5 Most Toxic Substances Found in City Water

Your body loses water through urine and sweat every single day, and somehow, this water must be replenished on a regular basis for optimal health.

The body utilizes water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to maintain bodily functions – your kidney’s and liver rely on water to flush out waste – and regulate temperature. Water is particularly essential in flushing out your system of environmental chemicals, toxins, and metals from the body.

It’s easy to think that the cursory drink from the kitchen sink or drinking fountain is adequate, but depending on where you live, you might be surprised to find out what toxic substances you actually end up putting into your body, when your genuine intent is to flush them out.

Here is a list of toxic substances found in city water, and what those toxins do to the body.

1. Fluoride

Really, what’s so bad about fluoride? It’s in toothpaste, isn’t it? People take fluoride tablets, don’t they? Doesn’t fluoride help fight tooth decay and improve bone strength? All these side benefits of fluoride are true, so why not keep pumping city water with fluorine?

One reason: In a single portion of city drinking water (1 cup) the body receives a dosage of 2.433g of fluoride. (1)

Putting this into perspective, the average adult male is advised to drink 3.7 liters of water each day (15 cups). 15 X 2.433g of fluorine per cup = 36.495grams. So, one man roaming the city is drinking roughly 16 whole grams more than the amount any one person is supposed to have during a given day. (2)

Furthermore, if that same person were to brush their teeth at least twice a day, that would also contribute to one’s exposure to fluoride. Cooking with tap water also means that your food becomes fluoridated. Tea and gelatin have fluorine in them, and almost all seafoods have some natural fluoride of their own.

Low doses of fluorine – up to 20mg a day – appear to be safe for most people, however, the average person in any city that fluoridates its water is getting 40g of fluorine or higher added to their regular diet. (3) In high doses, fluoride actually has the opposite effect of its intended purpose, making bones more brittle, and weakening tooth enamel. (4)

Recent studies have even linked fluoride to brain and kidney damage, as well as increasing the risk of cancer, and affecting the placental barrier in pregnant women. (5)

2. Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)

Another term with the word ‘fluorine’ in it. These compounds can leech into a city’s water supply in multiple ways, the first being that they were already there to begin with.

Most water sources are affected by the remnants of their past, including past chemical innovations – which have now been proven to increase toxicity – and yet still linger in the rivers and aquifers supplying a city’s drinking water. (6) Also, these compounds are what make up a large range of consumer products: cookware, medical equipment, paints and inks, firefighting foams, and even motor oil additives. Driving around, fighting large fires, washing paints down the sink – these are just a few ways PFCs can contaminate our water supply. (7)

An increasing group of PFCs – like PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) – are now commonly referred to as ‘gender-bending’ chemicals, because of their effect on the body’s sex hormones. (8) In animal studies, these PFCs have been linked to increased cholesterol, infertility, thyroid disease, cancer, and further problems with the immune system.

  • Thyroid disease: PFOA is responsible for damaging thyroid function by targeting the thyroglobulin protein produced in the thyroid. In turn, this damaged protein, usually responsible for binding iodine to hormones in the body, can no longer do its job – essentially affecting every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. (9)
  • Infertility: PFOS in the body increases the odds of infertility from 70% to 134%, while PFOA increases the odds from 60% to 154%. (10)
  • Cancer: Finally, based on animal testing, PFOA has been linked to tumors in at least four different organs’ – the pancreas, testicles, liver, and mammary glands. The EPA has stated that PFOA “poses developmental and reproductive risks to humans.” (11)

Keep track of how much fluorine you might be taking into your body each day. Deadly PFC’s enter your body in trace amounts because of fluorine. Limit the little things like cooking with tap water, ordering tap water at restaurants, and using cookware made with perfluorinated compounds.

3. Arsenic

What can’t fluorine be blamed for? – the most frequent form of fluoride used in water fluoridation is actually hexafluorosilic acid, and it has been known to regularly be contaminated with arsenic. (12)

Arsenic levels in common drinking water are already unusually high due to natural groundwater contamination, made even more undrinkable by added arsenic in fluorine. A deadly carcinogen, arsenic has been linked with several types of cancer such as skin, lungs, bladder, and kidneys, and drinking city water can certainly increase your chances of contracting them. (13)

There’s no reason to panic though because only long term exposure to arsenic can lead to the development of cancer and most people are either aware of their need to filtrate tap water, or don’t drink enough unfiltered water for arsenic levels to accumulate.

It’s better to be vigilant about possible arsenic poisoning and to find new methods of getting in your daily water intake. Avoid drinking straight from the tap or public water fountains.

4. Heavy Metals

Natural metals in a water source are not something to fear. Trace elements from rain percolating through rock are actually necessary for the body, and facilitate natural healthy functions.

Heavy toxic metals, however, can leech into a water supply as easily as living in a house or apartment with older water pipes. Lead and copper can seep from older metal piping and soldered joints into the water rushing through them, straight out the tap, and into a cup being filled. Toxic metals can also contaminate water resources largely through human activity: mining, landfills, even agricultural activities. (14)

  • Lead: Inhibits oxygen and calcium transport through the body, and alters nerve transmissions in the brain: in a bloodstream lead poisoning can lead to brain damage, kidney damage, blood disorders, anemia, and even death in extreme cases. (15)
  • Copper: Helps the body’s production of red blood cells, and keeps nerve cells and the immune system healthy, however in large doses – like copper poisoning through a houses old pipes – copper can be very acidic. Found any higher than 1.3g per liter in drinking water, copper can lead to anemia, liver and kidney damage, and even jaundice. (16)
  • Chromium: Mostly a bi-product of mining or incineration, it can also be found in detergents and cookware, and is responsible for liver and kidney damage. (17)

5. Chlorine

In recent years, many local governments have started using chlorine as a disinfectant in drinking waters to reduce or eliminate microorganisms such bacteria and viruses that might be present in available fresh water.

What most people aren’t aware of, however, is that chlorine can react with the organic matter in water and end up forming hazardous, carcinogenic chemicals. One such example is trihalomethanes. (18)

Recent research into chlorine’s effect on water as a purifier has shown an increased risk of bladder and colorectal cancers, as well as reported damage on the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. (19) Pregnant women appear to be especially at risk, as trihalomethanes – chloroform being an example of one of these – have been linked to reproductive problems and miscarriage. (20)

Fortunately, chlorine is more or less bleach, and what comes out of most municipal faucets is a mild bleach solution. Alone, this can’t kill you, especially in its usual filtrated small doses, however, it’s wise to periodically test your tap water for heavy amounts of chlorine or possible trihalomethanes.


It is standard practice for most governments to filter a city’s waters with fluoride and chlorine, but the risks of these chemicals as cleaning agents actually decreases the value of drinking water rather than increases it.

Also, keep in mind, that concerns about the health risks of drinking/bottled water shouldn’t encourage the consumption of unhealthy beverages such as sweetened drinks or alcoholic drinks, which actually pose greater health risks than those associated with drinking water.

Being aware of toxic substances in a city’s water can be the first step towards creating change in the kinds of bottled water you look for, or even changing/creating your own approach to filtering the water which runs into your house.

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