At first glance, the database is alarming: 250 chemicals were detected in American drinking water overall (160 of which are not regulated by the federal government). Even more worrying, 81 percent of systems tested had contaminants that have been linked to cancer. Some of the most notable offenders include Chloroform and Chromium-6, though more research still needs to be done on exactly how much of these we need to ingest to be at risk.
Despite being lauded as some of the cleanest in the country, scroll through Manhattan's tap and you'll find six contaminants present at levels that are technically legal, but the EWG deems potentially unsafe.
"Legal doesn't necessarily always mean safe," EWG senior scientist David Andrews tells mbg. "The legal limits are often a few decades old, and these limits can be in negotiation between the EPA and water utilities."
EWG scientists compiled peer-reviewed research to land on chemical limits they feel are safe for the everyday consumer. To do so, they relied on trailblazing states that put lots of money into cleaning up local utilities, like California, whose state regulations are more stringent than the federal ones on 30 to 40 chemicals.
Andrews thinks that special interest groups are in large part to blame for the somewhat lax federal standards. "This database shows the inability of the EPA to set any new contaminant regulations in over two decades, due in large part to significant pushback from potentially regulated industries. Chemical companies have significant financial incentives to delay changes to the current regulations, especially if that company would be liable for its pollution down the road."