Polluted drinking water is the leading cause of U.S. adults’ concerns about the environment, according to a new nationwide survey by Gallup of more than 1,000 people from every state and the District of Columbia.
Fifty-seven percent of adults “worried a great deal” about contaminated tap water, the poll found, including 68 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of people who identify as independents and 42 percent of Republicans.
Broad concerns about the state of the nation’s drinking water among people with an array of political leanings should not come a surprise, noted Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president for science investigations at the Environmental Working Group.
“Contaminated water has been and continues to be a significant concern for the majority of the population, as the results of the survey show,” Naidenko said.
“Every community and household in the country has drinking water that is almost certainly contaminated with some level of pollutants, but some places have much more serious challenges than others when it comes to safe drinking water,” she said.
“Some of the most persistent pollution problems include underserved urban communities and communities of color and agriculture-intensive rural parts of the country,” she added.
The water utilities serving these communities often don’t have the resources to adopt effective, yet expensive, technologies to lower the level of various pollutants, including industrial chemicals like PFAS, chromium-6, nitrates and pesticides from nearby farms that foul drinking water sources from nearby farms, and many others.
The U.S. tap water system is plagued by antiquated infrastructure and rampant pollution of source water. Out-of-date Environmental Protection Agency regulations, often relying on archaic science, allow unsafe levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water.
To help inform and empower consumers concerned about the quality of their water, EWG recently updated its national tap water database.
Consumers can enter a ZIP code into the database and see a report of the type and amount of toxic chemicals detected in that location’s drinking water. They can also see safety assessments developed by EWG scientists about the adverse health effects associated with exposure to those contaminants.
To create the Tap Water Database, EWG’s researchers and scientists spent more than two years collecting and analyzing U.S. water contaminant test data from almost 50,000 water systems.