Due to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), America's drinking water is safer than it has been in decades, and of better quality than that of many other countries. Accordingly, many Americans believe that while people elsewhere may have reason to be concerned about getting sick from contaminated tap water, we are safe. Yet, incidents in the United States ? such as the outbreak of the microorganism cryptosporidium in Milwaukee's water supply in 1993 that killed more than one hundred people and sickened over 400,000, and lead and pesticide contamination ? while not affecting most, threaten the tap water of millions of Americans.
In truth, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, in 1994 and 1995, 45 million Americans drank water from water systems that fell short of SDWA standards. Adding gravity to the situation, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the EPA advised that people with weakened immune systems should consult with their doctors and consider boiling their drinking water to kill any cryptosporidium.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Some scientists believe that for every outbreak reported in the United States, another ten may be occurring. One such study found that as many as one in three gastrointestinal illnesses ? often chalked up to "stomach flu" ? are caused by drinking water contaminated with microorganisms. Such microbial-related outbreaks say nothing about the many other hazards borne by our nation's water supply. Researchers have shown that millions of Americans regularly drink tap water that is contaminated with toxic and cancer-causing chemicals such as lead, trihalomethanes (THMs), arsenic, radioactive materials, and pesticides. A 1994 study estimated that some 14.1 million Americans drank water contaminated with the pesticides atrazine, cyanazine, simazine, alachlor, and metolachlor. The manufacturers of these agricultural herbicides have shown that these chemicals may cause cancer,