 192 sources. California and New Jersey are in a distant second and third places, with 47 and 43 sites, respectively. According to this database—in partnership with Northeastern University's Social Science Environmental Research Institute—the seven states lacking contaminated tap water sites are Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, and Nevada.

The 610 sites with documented contamination contain PFAS—highly toxic flourinated compounds—which are linked to cancer, thyroid disease, reduced childhood immunity, and low infant birth weight among other adverse health outcomes. These PFAS are not only found in water but also a wide range of consumer and industrial products—from Apple Watch wristbands to pizza boxes to firefighting foam. To learn more about PFAS, which products they are found in, and how to avoid them, check out the EWG's Guide to Avoiding PFAS Chemicals.

The original article, published Thursday, August 30, 2018, continues below:


A new initiative by the ecological watchdog known as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is giving Americans the power to really know what’s in their tap water. The group deployed an interactive guide on their website where users can input their zip code and immediately see which contaminants are present in the water systems that serve their communities. And the state of tap water across the country reflects recent trends of seeing dire situations in communities like Flint, Michigan.

Yes, a healthy practice is staying plenty hydrated and making sure that you drink eight or more glasses of water per day – but EWG found contaminants in nearly every water system in the country after compiling water records and testing samples from every state.

The report shows that nearly 80 percent of all water providers in the U.S. are doling out water that is contaminated with cancer-causing pollutants. Nitrate, a toxic chemical used in fertilizing, is past safe levels of consumption for more than 7 million Americans who drink their tap water.

Other common toxins that might be present in your own water: chloroform, arsenic, bromate, and the chlorine-spinoff known as bromodichloromethane. 

Credit: An interactive listing of pollution incidents caused by industrial farming. Map: EWG.

What can you do, in particular, to negate the kickback of the contaminants in your own home? EWG has an extensive purchase guide for all kinds of budgets. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to ensure you’re avoiding some of the pollutants is to purchase a carbon-filter product and continuously switch out the filter itself according to guidelines.