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How to Make Your Home Healthy and Safe

Build a Safe Home Playground

Make Your Home a Safe Haven for Kids

Avoid Grill Fires, Explosions and CO Poisoning

Don't Let a Burglar Ruin Your Vacation

Is Your Tap Water Safe?

Are Your Cleaning Products Making Your Family Ill?

Localities Crack Down on Homeowners Alarm Calls

Radon Sends Ripples through Water Systems

Are you a Hazardous Waste Case?


Is Your Tap Water Safe?

A few years ago, a major health episode in Milwaukee drew attention to the vulnerability of the nation's drinking water supplies. An outbreak of a microscopic parasite called cryptosporidium hit the city's water supplies causing an estimated 400,000 illnesses and nearly 50 deaths. Although the nation's drinking water remains basically safe, you need to know about health threats that still exist, says Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.

President Clinton recently announced a federal initiative to provide funding for drinking water system improvements and to address the remaining problems including cryptosporidium. That effort is in line with studies from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealing that contaminants ranging from lead to pesticides are present in the nation's drinking water supplies, sometimes at levels that exceed requirements in the Safe Drinking Water Act. It's not just industrial waste that's causing the problem, either, it's farms and even homeowners who dump household hazardous chemicals down the drain or onto the ground.

The point of all this is not to panic but to stay informed. The solution is to know the risks and minimize your family's exposure to them. After contacting the EPA or your local public utility, you might find your water is quite safe. The worst case scenario is you'll end up buying some filtration equipment for your home.

Don't rush out and order a bunch of expensive tests from an environmental services company before contacting your local utility. Ask them for a water quality analysis that includes the names and levels of major contaminants in your area. (If your home uses a private well, contact your local public health agency for information.) Another source of information is the EPA safe drinking water hotline at (800)426-4791. Unlike other contaminants controlled at the drinking water treatment plant, lead is a potent toxin that is sometimes found in your home's plumbing. You may wish to test your water at the tap using a home testing kit from your local hardware store.

If lead is the problem, a simple carbon water filter is usually effective for removing it. These relatively inexpensive units are also effective for removing certain organic compounds, pesticides and other hazardous pollutants. They work in-line, under-the-counter or just poured from a pitcher. Organic microbes, on the other hand, are very difficult to remove and may require investing in a more expensive filtration system. Before investing in any system, make sure it is listed with the National Sanitation Foundation as effective for removing the specific contaminants you want removed. For a complete listing of equipment, write to NSF at 3475 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.

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