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Today Chicago area citizens have to be asking themselves, “Is our drinking water safe?”

In today’s Chicago Tribune it was reported that “Chicago officials have never tested the city and suburban water supply for pharmaceuticals and other unregulated chemicals.”  For that reason, the Tribune conducted its own testing, and the results are cause for concern and further investigation.

According to the reporters, the tests revealed “tiny amounts of an anti-seizure drug, a common painkiller, caffeine and two chemicals used to make Teflon and Scotchguard” from a sampling taken from Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for many Chicagoans.

The Tribune reported that while the tests do not show the drinking or tap water is unsafe, the results raise questions about the long-term exposure to drugs in the drinking water.  The article further noted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that there does not exist conclusive evidence that pharmaceuticals in drinking water affect human health. 

For consumers of bottled water, and bottled water companies the test results were encouraging.  Tests conducted on bottled water samples from the three best-selling brands in Chicago did not contain any of the chemicals for which tests were conducted, and serve to support the claims from the bottled water industry that their water is clean and safe. 

Governmental oversight of the bottled water industry is somewhat different from oversight of public drinking water.  Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration but is not subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act which requires the Environmental Protection Agency to establish national drinking water standards, called maximum contaminant levels, with respect to public drinking water.

Cities and local governments should notify their citizens of those chemicals and contaminants that are tested by their water departments, those that are not tested, the results of the testing, and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety and quality of their drinking water.

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