Saturday, January 12, 2013

Is my drinking water unsafe?

Or, "should I get a Brita?"

I found the 2011 Pittsburgh Water Report. Looks like our water is better than the EPA standards in all categories.

I'd like all categories to beat the MCLG (minimum contaminant level goal; the value below which it is totally safe), not just the MCL (EPA guideline.) I guess the MCLG is 0 in Lead, Uranium, Radium, and Beta Photon Emitters. (there are also 5 categories where MCLG is unavailable.)
In particular, lead was on my mind for some reason, and Pittsburgh water 90th percentile is 10ppb. So 90% of the water in Pittsburgh is under 10ppb. And this site says rivers have 3-30ppb (parts per billion) lead. So unless the other 10% is crazy high, I'm still in the "as safe as rivers" zone.
For uranium, well, looks like the WHO is stricter, but their MCL is 15 micrograms/liter (EPA is 30), and Pittsburgh's level is 1.77. Also, looks like anion exchange and reverse osmosis are the only ways to remove it. This is more than a Brita, which means more maintenance than I really want to deal with. So I'm okay on the uranium too.
Can't find good info quickly on radium or beta photon emitters, and this is an hour more than I meant to spend already!

So, in conclusion: no. Should you get a Brita? Beats me, check your local water report, but if you're in Pittsburgh you should be okay without one. Or, at least, if you're arguing pro-Brita for health reasons, the burden of proof is on you.

EDIT: It was pointed out to me that the EWG gives a more complete picture of stuff in our water. Based on that, haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes seem to be mildly problematic (in both we're between the one-in-a-million lifetime cancer risk and the one-in-ten-thousand; well below all non-cancer risk rates). Let's average it and say that by drinking these I'm adding about a 1-in-100,000 risk of getting cancer. Not great; however, given the additional complexity and cost I'd introduce by adding a pitcher or tap filter to my life, replacing the filters, etc, I'll take the 1-in-100,000 risk instead. (Also, I don't know if a Brita even removes those things from our water!) So I still say don't get a Brita, but for slightly different reasons.


yincrash said...

What about as insurance for when there's a sewage leak, and you haven't checked the local news before drinking your first cup of the day.

Dan Tasse said...

... and it doesn't happen to be noticeably brown. Think that's rare and harmless enough that it doesn't justify adding a whole new system to my life.

(I thought you were kidding, but I wasn't sure.)

Aquaread said...

Water testing kits are readily available and affordable, so if people are so inclined, they can invest and find out how safe the water they are drinking is.