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Safe Water and Your Health

Safe Water and Your Health


Water is essential for life. People depend on safe water for their health and livelihood. But contaminated water leads to millions of deaths and even more illnesses every year.

Water pollution is any contamination of water with chemicals or other hazardous substances that are detrimental to human, animal, or plant health.


Possible sources of water contamination are:

  • Corroded water pipes that leach harmful chemicals, such as lead
  • Hazardous waste sites and industrial discharges
  • Pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural operations
  • Naturally occurring hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic
  • Sewage and food processing waste

Drinking Water

Drinking water in the U.S. comes from a variety of sources, including public water systems, private wells, or bottled water. Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people drink contaminated water that could be harmful to their health. Though more of a concern in developing countries, safe drinking water is a U.S. public health priority.

Health Effects

Examples follow of potential drinking water contaminants and reported health effects, which can range from subtle to severe depending on the chemical and total exposure.

  • Arsenic – a known human carcinogen associated with skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer
  • Lead – behavioral and developmental effects in children; and cardiovascular and kidney problems
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  • Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemicals – damage to the immune and reproductive systems
  • Pesticides – neurodevelopmental effects and Parkinson’s disease

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