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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Ground Water & Drinking Water
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Drinking Water and Health: What you need to know

   • Printable version of this document [PDF]
   • En Español

EPA 816-K-99-001
October 1999

what contaminants may be found in drinking water? where does drinking water come from? how is drinking water treated? what if i have special health needs? what are the health effects of drinking water contaminants? who is responsible for drinking water quality? what is a violation of a drinking water standard? how can i help protect drinking water? The United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, national statistics don't tell you specifically about the quality and safety of the water coming out of your tap. That's because drinking water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which it is drawn and the treatment it receives.

Now you have a new way to find information about your drinking water, if it comes from a public water supplier. (EPA doesn't regulate private wells, but does have recommendations for their owners.) Every community water supplier must provide an annual report (sometimes called a consumer confidence report) to its customers. The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water's source, the contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water. If you have been looking for specific information about your drinking water, this annual report will provide you with the information you need to begin your investigation.

These annual reports will by necessity be short documents. You may want more information, or have more questions. One place you can go is to your water supplier, who is best equipped to answer questions about your specific water supply. This page will help you find other sources of information.

Tap Into Prevention: Drinking Water Information for Health Care Providers: This continuing education video explains potential health risks from exposure to microbial and chemical contaminants in drinking water and demonstrates actions health care providers can take in their practices. It's available in DVD and VHS formats.

For an overview of drinking water issues, read Water on Tap: A Consumer's Guide to the Nation's Drinking Water. You may wish to consult EPA's drinking water glossary if you find unfamiliar terms in the following pages. For other assistance, please contact the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the Adobe PDF files on this page. See EPA's PDF page for more information about getting and using the free Acrobat Reader.

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