Is That Rocket Fuel in Your Water?

If the human body is a machine, then water is what makes it go. But many people aren't getting the cleanest "fuel" to put into their bodies every day — unless, that is, you're talking about rocket fuel.

The jet-propulsion additive perchlorate is one of the contaminants recently found in the drinking water of 19 U.S. cities in a peer-reviewed study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (although the EPA recently announced that it would start regulating perchlorate in drinking water, the agency hasn't yet set a specific limit for the contaminant). Also discovered were lead, pathogens, trihalomethanes (a byproduct of chlorine) and arsenic. Exposure to arsenic alone has been linked to cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney, according to the World Health Organization.

To protect yourself and your family from routinely ingesting unhealthy water, take these steps to ensure contaminant-free tap water in your home:

1. Know Your Water's Contaminant Levels

Start with a water test — the only way to identify specific quality problems. Public water systems must test their water and file the results with the EPA and your state. You can get a copy of these results by contacting your water provider or state water agency, or at

Private tests provide the most current and accurate information about the water in your home and can tell you about the presence of unregulated toxins. Laboratory-certified kits test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, arsenic, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, iron, pH levels, copper, alkalinity and mineral concentration. You can also try a local testing lab or a national company such as Suburban Water Testing Laboratories (800-433-6595; or National Testing Laboratories (NTL) (800-458-3330; For about $130, NTL will test your tap water samples for 75 kinds of bacteria, heavy metals, inorganic compounds, volatile compounds, pH levels and mineral concentration. For a small fee, they will also test for pesticides and herbicides.

2. Choose a Purification System

Whole-house filtration systems ensure clean water at every tap, while water filtration pitchers and faucet filters deliver clean drinking water. Look for one that combines two or more of the following technologies.

Carbon: Best for Great-Tasting, Chlorine-Free Water

Removes tastes, odors, most hazardous chemicals, chlorine and sediments, but not heavy metals, arsenic, nitrites, bacteria or cysts.

Ceramic: Best for Microorganisms

Removes bacteria, cysts, asbestos and sediments.

KDF (copper/zinc alloy): Best for Heavy Metals

Uses a high-purity, granular copper/zinc alloy to eliminate chlorine, chloroform and heavy metals.

UV: Best for Pathogens

Uses high-intensity ultraviolet light to destroy bacteria and viruses.

Ionization: Debated Antioxidant Technology

Water ionizers Temporarily "split" the two Os and one H molecules in H20 into an OH and an HO, and usually combines this with some of the filters mentioned above.

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