THE BLOG

Is Your Local Water Supply Safe?

08/26/2010 06:46 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I would wager that there is not much water quality information in your medical record unless, of course, you have been treated for water borne disease. Most of us who live in the U.S. don't give water quality a second thought -- but you might be surprised to learn how water quality varies from city to city.

The University of Cincinnati has a very useful and easy to use application that shows the water quality for metropolitan areas across the U.S. The site allows the visitor to identify metropolitan areas in the U.S. and discover concentrations of selected chemicals, as well as the presence of biological pathogens occurring in the drinking water of these communities. The site contains excellent reference information. In many parts of the U.S. you can see that specific harmful chemicals may dominate a region's drinking water supplies, and thus a physician would be expected to understand what these differences in water quality could actually mean for diagnosing a particular health problem.

Unlike all the other nutrients we ingest, water is mandatory -- no one can live very long without consuming a certain amount of water on a regular basis. While there is expert medical debate on how much water a person actually requires daily, it is clear that without a reliable supply of clean drinking water our personal health is surely threatened. Finding your drinking water quality is not an easy task, unless of course you already know what you are looking for. It also helps to be a chemist! If you can't find this data easily, do you think your doctor will have any better luck?

In spite of all the state and federal agencies charged to measure and report on the quality of our drinking water, I could only find one national level web site -- The New York Times -- that lead me to actual water quality testing data for my city. While the U.S.web EPA website has a great deal of useful information, it was more challenging to discover an actual water quality report for my community. I also know that many local communities provide consumer friendly water quality reports to their citizens, but an interactive web site that allows me to compare my city's water quality to another city somewhere else in the U.S. would be of great value, especially if I am thinking of moving or evaluating the impact of water quality on a specific health problem I am experiencing.

If you have been following my geomedicine column over the past year, you already know that I encourage my readers to discover and explore health relevant data close to home or to places where they have lived. If you're like me, you probably lived in more than one house and probably ingested drinking water without knowledge of its quality (other than its color, taste or smell). I am certain that the water I drink and use in food preparation coming out of my kitchen faucet is as important to my health as a lot of other less conspicuous threats.

So what's my point? Geomedicine is all about connecting environmental information to our personal health and more importantly, encourage our personal physicians to use more of this type of health related information as they work with us to find answers to our health problems. If I am careful enough to live to see my 95th birthday, I will have consumed about 3 billion drops of drinking water -- or about 33,000 gallons or about 124 tons. Anyway you calculate it, that's a lot of any substance going into my body and certainly worthy of taking interest in its quality.

As always I welcome a second opinion.