It’s the easiest drink in the house when you’re expecting. But how can you be sure your tap water is safe to drink when you’re drinking for two? Here’s what you need to know.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the water contamination problems some cities are having, from Flint, Michigan to Jackson, Mississippi. And while water polluted with toxins is unsafe for anyone to drink, it’s especially hazardous for expectant moms and young children — which is why some cities are issuing warnings to moms-to-be and parents of young kids to avoid water from the tap. When you’re drinking water for two, it’s especially important to know where your drinking water comes from, how it’s been treated and if it’s safe to drink.
Water toxins to watch for during pregnancy

In most cities and homes, the water that comes from the tap is both safe and drinkable. But, rarely, that crystal clear water pouring from the tap contains contaminants that, at high levels, may cause problems for young children and pregnant women. A few of the most common contaminants and why they’re especially problematic during pregnancy include:

  • Lead. One of the most serious toxins, lead gets into tap water when lead pipes that bring water to your neighborhood or that are in your home corrode, leaching lead into the water. Pipe corrosion is more likely to occur when your water has high acidity or low mineral content, and houses built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes. Lead exposure during pregnancy and childhood has been associated with reduced cognitive function, lower IQ and increased attention-related behavioral problems.
  • Microorganisms and bacteria. E. coli, Giardia and noroviruses can potentially infiltrate a city’s water supply or your neighborhood well water through sewage or animal waste contamination. These cause severe gastrointestinal illness, which can be more dangerous for moms-to-be, whose immune systems are suppressed.
  • Pesticides. The organic chemicals glyphosate or trichloroethylene may get in water from agricultural pesticides and runoff from crop production. Some evidence suggests drinking pesticide-contaminated water increases risk of reduced fetal growth.
  • Industrial chemicals. These enter the water supply from factory and manufacturing plant runoff and have been linked to a slight increased risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.
  • Disinfection byproducts. Chloroform is one example of this type of contaminant, which forms when chemical disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter in water. Some small studies have found a link between disinfection byproducts in drinking water and an increased risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects and cleft palates. But most experts agree the evidence is too limited to be conclusive.
  • Nitrates and nitrites. These end up in water supply though fertilizer, livestock manure and human sewage runoff. High levels of nitrates and nitrites has been associated with thyroid dysfunction in pregnant women — which in turn can lead to pregnancy complications and reduced IQ scores and other neurodevelopmental effects later in kids.
  • Arsenic. This metal contaminant can enter the water supply from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial pollution. Elevated arsenic levels in private wells may come from agricultural pollution. High levels of arsenic during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects and preterm birth.


  • Public water supply
    The majority of the water we drink comes from public water systems, which means you’ve got little to worry about. Most cities’ water supply is tested frequently and considered safe to drink unless the local government notifies you otherwise. In the event of a natural disaster or chemical spill, pay attention to alerts and warnings about disruptions to the water supply, which could affect water safety.Even if you haven’t heard any local warnings but want to be extra safe, contact your local water supplier, health department or the EPA. The EPA also requires all community water systems to prepare an annual report called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), so contact your water utility if you’d like to receive a copy of their latest report.What should make you suspicious when it comes to your tap water? Maybe you notice that the taste is off, that your water smells odd, that the color isn’t right, that your pipes are deteriorating, or that your home borders on a waste disposal area. If there’s even the possibility that your water supply is compromised, arrange to have it tested (you can get a list of certified testing laboratories from your state or local drinking water authority). Since testing doesn’t cost a lot and can offer peace of mind, you might want to have your water tested even if you don’t notice any warning signs.
  • Private well water
    If your water comes from a well, it may be a good idea to have it tested once every year or two, just to make sure it doesn’t have high levels of chemicals that could harm your developing baby. Experts recommend testing more often if there are known problems with well water in your area, if there was any flooding or ground disturbance in your area, or if you notice a change in water taste, color or odor.
    What to do if your local water supply isn’t safeIf testing reveals your water is polluted, you’ll need to know exactly what’s in there. Armed with this information, you can make changes to ensure you’re drinking safely:
  • Install a home purification and filter system such as Pure Friendly. Invest in a water filter designed to filter specific water contaminants. For example, if your water supply tests for unsafe levels of lead, buy a filtering system certified to reduce or eliminate lead — then use that filtered water for both drinking and  cooking.
  • Buy bottled. Use bottled water for both cooking and drinking if your city’s water supply or your well water contains contaminants. Be aware, however, that not all bottled water is free of impurities (some actually are bottled from the tap!). Check the purity of the bottled water you’re purchasing by looking for the NSF certification on its label, which demonstrates that the bottler follows regulatory requirements and industry best practices and complies with the regulatory standard of quality.
  • Boil water before use. If the contamination in your water is bacterial, boiling water before using can kill microbes — but only if health officials have told the public that such steps are enough for your water (for instance, boiling water isn’t effective if your water contains lead, arsenic or nitrates).
  • Let it stand. If your water smells or tastes like chlorine (which is often used to disinfect water), let it stand uncovered for 24 hours or boil it to allow the chemical to evaporate before using it for drinking or cooking.
  • Flush your pipes. If testing reveals that your city’s water supply is lead-free but you have lead pipes in your home, always flush your internal pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get before using any tap water for drinking or cooking. That’s because the more time water sits in your pipes, the more lead it may contain. Flushing your pipes could take as little as 5 to 30 seconds if you’ve been using it recently (as with showering or toilet flushing) or it could take two minutes or longer. Remember to use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking and cooking, since hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead.If your city’s water supply itself is lead-contaminated, flushing your pipes is not enough to make it safe. Only filtered or bottled water is OK for drinking or cooking. In fact, when you’re expecting filtered or bottled water is your best bet, even if the only lead is in your home’s pipes – just to be extra sure there’s no chance your baby is exposed.Some reassuring news about lead-contaminated water: Bathing and showering is normally safe for you and your children, even if the water contains high levels of lead. Lead can’t be absorbed through the skin. Just don’t drink it!
  • Another water hazard: BPA

In recent years there’s been increased awareness about possible health risks linked to bisphenol A, or BPA, an industrial chemical used in hard plastics and in the lining of food and beverage containers, since it mimics estrogen.

While the Food and Drug Administration has banned BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula cans, there is concern about prenatal exposure. Your best bet: Aim for a BPA-free pregnancy. When it comes to water, that means making sure bottled water comes from BPA-free containers and drinking tap water from BPA-free reusable bottles (avoid ones with the number 3, 6, or 7 on the bottom) or from containers made of stainless steel or old-fashioned glass.

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