Antioxidants In Green Tea Might Protect You From Toxins In Drinking Water, Finds Study 

Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor By Stephanie Eckelkamp
Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor
Stephanie is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition.

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It's not fun to think about, but even in the U.S., access to safe drinking water is not guaranteed. Case in point: the public health disaster that was Flint, Michigan. And though our drinking water has been regulated under the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act since 1974, many experts don't believe it goes far enough—in fact, only about 90 contaminants are regulated under the act while studies have revealed hundreds of contaminants in the water supply.

But, while there's no question we need better regulation of these pollutants, there are still things we can do as individuals to stay healthy—even beyond buying a great water filter. Turns out, what we eat and drink may play a surprising role in buffering the negative effects of certain chemicals present in tap water.

A new study presented at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting finds that two antioxidants—vitamin C and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—may reduce the damage done by hexavalent chromium, a contaminant that often enters the water supply via industrial waste. Fun fact: Hexavalent chromium was the cancer-causing chemical featured in the movie Erin Brockovich, and research shows that it still contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states.

For the study, researchers exposed human cells to a solution containing different concentrations of hexavalent chromium. They noted toxic effects on the cells at concentrations of 200 parts per billion (ppb) or higher. But—and this is the really cool part—those toxic effects could be completely blocked by adding vitamin C at 10 parts per million (ppm) or EGCG at 15 ppm. Vitamin C was also able to prevent DNA mutations in bacteria exposed to the chemical.

Vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits and veggies, including citrus, berries, and bell peppers, while EGCG is the main antioxidant present in green tea. It's not clear yet exactly how much protection you'd get by upping your intake of these antioxidants in your diet. But, as these compounds are associated with so many other benefits—from increased immunity to a reduced risk of cancer—consuming more of them is only going to help you out.

Researchers say that adding these antioxidants directly to the water supply could counteract hexavalent chromium's toxic effects. Until then? We'll be loading up on matcha with lemon and filtering our water (with one of these great filters) like our lives depend on it.

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