Is Detroit Drinking Water Safe?
Detroit tap water generally meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Some people take that as an indication that it's safe. However, meeting the EPA's standards doesn't necessarily mean the water is safe and healthy. What often happens is contaminants are present at levels below the EPA's standards but at levels that are still high enough to pose health risks. Among these contaminants are chlorine byproducts and coliform bacteria. There is also a host of chemical contaminants that are unregulated by the EPA yet have serious effects on a person's health.
Among the most serious causes of concern with Detroit tap water are trihalomethanes, which are byproducts of the chlorine used to disinfect tap H2O. Many people think chlorine is safe and healthy, but the opposite is true. Trihalomethanes have been linked with certain types of cancers as well as miscarriages. These substances may even cause birth defects. Haloacetic acids are byproducts of chlorine as well. They too have the potential to cause cancer.
Coliform bacteria are another health concern for those drinking unfiltered tap water in Detroit. Coliforms are bacteria that commonly reside in human and animal digestive tracts. They are also commonly found in human and animal fecal matter as well as in soil. There are many types of bacteria that may contaminate tap water, and testing for all of them could prove very difficult. In the interest of practicality, municipal water systems check for pathogen contamination by using an indicator. Coliform bacteria are used as the indicator in many municipalities.
In Detroit, total coliform bacteria levels are a concern. When total coliform bacteria reach concerning levels, this means disease-causing organisms are likely to be present in the water. In the past, Detroit has failed to monitor coliform bacteria as recommended by the EPA. This is another case, however, in which the levels may not be high enough to exceed the EPA's standards but may still be high enough to pose some health risks.
It is worth noting that many types of coliform bacteria are considered harmless, or at least unlikely to cause any sort of disease. Others, however, can cause serious illness. For example, some types of E. coli bacteria cause serious gastrointestinal illness. In some people, this illness becomes serious enough to cause dehydration. Some people even suffer kidney damage because of these bacteria. Others die. Keep in mind that this is only one type of bacteria that is capable of sickening humans.
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